The quarterback is often considered to be the most important player on the field for any given team. For Florida State, a good case can be made that running back Dalvin Cook is actually that player, but the injury of quarterback Sean Maguire may still have a big impact on the beginning of the ‘Noles 2016 season.
Specifically, it brings highly-anticipated redshirt freshman Deondre Francois into the spotlight.
Timing is everything in sports — especially football — and Maguire’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him. He was splitting first team-reps with Francois in what appeared to be a heated quarterback battle.
Maguire is expected to miss four weeks, which means Francois will likely be the starter for FSU’s season-opening matchup against what should be a very good Ole Miss team. It’s a big opportunity for Francois, though it’s worth noting that he might have won the competition even without Maguire’s injury. It’s also worth noting that head coach Jimbo Fisher has yet to officially name a starting quarterback.
For Maguire, the one word that came to his mind was disappointing, per Bob Ferrante of 247Sports.
“The past few days have been pretty devastating for me and my family,” Maguire said. “I’m getting surgery tomorrow (Monday). After tomorrow, it’s all about getting back to being 100 percent. That’s pretty much the only thing on my mind.”
While an injury to a potential starter is never good news for a program or the player involved, there’s plenty of reason for Florida State fans to be excited about Francois.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pound quarterback is a former four-star recruit out of the prestigious IMG Academy in Orlando, ranked the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the 2015 class and the No. 64 player nationally. He committed to Florida State over a bevy of others, including Florida, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oregon and Tennessee. Without a doubt, he faced high expectations coming in as a recruit.
Those expectations will come to a head against an Ole Miss team that went 10-3 last season and is returning a dark horse Heisman candidate in quarterback Chad Kelly, but Francois seems to have the poise that sometimes accompanies high expectations. Especially for the elite players, pressure doesn’t seem to be an issue.
“I don’t think the lights will be too bright,” Francois said, via Brendan Sonnone of 247Sports. “I believe in my preparation. Everything Coach Fisher has taught me is to be humble, trust the process. If I prepare well and continue to do everything he tells me to do, I feel like I’ll be fine.”
Outside of his recruiting resume, we don’t know much about Francois. It’s hard to know exactly how a player will react when the hits are for real, especially in such a pressure-filled opening game. Credit to FSU: Ole Miss is no cupcake.
That said, Francois was the scout team MVP last season during his redshirt year. Per Sonnone, teammates compared him to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, who nearly beat Alabama in last season’s national championship.
Francois also looked great in Florida State’s spring game. He stands tall in the pocket, throws a pretty football with good zip and placement, and has the athleticism and size to be a major threat as a scrambler when the play breaks down. He also has the speed to be a run-first option as a quarterback.
It makes sense, then, that comparisons have been made to dynamic FSU Heisman winner and national champion Jameis Winston, who took over Florida State’s offense as a redshirt freshman. Fisher has done his part to take some of the heat off of those expectations:
“I don’t ever compare players. It’s unfair to compare Jameis. It’s unfair to compare Deondre. I won’t do it. And I don’t know.
“Just be consistent and be Deondre. What he has to do is not worry about being Jameis. Not worry about being Sean Maguire. Not worry about being E.J. Manuel. Not worrying about being Christian Ponder. He needs to worry about being Deondre Francois.”
Perhaps Francois will never be the next Watson or Winston, but as Fisher pointed out, he doesn’t have to be.
On his own, Francois has the pedigree and skill-set to be just as dynamic as the quarterbacks he reminds us of. If he lives up to expectations, that only means big things are on the horizon (once again) for Florida State football.