TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is excited about the challenge of finding replacements for quarterback Jameis Winston and at least another half dozen Seminoles headed into the NFL draft after leading the program to 29 straight wins and a national championship in 2013.
Fisher, who has a gaudy 58-11 record since replacing Bobby Bowden in 2010, is optimistic that his coaching staff will piece together the personnel from the school’s perennial star-studded recruiting classes to keep the Seminoles in the hunt for a fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title and perhaps another berth in college football’s Final Four.
“We have a chance to be another very, very good football team,” Fisher said Wednesday before kicking off three weeks of practice leading to an April 11 spring scrimmage. “They want to be great and that’s why they come to Florida State.”
The Seminoles followed up their championship with a trip to national semifinals, where they came up short against Oregon.
The focus to get back there again will likely be on the quarterback position. Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, left early for the NFL draft, leaving redshirt junior Sean Maguire with a head start from an experience standpoint in his bid to pin down the starting job.
The 6-3, 225-pound Maguire goes into the spring as the lone experienced quarterback, having led the Seminoles to a 23-17 win over Clemson in place of a suspended Winston last in a critical early-season ACC game in September. Maguire had completed 38 of 70 passes for 455 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in a backup role.
“He has the ability to do it, he just has to realize he’s good enough to be there and be that guy,” Fisher said. “He has a very strong arm, makes all the throws, (is) very competitive, moves better than people think he does. Very intelligent.”
Redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino from Pittsburgh appears to be Maguire’s primary competition although redshirt sophomore John Franklin III and early-enrollee freshman De Andre Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida, will also get looks this spring.
Noting that he didn’t decide between Winston and Jacob Coker until just a week before the season opener two years ago, Fisher said he has no timetable on naming a starter.
“I’ll play it by ear,” he said.
Whoever the new quarterback, they’ll need protecting and sophomore left tackle Roderick Johnson is the lone starter back on the offensive line.
“This is the fun time,” Fisher said, noting the coaching staff will be in an “education” mode this spring with so many young players bidding for roles on the 2015 team. “You have to remember to keep your patience because you see the talent.”
Winston, whose Florida State career was enveloped in off-field issues, likely becomes the third straight Seminole signal caller to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft. While EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder have struggled to find success in the NFL, Winston is leaving school two seasons early projected as the possible first overall pick.
But the quarterback position is just one of many holes Fisher is looking to fill.
Coming off his first season-ending loss since taking over as Florida State’s head coach, the coach also needs replacements for Winston’s two favorite receivers — Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary. The Seminoles also lost four top defenders who are all likely to be taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL draft.
Florida State’s bid to repeat as national champions ended in a mistake-filled 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the most points scored on the Seminoles in 30 years.
“A loss sometimes wakes you up and makes you listen better,” Fisher said.
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