- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.
With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.
Previous entires can be found HERE.
Last up: Quarterback
2012 recap: It's not that Florida State fans universally loved EJ Manuel. In fact, few players on last season's roster proved quite as divisive as the veteran quarterback. But while Manuel's season offered highs and lows, and the fanbase included plenty of supporters and detractors, the overall body of work was impressive. Manuel's 156.03 QB rating and 8.8 yards per attempt were tops in the ACC (behind only Tajh Boyd) and his 68 percent completions led the conference. Manuel started every game for the first time in his career, too, meaning FSU's backups saw the fewest snaps during any season in more than a decade.
Departures: Manuel's durability and consistency might not have been fully appreciated by the fanbase in 2012, but it's certainly being noticed now that he's leaving. Manuel's tenure wrapped up a six-year period of relative calm at the position that coincided with Fisher's tenure with the program. Fisher tabbed Christian Ponder as a starter early on, and Manuel was the obvious heir apparent. Ponder became a first-round pick in the NFL draft, and Manuel still retains hopes of being one of the first quarterbacks off the board this year. Of course, the biggest question around Tallahassee after a season in which Manuel was responsible for 90 percent of the passing attempts is which of his backups will step into the starting job.
Arrivals: Florida State redshirted its two freshman quarterbacks last season, meaning highly touted Jameis Winston and under-the-radar Sean Maguire will get their first real crack at playing time this spring. While incoming freshman James Franklin is set to join the team this summer, questions still remain about whether his long term future is at QB or in the secondary. With all due respect to Maguire and Franklin, however, Winston is the star of the group. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer has already projected Winston as a future No. 1 draft pick, and his combination of arm strength, athleticism and intelligence makes him one of the most intriguing prospects in the country.
Biggest question mark: Obviously no question looms bigger than who will win the starting job, but perhaps a tick behind that in relative significance is what happens once Fisher does name his starter. Clint Trickett has been in the system for three years, and his father is the offensive line coach. That may be enough to tether him to FSU regardless of how this battle plays out. But for Winston, Maguire and rising sophomore Jacob Coker, the prospect of spending another three years riding the bench might be enough to warrant a transfer. For what it's worth, none of the three appear ready to concede the job, much less their scholarship, so it's far too early to consider such things. But it is worth noting that even when the dust settles on the battle for the starting job, the questions might not come to an end.
Breakout star: Winston seems the obvious candidate because of his rare combination of skills mixed with a healthy dose of hype already and the easily marketable fact that he also happens to be one of FSU's best baseball players. He's got the talent to be Deion Sanders -- only he can do it at a glamour position. Of course, to hype Winston as a future superstar only serves to dismiss Coker even more. It's the sophomore who might have the biggest arm of the bunch, and while he lacks the recruiting pedigree of Winston, he's big, strong and fast and could easily blossom into a star if he wins the job.
Projected 2013 starter: Winston -- if not by Week 1, then by season's end.
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