Florida State Seminoles: Sean Maguire

Florida State spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
9:30
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Three things we learned in the spring about the Florida State Seminoles:

1. Jalen Ramsey is a star in the making. Last season, Ramsey was overshadowed on his own defense with the likes of Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith demanding the headlines, but Ramsey was only a freshman. As a sophomore, several players point to Ramsey as being the defense’s leader, and he could be the best player on a defense that could have a half-dozen first-round picks in the next few seasons. He will move around to several positions in the secondary this fall.

2. Florida State’s secondary might be the best in the country. While FSU’s talent in the defensive backfield begins with Ramsey it certainly does not end there. P.J. Williams was dominant in the spring game against No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene and is an elite college corner. Opposite him are Ramsey and Ronald Darby, who missed the entire spring. All three could be first-round picks. Nate Andrew is a up-and-coming star and also just a sophomore, and Tyler Hunter returns after a neck injury in 2013.

3. Sean Maguire is a capable backup for the Noles. The disclaimer certainly is that it came against the No. 2 defense in the spring game, but Maguire showed the type of tools to be an efficient quarterback should he be called upon this fall. As the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback for the first time in his college career, Maguire said he made his biggest strides to date this spring.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Will the wide receivers step up? Coach Jimbo Fisher is not leaving spring practice with a great feeling about his receivers. He expressed his frustration in the unit on multiple occasions, and the receivers struggled in the spring game. Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw are off to the NFL, and Greene will need some help from the younger receivers. Elite high school talents Ermon Lane, Travis Rudolph and Ja'Von Harrison will enroll in the summer.

2. Can the running backs stay on the field? It was a similar feeling last spring for Fisher as he did not have any healthy running backs for the Garnet and Gold game in 2013 either. Karlos Williams was held for precautionary reasons, but backups Dalvin Cook, Ryan Green and Mario Pender all suffered injuries. Cook and Green are out until fall camp with shoulder injuries, and Pender missed his first two seasons with injury and academic issues.

3. What will the linebacker rotation look like? It will be very interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly pairs his linebackers with a fairly inexperienced group. Terrance Smith is a given as a starter, but who will flank him? Matthew Thomas might be too good to keep off the field, which could leave one remaining spot for a very talented unit.

One way-too-early prediction:

The Noles were an offensive juggernaut in 2013, but the offense will sputter some against quality defenses. The issue at receiver is one that will not be settled in the near future, and it could cost Florida State a game.

FSU spring: What we learned

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
1:00
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Florida State’s spring camp came to a close on Saturday with the annual Garnet and Gold game, and now the Seminoles are prepping for a second straight national title.

The game is secondary compared to the rest of spring practices, so with that in mind, here are some of the biggest answers the 15 spring sessions presented.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher escaped the spring with a healthy roster.
1. FSU will be at full strength this fall.
In early March, Noles coach Jimbo Fisher noted how healthy his team was and how rare it is to have a squad almost entirely intact for spring practice. As the practices mounted, though, so did the injuries. The silver lining is that none of the injuries are expected to linger into preseason camp. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Ryan Green had shoulder surgery but will be 100 percent by around July. Nick O’Leary missed the final half of spring practices with a second motorcycle accident, but he avoided any serious injuries. There were a few concussions in camp, but Terrance Smith, who suffered one of them, was back for the spring game. The lone setback that could impact fall camp is the foot injury Ukeme Eligwe sustained, which Fisher hinted could be the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which has a tendency to persist for quite some time. The thought is he should be fine for August, though.

2. The secondary is among the best in the country.
Quarterback Jameis Winston said after the spring game that “we got the best [defensive] backs in the country.” He should know, having thrown against the unit for much of the spring and the entire Garnet and Gold game. The secondary of P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey, Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter shut down the No. 1 offense’s passing attack the entire first half, and the unit was without sophomore Nate Andrews. Fisher said throughout the spring that Ramsey is a star-in-the-making and should become a nationally recognized name replacing Lamarcus Joyner. Ramsey showcased his skills by moving around at cornerback, safety and nickel during the game. Fisher and Winston are raving about freshman Trey Marshall, too. Williams is a star in his own right, shutting down No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene.

3. The receivers need to step up.
Speaking of Greene and the receivers, that position is probably the biggest weakness heading into the season. Fisher was upset with the production and consistency his receivers showcased through much of the spring, and the starting unit did not get any separation from the Noles’ secondary. Jesus Wilson has the potential to be a playmaker from the slot, but can he replace Kenny Shaw’s production? Isaiah Jones is 6-foot-4, but his production did not match that of departed 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Levonte Whitfield announced himself to the world in the national title game, but he is still needs some refinement as a receiver. The coaches can spend two hours a week breaking down film with players during the offseason, and Fisher said that will be a critical step in Florida State’s development at receiver.

4. The talent is there at linebacker.
The Noles lose beloved figure Telvin Smith and consistent producer Christian Jones, but the depth at linebacker is there so those losses might not be felt all that much. Matthew Thomas is a budding star, and the former five-star recruit will not be kept off the field this fall. Terrance Smith is the leader of the unit and could be a viable replacement for Telvin Smith. Before Eligwe’s injury, Fisher voiced his opinion that Eligwe was having as good of a spring as any player. Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry should each see significant snaps in the rotation, and Ro’Derrick Hoskins could be a dangerous third-down specialist from the position.

5. Sean Maguire is a quality backup for Noles.
Earlier this spring, Winston missed a practice to travel to Clemson with the baseball team, putting the pressure squarely on No. 2 quarterback Maguire to perform at a competent level. Following the practice, the third of the spring, Fisher was lukewarm on Maguire’s performance. But Maguire looked the part of a quality No. 2 option for Florida State during the spring game. The Noles got him in rhythm with three straight passes to the flats to open the game, and then Maguire dropped in a 26-yard touchdown on a post route over the defender. Maguire, a redshirt sophomore, said he made the most progress this spring than he’s ever made at any point in his college career.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says spring practice is all about cramming as much information to the mind as possible. Introduce as many schemes, techniques and late-game situations as possible, but remember there is no buildup to a Saturday opponent. The hope is his team will draw on that information when it counts this fall.

It’s best to take that approach when evaluating Florida State’s spring practices and game, which the Garnet won over the Gold 31-14.

This was supposed to be a ho-hum spring for Florida State. That’s the goal when you’re the reigning national champion and return your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Sure, there are issues on the roster, but those were never going to be resolved in 15 spring practices, not with more than a dozen players nursing injuries.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
AP Photo/Steve CannonReserve quarterback Sean Maguire said he "learned a lot" in spring practice.
“We got a lot accomplished and we’re starting to form the identity and the personality of this team,” Fisher said. “... We are nowhere close to where we need to be, but I can picture where we’re going to be.”

That picture, Fisher hopes, is one of him holding the national championship trophy, plastered on all 11,520 square feet of the video board at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the first College Football Championship Game will be played. Fans were spoiled at this time a year ago when Jameis Winston launched the ball and his path to stardom on his first throw, a 58-yard touchdown. That was a different time, though. This spring was about improving and getting to August.

