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No clear QB successor to Jameis Winston at Florida State

Jameis Winston, the central figure of Florida State’s 29-game winning streak the past two seasons that included a national title, is ready to make his move to the next level. It’s the logical next step for Winston. And Seminoles fans, who spent the early part of Wednesday celebrating the redshirt sophomore’s career, are already making their pitch as to why Winston should go No. 1 overall.

Long anticipated but now official, Winston’s decision marks the end of an FSU era, which means it’s time to take a look at the future. Winston’s declaration for the NFL draft will result in a complete overhaul of Florida State’s offense. Of the 11 players to start on offense for the Seminoles in the season opener, only two will return next season.

The line of succession in Tallahassee was well defined the past several years. First-round pick Christian Ponder would be replaced with EJ Manuel, the sixth-ranked prep quarterback in 2008 and a future first-round pick himself, who would then give way to heir apparent Winston, the No. 1 high school quarterback in 2012. That linear succession route was forced to detour when the Seminoles’ ballyhooed backup, Jacob Coker, left for Alabama in the offseason.

Sean Maguire, who redshirted with Winston in 2012, received the start in September when the Florida State administration suspended Winston for the Clemson game. Maguire was effective at times, throwing a 74-yard touchdown to tie the game late, but a fourth-quarter interception nearly ended the Seminoles’ playoff hopes.

John Franklin III is listed third on the quarterback depth chart, but his future could be at receiver. Class of 2014 quarterback JJ Cosentino redshirted this season, but the 6-foot-4, 234-pound freshman comes from a high school program that has produced numerous Division I and NFL quarterbacks, including Hall of Famer Dan Marino and two-time Pro Bowler Marc Bulger.

De'Andre Johnson, a 2015 early enrollee, and Deandre Francois will enter the fold before next season. Francois is ranked No. 54 overall in the 2015 ESPN 300, and Johnson is No. 293.

Whoever wins the job -- and a platoon is not out of the question to start the season -- won’t have the experience around him like Winston had his first season. Florida State’s career receiving leader, Rashad Greene, is off to the NFL, as is Nick O'Leary, who holds the school record for touchdowns by a tight end. The offensive line will have to replace four starters with more than 150 career starts among them. Running back Karlos Williams, who found a rhythm late in the season, will also depart.

Winston was the leader of the offense, too. With that role vacated, will the next quarterback step into it as effectively as Winston did in 2013?

There is no need for Florida State fans to enter a state of panic, though. Chief among reasons is coach Jimbo Fisher’s history of developing quarterbacks. In his five seasons as Florida State’s coach, Winston will be Fisher’s third first-round pick. Winston could join JaMarcus Russell as a Fisher protégé who was selected No. 1 overall. Fisher runs a complex NFL scheme, but Cosentino, Franklin and Maguire have all spent at least one season learning it.

Talent is not lacking elsewhere on the offense, either. Running back Dalvin Cook has already emerged as a 2015 player of the year candidate. Roderick Johnson could be a four-year starter at left tackle. Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph were effective as freshmen, and five-star athlete George Campbell, a member of the 2015 class, will participate in spring practice as a receiver.

The schedule offers some relief after a 2014 nonconference schedule that included three Power 5 teams. Outside of the ACC, Florida State hosts Texas State, USF and Chattanooga, and it travels to retooling Florida. Road trips to Clemson and Georgia Tech are daunting within the ACC, though.

The future is not bleak at Florida State, but no one is quite sure what awaits the Seminoles over the horizon.