Florida State University

Jameis Winston’s suspension has thrust FSU’s backup QB Sean Maguire into spotlight against Clemson Tigers

Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles talks to Sean Maguire (10) during the second half against the Idaho Vandals at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles beat the Vandals 80-14.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles talks to Sean Maguire (10) during the second half against the Idaho Vandals at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles beat the Vandals 80-14. Getty Images

Upon sitting down in front of a crowded room of reporters Thursday, Florida State quarterback Sean Maguire offered a succinct assessment of a wild few days.

“A lot’s happened this week, that’s for sure,” Maguire said.

Yeah, that’s one way to put it.

Maguire, a 6-3, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, woke up Wednesday morning in the same role he has had for several months. He was the backup to Heisman Trophy-winning, all-everything quarterback Jameis Winston.

A few hours later, he received a text message from Winston delivering the news that would later explode across the college football landscape.

Winston had been suspended for the first half of Saturday night’s Clemson game, the result of “offensive and vulgar” comments he made on campus Tuesday. Late Friday, the suspension was increased to all of Saturday’s game.

Which meant that Maguire, a former unheralded high school recruit from Sparta, New Jersey, was in line for his first career start. In a prime-time, nationally televised game against FSU’s toughest Atlantic Coast Conference rival, no less.

Maguire admits that he would prefer his big moment not come under such circumstances. Still, he can’t help but feel excited to fulfill a lifetime’s worth of dreams.

“It’s going to be pretty awesome, I’d like to imagine,” Maguire said. “I’ve pictured this since I started playing little league ball, to be given an opportunity like this.”

Two years ago, there might have been long odds on Maguire earning as much as a second-string job at FSU, much less ever starting in such a meaningful contest.

A part of the same 2012 signing class as Winston, Maguire shook off doubts about his college career before it even began.

Why, the question went, would he pick FSU knowing that he would have to beat out a star of Winston’s caliber?

Not only that, but FSU already had two veteran quarterbacks — Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker — vying for the starting job.

In the spring of 2013, as FSU auditioned a successor for EJ Manuel, fans and media often referred to a three-man quarterback race. This despite the fact that Maguire made four.

“He wasn’t recruited here to sit the bench either,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said back then.

But the competition shook out in an unexpected manner. Winston’s overwhelming success in spring camp led Trickett to transfer to West Virginia.

And Winston’s overwhelming success during the 2013 season pushed Coker to Alabama.

Which meant that less than a year after running as the fourth man in a three-man race, Maguire had ascended to No.2 on the depth chart.

“It’s funny how things work out,” he said earlier this year.

FSU’s current run of dominance has allowed Maguire to make several relief appearances. He played in nine games last year and recently spelled Winston late in the Seminoles’ 37-12 win over The Citadel on Sept.6.

Mop-up duty, of course, is one thing. Guiding the nation’s No.1 team against 22nd-ranked Clemson is something else.

Through two games (one against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent), the Tigers rank sixth in the nation in total defense and second in pass defense. And All-American defensive end Vic Beasley, with his 23 career sacks, awaits as well.

So Maguire has a tall order in front of him. But Fisher hasn’t wavered in his confidence.

Fisher said Maguire has looked sharp and earned the respect of his teammates. And Fisher insists that there won’t be any alterations made to FSU’s offensive game plan.

Winston has aided the cause by taking it upon himself to prepare his understudy. Maguire said that the two stayed late Wednesday night reviewing film until 10p.m.

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