Fisher said he saw that improvement throughout camp, and it was clear during the second half of spring practice that Fisher was pleased with the progress. Two weeks ago, Fisher called his team “lazy” and was sour on just about every position. He spoke positively about his team during the final eight sessions.

His starting quarterback made strides this spring, although Fisher said it might not always be visible to the naked eye. Fisher said it is about improving the “subtle things” and “all of a sudden it’s a major change.” The backup position looks better than it did a month ago, too.

“I thought the spring went well. I thought I learned a lot,” backup quarterback Sean Maguire said. “I haven’t gone into a camp or a spring where I was a No. 2, but going into it and getting reps the whole time with the twos, I felt like now I know a lot more than I did.”

There will be questions that still need answers when preseason camp opens, however. It was evident Saturday that Florida State’s passing attack could take a significant step in the wrong direction. Granted, Florida State could have the best secondary in the country, but the Seminoles’ first-team receivers generated no separation from defenders despite Winston getting several seconds to survey the field. On a few occasions, he was forced to his fourth and fifth reads. Winston’s window to fit the ball in will probably be bigger Sunday from the pitcher's mound than it was Saturday from the pocket. Kelvin Benjamin is a potential first-round NFL draft pick, and there is no direct replacement for the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver on the roster. Undervalued receiver Kenny Shaw will be hard to replace, too.

“Early they didn’t get open, but that’s kind of expected,” Fisher said. “Then, as the game went on, they gradually made plays, and we helped them get open with some formations and things.”

That stands to be the biggest issue for Florida State as it exits the spring. The defense underwent major changes, but there is talent at every level, and new coordinator Charles Kelly was an in-house hire.

The spring game -- and the entire spring -- was ugly at time for Florida State, but it is still too early to determine how far this team will go. Florida State didn’t look like a team that has 15-0 written on it, but there probably isn't any team with that look on any campus in mid-April. There are questions, but there is more talent.

“You relax and realize the sky’s not falling and the world is not coming to an end,” Fisher said.

ACC's lunch links

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
12:00
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My NCAA picks were dreadful, but I think I'm still doing well in my Seinfeld bracket challenge. Go Soup Nazi!
 
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Let’s start by prefacing with this: Any team that loses its starting quarterback is in a considerable amount of trouble. Fear of relying on a backup quarterback for an extended period of time is not a problem exclusive to Florida State.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsSean Maguire had two touchdowns last season in mop-up duty for Florida State.
But this time a year ago, the Seminoles had three potential starting quarterbacks on its spring roster. West Virginia’s Clint Trickett and Alabama’s Jacob Coker, who will enroll following the spring, will now headline the Florida State Quarterback Transfer Bowl on college football’s opening weekend.

Which means Sean Maguire, who finished fourth in Florida State’s quarterback competition last spring, is Jameis Winston's backup. Could Florida State get by with Maguire against Oklahoma State, Clemson or Notre Dame? For those wearing garnet and gold, it’s a sobering question they would prefer tabling for another day … or year.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, though, saw what that might be like Saturday. With 400 miles and a baseball game separating his Heisman-winning quarterback from the Noles’ third spring practice, the 6-foot-3 Maguire played the role of starting quarterback. The redshirt sophomore’s game experience is limited to a few risk-free throws and bleeding off the final few minutes of blowout wins in 2013.

“I thought [Saturday’s spring practice] was a chance for our guys to step up, be with the [first-team offense] when Jameis wasn’t here,” Fisher said. “Early I thought they were a little nervous but as the team got going on I was kind of pleased. I think later in practice they started feeling more comfortable. It was a solid day. I saw some very encouraging things but still got a lot to work on.”

Kind of pleased. Solid. One practice was never going to fully assuage those concerns, but gauging from Fisher’s tone and body language, he is not feeling any more comfortable about life without Winston.

Maguire has the support of teammates, and Fisher noted his performance picked up as the morning went on and he grew more comfortable in his most extensive time with the starting offense. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound signal-caller is not short on talent. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and Fisher believed in him before any other college coach. He was first to offer Maguire, and Fisher’s track record with quarterbacks is one that does not warrant even a hint of second-guessing.

Maybe Maguire’s biggest hurdle is his name. He’s not Coker, who Florida State fans envisioned would follow the Seminoles succession plan and replace Winston in 2015. Waiting your turn was the Florida State way in the 1990s, as Florida State fans were spoiled by the run of Charlie Ward, Danny Kanell, Thad Busby and Chris Weinke, who all sat at least one season before the reins were passed. But the strong-armed Coker became a hot commodity during the winter, and the former No. 2 quarterback is enrolling at Alabama this summer.

Florida State still has 12 spring practices left for Maguire. He said his offensive line and receivers were encouraging following any mistakes, and the opportunity to work exclusively as a starter was an invaluable experience. And with Winston possibly playing baseball until late June, Maguire can throw to the No. 1 receivers in any player-organized sessions once practice ends.

“Getting reps with the ones is huge ... getting an opportunity to be able to show the team if Jameis is not here and something happens, we’re not going to miss a beat,” Maguire said.

Winston potentially not being on the field is a realization Florida State fans are not ready to entertain yet, but it’s something that will wear on Fisher until Maguire makes it clear the Noles are in good hands in an emergency situation. Maybe that happens in the coming days during the Noles’ first scrimmage. Fisher is eager to find out.

“Next week will be very interesting to see in that first scrimmage how he’s adapted,” Fisher said.
Setting up spring in the ACC Atlantic.

Boston College

Spring start: March 12

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Big shoes to fill: Steve Addazio helped BC make huge strides in 2013, but the task of keeping the momentum going gets much harder without star running back and Heisman finalist Andre Williams, who rushed for an NCAA-best 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis will attempt to fill the vacancy this spring, and both have potential. Willis averaged nearly 6 yards per carry as Williams’ primary backup last year. The real intrigue might wait until fall, however, when four freshmen running backs arrive on campus.
  • Murphy makes the move: It’s an open competition at quarterback after Chase Rettig’s departure, but there’s no question the most intriguing player in the race is Florida transfer Tyler Murphy. The fifth-year senior worked with Addazio at Florida, and he’ll open the spring competing with redshirt freshman James Walsh and early enrollee Darius Wade. That’s a deep enough bench that BC didn’t worry about moving Josh Bordner, last year’s backup, to tight end. With both of last year’s starting tackles gone, too, Murphy’s experience could be even more important in determining the outcome of the QB battle.
  • Restocking the LBs: Even at its low points in recent years, Boston College managed to churn out plenty of talented linebackers, but the position gets a massive overhaul this year. First-team All-ACC star Kevin Pierre-Louis (108 tackles in 2013) is gone, as is Steele Divitto (112 tackles). That leaves junior Steven Daniels (88 tackles, 5 sacks) as the lone returning starter. Josh Keyes adds some experience, but it’ll be a group in transition this spring.
Clemson

