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Florida State quarterbacks spring preview: Who steps up in Maguire's absence?

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Although the Seminoles return their starting QB from 2015, he will miss the entirety of spring practice, opening the door for a number of new contenders.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There's little denying how much potential the Florida State offense returns in 2016. After all, all 11 offensive starters from a season ago will be back. However, the most important position on the offense, quarterback, may be the biggest question mark for Florida State with spring practice starting in less than a week. The Seminoles bring back three quarterbacks from last year's team, including the 2015 end-of-year starter Sean Maguire, as well as a highly-touted newcomer but the question of who will rise to the occasion and earn the starting spot looms large, as it has since even before the 2015 season ended. With that in mind, let's take a look at FSU's quarterback situation entering the spring.

The Incumbent

The first QB that must be addressed is the one that ended the 2015 season as the starter, Sean Maguire. I clarify that he ended the season as the starter because he took over the starting job in the middle of the season after a series of poor performances by graduate transfer Everett Golson. Over the course of Maguire's five starts last season, he had moments of excellence, such as his 348-yard, three touchdown performance against Syracuse, as well as moments of sub-par play, most notably his four-interception game against Houston in the Peach Bowl.

The main thing that Maguire, a redshirt senior, has in his favor over the other quarterbacks on the roster is his experience. Jimbo Fisher has shown throughout his coaching career that he has tended towards playing the veteran signal caller over the younger, more talented player.

However, this offseason, Fisher's hands are tied. Maguire suffered a fractured left ankle early in the Peach Bowl loss. He returned to the game and was able to play the remaining minutes but the news just days after the game was not as good. His ankle injury would require surgery and would result in him missing the entirety of spring practice. As such, Fisher will have to start two of Florida State's other quarterbacks in next month's spring game, opening the door for someone else to make their mark.

The Competitors

With Maguire out for at least a few more months, the Seminoles will have just three healthy scholarship quarterbacks on their roster for the entirety of spring practice. Although the number is a bit lower than ideal, it will truly put each of the three on the spot as Fisher's eyes will be focused solely on how they are doing and determining who will see the most playing time in the spring game.

Deondre Francois

Francois, a redshirt freshman out of Orlando, Florida, is the lone quarterback commit from FSU's 2015 recruiting class that is still with the team. He was very highly touted coming out of high school, ranked as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback and No. 64 overall player in the 2015 recruiting class according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

In his game, Francois' biggest upside is definitely his arm strength. He has the ability to simultaneously launch a ball with an incredible amount of power while also putting touch on the ball. Francois is not a statue in the pocket by any means but should not be considered especially mobile either.

Perhaps Francois' biggest downside is his lack of experience at Florida State. He was not an early enrollee last year and did not arrive on campus until June, meaning that the upcoming spring practices will be his first as a Seminole. Yes, he has been in Tallahassee for the better part of a year learning the playbook and working as the scout-team quarterback. However, he is no further along in actual in-game experience than his main competitor, Malik Henry.

Malik Henry

Henry, a 2016 early enrollee from Inglewood, California, committed to FSU way back in November of 2014 and remained a firm commit through his enrollment in Tallahassee this January. Like Francois, he was highly touted by all outlets, ranked as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 48 overall player in the 2016 recruiting class.

Henry's strong suit also lies in his passing but his strength lies more in his anticipation skills and accuracy. He has a knack for anticipating where a receiver will be when the ball gets to him and placing his pass accordingly. This often leads to him throwing his targets open, a useful skill and one not often seen in quarterbacks as young as Henry.

Also like Francois, Henry's biggest hindrance right now is his lack of experience. However, unlike Francois, Henry has not had the luxury of redshirting for a year and learning under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders and Fisher, a former quarterback himself. Nonetheless, Fisher has not counted Henry out of being the starting quarterback come fall, even saying that Henry has a "tremendous chance" to earn the starting spot.

J.J. Cosentino

Cosentino, a redshirt sophomore out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was highly-touted as well, coming in to Florida State in 2014 as a four-star recruit. Measuring in at 6'4, 239 pounds, Cosentino has the prototypical size that you want to see from a pocket quarterback. He also has a powerful arm that he has used to dart passes in a few of his garbage-time appearances in the 2015 season.

However, Cosentino was exposed as not ready for the moment in the Peach Bowl when he was put into the game while Maguire's ankle was being treated and taped up. He did not look ready for the big stage, going 1-4 for five yards and being sacked twice while leading the Florida State offense to back-to-back three-and-outs in Maguire's absence. As such, Cosentino is viewed as a bit behind the other two competitors and is widely believed to be the QB who will not start in April's spring game.

With so much up in the air entering 2016 and quarterback play possibly marking the difference between a playoff run and a season more akin to the 2015 campaign, expect Coach Fisher and staff to take their time in the decision, as they did last season, ensuring that they find the right man for the job.