Here are a few observations from our brief opportunities watching the open portions of Florida State practices leading up to the Peach Bowl:
First things first: The most obvious observation is that there is a definite drop-off from Sean Maguire and Deondre Francois to JJ Cosentino in terms of accuracy. Cosentino has a strong arm but regularly missed his spots by a yard or two, leading to receivers scrambling and adjusting to try to catch the football. Cosentino appears to be dropping his elbow and pushing the football, which is likely a significant factor in the inconsistent ball placement. Cosentino especially struggled with his timing on the out routes at all depths. He was consistently late with his throws as well as the poor ball placement.
By contrast, Francois throws a beautiful football and shows excellent intuition for where to place each throw. He has good natural timing and definitely looks the part of an FSU quarterback throwing against air. I don't recall him missing a single throw in the open portion of practice.
Maguire has dramatically improved over the past year in terms of his timing and comfort level. The loop or hitch that used to be obvious in his release is almost entirely gone, only reappearing in one out of ten or fifteen throws. Even then, it's a minor flaw at this point, meaning Maguire has become a much more consistent thrower than he has been in the past. Maguire's placement was very good on all but two throws we observed on Tuesday, and his timing allowed the receivers to catch with minimal work. Maguire never looked like an FSU quarterback to my eye when throwing in these types of sessions in recent years, but he looked like one today.
The difference between the older WRs (Whitfield, Wilson, Rudolph) and the younger group was even more obvious to me at field level than it has been on tape. Of the younger group, only Nyquan Murray is consistent through the full route tree at this point. Murray gets in and out of his breaks quickly and gets his head around quickly on each route; I suspect the only reason he's not on the field more at this point is that size-wise he doesn't bring anything more to the table than the older group.
Each of the other young players still had to work on getting his head around quickly enough to catch the football consistently. This sounds rudimentary, but it’s really one of the toughest adjustments for young WRs going from a high school offense to a college passing offense. High school offenses simply don't have the same precision timing required by every college passing offense, with the ball thrown during or before the WR’s break.
Big receivers tend to have more difficulty learning how to run good routes, and both George Campbell and Auden Tate still have a good way to go, though they've both progressed some. Campbell's right knee clearly limited him on routes that required him to plant and break on it, and he avoided running a few routes that would have tested it more. Both Campbell and Tate also have a tendency to raise their shoulders coming into their breaks (which telegraphs the route), a common big-receiver problem caused by not sufficiently sinking the hips and driving through the break. Tate looks like he's starting to understand how to vary his speed and accelerate in routes but just isn't quite there yet. That said, I expect to see him used on Thursday, as he should be ready on a few routes where he looks more comfortable.
Pigg Harrison missed his depth on a couple routes, causing off-target throws from the QB; this is likely a significant reason he has yet to break onto the field at this point.
All that said, this group is showing signs of being very good before too long; the development is coming along, and once they're all healthy again, this should be a fascinating group to watch in the spring.