Spring start: March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Replacing Boyd: The talk of Clemson’s spring camp will no doubt surround the quarterbacks, as senior Cole Stoudt, sophomore Chad Kelly and early enrollee Deshaun Watson vie for the job. Stoudt’s experience makes him the early favorite, but it’s Watson, a dual-threat QB with immense talent, who could steal the show. Coach Dabo Swinney has already lauded Watson as perhaps the most talented quarterback Clemson has signed, so all eyes will be on the freshman to see if he can back up all that hype with a strong spring.
  • Skill-position shuffling: If the QB battle is the headliner, there are plenty of significant sideshows on offense this spring. Clemson waved goodbye to receivers Sammy Watkins (1,464 yards, 12 TDs) and Martavis Bryant (828 yards, 7 TDs) and tailback Roderick McDowell (1,025 yards, 5 TDs). That means a massive overhaul on offense, where there’s no clear-cut bell cow at running back (Zac Brooks and D.J. Howard return as potential options) and the receiving corps will be looking for some new top targets.
  • Dominance up front: On offense for Clemson, there’s plenty of concern for what the Tigers lost. On defense, however, the excitement is all about what they’re bringing back. Clemson’s defensive line, in particular, could be one of the nation’s best. When All-American Vic Beasley announced his return for his senior season, the Tigers knew they could have something special. Add sophomore lineman Shaq Lawson and senior Stephone Anthony at linebacker and Clemson has all the makings of a dominant pass rush.
Florida State

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The running backs: After leading FSU in rushing three straight years, Devonta Freeman is gone. So, too, is James Wilder Jr. But the Seminoles enter spring with a quartet of intriguing options to replace their departed stars, led by Karlos Williams (730 yards, 11 TDs in 2013) and Dalvin Cook (No. 21 on the 2013 ESPN300). Mario Pender, who missed last year with academic issues, also figures to be in the mix.
  • The defensive front: There are a wealth of question marks here, both in terms of personnel and scheme. With Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones gone, there are plenty of jobs up for grabs. The development of Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman and Terrance Smith will be key, but with Charles Kelly taking over the defense, it’s also still a bit unclear how much the scheme will deviate from what Jeremy Pruitt ran with so much success in 2013.
  • Jameis Winston’s swing: A year ago, the big question was who would win the QB battle. Now, Winston’s got a Heisman Trophy and will be a favorite to win it again in 2014. So the intrigue surrounding the FSU star QB is more on the baseball field, where once again, he’ll be splitting time this spring. Perhaps the bigger question is how the rest of the QB depth chart shakes out, with Sean Maguire the elder statesman and John Franklin III looking to make his move.
Louisville

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 11

What to watch:
  • Bobby’s back: After a seven-year hiatus that included an abrupt departure from the Atlanta Falcons and a damaging scandal at Arkansas, Bobby Petrino is back in charge at Louisville insisting he’s a changed man. Fans will be watching closely to see if he has changed his stripes away from the field, but also whether he can rekindle the same offensive fireworks he delivered in his first stint with the Cardinals.
  • Replacing Bridgewater: It’s an open QB battle, and for Petrino, it’s among the first chances he’ll have to see the players vying to replace departed star Teddy Bridgewater in action. Sophomore Will Gardner is perhaps the favorite, but he has just 12 career pass attempts. Redshirt freshman Kyle Bolin is close behind, while Reggie Bonnafon is set to arrive in the fall.
  • New look on D: Louisville finished the 2013 season ranked second nationally in scoring defense, trailing only national champion Florida State. But this spring, things will look a bit different for the Cardinals, as Todd Grantham takes over as the new defensive coordinator after being lured from Georgia. Grantham figures to bring a 3-4 scheme to Louisville, which will certainly shake things up a bit. Defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin missing the spring with a shoulder injury only clouds the situation further.
NC State

Spring start: March 4

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Brissett takes the reins: The sting of last year’s winless ACC season was barely in the rearview mirror before coach Dave Doeren named Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett his new starting quarterback. Brissett spent last year on the sideline, but apparently Doeren saw enough during practice to comfortably wave goodbye to Pete Thomas, who announced his transfer. There will be ample spotlight on Brissett this spring as he tries to revive the underperforming NC State passing game.
  • The new faces: If 2013 was about cleaning house, this spring begins the far more difficult project of rebuilding. For NC State, that means plenty of new faces, including a whopping seven early enrollees headlined by safety Germain Pratt. While there are ample holes for Doeren to fill in Year 2, these incoming freshmen could certainly push for starting jobs and bring an influx of depth that the Wolfpack sorely missed last year.
  • Shoring up the lines: NC State’s 2014 signing class included 11 offensive and defensive linemen, and that’s just the start of the overhaul at the line of scrimmage. Last season, the Wolfpack allowed the second most sacks in the ACC (35) on offense while its defensive front recorded the fewest sacks in the conference (20). That’s a formula for disaster, and Doeren understands NC State must get much better in the trenches. Brissett’s arrival at QB could help, but the bottom line is NC State needs to see improvement on both sides of the line, and it needs to start this spring.
Syracuse

Spring start: March 18

Spring game: April 19

What to watch:
  • Hunt’s next step: 2013 was a roller coaster season for Terrel Hunt. He lost the QB battle in fall camp, stepped in as starter after two weeks and was dominant, struggled badly through the midsection of the season, then closed strong with back-to-back come-from-behind wins. Now that he has experience, it will be interesting this spring to see how much he’s progressed. The talent is there, and spring practice should give Hunt a chance to refine it a bit more.
  • The defensive front: Syracuse finished its first ACC season ranked fourth in rushing defense and third in sacks despite myriad personnel issues entering the year, but more questions remain as the Orange look toward 2014. With star lineman Jay Bromley and veteran linebacker Marquis Spruill gone, the Orange are looking to fill sizable holes. Robert Welsh figures to be the anchor of the Syracuse pass rush, and the Orange could benefit from the return of Donnie Simmons, who missed 2013 with a knee injury.
  • Secondary concerns: Syracuse got a chance to learn what life was like without top cover corner Keon Lyn after the senior fractured his kneecap late last year, but while Brandon Reddish did an admirable job as his replacement, a whole new set of questions crops up in the secondary this spring. Syracuse figures to have openings at both corner and safety, and while Julian Whigham, Darius Kelly and Ritchy Desir offer options, there’s a lot to be decided on the practice field this spring.
Wake Forest

Spring start: March 25

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Clawson’s early impact: It’s been 14 years since Wake Forest opened a spring camp with someone other than Jim Grobe calling the shots, so there’s no question this will be an intriguing few weeks in Winston-Salem. Dave Clawson takes over after leading Bowling Green to a MAC championship, and he inherits a major rebuilding job. First up for the coach will likely be creating an offensive identity -- something Grobe couldn’t do in 2013.
  • Identifying some offense: If 2013 was an offensive slog for Wake Forest, 2014 threatens to be much, much worse. As bad as things got at times last year, the Deacons at least had veterans to rely on. This season, Wake’s leading passer (Tanner Price), rusher (Josh Harris), receiver (Michael Campanaro) and top tight end (Spencer Bishop) are all gone. On the plus side, plenty of younger players saw action in 2013. The job this spring is to figure out who can take a big step forward entering the 2014 campaign.
  • The defensive scheme: Wake appears to be moving away from the 3-4 that was a hallmark of recent seasons, as new coordinator Mike Elko tries to maximize the talent remaining on the roster. Without veteran lineman Nikita Whitlock, Wake’s defensive front will have a far different look in 2014, and this spring will largely be about Elko identifying playmakers and tweaking his system to fit their skill sets.
It is officially time for Florida State to put its 2013 championship season behind it and begin pursuit of a second consecutive national title as spring practice is just two weeks away.

