Florida State Seminoles
It was a terrific season for the Seminoles as they defeated Northern Illinois 31-10 in the Orange Bowl for a BCS Bowl victory. In order to repeat Florida State is going to have to win with a largely new cast of characters including at quarterback where starter E.J. Manual was the first quarterback selected in the draft.
Jimbo Fisher is entering his fourth year at the helm after his ascension once Bobby Bowden retired. There were some whispers about the job he had done during the first couple seasons on the job but everything seemed to come together in 2012. Fisher is now 31-10 in his three years at Florida State and it looks like they will be staying at or near the top of the ACC for a number of years.
Nobody could have predicted going into last years draft that E.J. Manuel would have been the first quarterback selected ahead of Geno Smith, Matt Barkley or Ryan Nassib. For many teams this would leave them in quite a predicament but Florida State should move forward without missing a beat. Clint Trickett was set to be the starter as he was 22-34 for 272 yards in limited duty last season with no touchdowns or interceptions. That was the plan until freshman Jameis Winston arrived on the scene. Winston was one of the nations top quarterbacks coming out of Alabama and he impressed so many coaches that he is now penciled in as the starter. Trickett transferred to West Virginia and since he is a graduate student he is eligible to play this season and could wind up as the replacement to Geno Smith. Winston will have a strong running game with a couple of juniors who should both make it to the NFL in James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Smith. Smith had 111 carries with 660 yards and Wilder had 110 carries and 635 yards with 19 touchdowns between them. Wilder looks to have the best future and a much bigger build, not to mention the bloodlines as his father remains a legend in Florida as he WAS the Buccaneer offense for a number of years. I think Smith stays for his senior season and goes in the 4th-5th round while Wilder looks like he will declare and will be the 3rd or 4th back off the board going in the2nd round.
Best Draft Prospect: James Wilder RB 2nd Round 2015 (likely to declare for 2014).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Florida State wide receivers have had a high “bust” percentage at the NFL level but we have seen a few succeed and this is a group where we see some late round prospects. Rashad Greene is the best of the bunch with 57 catches for 741 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. Greene should continue to make an impact as the primary punt returner. After Greene you have 3 receivers all with experience and stat lines from last season that are nearly identical. Greg Dent, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin all caught 30-38 passes with 495-532 yards with 10 touchdowns between the trio. Working the ball around the field is something Florida State has always done and we have no reason to think quarterback Jameis Winston will not follow in thos footsteps. You factor in highly regarded tight end Nick O’ Leary and you have a very deep and talented receiving corps. O’ Leary is the football player involved in the bizarre and scary motorcycle accident that has been all over You Tube and how he walked away virtually unharmed is still a mystery to me.
Best Draft Prospect: Rashad Greene 6th WR 6th Round 2015.
Florida State lost a few players along the line last year that will be hard to replace but at Florida State they have proven to be a machine, there is always someone ready to step right in and perform. Menelik Watson was a lineman drafted last season that we saw develop from a very raw prospect into a very soilid lineman that can play multiple positions. Cameron Irving has great size and he looks like a high draft prospect (2nd round) but I think he does need some seasoning and I feel he will and should stick around for his senior season. The unsung hero along this line is center Brian Stork who I currently have projected as a 3rd round draft pick for 2014. Stork really improved his pass blocking after having a reputation as being a solid run blocker who seemed to struggle with footwork and you could take advantage of rushing the quarterback by gaining leverage and getting him off balance. Stork started his career at left guard and has even seen spot duty at tackle so versatility is a part of his game that will make him very attractive at the next level. Right tackle Bobby Hart that takes over for Watson is the only new starter and there are a lot of youngsters who will be key reserves that are brand new to the program. This isn’t a unit that will overwhelm or maul you but they are efficient and they get the job done.
Best Draft Prospect: Cameron Erving OT 2nd Round 2015.
