Florida State begins spring practice in four days, meaning that there is no better time to kick off our pre-spring previews of each position group, beginning with the quarterbacks.
FSU has the luxury of returning its starting quarterback heading into spring practice and the 2017 season. Deondre Francois passed for 3,350 yards in his redshirt freshman season, fifth most in program history and second most in a single season by a freshman. He also added 20 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions, a welcome ratio, especially for a player in his first year as a starter.
What becomes interesting when analyzing Francois is the steps he will be able to make from year one to year two at the helm. There are many things he did very well in 2016 including taking care of the ball, throwing a pretty pass, distributing to a wide array of targets, and demonstrating a toughness that cannot be taught. That being said, Francois has plenty of room for improvement in some areas as well, most notably in his accuracy and his ability to read the defense quicker to keep him upright.
In spite of these flaws, FSU has reason to feel confident that Francois is capable of taking the next step forward as a sophomore. The bigger concern among the signal callers is the depth behind Francois should he suffer an injury in 2017.
After the graduation of Sean Maguire and Malik Henry’s decision to transfer after just one year at FSU, the Seminoles find themselves without two serviceable backups from a season ago. Those departures leave FSU’s quarterback cupboard drastically bare with only four total quarterbacks (three scholarship QBs) on the ’Noles spring roster. 2017 signee James Blackman will arrive in Tallahassee over the summer, but that offers little reprieve from the team’s dreadful depth at the position this semester.
J.J. Cosentino, a redshirt junior from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, is the only other quarterback on Florida State’s roster who has seen any playing time in the garnet and gold. Cosentino’s size and arm strength are undeniable, but he has proven time and time again that he is unprepared for the big stage. Even in garbage time against FCS Charleston Southern a season ago, Cosentino seemed in his own head and took an unnecessary safety on his first play in the game. In spite of this, he is likely to start April’s Spring Game simply because the other options are an early enrollee in his first semester at FSU or a walk-on.
Bailey Hockman, the aforementioned early enrollee, was a four-star rated quarterback, the No. 13 pro-style quarterback in the 2017 recruiting class. Playing in a decently complicated pro-style offense at Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern under his father, who was the head coach, Hockman enters FSU more ready for the collegiate game than many other true freshman. He definitely has the chance to be a future starting quarterback at Florida State. That being said, I wouldn’t expect him to start for one of the Spring Game squads in April, nor would I expect him to be the backup at the beginning of the 2017 season, simply because of his youth and inexperience.
The final quarterback on Florida State’s spring roster is walk-on Jake Rizzo. Rizzo led his high school, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas, to a state championship in 2014. He reached as high as No. 3 in FSU’s depth chart a season ago due to injuries, received praise from Jimbo Fisher on multiple occasions in 2016, and should see significant late-game playing time in the Spring Game. Still, a lot would have to go wrong for Florida State for Rizzo to see the field in actual game time.
Projected starter: Deondre Francois
Projected backup: J.J. Cosentino