While many of the Seminoles’ top players will return to Doak Campbell Stadium this fall, graduation, early departures and transfers have left coach Jimbo Fisher searching for answers at a handful of positions. There is talent and depth across the board, but the FSU staff is hoping key replacements emerge this spring before being thrust into pivotal roles in the fall.

This week we will look at five key position battles for the Seminoles this spring, beginning with the No. 2 quarterback.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsAfter seeing limited action in 2013, Sean Maguire will be in the mix to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Jameis Winston in 2014.
Position: Backup quarterback

Replacing: Jacob Coker (transferred to Alabama)

Candidates: Sean Maguire and John Franklin III

The old joke is that the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on the team, but nobody will be laughing in Tallahassee if Jameis Winston cedes to the second-string quarterback if the game is not well in hand. FSU was lucky last season that Winston avoided any significant injury, but the Noles need to be prepared if he misses time in 2014.

Maguire, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound redshirt sophomore, saw action in eight games last season but was never on the field for a meaningful snap. He has the high school credentials -- he was the No. 13-ranked quarterback in the 2012 class -- but has only 21 career passing attempts in the garnet and gold. Still, few people coach quarterbacks better than Fisher, so Maguire certainly could become a viable backup with increased snaps this spring. He has completed 13 of those 21 throws with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his college career.

Franklin is a redshirt freshman who was a three-star dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 class. It would be somewhat of a surprise to see the 6-foot, 171-pound Franklin take over the reins as the backup quarterback given Fisher’s penchant for the traditional pocket passer. There were a lot of positive reviews of Franklin out of Florida State’s practices in December as he played the role of shifty Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall in championship game preparations. But 2013 was a redshirt season for Franklin, who spent most of his first semester focusing on the classroom and weight room while serving on the scout team.

The Noles also have a host of walk-on quarterbacks, but the hope is that either Maguire or Franklin can solidify the position behind Winston. If not, incoming freshman J.J. Cosentino will be on campus in time for fall practice. Cosentino hails from Pittsburgh Central Catholic, which has produced several big-time college quarterbacks over the last few decades -- Hall of Famer Dan Marino and Pro Bowler Marc Bulger among them.

Certainly Fisher’s hope is once again to keep his No. 2 quarterback off the field outside of lopsided victories, which could give him an opportunity to have a five-way competition for the starting spot in 2015 should Winston declare for the NFL draft following this season. Maguire, Franklin and Cosentino should still be on scholarship then and would be joined by 2015 ESPN Junior 300 quarterback commit De'Andre Johnson out of Jacksonvile (Fla.) First Coast and potentially one more 2015 signee.
It was an off-hand comment from Jimbo Fisher on national signing day that first drew the attention of Florida State fans, but Jameis Winston added validity to the notion on Thursday, saying he planned to play two more years in Tallahassee before heading to the NFL.

The plan comes as a surprise to many outsiders, given Winston’s status as a likely first round pick in the 2015 draft -- and, perhaps, the first selection overall. But for Winston, it’s not entirely unreasonable.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesIf Jameis Winston sticks to his plan to play two more years at FSU, the ramification could be far-reaching.
The Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t mind going against conventional wisdom, with his return to the baseball team this spring providing the perfect context. Since his recruitment, Winston has insisted he wants to be a two-sport star, playing both football and baseball professionally before his career is over. That’s part of what brought him to Florida State in the first place. After his exceptional 2013 football season, it seemed reasonable he’d shift his focus entirely toward football and avoid the risk of injury on the baseball field. For Winston, however, that was never a consideration.

Winston will take a similar approach toward his decision regarding the NFL draft. Baseball remains a priority for him, and if staying through the 2015 football season allows him to continue to develop on the diamond, it’s entirely possible he’ll stick around. And for now, that appears to be the plan.

But what would it mean for FSU to have Winston in garnet and gold for an extra year? A few key points to keep in mind:

The depth chart

If Winston planned to leave for the NFL as soon as he’s eligible, that would’ve meant a chance for Jacob Coker to start for Florida State in 2015, but clearly that possibility wasn’t enough to keep him in Tallahassee. Coker plans to transfer to Alabama at the end of this semester, and given Winston’s plans to stick around for two more years, Fisher understood Coker’s rationale.

"He wants to graduate and he wants to play. He's got two years left and he's a year behind Jameis. Could he battle again? Yes. But I understand,” Fisher said. “I’m very supportive of it. I think the guy is a good player. I think he's going to be a good quarterback and we had a great conversation about it.”

Should Winston stay, it also makes FSU’s one-quarterback haul on signing day a little easier to tolerate. Treon Harris, a longtime FSU commit, flipped to Florida on Wednesday, leaving J.J. Cosentino as Florida State’s lone QB signing. That might be a concern if Winston departs following the 2014 season, but another year for the Heisman winner allows FSU to pad its QB depth with next year’s recruiting class, too.

While Sean Maguire likely will be the No. 2 for Florida State in 2014 and 2015, Cosentino also gets an extra year to develop his skills, too, and Fisher said the QB from Western Pennsylvania has ample upside when his time finally arrives.

The recruiting buzz

Winston’s plans to stay through 2015 actually might have hurt Florida State’s hopes of inking two quarterbacks in this year’s signing class, but just the notion that the star QB will be in Tallahassee for two more seasons is certainly a big selling point for other offensive talent.

FSU already inked three top receivers this year in Ermon Lane, Travis Rudolph and Ja'Von Harrison, along with highly touted running back Dalvin Cook. The opportunity to spend two years playing with Winston was certainly alluring.

But even the notion that Winston might be back for 2015 provides Fisher with another selling point on the recruiting trail this coming year. If Class of 2015 recruits believe he’ll be around for their freshman season, it’s one more reason to think FSU is a great landing spot.

“I also think getting them here and getting them to play with him is tremendous, especially when we have a need at that position,” Fisher said of his wide receiver recruiting. “Those guys have a chance to make an impact and be able to play with him.”

The 2015 season

Winston’s return for his redshirt junior campaign would mean a lot to a Florida State offense that figures to endure a massive overhaul in 2015. Of the 10 other projected offensive starters this season, as many as nine figure to be gone in 2015, including the entirety of the offensive line.

That’s perhaps a reason for Winston to reconsider his plan moving forward. While his talent and football acumen certainly won’t diminish with an extra year in college, the risk of injury is a real concern, and with five new starters on the offensive line in 2015, the potential for an injury diminishing his draft stock becomes all the more likely.

