One of the primary story lines heading into Saturday's Garnet and Gold FSU Spring Game was, unsurprisingly, the quarterback battle. For the most part, the signal callers showed well. True freshman Malik Henry finished at an impressive 15-22, with a pair of scores and no picks. Meanwhile, redshirt-sophomore J.J. Cosentino failed to record a completion and wound up with a passer rating of zero-- on just four attempts. But the player who's taken the first QB reps of late garnered a good deal of attention-- and not just from the nearly 50,000 fans in attendance at Orlando's Citrus Bowl, a crowd, hours away from Tallahassee, that bested the average attendance at a 2015 Miami home game, by the way.
QB1 in Tallahassee, for weeks now, has been Orlando's own Deondre Francois, and his was the name on the tip of Head Coach Jimbo Fisher's tongue on Saturday, however thinly veiled those mentions may have been. It began at halftime, when Fisher, asked about the young quarterbacks, nevertheless responded by directing his comments squarely at Francois' play, bringing up his two costly first-half interceptions: he mentioned Francois' poor throw intended for Ryan Izzo that was intercepted, as well as referring to the former's pick tossed to linebacker Ro'Derrick Hoskins, on which Francois simply failed to see the rising Hoskins. Said Fisher: "That's part of growing up-- but he's doing some really good things."
When Fisher spoke after the game about his "two young quarterbacks," his attention centered directly on Francois and Henry, perhaps a telling sign, given how much Fisher likes to spread praise around. Noticeably absent from Fisher's compliments was Cosentino.
Still, Fisher was right back on Francois in his post-game interview-- although Henry had joined the conversation. Fisher spoke first, again, of his youngest QBs, Francois and Henry. Fisher explained, post-game, about how he liked to stand behind the huddle in spring games, because, with quarterbacks, he could "feel their presence. If they're lost. If there's no leadership." Evidently, that was not an issue on Saturday.
And achieving that presence goes so much further than most realize. If you've ever played ball, you know just how important that feel can be. Don't think for a second that Jameis Winston's success at FSU was simply due to his capability as a phenomenal passer with an occasional highlight scramble. Jameis had "it." The same "it" for which Fisher is now looking. And he saw some of that in Francois on Saturday: "I think he did a great job keeping his poise throughout the whole game."
That poise extended to the Gold squad's final touchdown, on which Francois found Auden Tate for the second time in the end zone. And here's the really interesting thing about that play: it was never drawn up to happen as it did.
Tate was supposed to run a slant, but instead pulled up. But Fisher lauded his emerging receiver's ability to adjust, as well as his quarterback's improvisation: "The play itself? It was phenomenal." Fisher continued, referring to the play as "when 12 grew up." He characterized Francois' mistakes as the red-shirt freshman trying to be "too perfect," but continued, "I was very pleased with the decisions he made in the pocket with his legs." Fisher referenced how, twice, on third downs, Francois converted by scrambling. Francois finished with 37 rushing yards.
More Fisher on Francois: "You always want everything to be perfect, when you're young; you get older, you realize, I gotta make it perfect, but, sometimes, the other team's on scholarship, too."
That sounds like a flaw with which FSU fans -- and, more importantly, Fisher -- can live. If perfection is Francois' biggest hurdle moving forward, Florida State looks to be in good shape.