TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Backup Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire has gone from being an afterthought to one of the most valuable players on the Seminoles’ roster in a span of 10 days.
He began the season as the No. 3 quarterback, but moved up when Jacob Coker had season-ending knee surgery last Tuesday. On Wednesday, the sexual assault investigation of Jameis Winston became public and Maguire’s value increased exponentially.
One injury or one development in the case and Maguire is the starting quarterback of the undefeated, second-ranked Seminoles.
“It’s a different mindset, obviously,” Maguire said. “From being two plays away (to) one play away, it’s a lot different.
“I just try to prepare myself a lot more.”
Maguire, a redshirt freshman, got his first career snap two weeks ago against Wake Forest after Coker tore his meniscus. He started the second half against Syracuse with the No. 1 offense after the Seminoles led 38-0.
The situation allowed coach Jimbo Fisher to give Maguire some much-needed game experience. Maguire completed 3 of 5 passes for 21 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Orange.
“Very pleased with his first time out there in that situation with the (starters) in the huddle,” Fisher said. “Very critical for him to get out there and do that.”
Fisher and teammates rave about Maguire’s confidence and competitiveness. Those qualities gave teammates faith in his ability while fans worried.
“Sean’s been the same guy since he stepped on campus,” running back Karlos Williams said. “He’s been lifting, running, training, preparing himself film-wise physically and mentally to be in that position. Sean has always had that confidence to be like, ‘I can make a play if it needs to be made.’
“He stepped in, he was very calm. During practice all that week, he was very calm. … Never rushed anything. It definitely showed (that) on the football field Saturday.”
Maguire committed to Florida State before Winston was in the fold. Fisher was impressed by his athleticism and Maguire showed a strong arm in few opportunities to throw the ball – he operated the run-based, Wing-T offense at Seton Hall Prep (N.J.). Maguire could have been relegated to a college career spent holding the clipboard – especially after Winston won the job before the season.
“He’s very confident in his abilities,” Fisher said of Maguire. “Guys who are true competitors don’t let other people affect where they go to school. If that’s where (they) want to go, they go.”
Maguire said he “talked to coach Fisher right after (Winston) committed, I told him I’m not going anywhere. … I wanted to stick to my word.”
Any concerns of sitting behind Winston for four years should have dissipated by now.
Winston is a Heisman Trophy front-runner that broke Phillip Rivers’ record for the most touchdown passes by an ACC freshman. He will have the opportunity to go the NFL after the 2014 season and NFL experts expect him to be a first-round pick. Coker will be a senior in 2015, if he stays.
“He’s a very underappreciated for his talent and potential,” center Bryan Stork said. “He’s a guy that, if he’s committed, he’s committed. That’s in his personality. I never once questioned if he was going to leave.
“He knows eventually if he stays true to the process, he’ll get his chance. “
Maguire is likely to get a significant amount of playing time against Idaho (1-9) on Saturday.
Winston has only played an entire game three times this season – against then-No. 25 Boston College, No. 7 Clemson and then-No. 7 Miami. The Seminoles have had at least a 38-point halftime lead in three of the last four games. The Vandals have only held one team to less than 37 points this year, and that’s against 1-9 Temple.
“I’m excited, especially knowing you’re going to get a lot more playing time,” Maguire said. “First time’s out of the way, so now I’m just going to get better and have fun out there.
“The only thing that’s really different, I never really changed anything as far as what I do during the week. Except now I just get a lot more reps in practice. So, obviously, it helps big time on the weekends.”