But if Winston does come back in 2015, it allows for some stability for an offense that will be saying goodbye to Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams, among others.

The reality

The problem with all this supposition about Winston’s future is that he’s still 11 months away from having to commit to any definitive decision, and a lot can happen in that time. While Winston might be completely sincere in his plan to stay through 2015 now, the lure of first round money in the NFL and the risk of spending another year playing two sports in college could certainly change his mind. If he does, FSU is still in good shape with Maguire and Cosentino. If he doesn't, the Seminoles fans get an extra year with a once-in-a-lifetime player.

At this point, there’s no reason for Winston to offer any possibility other than his stated commitment to remain at Florida State. But what Winston and Fisher believe today doesn’t matter all that much. If his plans haven’t changed by January 2015, however, it’s an enormous boon for Florida State.

FSU depth chart breakdown: Offense

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24
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A lot has changed for Florida State in the few weeks since Jimbo Fisher hoisted that crystal trophy above his head in Pasadena, Calif. Stars have departed, several incoming freshmen have arrived and the Seminoles are already at work with an eye toward repeating in 2014.

With that in mind, we’re taking a quick run through the depth chart to see where Florida State stands in advance of spring practice. Up first, the offense.

Quarterback

Projected starter: Jameis Winston (RS-So.)
Backups: Sean Maguire (RS-So.) and John Franklin III (RS-Fr.)

[+] EnlargeWinston Sacked
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesKeeping Jameis Winston upright will be a key for Florida State, especially with Jacob Coker transferring.
Storylines: Winston plans to play baseball again this spring, which means at least some concerns about injury. Jacob Coker is transferring, leaving Maguire as Winston’s top backup. He had only limited playing time in 2013 and will need to continue to improve this spring. Franklin has great athleticism, but questions linger about whether he’ll stick at QB for the long haul.

Status: A
Returning the Heisman winner makes life easy for FSU’s offense, but Winston’s health will be watched closely.

Offensive line

Projected starters: Cameron Erving (RS-Sr.), Tre Jackson (Sr.), Austin Barron (Sr.), Josue Matias (Sr.), Bobby Hart (Sr.)
Backups: Sterling Lovelady (Sr.), Ira Denson (RS-Fr.), Ruben Carter (RS-Jr.), Wilson Bell (RS-Fr.), Ryan Hoefeld (RS-Fr.), Kareem Are (Fr.), Stephen Gabbard (Fr.)

Storylines: Barron steps in for Stork in the only noteworthy departure from the line. Barron has starting experience, and if he wins the job, FSU will have five senior starters -- meaning lofty expectations for the unit. Erving and Bell played well on the edges last year, but both could make further strides. The improvement for youngsters such as Bell, Hoefeld and Are will be crucial for both depth in 2014 and managing a massive overhaul in 2015.

Status: A
The starting lineup might be the best in the country, but developing depth for the future will be crucial this spring.

Running backs/Fullbacks

Projected starters: Karlos Williams (Sr.) and Freddie Stevenson (So.)
Backups: Mario Pender (RS-So.), Ryan Green (So.), Dalvin Cook (Fr.), Cameron Ponder (Sr.)

Storylines: Williams was a revelation in his first season as a tailback, but for all his success, 70 of his 91 carries came in late-game, blowout situations. Pender returns after sitting out two years because of injuries and academics, but he provides ample speed and a knowledge of the system. Green showed flashes of potential as a freshman but must improve his blocking and decision-making this spring. Cook could be the wild card. He’s an immense talent, and by enrolling early, he’ll have a leg up on getting touches in the fall.

Status: B
With a ton of talent, this group could easily turn this grade to an A by the end of the spring.

Wide receivers

Projected starters: Rashad Greene (Sr.), Christian Green (RS-Sr.), Kermit Whitfield (So.)
Backups: Isaiah Jones (So.), Jarred Haggins (RS-Sr.), Jesus Wilson (So.)

Storylines: FSU must replace Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, who accounted for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns between them. The current group, aside from Greene, has combined for just 34 catches, 441 yards and no touchdowns in the past two seasons. After a solid 2011 season, Green has virtually disappeared and must show he’s still capable of making an impact. Haggins returns from a knee injury and figures to be limited in spring practice, but he could provide a solid veteran influence. Whitfield is a budding star thanks to his blazing speed, but FSU will need to see marked improvement from both Jones and Wilson in order to make up for the depth this unit lost.

Status: C+
Without any established depth behind Greene, this is the one area of the offense where Florida State has a lot of work to do this spring.

Tight end

Projected starter: Nick O’Leary (Sr.)
Backups: Kevin Haplea (RS-Sr.), Giorgio Newberry (RS-Jr.), Jeremy Kerr (RS-Fr.)

Storylines: O’Leary had a breakthrough 2013, but with two of FSU’s top three receivers gone, he figures to see even more looks this year. Haplea returns from a knee injury that cost him all of 2013 and will likely take it slow entering spring practice. Newberry’s stint at tight end after moving from defensive end wasn’t entirely smooth, and he’s been vocal that he’s not enamored with staying at the position.

Status: A
O’Leary figures to be among the top tight ends in the country this season, and getting the veteran Haplea back for blocking situations adds to the unit’s depth and versatility.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The rumors have swirled for months, and on Wednesday, Florida State made it official: Quarterback Jacob Coker is leaving.

The redshirt sophomore pushed Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the starting job until the final week of fall camp, but he spent all of 2013 as a backup before injuring his knee and missing the final five games of the season.

Coker was a three-star recruit out of high school, but his combination of athleticism and a strong arm have already generated buzz about his pro potential. What was missing was playing time. He figures to find that elsewhere, with numerous reports suggesting Alabama as his most likely destination.

For Florida State, Coker’s decision doesn’t really change much on the depth chart, but it does put a bigger spotlight on Winston’s decision to continue his baseball career this spring.

Winston opens practice with Florida State’s baseball team Friday, and he’s expected to compete for a job as the team’s closer. He was solid in a relief role last year -- 17 appearances with a 3.00 ERA and 21 strikeouts -- but that was before he had a national championship and a Heisman Trophy under his belt.

A potential injury on the baseball field certainly makes Winston’s decision risky, and with Coker out of the picture, there’s not a substantial safety net for the Seminoles football team.

FSU will open spring practice with Sean Maguire second on the depth chart. A redshirt freshman in 2013, Maguire appeared in seven games, completing 13 of 21 passes for 116 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

At the moment, there are no other scholarship quarterbacks with playing experience on the roster, though Class of 2014 QBs J.J. Cosentino (Pittsburgh/Central Catholic) and Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) are both committed to FSU and John Franklin III worked on the scout team for the Seminoles in 2013. Franklin's future at quarterback, however, has been a topic of debate since his recruitment.

