TALLAHASSEE — One by one, the quarterbacks sauntered into the room.
Each had his own characteristics, his own individual quirks.
First came the charismatic two-sport star from the Alabama Crimson Tide’s backyard. Then came the often overlooked New Jersey native, eager to prove he belonged with the others.
Next, the tall, thick-armed signal-caller with an even thicker South Alabama drawl entered. After him, the knowledgeable veteran, a coach’s son, made his appearance.
The quartet had been summoned to discuss the spring story line that has captivated Florida State’s fan base like few have in recent years.
“Hi, I’m Sean Maguire,” the former New Jersey prep standout said when he greeted reporters in the room Friday afternoon. It was his way of sarcastically reminding them, and those who read them, that he was part of the four-man quarterback competition that will play out across the next month and possibly into the summer.
The redshirt freshman will be joined this spring by fellow redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, sophomore Jacob Coker and fourth-year junior Clint Trickett in a battle to decide who will replace former quarterback EJ Manuel under center this fall.
After just two practices, coaches are seeing a productive competition, even though they are far from deciding on a starter. Both quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders and head coach Jimbo Fisher have said the staff has no timetable for a decision.
“It’s fun to watch the guys compete. It’s fun to watch them learn,” Sanders said. “I’m excited about the abilities that they do have.”
When it comes to looking for one particular quarterback who will rise above the others and prove himself as the No. 1 player, Sanders said he has specific traits in mind that he wants them to fulfill.
“They’ve got the talent and the ability to get it done,” he said. “Once you get past that, it turns into decision-making, leadership, charisma, who does what at the critical times. Sometimes that’s one of the harder things about making these determinations is putting guys in these critical situations in practice.”
Coaches will create difficult scenarios as much as they can this spring when they rotate each of the quarterbacks in with the first-string offensive line and skill players. So far, all four have had multiple opportunities to sit behind the current starting line and throw to the No. 1 pass-catchers and running backs.
With a proven veteran in Manuel the last two seasons, the Seminoles had very few opportunities for their younger quarterbacks to see the field. Aside from a two-game stretch when Manuel got injured two years ago, there haven’t been any chances other signal-callers to see starting time. Only Trickett, who appeared in those two games, has that experience.
In that sense, he has a leg up on the others.
“Clint understands it better,” Sanders said. “When you tell them to play and they get to the line of scrimmage, the gears aren’t turning like ‘what is everybody doing? What exactly am I supposed to do?’”
While Trickett has the slight experience advantage, in most fans’ eyes, the starting advantage should be all Winston’s. The redshirt freshman and former top-rated dual-threat quarterback from suburban Birmingham has arguably the largest group of supporters among the foursome.
Illustrating that point, Warchant.com’s Paul Thomas tweeted Friday evening that video of Winston from afternoon’s interview session had more plays than the other quarterbacks. Although clicks for the others were more reasonably split, Winston had more than 200 clicks than his next closest viewed teammate, Coker.
The popularity contest has even caused some fans to refer to themselves as being on “Team Jacob,” “Team Winston,” “Team Sean” and “Team Trickett.” The nicknames are reminiscent of passion and fervor teenage fans of the “Twilight” movie series had when they qualified whether they supported one of two fictional vampires from the movie. They said they were on “Team Jacob” or “Team Edward.”
“It’s easy to ignore [the hype] because last year I sat the bench and didn’t see the whole field,” Winston said. “I just really only worry about winning. All that hype and other stuff, you have to prove it.”
Many fans think the large-bodied, athletic, two-sport star can do just that. Fewer appear to be as confident in the smaller Trickett. Even though he hears it, the 180-pound quarterback isn’t fazed by any of the chatter.