TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State coaches and fans get a look at four inexperienced quarterbacks Saturday when they audition in the school's annual spring game for the starting job vacated by the graduated EJ Manuel.
Although rising junior Clint Trickett began spring drills as No. 1, coach Jimbo Fisher has declared an open competition will yield a starter before the Seminoles first game at Pittsburgh on Labor Day.
The fourth-year Florida State coach has produced two NFL quarterback prospects this far into his brief head coaching career and believes he'll be choosing his next quarterback from an equally talented field this spring. Christian Ponder was the Minnesota Vikings first-round pick two years ago and Manuel is among a handful of draft-eligible quarterbacks expected to go in the NFL's early rounds later this month.
Seminole fans will get their first look at the aspiring quarterbacks in the form of Saturday's Garnet and Gold scrimmage when the first team offense will face the first team defense and the second team offense will battle the second team defense.
"It's how you handle the atmosphere and environment, and how you execute," Fisher said after a Thursday night practice.
Sophomore Jacob Coker and freshmen Jameis Winston and Sean McGuire are slated for equal snaps wtih Trickett in Saturday's simulated game.
Injuries that will keep out three regulars in the Seminole secondary along with possibly all three scholarship tailbacks - James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Mario Pender along with tight end Nick O'Leary.
"It happens," said Fisher, noting the physical nature of football.
However, the quarterback candidates are off limits to would-be tacklers Saturday.
McGuire, the Jersey boy, jokes about being the forgotten man in the competition while Winston is the loosest of the foursome with an upbeat personality and ever-present smile.
"He's wild now, he's funny," Coker said about Winston, who is splitting time with baseball this spring. "He's definitely the most outgoing quarterback we've got."
Trickett is the smallest of the four at 6-2 and maybe 180 pounds , but also the most experienced. The 6-5, 235-pound Coker is the biggest with arguably the strongest throwing arm.
"Try to do better than everybody else," said Coker, who has been slowed during the spring by a nagging foot injury. "Play harder."
The 6-2, 210-pound McGuire believes this will be his best opportunity to showcase his skills.
"This is my chance," he said recently. "I'm competing against the defense."
Trickett, meanwhile, will try to stay in front of the competition with a steady performance.
"I'm not going to be that guy who holds anything back,"he said. "I look at it like I'm just competing against coach Fisher. If he wants me to be the guy, alright."
The 6-4, 200-pound Winston will hightail it after Saturday's scrimmage to the neighboring baseball diamond where he does a little bit of everything for coach Mike Martin's baseball Seminoles from pitching to serving as the team's designated hitter.
"I'm a kid," said Winston, whose two-sport career evokes memories of former Florida State football greats Charlie Ward and Deion Sanders. "I'd rather be playing multiple sports than being involved in things I don't need to be involved in."
Ward went from the Heisman Trophy to a long NBA career while Sanders is the only athlete to have played in a Super Bowl and World Series.
Fisher, meanwhile, wants to improve on a 12-2 season and Atlantic Coast Conference champion and finding a quarterback is his top prioirity.
But he claims that he's no hurry to make that decision.
"When the time is right, everyone will know," Fisher said. "I have no timetable."
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