If all goes smoothly and Winston stays healthy, however, it’s a moot point. But Coker is the second quarterback to transfer from Florida State in less than a year -- Clint Trickett is now at West Virginia -- meaning a position once loaded with depth is now a bit more precarious moving forward.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The scene unfolds in roughly the same fashion each time one of his teammates is asked about the real Nick O’Leary.

First, there’s the subtle smirk. There’s a story there, some amusing anecdote that springs to mind immediately. The smirk evolves into a wry grin, followed by a shake of the head when the teammate remembers that O’Leary only lets the curtain be pulled back so far. Then the answer arrives, bland and boring, as if O’Leary had scripted it himself.

Nick’s cool.

Nick’s funny.

Nick’s just a normal guy.

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
Jeanine Leech/Icon SMIFSU tight end Nick O'Leary might be quiet off the field, but his play speak volumes about how hard he's worked to get better and better this season.
Nothing to see here, folks. Just the typical grandson of a world famous golfer who arrived as the most significant recruit at his position Florida State has ever signed, who blossomed into a star and served as his quarterback’s favorite red-zone target on an offense absolutely bursting with weapons.

If that’s a story worth telling, it won’t be O’Leary gushing details.

“He’s not in to being out there,” said QB Sean Maguire, O’Leary’s roommate. “That’s just his personality.”

Among strangers, O’Leary’s personality might best be compared to a bouncer at a biker bar. He’s a brooding behemoth, masked in a scraggly red beard and hair spiked with sweat. He’s not much of a talker, but he’s a mammoth presence.

What’s best known is O’Leary’s pedigree. He’s the grandson of Jack Nicklaus, a tidbit offered with all the subtlety of a jackhammer by virtually every broadcaster who’s called one of his games. O’Leary says he doesn’t mind the constant reminders, but he’s not interested in living off grandpa’s reflected spotlight.

A better window into O’Leary’s psyche is the motorcycle accident, when he did battle with a Lexus and won. The daredevil act was caught on a bus’ security camera and is replayed routinely as further evidence of O’Leary’s toughness. And he is tough.

On the field, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound O’Leary means business -- like the game against Clemson when he hauled in a short pass from Jameis Winston, steamrolled the Tigers’ safety, then rumbled another 15 yards to set up a touchdown.

In his third year as FSU’s starting tight end, he’s made enormous strides in his blocking. He’s racked up more yards and touchdowns in 11 games in 2013 than he had in his previous two seasons combined. He’s picked up a first down on 65 percent of his targets this year, tied for the best rate among tight ends in the country.

“He’s like a silent assassin,” Jimbo Fisher said.

But what about those sly grins from teammates? Surely they know something the rest of the world doesn’t. There must be something more there, some depth of character that rarely shines through the surly public persona, right?

“He’s a simple guy, and he enjoys simple things,” said Jack Daniels, O’Leary’s high school coach. “He loves football. He loves to be outdoors. He loves to be around his friends. There’s just not much more to him.”

O’Leary joined Daniels’ team at Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach midway through his high school career. He’d transferred from a much smaller school, looking to showcase his skills against stiffer competition.

Daniels remembers the day he met O’Leary -- this big kid from a famous family, carrying himself with a self-assured swagger that could easily rub you the wrong way if you didn’t really know him.

“He struck me as being pretty cocky,” Daniels said.

But the coach soon understood that it wasn’t arrogance. It was determination. No one wanted success more than O’Leary. The kid could’ve had anything he wanted by virtue of his grandfather’s fame, but O’Leary didn’t want anything he hadn’t worked for. Practice was a constant competition.

“We pushed each other,” said Gerald Christian, O’Leary’s teammate at Dwyer, who now plays at Louisville. “We’d go all practice without a drop.”

Still, the drops happened. Daniels remembers a game O’Leary dropped three passes in a row. The next morning -- a Saturday --O’Leary was back at the school, out on the practice field, catching balls. He had to get better.

That’s what made life so tough at Florida State. In high school, he could flub a play then get another shot on the next snap. At FSU, his mistakes lingered.

In last year’s win over Miami, O’Leary caught the first pass of the game, attempted to hurdle a defender, and fumbled the ball away. He didn’t catch another pass for two weeks.

“The most disappointing thing for him,” Daniels said. “All he wanted was another chance to make up for the fumble.”

O’Leary learned from the mistakes though. He’s been as sure-handed as anyone on Florida State’s roster this year. He’s caught a team-leading 79 percent of his targets, and he hasn’t fumbled once. Mistakes happen, but O’Leary never backs down.

“When a fight breaks out in practice, if it’s his fight, I’ll run over and help him,” center Bryan Stork said. “If it’s mine, he’ll run over and help me. It’s good to have him on my side. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

But really, O’Leary’s not a fighter. He just wants people to think he is. He was born into privilege, so he’s developed a hard shell, a tough-as-nails, country-boy air so no one can accuse him of being soft.

Beneath the hardscrabble exterior, though, there’s a gentle side. Maybe.

“Nick is like a little teddy bear,” Kelvin Benjamin said. “Everybody thinks Nick’s mean because he’s got that ‘Duck Dynasty’ beard going. You get to know him, and he’s a very cool cat.”

Getting to know O’Leary isn’t easy though. He’s not particularly interested in letting the rest of the world into the sanctuary he’s created, but he knows the spotlight is getting brighter.

“I guess it comes with winning,” he said.

With each win, O’Leary’s legend grows. He set the school’s all-time record for career touchdown receptions by a tight end two weeks ago. Winston slathers him with praise often. The quarterback also let slip that O’Leary booted a 53-yard field goal in practice last week. There’s really nothing O’Leary can’t do.

Well, almost nothing. He’s still not much of a talker.

Quizzed on his improvement this season, O’Leary suggested his rapport with new tight ends coach Tim Brewster has been a key.

“It was tough at the beginning,” he said, “but once we got to know each other and know how people like to be treated and all that, we grew a great relationship where we can talk about anything.”

Suddenly O’Leary realizes he’s said too much. His relationship with his coach is for insiders, not for the masses.

So he found common ground with his outspoken coach?

“Yeah,” O’Leary says.

And the relationship has been rewarding?

“We’re good,” he says.

And now that he’s having so much success, perhaps those broadcasters won’t need to mention his grandfather?

“I don’t care,” O’Leary said. “I don’t listen to the game.”

Five things: FSU vs. Idaho

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
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It's the penultimate week of the regular season, and Florida State hosts Idaho in a non-conference tuneup for the finale against Florida. In their first two non-conference games this season, the Seminoles won by a combined 116-13 -- and it's distinctly possible FSU has gotten better since then, and Idaho is a lesser foe than either Nevada or Bethune-Cookman. That could make for a one-sided affair, but there are still a few things to watch for.

1. Enjoy the moment: For Florida State's seniors, Saturday marks their final game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Senior Day always offers plenty of emotions, but for a group that provided the fulcrum between the moribund final years under Bobby Bowden to this year's run at a national title, it's as much a moment to mark the program's progress as it is a celebration of their own success. In a game with few reasons for excitement, the pregame ceremonies might be an emotional highlight.

