ORLANDO — Florida State treated Saturday's spring game as a dress rehearsal at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, where the Seminoles will open the season against Ole Miss on Labor Day.
FSU's performance reflected its national championship expectations by showing improvement in key areas of concern, in front of an announced crowd of 49,913 that included former Seminole star and current Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.
"You saw some of the potential of this football team at times," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "And you saw some of the youth of this football team."
Here are five takeaways from the 24-24 tie:
1. Auden Tate is poised to become a viable weapon. One play summarized the potential and inexperience of the sophomore receiver from Wharton High. With his Gold team trailing 17-14 late, Tate used his 6-foot-5, 205-pound frame to soar for an 11-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left. "The play itself was phenomenal," Fisher said. "…You saw what he has a chance to be." But there was one problem: Tate misinterpreted the call from the sideline and ran a fade pattern instead of a slant. "Yeah, it's a touchdown," Tate said, "but I shouldn't have been there." If Tate keeps polishing his skills and improves his consistency, Saturday's 100-yard, two-touchdown game helps prove he can fill the only glaring need on an offense that returns all 11 starters.
2. The quarterback position remains open. Senior Sean Maguire was 4-2 last year but was in a walking boot as he recovers from ankle surgery. With Maguire out until June, redshirt freshman Deondre Francois had an up-and-down day. He led scoring drives on both two-minute drills, rattled off two third-down scrambles of at least 20 yards and rebounded from a sack with a 19-yard dart in a tight window. But he also threw two interceptions and fumbled once in a 20-of-33 day. Fisher praised Francois' poise and resiliency and said the competition for the starting job will continue into the fall.
3. Ryan Green could add depth at running back. With Dalvin Cook (shoulder) sidelined, the tailback-turned-cornerback-turned-tailback-again rushed for a game-high 84 yards and added five catches for 41 yards. "I feel like I can be an explosive player," said Green, a former St. Petersburg Catholic star. If Green stays healthy, he can add speed to FSU's crowded backfield by returning to his natural position after switching to cornerback a year ago.
4. The linebackers can make plays. Fisher insisted at the start of spring that he felt good about the position, despite graduating Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup and losing Dade City native Jacob Pugh due to injury. Former five-star recruit Matthew Thomas had a sack Saturday, and Ro'Derrick Hoskins had an interception and sack and recovered a fumble that was later wiped off.
5. Josh Sweat continues to progress. At the start of spring practice, Fisher challenged the former five-star defensive end to dominate on passing downs, not just on runs. Sweat passed that test. He leveled receiver Bobo Wilson to break up a pass and sacked Francois in the first half.
Contact Matt Baker at email@example.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.