Breaking news, rankings, predictions and analysis all in one place.

College Football Preview 2017-2018: 5. Florida State Seminoles

5. Florida State Seminoles

There is talent everywhere, but will the O-Line hold up?

  • Location: Tallahassee, FL.
  • Conference: ACC (Atlantic)
  • Schedule
  • Roster
  • Coach: Jimbo Fisher (eighth year)
  • Last Years Record: 10-3 (5-3 ACC)
  • Bowl Result: Victory in Orange Bowl


A popular preseason National Title pick prior to last season, the Seminoles had an uneven campaign They had their moments, such as coming back and beating Ole Miss in their opener, beating rivals Miami and Florida, and winning the Orange Bowl, but at the end of the day the team's 10-3 record seemed somewhat disappointing. The good news is that the team enters 2017 with a rising star at quarterback (Deondre Francois), a true freshman ready to dominate (Cam Akers) and a defense with loads of future NFL talent. If Florida State can stay healthy, and finish games better than they did in '17 they should be able to meet high expectations this time around, and vie for their first Playoff appearance since the inaugural one in 2014.

Deondre Francois
Offense: Florida State's offense struggled through 2015 flip-flopping between Notre Dame grad transfer Everett Golson and veteran Sean Maguire at quarterback. That wasn't the case a season ago, as Deondre Francois won the job handily, and put together a very impressive first season as starter in Tallahassee. A redshirt sophomore, Francois had 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns, while displaying solid mobility, earning him ACC Rookie of the Year. What was even more impressive is that Francois played as well as he did despite facing constant pressure playing behind a poor offensive line (sacked 36 times). If FSU can protect him better and he can take the natural progressions he needs to in Year 2 as starter, there's no reason he can't have a huge season. At tailback, Florida State is forced to move on from Dalvin Cook, who finished with over 2,000 all-purpose yards (1,765 rushing, 488 rushing). Despite Cook's importance to this offense, the Seminoles feel pretty confident about the position still because of the arrival of true freshman Cam Akers. Akers is viewed by many as five-star recruit and one of the best newcomers in the entire country. He doesn't have Cook's vision or power just yet, but Akers is a little bit more explosive and a more fluid athlete, which should give this offense a whole new dimension. It's hard to expect him to completely replicate Cook's insane production, but the young back should still have a very solid season. FSU will also lean on veteran tailback Jacques Patrick and unproven, but talented, sophomore Amir Rasul. Patrick did a fine job backing up Cook a year ago, with 350 yards and four touchdowns and brings a very reliable ball-carrier to the table. Meanwhile, Rasul is a dangerous big play threat, but had just six carries in 2016. On the outside, Florida State is trying to find a new No. 1 receiver after Travis Rudolph departs, following a 56-catch, seven touchdown season. Juniors Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray are now the team's top returning wide outs, and the two displayed plenty of playmaking ability last season. Tate is a more prototypical, well-rounded receiver with fabulous size and a wide catch radius. He will have no problem coming down with jump balls or making an impact in the red zone. Murray, on the other hand, is pretty small (5'10", 175 pounds) but is crazy quick and extremely fun to watch in the open field. There may be an adjustment period for the two receivers, but they shouldn't have too much trouble putting together breakout seasons. Beyond those two however, FSU is very thin at the position. Discounting tight ends, the top returning pass-catcher is inexperienced junior Da'Vante Phillips, who had just four catches for 33 yards a season ago. Sophomore George Campbell, who missed all of last season, and newcomer D.J. Matthews could have to step up because of that. Tight end does bring back a decent amount of experience, as juniors Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders both return as good, not great, weapons through the air. The X-factor for this offense is undoubtedly that spotty offensive line. The group didn't have any chemistry last season and really struggled against some of the elite pass rushers the ACC has to offer. Making things even more difficult will be the losses of All-American tackle Roderick Johnson and All-ACC guard Kareem Are. The absence of those steady veterans will force others to step up and provide leadership, including junior Brock Ruble and junior Alec Eberle. Eberle, a sturdy center, started every single game last season and got better as the season wore on, while Ruble should be 100 percent after battling through injuries last season. Senior Rick Leonard is a great story; the former defensive linemen worked hard to transition to the other side of the ball and now has a great chance to start at right tackle for his final year on campus.

Derwin James
Defense: Outside of Alabama and perhaps places like Clemson and Ohio State, you won't see a defense with as much talent and crazy athleticism as Florida State. Yet, the unit is still putting all that talent together, as it was painfully inconsistent for much of 2016. The defensive line could be among the ACC's best, as the Seminoles return three starters and have some players who look ready to break out at any moment. Senior defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi is a real difference-maker for this team, as the physical veteran had 49 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss last season en route to earning All-Conference honors. Paired with massive Demarcus Christmas (who moves very well for his 6'4", 310-pound frame), FSU has two absolute bullies in the interior who should really make running the ball between the tackles a chore. However, it is the edge of the D-Line where most NFL scouts have to be watching. Junior end/outside linebacker Josh Sweat is a former five-star recruit who is still working to make his mark in Tallahassee. Sweat has the size, strength and motor to be an absolute force for the Seminoles, but has struggled with consistency and youth. Yet, he did have seven sacks a season ago and can still cause quite a problem no matter what. He is a name that is almost surely going to be playing on Sundays. On the other side, sophomore Brian Burns was quite the impressive youngster in '16, as he had 9.5 sacks in his true freshman year. Just 220 pounds, Burns is a little bit undersized for most ACC linemen but that has only made him quicker and tougher to contain. After earning Freshman All-American honors last season, he'll be looking for even higher accolades in 2017. Rounding out the front seven is a linebacker corps that doesn't have a real distinguishable star, but still performs very well. Senior Matthew Thomas is another formerly highly touted recruit still trying to define a legacy at FSU. He did led the Seminoles in tackles last season, with 77, while also getting into the backfield, with ten tackles for loss. Joining him is fellow seniors Jacob Pugh and Ro'Derrick Hoskins. Hoskins is a rock-solid linebacker at the ever-important middle linebacker spot who should rack up plenty of tackles this season, while Pugh is a dangerous pass rusher at the "Star" position. Again, none of the trio are going to be considered top-tier linebackers by most, but having three experienced seniors making plays all over the field is a real advantage for the 'Noles. The secondary has got to be the real strength of Florida State's defense, as nearly everybody returns, and Derwin James finally gets healthy. James was an absolute monster his true freshman year for FSU and was well on his way to becoming one of the best defenders in college football before tearing his meniscus early on. Now healthy, the free safety should remind fans aplenty of legendary defensive backs such as Deion Sanders and Ed Reed with his closing ability and range. Also back is another All-Conference talent; junior cornerback Tavarus McFadden, who has gotten plenty of NFL attention already. McFadden had a whopping eight interceptions a year ago and is always a threat to change the course of the game. McFadden still has to grow in some of the finer parts of being a corner, but his playmaking ability is without question top-notch. Valuable veterans such as senior safety Trey Marshall (58 tackles in '16) and junior cornerback A.J. Westbrook (40 tackles, 4 pass breakups) are also returning, and should give this unit plenty of stability and smarts. Depth is not a question in the defensive backfield either, as the Seminoles return a plethora of reserves, including long-time safety Nate Andrews, who took a medical redshirt last season, and converted wide out Ermon Lane, who has terrific size.

Special Teams: The younger brother of legendary FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo, Ricky Aguayo performed admirably in his true freshman season. Aguayo was 19-26 on field goals and seemed to really gain confidence as he went on. If he can get even better, the Seminoles would be much scarier. Sophomore punter Logan Tyler returns, but the return game will have to find replacements for speedsters Kermit Whitfield and Jesus "Bobo" Wilson.

Life after Jameis Winston but has been pretty successful overall (two 10-3 seasons, two New Year's Six Bowl berths) but Florida State is still waiting on their return to the nation's elite. Francois should have a huge season, and defensively, there is no reason why the Seminoles can't be among the nation's most imposing units. That doesn't mean there aren't concerns however; the Seminoles must improve their offensive line if they want to make any progress on that side of the ball and transitioning to Akers at running back will be interesting. Even more precarious is a schedule that opens up against Alabama in Atlanta (in what many are calling the game of the year) and includes trips to Clemson and Florida over the last few weeks. That makes me hesitant to call FSU the frontrunner in the tough ACC, but this team has enough for them to be a serious threat, and likely a team right in the thick of the Playoff hunt.

Player to Watch
Josh Sweat, DE/LB
After managing seven sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2016 there is no denying Josh Sweat is a formidable presence off the edge for the Seminoles. But the big question in 2017 is just how good he can be. The junior bulked up this off-season and looks as mean and motivated as ever. Can he take the next step and become one of the nation's best pass rushers and best defenders? If he does, FSU's defense can make the step from being merely good to being great.

Five-Year Trend
2012: 12-2 (8-1 ACC)*
2013: 14-0 (9-0 ACC)*
2014: 13-1 (9-0 ACC)*
2015: 10-3 (6-2 ACC)*
2016: 10-3 (5-3 ACC)*

*= Bowl appearance

No comments:

Theme images by LUGO. Powered by Blogger.