2. Get up big early: No sense toying with Idaho. Florida State should dominate, and with so many other off-field concerns swirling around the program, there's plenty of benefit for the starters to do some early damage then relax on the sideline the rest of the way. And given the concerns about quarterback Jameis Winston's eligibility should charges be filed in an ongoing sexual assault investigation, getting backup Sean Maguire a healthy dose of reps could be crucial down the road.

3. Get the running game going: In Florida State's first eight games this season, the Seminoles ran the ball on 53 percent of their plays. In the last two weeks, however, it has been 61-percent passing plays. That hasn't exactly hurt the offense much (FSU averaged 11.6 yards per play last week) but it has kept Devonta Freeman off the field. He has just 10 carries for 40 yards in the last two games, meaning he'll need to average at least 75 per game the rest of the way to crack 1,000.

4. Stay healthy: After back-to-back 59-3 victories, Florida State doesn't figure to struggle much against Idaho either, but that doesn't mean a major loss couldn't occur. With Florida, the ACC title game and a potential national-title shot looming, the biggest thing the Seminoles can accomplish this week is keeping everyone healthy. Everything is running smoothly, but a serious injury in an area with limited depth (receiver, quarterback, defensive line) could be catastrophic.

5. Finish strong: The second-string defense struggled against NC State, looked better against Wake Forest, and was solid enough against Syracuse. All that experience should pay off in the long run, but FSU would certainly love to see the backups look nearly as dominant as the starters have, and against Idaho, there shouldn't be much of a talent gap between the players well down the FSU depth chart and the guys at the top of the Vandals'.

ACC predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
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Hard to believe that only two weeks remain in the regular season. Andrea is clinging to a one-game lead on Heather in the overall predictions standings at 71-20, after they each went 4-2 last week. Neither saw Maryland coming into Blacksburg, Va., and upsetting Virginia Tech. Bet we were not alone there.

On to the picks!

OLD DOMINION (8-3) at NORTH CAROLINA (5-5), noon, ESPN3. #ODUvsUNC. The Tar Heels are going for their fifth straight win and bowl eligibility against a team that is 0-2 against ACC competition already this year. Old Dominion has put up some points this season, but the Tar Heels' D has been vastly improved in this recent winning streak and will be able to shut the Monarchs down. With another punt return for score, Ryan Switzer would tie the ACC single-season record.

AA picks: North Carolina 40, Old Dominion 17

HD's pick: North Carolina 44, Old Dominion 24

DUKE (8-2, 4-2) at WAKE FOREST (4-6, 2-5), noon, ESPN2. #DUKEvsWF. Before winning last season, Duke had lost 12 straight games to the Deacs. But the Blue Devils today are the superior program, with better athletes all the way around. They have successfully used two quarterbacks all season, and their defense is filled with young talent and playmakers at linebacker. Duke is 3-0 on the road and should pick up another win against an offensively challenged Deacs team still trying to find some answers with Michael Campanaro out.

AA picks: Duke 35, Wake Forest 20

HD's pick: Duke 24, Wake Forest 21

CITADEL (5-6) at No. 7 CLEMSON (9-1), noon, ESPN3. #CITvsCLEM. It's senior day at Clemson, giving the Tigers the opportunity to honor Tajh Boyd and his fellow seniors. The question is just how much Boyd will play after bruising his collarbone last week, especially with a big game looming next week against South Carolina. Coach Dabo Swinney says he prefers to have an FCS opponent in this slot, giving the Tigers ample time to prepare for their in-state nemesis.

AA picks: Clemson 56, The Citadel 3

HD's pick: Clemson 45, The Citadel 10

VIRGINIA (2-8, 0-6) at MIAMI (7-3, 3-3), noon, ESPNU. #UVAvsMIA. Miami's issues against UVa are common knowledge, so this game sets up to be closer than what some might anticipate. Plus, the Hurricanes have lost three straight after a 7-0 start and have seen their defense drop off considerably. Virginia does not scream offensive juggernaut, but neither did Virginia Tech and the Hokies racked up 42 points in a win two weeks ago. The Hoos have a solid back in Kevin Parks, No. 3 in the ACC in rushing, and a good tight end in Jake McGee, who will make some plays, but ultimately, Stephen Morris and the Miami offense will make a few more plays to win.

AA picks: Miami 28, Virginia 27

HD's pick: Miami 34, Virginia 24

EAST CAROLINA (8-2) at NC STATE (3-7), ESPN3. #ECUvsNCST. The Pirates took down North Carolina earlier this year, nearly beat Virginia Tech, and go into this game as the favorites. NC State has looked like a ragged bunch, losing six straight in its worst season since 2006. There is no doubt East Carolina has the much better quarterback, as Shane Carden has turned in an outstanding season. But NC State is going to find a way to dig deep and come out with a win thanks to a few big plays from its pass game.

AA picks: NC State 28, East Carolina 24

HD's pick: East Carolina 41, NC State 14: ECU is No. 10 in the country in scoring offense at 41.5 points per game, and Carden leads the No. 8 passing offense in the country. The Pirates undoubtedly have the edge at quarterback, as NC State has struggled with both Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas. The two have combined for 15 interceptions and five touchdowns. Carden threw that many TDs by himself last week. If North Carolina was embarrassed by the Pirates at home, there’s no reason to believe the Wolfpack will fare much better. ECU is a solid eight-win team that, unlike NC State, is bowl eligible.

PITT (5-5, 2-4) at SYRACUSE (5-5, 3-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PITTvsCUSE. This game is a toss-up, as is nearly every league game these two teams have played this season (excluding Clemson and Florida State). Both are coming off losses, and both need one win for bowl eligibility. The problem for the Panthers is they have no real identity on offense. Syracuse does, and that is pounding the football. The Orange will get enough out of their run game and keep Aaron Donald at bay to win a close one.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Pitt 23

HD's pick: Syracuse 21, Pitt 17

ALABAMA A&M (4-7) at GEORGIA TECH (6-4), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. #AAMUvsGT. Like Clemson and Florida State, Georgia Tech also gets a warm-up game before it closes with its in-state rival next week. Coach Paul Johnson says the focus is on getting better at what his team does this week. You can bet Robert Godhigh will have another terrific performance, following his 100-yard rushing/100-yard receiving day against Clemson. Godhigh is on pace to set the ACC mark for highest average yards per carry, currently at 9.5.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Alabama A&M 3

HD's pick: Georgia Tech 56, Alabama A&M 10

IDAHO (1-9) at No. 2 FLORIDA STATE (10-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #IDAHOvsFSU. Once again, the question is how long will Jimbo Fisher keep his starters in, especially with a bigger game against rival Florida looming. This also seems as good a time as any to get backup quarterback Sean Maguire some reps. Idaho is one of the worst teams in the entire country, and this game should be out of hand by the end of the first quarter.

