ORLANDO – As far as spring game goes, Florida State’s was as about as good at it gets.
The Garnet and Gold teams each scored on their final two drives and the game ended 24-24. Jimbo Fisher was very pleased with the spring finale, a stark contrast from the way spring started when Fisher ripped into his team what he called the worst practice any of his teams had since he became a head coach.
The Seminoles had plenty of breakout performances but here is what we learned.
QB Sean Maguire will be pushed to keep his starting job
Maguire, the senior who is recovering from surgery on his ankle, watched FSU’s freshmen quarterbacks close the gap on the competition. Redshirt Deondre Francois and early enrollee Malik Henry dueled to the end, each leading their teams on two scoring drives in the final five minutes. Francois was 20 of 33 for 246 yards and two interceptions. Henry was 15 of 22 for 205 yards and a slow start in which his Garnet team did not have a first down in the first half. Both tossed two TD passes. “Sean will be right there and he’ll go back up to No. 1 and they’ll all compete for it,” Fisher said. “They’re all going to compete for it in fall camp. I’m anxious to what we can put in that mix the better.”
WR Auden Tate is for real
One of the biggest disappointments last season was that none of the receivers behind Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson emerged. Well, now there is a fourth member of the top tier, 6-5 Tate, who had six catches for 100 yards and two TDs. The most impressive was a play in which he ran the wrong route, but kept moving, headed down the sideline and leaped to catch the throw from Francois, giving the Gold a 21-17 lead. The catch was pure Kelvin Benjamin, who by the way is the player to whom Tate is drawing the most comparisons. “Auden made a phenomenal catch,” Fisher said. “The play itself was phenomenal. That was a great play. But you saw his body size, you see what he has a chance to be and he’s got to get better. He’ll keep polishing those routes but that big body and those hands, he can be a weapon for us.”
Derwin James is an All-American in the making
James, the strong safety, made a name for himself last season making several freshman All-American teams and even being touted by some as the best freshman in the country. Now he has taken the next step this spring not only on the field but as a leader. James was all over the field on Saturday. But as much as his physical ability, Fisher continues to praise James for the way he has taken hold of the leadership role. “He just gets it,” Fisher said. “The physical skills are crazy, he’s unbelievably instinctive but he’s an intelligent guy, a very intelligent person, not just football player. And then he’s a great people person. Derwin’s a fun guy to be a round. Guys just flock to him. He has that charisma.”
Ryan Green is back where he belongs
The rising junior made the switch back to running back after spending a season at cornerback and looks as though he never left. Green gained a game-high 84 yards on 16 carries. And although the 5-11, 205-pound green appears as if he’s too small to plow through the middle and will only beat you on the edge, he showed he’s also capable to picking up the tough yards. Green and Jacques Patrick will enter camp battling for the most playing time behind Dalvin Cook. “It’s just natural,” Green said. “I know how to make people miss, I can catch out of the backfield. I run hard. I just feel like it’s the way to go.”
Ricky Aguayo ready to step into some very big shoes
Ironically, those shoes belong to his brother, Roberto, who concluded his historic career last season by joining Deion Sanders as the only two FSU players to be named to at least one All-America team three straight years. Ricky, a true freshman who enrolled early, got off to a good start as his brother’s successor by nailing both of his field goal attempts, from 45 and 46 yards, the latter coming with four seconds remaining and his team trailing by three points. Aguayo hit a low line drive that cleared the crossbar by feet. “What Ricky did at the end of the game was special,” Fisher said. “To come in in that situation, tie the game, you never know. We could have that during the season.”