TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Welcome Sean Maguire to big-time college football.
Florida State’s little-known redshirt sophomore will start for the time in his college career on national television, against a top-25 opponent and in place of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. And if that wasn’t enough on his plate, the winner of the Clemson-Florida State game has played in the ACC title game the past five years.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome, I’d like to imagine,” Maguire said. “I’ve pictured this since I started playing little league ball. … I don’t know how much better it gets than this.”
Seminoles starter Jameis Winston was benched for the first half Saturday in the Atlantic Coast Conference showdown for “offensive and vulgar” comments.
Enter Maguire, who has thrown just 26 passes with the Seminoles and was not a highly touted recruit. He ran the run-first, wing-T offense at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey and did not put up awe-inspiring numbers. Coach Jimbo Fisher, however, has always been enamored with Maguire’s strong arm and said he won’t change the offense at all.
Maguire completed 3 of 5 passes for 28 yards after entering the Citadel game in the third quarter with a 34-0 lead two weeks ago. He played in nine games in 2013 and threw for 116 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
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Maguire took every snap with the No. 1 offense since Wednesday and will have Friday’s walk-thru before kickoff Saturday. Fisher acknowledged it will be a challenge and said he never knows how a guy will react, but that’s why he puts all of the quarterbacks in pressure situations in practice.
“There’ll be nerves,” Fisher said. “Any guy who’s going to play his first game, I don’t care who he is. … I’m anxious to see how he handles it. I think he’ll do well.”
Maguire previously said he learned in 2013 that he’s one play away from a huge role on this team. He moved up to the No. 2 quarterback after Jacob Coker suffered a season-ending injury in the ninth game of last season. Then Coker transferred to Alabama. Things have slowed down for the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Maguire, but even he knows there will be a difference running the show.
“I remember last year saying you can watch all the film you want,” said Maguire, who received a text from Winston telling him about the incident on campus, “but it’s different when you go out there. You can draw Xs and Os all day and know the offense in and out, but until you go out there and see it and see the defense move and call the mike calls … it’s different.”
Florida State interim President Dr. Garnett S. Stokes and athletic director Stan Wilcox announced in a joint statement Wednesday that in addition to sitting out the first half of Saturday’s game, Winston also will undergo internal discipline. They did not say why Winston was only benched for just a half — though that is not uncommon — and they did not provide details of the punishment.
“We’re in charge. It’s our team,” Fisher said about the punishment. “That’s what we thought. We went with the consequences and we’re ready to move on.”
Fisher said the president and athletic director are always involved in university policy, but declined to answer when asked if it’s normal for them to be involved in team discipline.
Fisher could decide to hold out Winston longer in the game, though that could be a risky proposition for the Seminoles.
The Seminoles have championship aspirations and one loss could keep them out of the ACC championship game and the College Football Playoff.
Winston said he’s been helping Maguire prepare and added that FSU will win regardless.
“It eats me alive that I did something like that,” Winston said. “I can’t carry myself that way.
“Me and Sean, we’re going to watch film, we’re going to do what we do, and I’m going to try my best to put our team in a good chance to win this game. I know they’ve got my back.”
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