The race to replace EJ Manuel as Florida State’s next starting quarterback is not over. Not according to coach Jimbo Fisher. Not by a long shot.
It sure seemed like the Seminoles had found their next starting quarterback when Jameis Winston wowed the Florida State faithful at the school’s annual Garnet and Gold spring game in April.
A 12-for-15 passing day — complete with 205 yards and a couple of long touchdown passes — had Seminole fans singing the redshirt freshman’s praises and all but anointing him as the next great quarterback at Florida State.
Not so fast.
On Tuesday, as Florida State prepared to open camp, Fisher pumped the brakes on Winston’s coronation. Redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker was hampered by an ankle injury during the spring, but he will have every opportunity to win the starting job at FSU this fall.
The competition is still wide open. And with no end in sight.
“They’ll get equal reps, and they’ll split time with the [first team],” Fisher said. “But they’ll get all equal reps.
“You’ll know [the starter] when you know. [You hurt it] if you put a timeline on it; just let it evolve. Until your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.”
The past two FSU starters have been first-round NFL Draft picks, but replacing Manuel, in particular, will not be easy. After leading FSU to its first Atlantic Coast Conference title in seven years and its first BCS win in 12 years last season, Manuel was picked 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills in April’s draft.
But now, with the Seminoles back to their winning ways, expectations are as high as ever. And Fisher isn’t about to get forced into picking his new quarterback before he’s ready.
It’s possible this is simple posturing. Perhaps Fisher doesn’t want to afford Coker the chance to transfer before the season.
Maybe, given the considerable publicity Winston has already generated — and the negative impact that kind of publicity had on redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M last year — Fisher doesn’t want to add to the hype surrounding his own young quarterback.
Or maybe, just as Fisher says, nobody has earned the job yet.
Whatever the reason, as the Seminoles open camp, questions about their starting quarterback linger, and the race is undecided.
Florida State travels to Pittsburgh for its opener on Labor Day, and Fisher would like to have his decision made by then. But just like he has avoided doing since April, don’t look for him to force a decision by Sept. 2, either.
“If it helps us win, [I’ll use them both],” Fisher said. “All decisions are based on winning.”