Sean Maguire, Deondre Francois QB battle key for Florida State


Florida State opens preseason camp on Tuesday afternoon. The Seminoles return 17 starters but there are plenty of position battles to watch, notably ones at quarterback, right tackle and cornerback.

Let’s take a look at seven storylines to watch over the next four weeks as FSU prepares for the season opener against Ole Miss on Sept. 5 in Orlando.

•Quarterbacks on display: Redshirt senior Sean Maguire has six starts under his belt, including wins over Clemson (in 2014) and Florida (in November). Deondre Francois, a redshirt freshman, lacks game experience but has more mobility and plenty of upside. Maguire and Francois are the clear front-runners in a battle that also includes true freshman Malik Henry and redshirt sophomore JJ Cosentino. While each brings different strengths to the table, Maguire and Francois will have the next month to show coach Jimbo Fisher they are ready to take the starting job.

•Right side of offensive line: FSU is set on the left side with tackle Roderick Johnson and guard Kareem Are. Then it’s a question of where the puzzle pieces fit. Center Alec Eberle was inconsistent in 2015 as a first-time starter but has added weight and strength in the offseason. Wilson Bell should also see competition at guard, likely from Cole Minshew. Defensive end Rick Leonard moved over to offensive line in the spring and could find a home at right tackle, where he will battle Brock Ruble and Derrick Kelly for the starting job.

•Taller WR targets continue emergence: FSU wasn’t able to stretch the field or find success in the red zone in 2015. That could change with 6-foot-5 Auden Tate and 6-4 George Campbell. Tate had six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, and Campbell had a 41-yard reception. It’s not certain that either will start, but they should see playing time in three- and four-receiver sets this fall.

•Is this Matthew Thomas’ season? A five-star linebacker in the class of 2013, Thomas has missed playing time due to shoulder and ankle injuries, academic ineligibility and a half-season suspension. But Fisher has been impressed with the versatility and athleticism that Thomas brings to the defense. If he can stay healthy, Thomas could start.

•Corners face off for starting job: FSU has an abundance of riches at defensive back. So it’s no surprise that one of the best position battles in August will be between a pair of sophomores, five-star Tarvarus McFadden and four-star Marcus Lewis. Each had three tackles in the spring game, and Lewis was consistently able to blanket FSU’s best receiver, former Cardinal Newman standout Travis Rudolph. It’s likely McFadden and Lewis will both see extensive playing time this fall.

•Could the next ‘star’ be Levonta Taylor? Trey Marshall returns from an arm injury and has the talent and knowledge of the defense to start at star (nickel) defensive back. But it will be interesting to see how much of the scheme that five-star Levonta Taylor is able to pick up in the next month. Taylor is also considered an excellent punt returner and could solve FSU’s concerns in the return game (Jesus Wilson averaged just 4.3 yards on 26 punt returns in 2015).

•New specialists: Kicker Roberto Aguayo graduated early and left FSU after his junior season and was a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But in his place is little brother Ricky, who enrolled in January and made 45- and 46-yard field-goal attempts in the spring game. Logan Tyler has also arrived this summer and will compete with graduate transfer Logan Steed (from Oklahoma) for the starting punting job.


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