The defensive line situation looks a lot like the quarterback position, people may think panic mode with both stars being high selections last year (Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine) but the Seminoles may actually have a better line than a season ago. Mario Edwards Jr. showed flashes of true brilliance as a freshman and in a year or two we could be talking about a 2nd or 3rd round selection. Dan Hicks will start as the other end and Florida State should replace the 24 sacks Carradine and Werner put up combined a season ago. The main reason is the tackles are great athletes and this follows in the tradition of Florida State having defensive tackles that can move outside and play as ends, they are truly fast. Timmy Jernigan had close to 50 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss although he wasn’t technically a starter last season. Jernigan looks like a fringe 1st/2nd round pick for this draft if he declares early and he looks like a good tackle that may be a better fit as a defensive end for a team that plays a 3-4 base. Demonte McAllister had 5 tackles for loss with 3.5 sacks as he like Jernigan put up impressive stats for a player who was not a starter. Chris Casher is a freshman who will play at end and Florida State is very excited his prospects.
Best Draft Prospect: Timmy Jernigan DT 1st/2nd Round 2014.
When you think of Florida State you always think about immense pressure from the defensive line and linebackers that are blazing fast with range that seems to be limitless. The defensive line will get their tackles and sacks but the speed is more apparent with the back seven for Florida State and Christian Jones is the lone returning starter for the linebackers and he projects as a 2nd rounder. Jones is a little undersized at 230 pounds but he will probably post a 4.65-4.7 40 time and really help himself at the Combine. Telvin Smith joins Christian Jones on the Butkis award watch list for top college linebacker and looks like a 5th or 6th round prospect for the 2014 draft. Terrence Smith should be the starter on te strong side. This was a defense that ranked #1 in virtually every statistical category in the ACC last year and they were ranked #2 overall on a national level.
Best Draft Prospect: Christian Jones LB 2nd Round 2014.
It used to be that when watching Florida State if you were able to avoid the rush you could exploit the secondary with a big play but that is not the way this defense operates. Lamarcus Joyner is a the leader of the secondary and the cornerback should be a 3rd round draft pick this season and he may even move into 2nd round territory. Joyner is only 5’8” but he hits like a ton of bricks and is very physical despite his short stature. The other starting corner is Nick Waisome and he only stands 5’10’ but it doesn’t look like the lack of size puts a damper on te effectiveness of the back four. Waisome is not the player that Joyner is but he is a returning starter and he does as great job or dictating positioning on opposing receivers. Terrence Brooks is a remarkably effective free safety and one thing that is very unique is watching Brooks and Joyner switch positions on the football field. It is something they do for a play here or there or sometimes for even longer stretches. Gerald Demps and Tyler Hunter will platoon at strong safety and if there is a spot that seems weakest in the back it is at strong safety. I really like the secondary with the only problem being that this position doesn’t seems to have the depth of the defensive line or the linebacker spot. Terrence Brooks is a senior and I think he will be drafted much like Joyner , just a little later (5th or 6th round). The only area that seems glaring for the secondary is they didn’t intercept a lot of passes last season or cause fumbles, the team overall was a -6 and that is an area that has to improve if Florida State wants to repeat as ACC Champs.
Best Draft Prospect: Lamarcus Joyner S 3rd Round 2014.
Roberto Aguayo is in at placekicker to replace All American Dustin Hopkins and some at Florida State thinks it may be an upgrade. I think Rashad Greene is the best prospect here as his return ability will only enhance his chances at moving up his draft status which I once again currently have in the 6th round for 2015. The coverage teams were a bit suspect and Florida State had more penalties called against them on special teams than any other ACC team last season.
Best Draft Prospect: Rashad Greene WR/PR 6th Round 2015.
The toughest games on the schedule for Florida State seem to be their October 19th road date against Clemson (which could decide the regular season champ), the November 2nd home game against Miami (Fla.) and ending on the road against Florida. The advantage Florida State has is that they don’t seem to have any brutal games back to back without sufficient rest.
We still see plenty of Florida State prospects as last year they had more players drafted than any other school. There seems to be a great balance between offensive and defensive prospects. Florida State will be fun to watch once again as their speed should be off the charts.