The Case for JJ Cosentino (to be the Backup)

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This time last year, redshirt sophomore JJ Cosentino was in the thick of the quarterback battle.

He received first-team reps to begin spring practices (primarily because Sean Maguire was out) and was a legit contender for the job for the most part.

But then the spring game happened, and the third-year player was passed by a pair of freshmen in Deondre Francois and Malik Henry. Henry attempted 22 passes in the game, while Cosentino only threw four.

Fast forward to the present day and Cosentino is locked in another quarterback competition, albeit this time for the backup job. His opponent is once again a freshman, early enrollee Bailey Hockman.

This is perhaps the final chance for Cosentino to prove himself at Florida State. Give up this competition to Hockman and the opportunity for playing time in the garnet and gold might be over. Another true freshman in James Blackman is also enrolling this summer, whom the coaching staff holds in high regards.

Will Cosentino finally live up to the “blue-chip” status bestowed upon him as a recruit? Or will be fade into the history books as another missed player?

The question with Cosentino has never been about physical attributes.

Even dating back to his time as a high school recruit, he has been one of the most physically gifted players in his quarterback class. At 6-4, 230-pounds, he has the size that you often see NFL teams salivating over. Cosentino is also very mobile for his size, as he played in primarily a run-first offense in high school.

His arm is good, but not the greatest in the world, which is fine. He can make all the throws that are required from a Jimbo Fisher-type quarterback.

When he’s on his game, he can make special throws like the one below.

Granted, he is facing backup defenders in this play, but the ability to fit the ball into tight windows like that is an innate trait that is often times hard to teach. Especially throws like that over the middle, where traffic is often congested and there are more defenders in position to pick off the ball.

Cosentino works the best when the offense is in rhythm and receivers are running open. This is how he was able to find success in the spring game when working with Nyqwan Murray, who was consistently able to get open against his defender.

I said this last year and I’ll say it again. When analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of Cosentino’s game, it’s more about what could be rather than what is.

If you decide on Cosentino as the backup, you are banking on his physical tools and knowledge of the system overcoming his deficiencies when the bullets actually start flying. While Cosentino can be viewed as somewhat of a project still, with only two years of eligibility left it’s time to start showing some results.

While the door for a starting opportunity at Florida State has all but closed, there is still the potential for success as a backup option. Cosentino just needs to put it all together one last time.

We’ve never questioned Cosentino’s physical traits or arm strength.

What gives fans and coaches pause, however, is what happens when he steps onto the field.

From his performance in the 2015 Peach Bowl to this year’s spring game, Cosentino just does not seem comfortable with the speed of the college game.

Things seem to be moving too fast for him. In the Peach Bowl, he took a pair of sacks because he held the ball for too long. On his first play in garbage time versus Charleston Southern this year, he was sacked for a safety.

This is not uncommon. We often see highly-recruited quarterbacks fail to make the transition from high school to the college game. Things move faster, players are quicker and quarterbacks are expected to process this information at a higher rate. This is what separates the elite quarterbacks from the average ones.

In the limited time we’ve seen him in the various spring games, Cosentino shows just this. He often times takes “sacks” while check-down options are available, something that Jimbo Fisher often berates his signal callers about.

These simple things, such as checking the ball down or getting players in the right position, are factors that Fisher looks for when selecting his quarterbacks. We’ve often seen him blow up on the sidelines, even when players like Jameis Winston forget to do these simple tasks.

This throw from Cosentino should be an easy completion to the receiver going out for a screen, but he throws it way too high and it ends up as an incompletion. As a backup quarterback, these are the plays that you need to hit. These type of high-completion throws are what will be called if Cosentino has to enter the game.

Having all the arm strength in the world is one thing, but the ability to use it in the right way is what separates the good players from the bad ones.

Cosentino has a heck of an arm, but often times does not place the ball where his receiver can make a play on it. He has a tendency to throw the ball too high or too far out in front at times, which is problematic when he is working with receivers like 5’11” Nyqwan Murray.

I’m going to rehash a paragraph from the article I wrote about Cosentino last year, because I feel like it still holds weight.

While Cosentino has all of the physical tools to succeed, it’s what’s in between the ears that has held him back throughout his tenure at Florida State.

There are plenty of quarterbacks in this country that have all the physical tools. Quarterbacks that tower over their competition and have an arm that could throw a football through a brick wall. Quarterbacks that are impossible to bring down and will extend the play with their arm.

But time after time again, we see these quarterbacks passed for players who might not be the same physical specimen, but who have better knowledge of the playbook and mind for the game.

Before he was dismissed from the program, De’Andre Johnson was one of these players. In the 2015 spring game, it was clear that Johnson had passed Cosentino on the hypothetical quarterback “food chain.” Johnson operated the two-minute offense during the game and showed a better notion for throwing the ball downfield, despite having a vastly inferior arm. This was a concern at the time, especially since Cosentino had a whole year in the program compared to the couple of months that Johnson had.

We saw that this year again with Malik Henry.

There’s no one who would argue with you if you said that Cosentino is physically more impressive than Henry. You’re comparing a 6-4, 239 lb. guy to a 6-3 player who might weigh 185 pounds soaking wet. Cosentino also has a much better arm than Henry in terms of velocity and force on the ball. But, like last year, we saw a similar circumstance occur.

Cosentino took the first snaps for the Gold team, but only attempted four passes. When Henry had the ball in his hands, it was clear he was special. The arm talent might not be there, but Henry clearly displayed an acumen for the game that Cosentino just does not have.

The result?

Henry attempted 22 passes and lead the Garnet team to a tie while Cosentino watched from the sidelines.

One year later, and not much as changed.

If there’s one factor working in Cosentino’s favor during the backup quarterback competition, it’s that Jimbo Fisher has never played a true freshman quarterback during his time at Florida State.

Fisher knows the value of a redshirt year, which is why a lot of his signal callers were able to find success later on in their careers. I’d have to wager that his ideal situation would be to redshirt both Bailey Hockman and James Blackman this coming season.

That being said, Cosentino will have every opportunity to earn this job. Entering his fourth year in the program, the time is nigh for him to finally play like the blue-chip recruit he was labeled to be.

But that being said, Fisher often preaches that every job is open during the offseason. If he feels like a true freshman or even a walk-on will give him better success if Francois goes down, then that player will get the snaps.

With one more opportunity left, will this finally be the time when Cosentino proves himself in the garnet and gold?

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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