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The football team could become FSU’s other circus

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Florida State is well known for the FSU Flying High Circus. Students participating in the circus perfect their talents as an extra-curricular activity as do “student-athletes.”

This fall, the circus may have some competition for drama and high-wire acts … from the football team. Ringmaster Jimbo Fisher will need to be at his best to keep all three rings of offense, defense and special teams focused on their performance.

As fall practice prepares for the September 5 opener against the mighty Texas State Bobcats, high-profile issues confront the Seminoles. The greatest potential for distracting side issues exists in the backfield.

Will Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson supplant Sean Maguire as the team’s quarterback? Will top running back Dalvin Cook’s legal status be cleared up to play at some point this season, or might he face a similar fate as that of now-dismissed freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson?

The unavoidable media circus surrounding Cook was on full display this past weekend over something as simple as taking the 2015 team picture. The sight of Cook posing with his teammates, then leaving as the photographer snapped a Cook-free photo, set off a whirlwind of commentary, columns and pictures for the coming days.

Fisher’s job, and those of any college coach at a major program, is difficult enough when he knows who he has available. Coaches willingly deal with injuries because that is part of the game. Self-inflicted damage, like that which Cook has brought upon himself, is another matter.

Cook’s situation may not quite approach the spectacle of seeing prosecutor Willie Meggs on live national television as we did in the Jameis Winston spectacle, but Cook’s name will become even more “famous” throughout Florida for the wrong reasons.

There will be plenty who disagree with the final determination and will blog, write, commentate and fulminate over what happens to Cook, no matter the result. The FSU football circus will go on with or without a marquee performer. The Seminoles will either have the player to be shot out of the cannon or they won’t.

Golson, who started practice as the third-string quarterback, has already moved up to number two. Returning redshirt junior Sean Maguire is working with the first unit.

Maguire gives it the “aw shucks” reaction, saying there is no controversy, nor will there be. He and Golson are getting along just great.

“It’s not going to cause problems,” he told ESPN. “Everyone in the locker room wants to win and the coaches want to win, too. “I think everyone on the team is going to know by the end of the fall who is going to give this team the best chance to win.”

No one can be sure of the last statement, but Maguire is having a good camp and clearly remains the team’s top quarterback. Golson’s ascension to number two now makes the competition head-to-head.

If Maguire is right and the number one quarterback is clear by September 5, the QB circus can go on hiatus for awhile. At least until the starter throws a couple of key interceptions or misses open receivers.

This FSU team may not be championship caliber, but they can be very good. Fisher will herd the horses and elephants the best he can, but then the available performers will need to perform.

The real circus should remain in its location close to Doak Campbell Stadium, not within it.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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