The Case for Sean Maguire

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The case for Sean Maguire can be summed up with this simple term. Out of all the quarterbacks competing for the Florida State starting quarterback job this offseason, Maguire is the only one to start a game. Through four years in the program, Maguire has compiled a 5-2 record as starting quarterback with 1,975 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and ten interceptions. He is no stranger to the big stage as well. His first career start came against Clemson in 2014 when Jameis Winston was suspended. In 2015, he started in Death Valley against Clemson, in the Swamp versus Florida, and in the Peach Bowl versus Houston.

But how valuable is experience in college football, especially at the quarterback position?

The past three national championships have been won by a first year starter at quarterback. Florida State fans will remember Jameis Winston’s incredible redshirt freshman campaign in 2013. Cardale Jones took Ohio State to the title in his third career start. Just last year, Jake Coker won the title with Alabama in his first year starting as a senior.

In this era of college football, we are seeing more true freshman and redshirt freshmen have immediate success. Florida State has two freshmen on its roster at the moment that were incredibly impressive in the Garnet and Gold spring game. Meanwhile, Maguire was on the sidelines, his ankle still healing after the injury he suffered in the Peach Bowl. He watched as Deondre Francois showed off his impressive arm talent and as Malik Henry quickly overtook J.J. Consentino for the majority of the Garnet team’s snaps.

Maguire has the experience. He knows the playbook. He’s played on the big stage.

But can he win the job?

Sean Maguire trusts his arm more than most quarterbacks who play football.

This isn’t necessarily a negative aspect of his game, however. As he showed during his sophomore and junior seasons, Maguire is more than willing to take the deep shots and throw into tighter windows. For example, let’s take a look at the throw below from the 2014 game versus Clemson.

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Off of his back foot, Maguire launches the ball over fifty yards downfield to a wide open Rashad Greene. Granted, the Clemson cornerback fell down on the play, allowing Greene to score, but this throw showcases Maguire’s raw arm talent.

Last season, Everett Golson was benched in part because of his inability to push the ball downfield. In Maguire’s first start of 2015, he threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns. To be fair, this was against a struggling Syracuse defense, but he showed that he was capable of recognizing open receivers running deep. Throughout the tenure as starting quarterback, Maguire stretched the field and Florida State hit more big plays in the receiving game than they had for the first half of the season.

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Maguire’s knowledge of the playbook was clear when he took over during the Syracuse game. He was able to recognize the open receiver and showed a good tendency to hit his receivers in stride. Take the throw below for example. Maguire puts the ball where only Travis Rudolph can make a play on it. The result? A Florida State touchdown.

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For a player that is commonly labeled as a game manager, Maguire has shown that he is capable of making fantastic plays. In the Peach Bowl, he fractured his ankle yet came back in the game and made some great throws as Florida State attempted to rally. When the Florida Gators shut down Dalvin Cook early in the game, Maguire pushed the ball downfield and ultimarely scored one of the craziest touchdowns of FSU’s season. If the term “game manager” defines a quarterback that distributes the ball to playmakers and limits his own turnovers, Maguire is the opposite of that. He trusts his arm to fit the ball into tight windows. He launches the ball downfield. He scrambles and finds open receivers.

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Sean Maguire is not a game manager. He’s a gunslinger.

Through seven career starts, we have a good idea of what Maguire’s limitations are as a quarterback.

While he might have a great arm and willingness to throw the ball downfield, he is not a special talent. He is not going to make the amazing throws that are sometimes required out of a championship-winning quarterback. He is not a quarterback who you can trust to rally your team when they are down big. He’s going to sling the ball around, but it will also lead to some costly turnovers.

Despite having a cannon for an arm, Maguire sometimes doesn’t understand how to correctly use it. His throwing motion leaves much to be desired, especially with his footwork. Maguire will often trust his raw arm talent so much that he throws off of his back foot or doesn’t step into the throw. While this doesn’t always hurt his game, it will cause him to overthrow a target or put the ball behind a receiver running open. Even when he sets his feet and drives into the throw, Maguire isn’t the most accurate quarterback. Take the throw below for example. He overthrows 5’8″ Bobo Wilson, leading to an interception.

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While Maguire is slightly more mobile than people give him credit for, his pocket presence leaves much to be desired. Often times, Maguire will stand in the pocket for one too many seconds, leading to a rusher getting a hit on him. In the 2014 Clemson game, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley got a couple of hits on Maguire because he failed to throw the ball away. Because of Maguire’s gunslinger mentality, he will look to make a play and doesn’t know when to bite the bullet and move on to the next play.

A perfect example of this is in the clip below. With Florida State up 7-0 early on the road against Clemson, Maguire felt the pressure from the rusher and tried to force a pass to Kermit Whitfield on third down in the red zone, but it was jumped by a Clemson cornerback for an interception. If Maguire recognizes that Kermit is covered and takes the sack, Florida State likely goes up 10-0 in Death Valley with a Roberto Aguayo field goal. This is bad situational awareness by Maguire.

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Maguire’s most controversial game as starting quarterback is, without a doubt, the 2015 Peach Bowl versus Houston. In the first quarter, Maguire fractured his ankle after rolling out for a pass. He came back into the game with a heavily taped ankle, but proceeded to throw four interceptions as Florida State lost the game. While the first interception was likely caused by his injury (an under-thrown ball that Maguire hits if he can step into the throw), the last three interceptions are his own fault. The second was a miscommunication with his receivers. The third was a thrown into double coverage. On the fourth, as seen below, Maguire doesn’t see Houston cornerback William Jackson in coverage and tries to force the ball to Whitfield.

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Although Maguire isn’t turnover prone per se (10 career interceptions, four of which came in one game), his lack of ball security is a concerning factor moving forward. Is he going to make the throws that lead to touchdowns, or the ones that lead to interceptions? His accuracy is also needs to improve. Can he cut down on the passes that are overthrown or behind receivers? These are all aspects of his game that Maguire needs to work on in the offseason before his battle in fall camp.

Florida State has championship hopes for 2016.

On offense, they return Dalvin Cook, one of the best running backs in the country, their entire offensive line and receiving corps. On defense, former four and five star recruits are in line to replace the NFL draftees. The only question is at quarterback.

Is Sean Maguire the answer?

For the senior from Sparta, New Jersey, this is it.

He has been in Jimbo Fisher’s system for five years now and is competing for his job for the second offseason in a row. Jimbo is a player’s coach and has publicly stated that Maguire will be getting first team reps to enter fall camp. But with the talented freshmen hot on his heels, Maguire does not have any room for error.

It’s now or never.

One last hurrah.


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