Quarterback position up for grabs at FSU

March 19, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State hasn’t had a quarterback competition this wide open in five years.

There’s Clint Trickett, a redshirt junior who has thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and is in his fourth year on campus.

There’s Jacob Coker, a redshirt sophomore who is versatile and athletic but has only thrown six passes.

And there’s Jameis Winston, who was the nation’s top-ranked quarterback in the class of 2012.

Even Sean Maguire, a redshirt freshman from New Jersey who is considered the dark horse of the group, is considered a candidate by coach Jimbo Fisher.

Each brings a different level of experience and skillset to the position. But for the moment, none have separated themselves.

“Let them decide by how they play and their results,” Fisher said. “And how the team follows. At the end of the day, how does he move them down the field? And who can put them in the end zone? … Time will tell.”

Florida State opens spring practice on Wednesday, and Fisher said he has no timeline for a decision.

It’s possible that a decision could be made by April 13, when Florida State holds its annual Garnet and Gold spring game. Or the competition could go well into August camp. At some point, Fisher will have to choose the quarterback that will guide the Seminoles against Pittsburgh on Labor Day and then for the rest of the season.

All of the quarterbacks are at least 6-foot-2. They all have strong arms. And they’ve all spent at least a year in Tallahassee learning Fisher’s playbook.

Trickett has experience on his side, and Fisher has said he is the No. 1 quarterback going into the spring. Trickett has been EJ Manuel’s backup the past two seasons, and his first start included a 336-yard game in a 35-30 loss at Clemson in 2011. He has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 947 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions.

There’s not much in the playbook that Trickett hasn’t been able to absorb since he enrolled in the spring of 2010. He’s the son of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Clint is considered the safe choice. While Trickett can roll out to buy time, he’s not nearly as mobile as Coker and Winston.

Trickett has also struggled with Celiac disease, which limits the body’s ability to process food. The past few years he has been able to eat more gluten-free foods, and the 6-foot-3 Trickett now weighs 180 pounds. The extra 15 pounds have come with a bonus — added arm strength.

“I made a throw that I couldn’t have made (before),” Trickett said last fall. “It was the other side of the field, deep, about a 20-yard out route and it was on a rope. I felt pretty good about that.”

Coker is considered the longshot in the race behind the experienced Trickett and fan favorite Winston. But Coker’s talent was realized early on by then-FSU assistant Dameyune Craig, who saw Coker make challenging throws (such as 20-yard outs to the far side of the field).

What Coker brings to the table is athleticism. He’s a former Alabama player of the year in his class in basketball, but he’s known for his versatility on the football field. Coker first ran the Wing-T at his high school and excelled in the pro-style offense later in his career.

Coker attempted just a handful of passes in 2012, completing 3 of 5 for 45 yards and tossing a 19-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin in the rout of Savannah State.

FSU fans haven’t seen much of Coker yet – just a few passes in mop-up duty and the 2012 spring football game. But Fisher has praised Coker’s work ethic — he’s often the guy that you see well after FSU’s practice has concluded, still slinging the ball to a receiver. Every day.

“Jacob is ultra competitive,” said Jimmy Perry, Coker’s high school coach. “He is a blue-collar worker. He’s tenacious about being a perfectionist.”

Winston’s FSU career has already begun on the baseball diamond. He’s hitting .231 with two doubles, four runs scored and an RBI as a reserve outfielder and designated hitter. And Winston has pitched in six games as a reliever, earning two saves in six games with a 2.35 ERA.

He will be juggling this spring, practicing with the football team on certain days and, when the football team is off, he will play baseball.

“He’s not going to miss anything in football,” Fisher said. “He’ll be at every practice, every meeting. If a practice overlaps a game, he’ll miss their game.”

Some have analyzed Fisher’s comments about Winston, which have been glowing, and feel that Winston is the front-runner. But it’s tough to guess with Fisher. 

Maguire is clearly the fourth man at the moment, and he is an unknown quantity. But that could change in just a few weeks.

After all, in 2008, Fisher chose a sophomore — Christian Ponder — over senior Drew Weatherford and heralded recruit D’Vontrey Richardson. At the time, Fisher said he saw Ponder as a potential first-round pick.

This spring, all eyes are on the quarterback competition — and who Fisher chooses.

"They'll settle it when the time is right and everyone will know," Fisher said.