Florida State will be turning to a new signal caller against Clemson on Saturday, at least for the first half. Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston has been suspended and redshirt sophomore Sean Maguire has stepped into the starting role. Maguire, a New Jersey native, was a three-star quarterback in the 2012 class that also featured Winston. He had offers from Boston College and Syracuse, but no other major college football teams expressed much interest.
Maguire found out he was going to be the starter when he was called into head coach Jimbo Fisher’s office before practice on Wednesday.
“I feel pretty good about everything,” Maguire said. “This week of practice went extremely well after coach Fisher brought me into his office and told me the circumstances and that I would be starting. He told me that game plan’s not changing; the team’s not changing, and we’re going to go out there in the first half and do everything we usually would. He had all the confidence in the world in me and that he expects nothing to change.”
At the press conference following his suspension Winston was quick to point out just how good a quarterback Maguire is.
“Sean is hungry,” Winston said. “He wants this opportunity. He’s going to take advantage of this opportunity. Sean and I have been together since we came in in the same class. He’s been working his tail off. I respect Sean. The team respects Sean. Sean’s going to do a great job. I’m going to make sure he does a great job. Me and him are going to go to work. We’re going to play Florida State football because Sean is a great quarterback. That’s why coach Fisher recruited him.”
Including the upcoming game, Florida State has started a backup against Clemson for three out of the last five games. Fisher, however, is very confident in Maguire’s ability to lead the offense due to the way he runs his practices.
“His consistency in practice says a lot,” Fisher said. “That’s why I put a lot of pressure on guys in practice. I’ll ride them. I’ll push them. I’ll challenge them. Even though you’re a two and don’t think you’re playing I’m going to treat you like a one. I’m going to treat you hard and tough because at quarterback that’s the only way you can put pressure on a guy. He’s performed well under that in practice.”
Jameis Winston has come through on his promise to work more with Maguire meeting with him late into the night on Wednesday to watch film. Maguire says he’s already learned a lot just by watching Winston break down film.
““It’s nice to get Jameis’ point of view and the way he watches film,” said Maguire. “I’ve learned a lot just in the past couple nights with him just seeing how he prepares. We were here till around ten o’clock. We were here for a while.”
This will be Maguire’s first start since he was in high school running the Wing-T offense, but he couldn’t be looking forward to it any more than he already is.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome I would imagine,” Maguire said. “I’ve pictured this since I’ve started playing little league ball. To be in an opportunity like this I don’t know how much better it gets. I’m looking forward to it.”
Since Winston’s suspension has been made public many have wondered whether Florida State will rely more on its running game than it normally would. Head coach Jimbo Fisher says that’s not the case.
“We’ll run our offense,” Fisher said. “These guys have run the same offense that Jameis has been running in practice for all of spring and fall. [Jameis and Sean] are more similar than they are different because of their arm talent and ability to get the ball down the field.”
There have also been some questions about Maguire's chemistry with the first team receivers, but he says that is not a concern.
“I’ve been going with Rudolph and Lane a lot since the summer. Even with Greene and Wilson and all them because Jameis was gone a lot during the summer at the Manning Camp or doing something else so I got a lot of work with them over the summer. Still do in practice.”
The Seminoles will need Maguire to be as good as Fisher and Winston believes he is against this much-improved Clemson defense, but even with a standout performance by Maguire against Clemson, Winston will return to the starting role against NC State the following weekend. However, It could be a springboard for the 2015 season as he is the front-runner for the starting job if Winston leaves. Maguire has big shoes to fill this week, but a great performance would put Seminole fans much more at ease about moving on without Winston in the future.