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April 12, 2014
Five things to watch for Saturday's spring game
Florida State's spring game is today, giving FSU fans a first look at what the 2014 Seminoles will look like. Sort of.
Florida State's roster has been thinned by injury in spring practice as per usual - and a number of starters and key players probably won't play at all. The already thin defensive interior will be missing three players, and there isn't an active scholarship tailback for the spring game.
That being said, there will still be plenty of things to keep an eye on and some things that can help inform both fans and FSU coaches about what to expect in the fall. Here are a few:
Jameis and ?
FSU knows it's got a great quarterback in Jameis Winston, but who's behind him remains something of a wild card. Sean Maguire has taken all the reps at second-team quarterback, but FSU's QB position remains dangerously thin with Maquire and John Franklin. It's a far cry from last spring, when FSU had Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Winston and Maguire. Coker and Trickett have since transferred to make room for Winston's star, and that leaves a still-untested Maquire as the backup plan should Winston gets hurt. He and Franklin have drawn lukewarm reviews from Fisher this spring, and FSU would really feel better about things if Winston had a reliable backup.
It'll be worth watching Maquire and Franklin in the spring game to see if either of them show out in a big way. Winston announced his candidacy with authority in the spring last season, and while Maguire doesn't have to push Winston, a solid spring showing by either backup could put them in the lead for the No. 2 spot in fall. If not, the door is open for incoming freshman J.J. Cosentino, who will be on campus in the fall.
What about that offensive line?
The offensive line shuffling has thrown everyone for a loop this spring. Cameron Erving and Ruben Carter have taken reps at center. Josue Matias has spent most of the spring at left tackle. JUCO transfer Kareem Are has drawn rave reviews at guard. How much of that shuffling is just routine cross-training and how much is realistic potential position-switching is hard to figure, but the spring game could give a good indication of FSU's intent. If Erving plays significant snaps at center and Matias at tackle, that could signal that FSU is more serious about those position changes. If it's only a few reps or none at all, it's probably just cross-training.
The passing game
That means FSU will likely throw the football quite a bit on Saturday, and that's worth watching. Regardless of who steps up for FSU in what roles, the wide receiving corps will be substantially less experienced and smaller than in 2013. It may be faster, but how FSU uses those faster, smaller wideouts like Jesus Wilson and Levonte Whitfield will be worth watching. Screen passes and slant routes could come back into vogue for FSU, and that's not something Winston had to do a lot of in 2013.
Who's going to step into Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw's shoes? Odds are nobody will fill those roles right away, but the inside track so far this spring seems to be split between Christian Green and Jesus Wilson. If one of those players - or someone else - can have a productive spring, FSU will really like its offensive weaponry heading into the fall. Green struggled with drops last season in limited action and Wilson rarely saw the field in game situations, so both have plenty to prove. Look out for Jarred "Scooter" Haggins as well to possibly make a splash. If he's fully healthy, he could be a reliable asset for FSU.
This position has been talked to death by us, and everyone else, but it's that important: It's hard to show off your Heisman-winning quarterback if he doesn't have enough weapons around him. Rashad Greene is solid as a rock and as consistently productive as any receiver in college football - but it's a whole lot easier to get open when there's a realistic threat on the other side of the field. If FSU can't find that, things could get more difficult for the passing game.
FSU's hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive front was a terror for opponents all last season, but two of the crucial roles on that line are still open: edge rusher and nose guard. With Nile Lawrence-Stample, Derrick Mitchell and Justin Shanks all out for the spring, FSU is limited, if not bone-thin, at defensive tackle. The spring game could end up being Keith Bryant's time to shine. The redshirt freshman is one of the few healthy defensive tackles on the roster, meaning he'll get plenty of reps. The other defensive tackle position is likely Lawrence-Stample's to lose, but Bryant could provide critical depth a-la Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaneil in 2013. Desmond Hollin's name was also heard a lot early in spring practice, and not so much since. It will be interesting to see him finally on the field.
FSU 2014 Spring Game: 3:00 p.m. EST
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