TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Consider it official. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher confirmed Saturday that Deondre Francois, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Orlando, will start under center when the No. 4 Seminoles open the season against No. 11 Mississippi on Sept. 5. The news didn’t come as much of a surprise, as Francois had been considered the heavy favorite for the job since fifth-year senior Sean Maguire had surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot nearly two weeks ago.
Maguire made a surprise return to practice on Friday, but Fisher put any uncertainty to rest a day later.
“Most definitely,” Fisher said. “Deondre will start the opener.”
Fisher laughed and acknowledged that Francois’ status was the worst kept secret on campus.
“If you didn’t think it was official a long time ago, I’m worried about you,” he said with a smile.
Francois, who played at Orlando’s Olympia High School before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, will make his collegiate debut in his hometown.
And he should be plenty familiar with Orlando’s Camping World Stadium, having quarterbacked the Garnet team there at Florida State’s Garnet & Gold Game in April.
It was in Orlando that Francois’ candidacy for the Seminoles’ starting job took flight: He completed 20 of 33 passes for 246 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Garnet team tied the Gold, 24-24.
Starting in a primetime, nationally televised contest against a ranked opponent from the Southeastern Conference is a tall order for any redshirt freshman. Never mind one that is likely to have an army of family and friends in the stadium.
But Francois feels he’s up for the task.
“I don’t think the lights will be too bright,” Francois said. “I believe in my preparation. Everything Coach Fisher has taught me is to be humble, trust the process. If I prepare well and continue to do everything he tells me to do, I feel like I’ll be fine.”
The nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect for the recruiting class of 2015, Francois enters the season with the benefit of having taken the majority of first-team reps in both spring and fall camp.
Fisher raved about Francois’ talent at FSU’s Media Day a few weeks ago – “There isn’t a throw he can’t make,” Fisher said – and teammates say they’ve seen Francois evolve as a leader over the last several months.
“I just feel like Deondre always had that swagger to him, that, ‘Whenever my shot is, I’m going to make the best of the opportunity,’” junior receiver Travis Rudolph said. “That’s how he takes it. I like that about Deondre.”
In Francois’ first meeting with the media, a day after Maguire’s injury was revealed to the public, he said he wouldn’t be changing anything about his mindset or his preparation. That his goal was to continue doing everything that Fisher asked of him.
“I’ll never say it’s my offense until Coach Fisher tells me it’s my offense,” Francois said at the time.
As of Saturday afternoon, it’s his offense.