Seminoles' young quarterbacks stand out during spring game
ORLANDO — If there is anything definitive to glean from Florida State's annual Garnet and Gold spring game Saturday, it's the future of the quarterback position appears promising.
Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry performed well overall. Both made a few mistakes but for the most part showed flashes and big-play ability in a game that ended in a 24-24 tie after both led their teams to scores in the two-minute drill to conclude the day the Citrus Bowl.
And it's not a given that either will be the Seminoles' quarterback when the team returns to the Citrus Bowl in September for the season opener against Ole Miss. Incumbent Steve Maguire could still have a say when he returns from an ankle surgery that kept out of spring practice.
"Poise and they were in charge and command of everything they did," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said of both Henry and Francois' spring game performances. "There wasn't any poor decisions in terms of they weren't careless with the ball or wasn't making the right decisions. When they had a chance to make plays they made them."
Henry, the prized recruit, led the Garnet team with 205 yards and two touchdowns passing while completing 15 of 22 passes. His 43-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Travis Rudolph inside of the final two minutes rallied the Garnet team to a 24-21 lead.
But with the benefit of some added time on the clock, Francois got a chance to drive the Gold down the field to set up Ricky Aguayo's 46-yard field goal to tie it as time expired. Francois completed 20 of 33 passes for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while showing his dual-threat ability with 37 net yards on six rush attempts. Francois did toss two first-half interceptions but bounced back in the second half.
Francois is expected to compete with Maguire for the starting job while many believe Henry is headed for a redshirt year. But Fisher didn't rule anything out with Maguire expected to able to go fully come fall camp.
"I think the more we can put in the mix the better," Fisher said.
Aside from the quarterback showcase, the focus was on the Seminoles getting a chance for a dress rehearsal in front of 49,913 of their fans in the very stadium they will open their season in September. FSU decided to move its spring game to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando this year when its stadium in Tallahassee undergoes major renovations.
The players came down on Friday for the game, stayed in a hotel and had meetings and meals just like they will in the fall.
"I just think it prepares you to know where you are going," Fisher said. "Anytime you go and you've been in the building you are going to play in, stayed in the hotel and slept in those beds and know what to kind of expect, it never hurts.
"We killed two birds with one stone. We got down here to see our fans and also got a pre-game warmup for the fall."
The players seemed to enjoy the opportunity to be part of a game-type environment, especially the players who are from Orlando.
"This was a wonderful experience," sophomore running back Jacques Patrick, who is from Orlando and is a product of Timber Creek High School, said in reference to playing in the Citrus Bowl. "A lot of people haven't seen this place since high school. For us to come down here and get this opportunity was great."
Overall, Fisher thought it was a positive experience and a great showing by his players.
The Seminoles entered spring ball in need of a identifying a big-time red zone receiving threat and 6-foot-5, 218 sophomore Auden Tate looked very much the part. Tate caught six passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, which included a 23-yard touchdown reception from Francois that put the Gold team ahead 14-0 in the second quarter. Ryan Green and Patrick looked solid options to backup star running back Dalvin Cook, who sat out the spring game after having surgery on his should earlier in the week.
"You saw some of the potential of this football team at times and you saw some of the youth of this football team," said Fisher, who has 17 starters returning but just 12 seniors. "This is a very unique team. I've said it all spring, we're experienced but we are still young."