By Tim Linafelt
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After more than three weeks of drills, practices and scrimmages, the Florida State football team will cap its 2015 spring camp with the annual Garnet & Gold Game on Saturday, (2 p.m. ESPN3).
With so much roster turnover after last season, the new-look Seminoles feature an abundance of storylines. Here are five to keep an eye on during the spring game.
1) Changing of the guard at quarterback
This one is obvious, but it’s no less important. Jameis Winston is gone and taking his place will be … well, we don’t know yet. But fourth-year junior Sean Maguireentered the spring as the presumed favorite to be FSU’s starter, and that status does not seem to have changed over the last few weeks.
This will be Maguire’s chance to leave a lasting impression before the 2015 season begins in earnest later this year. The tone of Florida State’s 2013 season changed dramatically after Winston’s breakout performance in the spring game, and Maguire has the chance to do something similar if he can post an impressive outing on Saturday.
The spring game also offers FSU fans and observers a first true look at QB contenders John Franklin III andJ.J. Cosentino, neither of whom saw much action last year behind the more experienced trio of Winston, Maguire and Jacob Coker.
Expect true freshman De’Andre Johnson, who enrolled at FSU in January, to get some action, too.
2) Fresh face showcase
Speaking of early-enrollees, the Seminoles have eight on campus right now, and all but two (the injured Josh Sweat and DaVante Phillips) have jumpstarted their collegiate careers by participating in spring practice.
Each of the newcomers has made an impact. Running back Jacques Patrick has drawn rave reviews from coach Jimbo Fisher and teammates alike, and echoes of his thundering, shoulder-first hits on opposing defenders have resonated throughout the practice fields this spring.
The same goes for freshman defensive back Derwin James, who announced his presence early with an aggressive, physical brand of special teams play that has since transferred into some action with FSU’s first-team defense.
Fisher said recently that James “gets it” and that he’d happily take “a hundred like him.”
Other freshmen with early opportunities to shine include receiver George Campbell, defensive backCalvin Brewton and offensive lineman Ethan Frith.
3) New-look O-line
Just a few months ago, then-freshman Roderick Johnson was the rookie on an offensive line loaded with experience. Now Johnson finds himself the lone returner for a line that’s looking to replace the production and leadership of four senior starters.
The Seminoles seem to have ready-made replacements in right tackle Chad Mavety and left guard Kareem Are. Each has some collegiate experience after playing two years at junior college and got plenty of action with their current teammates as second-stringers a year ago.
Elsewhere, Wilson Bell has emerged as the frontrunner at right guard and Alec Eberle has taken over at center after a knee injury to former starter Ryan Hoefeld.
As usual, the offensive line will play an important role, but even more so as FSU prepares for life with a new starting quarterback, new No. 1 receiver and new tight end.
4) Men on the move
One Seminole defensive back switched places in the secondary. Another switched sides of the ball entirely. With P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby now gone, Jalen Ramsey and Ryan Green are both playing cornerback this spring, and the Garnet & Gold Game marks the first opportunity to see them in their new surroundings.
Ramsey is playing the boundary (short side of the field) corner position after spending last season as FSU’s “star” nickel back. And Green, a former running back, is rotating with Marquez White at the field corner spot.
The shuffle has also affected sophomore Trey Marshall, who is filling in at Ramsey’s old spot at star.
5) A True Seminole
Walk-on receiver Justin Motlow is a Seminole in every sense of the word. A redshirt freshman from Tampa, Motlow’s grandmother is 100-percent Seminole Indian, and Motlow is one-quarter Seminole. He is believed to be the first Seminole Indian to play football for Florida State in the modern era.
For more on Motlow’s journey, check out this short documentary: