Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Florida State has the privilege to be ranked as the number 1 team in the preseason polls as well as being an overwhelming favorite to make it to the 4-team playoff. Those rankings aren’t surprising considering the Noles are on a 16 game win-streak and return the Heisman trophy quarterback from last seasons’ title team. However, these flatteries come with a price; an extremely large target will be on their back. They will receive the best shot from every team that they face because their opponent wants to be the one to take down the goliath. Although Vegas has the Noles as the favorite in all of their match-ups, there are three games that shouldn’t be overlooked no matter how much they are favored.
Notre Dame (October 18th): This will be one of the most anticipated duels of the entire football season, featuring 2 of the most prestigious programs in the country. The Irish will be returning senior quarterback, Everett Golson, who only led the “Golden Domers” to the national title game in his only season as a starter. He spent all of last season (while suspended) refining his game with quarterback guru, George Whitfield, leading one to believe that he will be better than before. The Irish lack explosive wide receivers but with Golson’s ability to keep plays alive with his feet, the big play is never too far away. Notre Dame hosts a talented backfield that lines up behind a veteran laden offensive line. Their defense has many questions to be answered after a disappointing season last year and they will want to be on top of their game before facing the reigning Heisman trophy winner. Bryan Kelly could roll into Doak Campbell Stadium undefeated, which would only heighten the anticipation of this game. With a few forced turnovers and a sound football game, they could stun the home crowd in Tallahassee.
@Louisville (October 30th): Ah, the annual Thursday night game against an upset-hungry home team. The last time Florida State faced Louisville was in 2002 during a torrential downpour. The Cardinals upset the then 4th ranked Seminoles during this Thursday night showdown going down as one of the biggest upsets in Seminole history. Jimbo Fisher will look to go into Papa Johns Stadium and dominate the Cardinals early to end any hope of an upset. Louisville’s first year head coach, Bobby Petrino (his second stint with the program), is known for putting offensive players in scoring positions despite their talent. Western Kentucky had the 49th total offense last season with minimal talent under Petrino. Although the Cardinals lose quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, they return DeVante Parker who is one of the most dominate receivers in the game. Eli Rodgers and James Quick are two other wide-outs that the staff has high expectations for. At quarterback, Will Gardner, has drawn positive reviews thus far in camp and is expected to be a valid replacement to Bridgewater. The Cardinals offense will be productive this season but the question lies with the defense that has lost 7 starters including Marcus Smith who was 2nd in the nation in sacks, and 1st round draft pick Calvin Pryor (safety). The Cardinals are capable of giving the Seminoles a scare on the road, but it is hard to imagine they can hang with the champs for 4 whole quarters.
Florida (November 29th): I know most FSU fans will see that I’ve listed the Gators and roll their eyes pleading: “they were 4-8 last season,” but hear me out. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, last season was a fluke. Offensive coordinator, Brent Pease, was abysmal and injuries decimated any chance that the Gators had to beat a legitimate team. That being said, the team “down there” should always strike caution to Florida State. If healthy, the Gators offense has an entire year to gel with their new offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper, who did an exceptional job last season at Duke. Florida always possesses talented athletes and they should be able to score much more effectively this season under Roper. The defense should always be expected to top 10. They have an extremely talented secondary, led by sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III. By the last regular season game of the year the Gators may hit full stride and be a team that has the confidence and momentum that could make them a threat to the Noles (and the SEC East). The good news for the Florida State faithful is that this will be a home game where the Noles will look to seek revenge from their painful 37-26 loss in 2012. Many, myself included, believe that the Noles had a better team that season but could not overcome the 5 turnovers that were lost in that game. This season will give the Seminoles a chance to take back their home turf against their arch rival and possibly keep the train rolling as they enter the post season.
By: Logan Bryan
Florida State fans everywhere should be on the look-out for a repeat for a few reasons: Jimbo Fisher, a revamped defense, and Florida State football has an advantage no other college football team in the nation has: Doak Campbell Stadium.
Fisher has certainly worked his way with his recruits, regardless of position. I actually believe this is the major reason why the Seminoles won the BCS National Championship Game last season: because Jimbo Fisher executes perfect discipline with every one of his players. His way with maintaining Heisman winner Jameis Winston throughout the season was phenomenal in my opinion. It is no surprise that Fisher secured the number one quarterback prospect this past signing season, as Winston’s run at Florida State may sadly be coming to an end here shortly.
Florida State’s defense was top five in the nation in pretty much every category. However, due to graduating seniors and players leaving school early for the NFL draft, most of their impact players on defense are gone and they have to find players who would be just as good, if not better. Without former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruit, who left for Georgia, Florida State and fans don’t need to worry since the promotion of linebackers coach Charles Kelly to the same position has all the markings of success. Under Kelly as linebackers coach, FSU intercepted 26 passes. Kelly should have no problem working as defensive coordinator, as he has proven himself worthy in the past.
One of the best part about game days in Tallahassee is Doak Campbell Stadium. Recently I had the privilege to visit Florida State and I made sure to visit Doak. Since the start of the 1998 season, the Seminoles are 124-22-1 at home, and overall they are 268-90-4 at home. Playing in front of at least 82,000 people every Saturday can either make a team skittish, or fire up a team. Also knowing that Doak has more capacity than most NFL stadiums can do the same, which is why Florida State uses it to there advantage, and wins at home.
Maybe Florida State will win the first college football playoff. I won’t be surprised. You shouldn’t be either now.
Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Last week I discussed offensive players that would need to step up in order for Florida State to repeat its success from last season. The Seminoles did not only lose five starters from the 3rd ranked total defense in the country, but vital leadership and experience. The commanding voices of Lamarcus Joyner, Terrance Brooks, Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones have all disappeared from the locker room and practice field, leaving the Noles in desperate need for a vocal general. Young players will need to step up on the field first in order to have their leadership respected by their teammates. The positions that will need players step up are at middle and the outside linebacker opposite of Terrance Smith, along with nose tackle.
Florida State has been known for producing NFL linebackers for decades and the cupboard is once again full with talent. What these linebackers have in talent, they lack in experience. Replacing the vocal leadership of Telvin Smith may be impossible, but having someone step up in place of Smith at middle linebacker will be necessary. The front-runner to line up in the middle is junior, Reggie Northrup. Northrup is a classic “read and react” linebacker who is a sure tackler in space. We have seen him rack up tackles in bunches in garbage time and he will be expected to remain consistent as a starter. Behind Northrup is sophomore E.J. Levenberry, whose blend of size and athleticism earned him an opportunity to play as a true freshman and that experience should allow him to see plenty of playing time backing up Northrup in the middle.
On the outside, new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will be looking for a linebacker to replace Christian Jones. Look for hard hitting junior Ukeme Eligwe to have a breakout season because of his versatility as someone who can rush the passer, stuff the run and drop back in coverage. Eligwe can play all three linebacker positions and put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end, as he saw numerous sets as a pass rushing specialist last season. Eligwe suffered a linsfranc foot injury this summer, which should keep him out of at least the first two games forcing the über talented freshman Matthew Thomas into the starting lineup. Thomas fought his way through a crowd of veterans last season to find his way onto the field in the first four games before a shoulder injury granted him a medical redshirt. Thomas might be the most athletic linebacker on the team and if he and Eligwe step up at outside linebacker, this unit could be extremely disruptive.
Nose Tackle is a position with a big question mark looming over it after the departure of Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan, who led the team in tackles-for-loss, was a key cog for this defense, especially in the BCS championship game where he was constantly in the Tigers backfield. With Jernigan wearing a Baltimore Ravens helmet now, FSU will look to Nile Lawrence-Stample (“NLS”) to clog up the middle. Stample has the bowling ball frame you look for in a nose tackle, and should be able to occupy blockers, allowing the linebackers to stay clean and attack the play. One thing that is uncertain with Stample is if he will be equally effective against the pass. He has the athleticism to rush the passer but will he be able to fight through a double team and get after the quarterback? Luckily for NLS, Florida State rotates their defensive linemen, which should allow him to stay fresh and remain effective throughout an entire game.
You have to think that most teams will be looking to take their licks on the Noles offense that includes Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. This means the defense will be looked upon to keep FSU in games when the offense is not hitting on all cylinders. If these particular players can step up for Charles Kelly’s defense, the Seminoles will be extremely difficult to score on.
2014 Preseason All-ACC Football Team Announced
Defending National Champion and Preseason Favorite
Florida State Places Nine on Squad
Greensboro, N.C.—Led by preseason MVP and returning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (Bessemer, Ala.), defending national champion Florida State placed nine players on the 26-man preseason All-ACC team announced Wednesday.
The team was selected by the media attending the 2014 ACC Football Kickoff held this past Sunday and Monday at Greensboro’s Grandover Resort.
Winston, who became the youngest player and only the second freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, the nation’s most coveted individual football honor, heads a team that includes nine players who earned first or second team All-America honors last fall, including six first team selections.
Winston and Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley (Adairsville, Ga.) are two of only three returning consensus All-Americans this year in college football. They are joined on the team by returning first-team All-Americans offensive tackle Cameron Erving (Moultrie, Ga.) and placekicker Roberto Aguayo (Mascotte, Fla.) of Florida State, strong safety Anthony Harris (Chesterfield, Va.) of Virginia and specialist Ryan Switzer of North Carolina (Charleston, W. Va.).
Aguayo, who set an NCAA single season mark for points by kicking (157), was the 2013 winner of the Lou Groza Award, given annually nation’s best placekicker. North Carolina’s Switzer tied an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns, while UVa’s Harris led the nation in pass interceptions with eight. Florida State’s Erving was named the winner of the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy last fall, given annually to the league’s top blocker.
Joining them on the team are returning second-team All-Americans Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder (Monroe, N.C.), who set an ACC single-season mark with 108 receptions in 2013; Blue Devil safety Jeremy Cash (Miami, Fla.) and Florida State offensive guard Tre’ Jackson (Jesup, Ga.).
Jackson and Miami running back Duke Johnson (Miami, Fla.) are the only returnees from last year’s preseason All-ACC squad.
The 26 members of the preseason All-ACC have combined to be named this month on a total of 62 preseason watch lists for major national individual awards including the Outland Trophy (6), Nagurski Trophy (11), Bednarik Award (11), Maxwell Award (6), Lombardi Award (11) and Walter Camp Award (6). All three of the wide receivers and linebackers on the team were chosen for the Biletnikoff and Butkus Watch Lists, respectively, and all four defensive backs made the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List as well.
While the Seminoles led with nine selections on the team, Duke, picked to finish second in the Coastal Division this year by the media in its preseason order of finish, landed four players on the squad, followed by Clemson and Virginia Tech with three players each; Miami with two and Boston College, Louisville, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia with one honoree apiece.
Winston, who led the nation in 2013 in pass efficiency and threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns, is joined in the backfield by Johnson of Miami, who ran for 920 yards and a 6.3 per-carry average in less than eight full games, and FSU’s Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla.), who racked up 730 yards and an 8.0 per-carry average while sharing the Seminoles’ tailback position.
Winston was named on 97 of the 99 ballots collected, the most of any of the honorees with Beasley (96) and Johnson (95) not far behind.
Wide receivers Crowder and Florida State’s Rashad Greene (Albany, Ga.) are two of the 11 first-team All-ACC players who made this year’s preseason team and are joined by Louisville’s DeVante Parker (Louisville, Ky.). This trio of wideouts combined for 239 receptions for 3,373 yards and 29 touchdowns. They are joined by versatile Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary (Palm Beach, Fla.)., who had 33 catches and seven TDs for the Seminoles.
In all, 21 of the 26 players selected to this year’s preseason team earned first-, second- or third-team All-ACC honors last fall, and that doesn’t include Louisville’s Parker who earned first-team honors in the American Athletic Conference.
Erving and Jackson lead an offensive line that also includes three other seniors in Syracuse offensive tackle Sean Hickey (Murrysville, Pa.), Duke offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (Chicago, Ill.) and Boston College center Andy Gallik (Evergreen Park, Ill.)
In addition to Crowder, Tomlinson and Cash, Duke was represented on the team by linebacker Kelby Brown (Matthews, N.C.).
Clemson leads the defensive unit with all three of its honorees on that side of the ball in Beasley, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (Conyers. Ga.) and linebacker Stephone Anthony (Polkton, N.C.).
Two of Virginia Tech’s selections were on the defensive side as well with defensive tackle Luther Maddy (Delray Beach, Fla.) and cornerback Kendall Fuller (Baltimore, Md.) joining punter A.J. Hughes (Terra Haute, Ind.) on the squad. Fuller was the ACC 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a consensus first-team Freshman All-American.
Completing the unit are Florida State junior defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr. (Gautier, Miss.), who had 9.5 tackles for loss last fall, Miami senior linebacker Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, Fla.), who was sixth in the ACC in tackles per game (8.3) and FSU junior cornerback P.J. Williams (Ocala, Fla.), who keyed the nation’s top pass defense.
Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Every season there is a player that emerges and creates a significant impact for the Seminoles. Last season it was Jameis Winston, Kelvin Benjamin, Nick O’Leary, and Chad Abram among others, who broke out for one of the best offenses in college football history. This season the Noles will need the same production from an otherwise unknown player to match the offensive output from a year ago. Attrition hits Jimbo Fisher’s team every year at the hands of the NFL draft, so replacing starters is nothing new. The positions that need players to blossom in order for the Seminoles to duplicate their national title run from last season are the wide receivers, offensive line (at center) and fullbacks.
Bryan Stork was “Mr. Consistency” on the offensive line last season, and that success earned him the Rimington Trophy and a fourth-round draft selection. Stork was a warrior that fought through numerous injuries and provided a general-like mentality to the rest of the offensive line. With questions at wide receiver, Jimbo Fisher is likely to run the ball more behind this senior laden offensive line. Enter Stork’s replacement Austin Barron. Barron has seen plenty of action in the past, starting on multiple occasions, and his experience should allow him to seamlessly slide in to the starting role at center and protect a bevy of talent in that backfield that includes a Heisman trophy winner.
Wide receiver should be a unit that finds it’s success through committee after losing Kelvin Benjamin. Rashad Greene will have to carry over his productivity from last season while facing more double teams from opposing defenses. Greene is a proven commodity but the questions begin to arise in finding a valid number two option. Seniors Christian Green and Scooter Haggins (injury prone) provide solid experience but neither have been an established weapon for FSU quarterbacks. Both will see plenty of playing time while they look to end their college careers with a bang. Jesus Wilson’s recent arrest for third-degree grand theft auto has raised more questions as Wilson emerged as the number two guy over spring practice. With Wilson’s status in limbo, sophomore Isaiah Jones will have to prove that he can be a valid option with his 6-foot-4 frame. Also competing for playing time is the trio of freshman studs, Ermon Lane, Javon Harrison and Travis Rudolph. Rudolph is the most polished at this stage and should get playing time immediately while Lane and Harrison could make their presence felt as the season progresses. Lane has a big frame and if he grasps the offense early on, he could help ease the pain of losing the physicality that Kelvin Benjamin brought to the table. Harrison’s impact may be on special teams as a returner, but is sure to get his shot to prove he deserves legitimate playing time.
Fullback is the position that is all guts and no glory and despite just one season as a starter, Chad Abram was one of the better fullbacks to pass through Florida State. Abram brought soft hands, speed and a road-grading mentality to the backfield. His contributions were often over looked due to his position, but trust me when I say that the running backs were well aware of his abilities. Abram helped pave the way to Devonta Freeman’s 1,000 yard season, which was the first time a Nole has broken the 1,000 yard mark since 1996. This season we may see another immediate contributor at the fullback position by the ways of sophomore Freddie Stevenson. The former linebacker is familiar contact and showed his athletic ability in the Garnet & Gold game in April. Stevenson strictly played running back after injuries held all 4 other backs out of action. He more than held his own, rushing for 85 yards on 18 carries. Stevenson’s physicality is what got him his scholarship and he will be using that every down to open holes for one of the most talented backfields in the nation.
If these offensive players emerge to provide consistent production, the Seminoles’ offense could once again see a record-breaking season. Find out which defensive players will need to step up for new defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly, in my next blog.