AA picks: Florida State 65, Idaho 0

HD's pick: FSU 72, Idaho 3

BOSTON COLLEGE (6-4, 3-3) at MARYLAND (6-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #BCvsMD. This may have been the toughest game to pick this week. Maryland is coming off an impressive win at Virginia Tech, while Andre Williams has put together two straight games of incredible performances. So which direction will this game go? It is hard to pick against the Eagles given what Williams and the offensive line have done this season. Simply put, they have worn the opposition down. Maryland has had injuries to contend with on defense, so I think BC will end up wearing the Terps down in the end.

AA picks: BC 24, Maryland 21

HD's pick: Maryland 21, Boston College 17: This game could go either way, but with it being the final home game in Byrd Stadium, it was hard to pick against the Terps. More importantly, Maryland has fared well this year in stopping the run, and is ranked No. 30 in the country in rushing defense, holding opponents to 139.8 yards per game. Boston College has made its living this fall with its running game, and Williams is certainly no secret. The Terps will be looking to slow down the ACC’s all-time single-season rushing leader, and they’ve also got the advantage in quarterback with C.J. Brown.

Florida State power rankings: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
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Eventually, Florida State’s starters will get more than two quarters to pad their stats, right? Right? OK, so the Seminoles are a 56-point favorite against Idaho, so that probably won’t happen soon.

(Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

1. QB Jameis Winston (1): Here’s the list of quarterbacks since 2000 to have two games in the same season with at least 15 completions in which they completed at least 90 percent of their throws: Winston. That’s it. That’s the list.

2. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Four more tackles, 1.5 more sacks. Joyner is making a strong case to be named the ACC’s defensive player of the year.

3. DT Timmy Jernigan (5): Of course, if Joyner’s not the ACC’s top defender, maybe Jernigan deserves the honor. He had six tackles (one for a loss) all in the first half, and he now has 37 tackles on the season. While he was in the game, Syracuse had five yards rushing on 18 carries.

4. RB Devonta Freeman (3): A few weeks ago, Freeman’s quest for 1,000 yards looked like a sure thing. After two blowouts in which he’s carried just 10 times, he now needs to average 75 yards a game to make 1,000.

5. WR Rashad Greene (4): He’s suffering a similar fate as Freeman. He’s had just 87 receiving yards in his last two games -- a total he’s topped in a single game five times this season. Still, Greene is just 140 yards shy of 1,000 for the year.

6. LB Telvin Smith (6): Four tackles, one for a loss, and a pass break-up -- Smith’s draft stock is rising by the week.

7. DE Christian Jones (10): His move to the line has been huge, and he finished with four tackles (one for a loss) against Syracuse.

8. S Jalen Ramsey (7): Three tackles, a QB hurry, and another terrific performance from one of the country’s most consistent true freshmen.

9. TE Nick O’Leary (NR): His third-quarter touchdown reception from Sean Maguire made O’Leary Florida State’s record holder for career TDs by a tight end.

10. S Terrence Brooks (9): He returned from a concussion with four tackles as FSU’s secondary was once again dominant.

Honorable mentions: DB Nate Andrews, WR Kermit Whitfield, RB James Wilder Jr., WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Kenny Shaw, RB Karlos Williams, DT Eddie Goldman

Winston shines in spite of scandal

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- He started with 11 straight completions, an answer to anyone who wondered if this chaos would finally unravel the unflappable focus of Jameis Winston.

He lounged on the sideline throughout the entirety of the second half of yet another blowout win, joking with former Heisman winner and Florida State great Charlie Ward. If Winston was worried that an off-field scandal might squash his hopes of following in Ward’s footsteps, his wide smile and relaxed demeanor didn’t show it Saturday.

Once the 59-3 shellacking of Syracuse was over, Winston lingered on the field for a few extra moments, then darted toward the tunnel, stopping behind the end zone when he found coach Jimbo Fisher’s young son. He shared high-fives with a contingent of kids, then exited the field through a cadre of fans reaching out their hands and shouting his name, disappearing into the locker room that is his sanctuary.

This was Florida State’s first mantra this week: Everything stays the same.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsJameis Winston threw for for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s the same Jameis,” receiver Kenny Shaw said. “Practice was the same, everything was the same. Same schedule. Nothing changed.”

Eventually, Winston emerged to face the cameras and the reporters. During his five-minute news conference, he faced a slew of questions about his focus, but not one about his potential involvement in a sexual-assault case being investigated by the state attorney’s office. Media had been instructed that Winston would discuss football only, but those unanswered questions tinged every aspect of Florida State’s victory on Saturday.

That is the other mantra at Florida State until there is some resolution to this case: No comment.

“One thing about Florida State, we’re a big family,” Winston said, “and we stay inside the family.”

A sexual assault was alleged to have occurred last December, and at some point after that, Winston became entangled in the investigation. On Wednesday, that information became public, but few other details of the story have emerged since.

Fisher skillfully dodged questions during a postgame media session that was, at times, more like a chess match between those who wanted details and a man who might have some.

Winston turned the focus onto his teammates, just as he had all season. Florida State’s defense once again was dominant. The offense scored touchdowns on its first five drives. There was too much love to go around to belabor the ugly story that overshadowed everything else for the previous four days.

The rest of the Seminoles were subjected to similar scrutiny, but they were careful not to provide any spark that might further ignite this growing media firestorm. It was, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said, the closest thing possible to business as usual.

“The guy, he’s had a lot going on around him from the start of the season,” Jernigan said of Winston, a redshirt freshman. “When you play like he plays, a lot’s going to come with it, whether it’s in a good way or a bad way. He’s just going out and playing his game. Nothing’s going to bother him.”

Indeed, Winston hardly seemed flustered by the off-field distractions. He finished the game completing 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He delivered a devastating block 40 yards downfield on a 74-yard touchdown run by freshman Levonte Whitfield. He nearly drew a flag sprinting onto the field to celebrate a defensive touchdown. He beamed after his backup, Sean Maguire, threw the first touchdown pass of his career in the third quarter, a beautiful lob to tight end Nick O'Leary in the end zone that may offer some hope for Florida State’s offense should this scandal derail Winston’s season.

“Nothing’s going to hold Jaboo back,” tailback James Wilder Jr. said of his QB. “He’s always happy, always cheering. He was tuned in, locked in.”

Before the game, the 1993 national championship team was honored, and even Seminoles 20 years removed from their playing days faced questions. Ward offered support for Winston. After an 11-month delay in investigating the incident, Ward suggested the timing of Tallahassee police’s decision to send the case to the state attorney was curious.

Derrick Brooks, a defensive star on that 1993 team, said this year’s Seminoles would rally around Winston. Championship teams, he said, always face adversity, and the cure was to step back onto the field.

But adversity seems like the wrong word. Fans cheered his name, and reporters studied Winston’s face for signs that the cloud of suspicion would finally crack his unflinchingly upbeat facade. But the alleged victim in the case remains nameless and faceless to the public, another in the stream of details still unknown.

Saturday’s game did little to part the clouds of the growing storm surrounding the program. It simply proved once again that, with Winston at quarterback, Florida State is a team more than capable of playing for a national championship.

“When you have great veterans around you and great people you trust,” Winston said, “you want to go out on that battlefield and play your heart out for them.”

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Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12