A Look at 2014

Yes, the 2013 Bowl season hasn’t even started yet. We’ve got time to kill between now and the National Championship, though, so I’m going to take a look into my own crystal ball (mine is not football shaped, nor does it sit atop a large black marble stand). The coaching staff is out and about all over the country with 2014 on their mind.  They’ll settle down and focus on Auburn starting next week maybe.  If they can afford to do that, so can we!!  This isn’t an exact science at all, there are a lot of assumptions, guesses, and gut feelings going on. I have no more inside knowledge than any one else and am just basing this off of the information I’ve gathered. Those assumptions have to do with players leaving early for the draft, players transferring, players getting their degree and moving on (even though they may have eligibility left), and whether or not a player has redshirted.  So, here we go…

 

Offense: Equal

This offense should be fairly loaded again.  If the assumptions I’ve made come to fruition, the Noles will only lose 4 starters (WR Kenny Shaw, FB Chad Abram, OT Cam Erving, and C Bryan Stork) along with backup RB James Wilder Jr.  So the question for the offense becomes can they maintain or get better?  Well, that’s a tough thing to ask of a unit that is going to break numerous Florida State records and has a shot at breaking some National NCAA records for output.  The answer is yes, though.  It can be better.  This is greatly dependent on several players that could turn pro returning, however.  Namely Devonta Freeman, Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene, and Nick O’Leary.  Added to that mix will be a couple of youngsters that have shown some flashes of brilliance and breakaway potential.

There wasn’t really anyone around who was sure what we had coming into 2013 in quarterback Jameis Winston.  He sure looked special, but until it was proven on the field it was a question mark.  That question has been answered in an amazingly resounding way and any offense that has a quarterback like Winston returning has the potential to be great.

 

Quarterback: Equal or Better

 Team Totals (88) Senior (16) Junior (17) Sophomore (19) Freshman (36)
Quarterback(5) 14 – Jacob Coker (RS) 5 – Jameis Winston (RS) 11 – John Franklin (RS)
10 – Sean Maguire (RS) Treon Harris
JJ Cosentino

Not much changes at the quarterback position.  Jameis Winston will return to lead the Noles, Sean Maguire will most likely be the back up.  This is of course assuming that Jacob Coker decides to take advantage of graduate transfer rules and plays elsewhere next season.  The wildcard for the backup role will be John Franklin.  Franklin was thought to be a candidate for a position switch when he was brought in last season, but has supposedly impressed the coaches a good bit handling scout team responsibilities and may very well get a shot to win the backup job.  Treon Harris and JJ Consentino are verbal commitments and will be the only two quarterbacks the Noles take this recruiting cycle.

 

Running Back: Equal or Better

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Running Back (6) 8 – Devonta Freeman  7 – Mario Pender (RS) Jonathan Vickers
9 – Karlos Williams  15 - Ryan Green Dalvin Cook

Devonta Freeman should return to again take the reigns as the workhorse back for the Seminoles.  A complete back that has really blossomed this season, Freeman can be relied on in every facet of the game.  He’s an excellent runner that can run outside or between the tackles, is fantastic in blitz pickup, and can catch the ball out of the backfield and be a dangerous weapon.  I think James Wilder Jr. will leave as he has expressed a desire to start providing for a family. Karlos Williams, while also a parent, needs a full offseason of work at RB before considering a jump to the NFL.  Williams could turn into a big weapon for the Noles next year after a year of learning the nuances of the position and the minor details that can make the difference between a good back and a great  back.  Ryan Green has shown some explosiveness and will provide good depth in the backfield.

The wildcard at running back is Mario Pender.  After a injured redshirt season as a freshman, Pender was ruled academically ineligible for 2013.  If the talented back can keep it together and ever get on the field, he could be a special back for the Noles.  Jonathan Vickers is currently the only commitment for Florida State, but they will look to add 1-2 more with a couple stud backs possibly headed to Tallahassee.

 

Fullback: Slight Decline

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Fullback (1) 33 – Freddie Stevenson

Chad Abram was considered by most coming into the season as a question mark at best and a liability at worst.  He proved everyone wrong by having a very solid senior season paving the way as a lead blocker for the Seminoles ground game.  The only returner here will be converted linebacker Freddie Stevenson.  Stevenson was a bit of a surprise at FB for the Noles as a freshman.  He did a very nice job in relief work, though, and showed even a little more ability as a runner than Abram.  The true test will be how he handles the responsibilities of smashing into linebackers and opening holes for the backs behind him, however.  Until that part is known, it’s hard to say that the position won’t see some sort of decline in play.  With Stevenson’s size and strength, though, there is a distinct possibility that Florida State sees no dropoff from 2013-2014.

 

Wide Receiver: Equal

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Wide Receiver (10) 80 – Rashad Greene 3 – Jesus Wilson CJ Worton
12 – Jarred Haggins (RS) 7 - Levonte Whitfield JoJo Robinson
89 – Christian Green (RS) 84 – Isaiah Jones Travis Rudolph

This is probably the position most dependent on key people staying.  If either Rashad Greene or Kelvin Benjamin than this position will certainly decline next season.  If *gulp* both leave, then there are going to be some serious question marks on the outsides for Florida State.  Of the two, I feel Benjamin is the most likely to go.  He’s going to be 24 next season and has the measurables that NFL scouts drool over.  For this exercise, though, I’m assuming both will stay. The loss of Kenny Shaw is no small thing, as he as been an incredibly dependable player and possibly the most polished wide receiver Florida State has had.  With Greene and Benjamin, though, you have two NFL caliber wideouts and that’s enough to put next years group on equal footing.  Christian Green has started to perform better and will be back for a senior season and Jarred Haggins will most likely be back for his senior year after missing this season due to injury. Throw in an increased role for shifty playmakers Jesus Wilson and Levonte Whitfield and that’s already an excellent group that Jameis Winston should be happy to throw to.

There are two wildcards here. First, what kind of strides does Isaiah Jones make?  He’s got the prototype body at 6’4″ and was the highest rated of the incoming freshman for 2013.  Second, is FSU able to land an immediate impact star in the 2014 class?  Currently, the Noles have two slot-style recievers committed in CJ Worton and JoJo Robinson.  FSU would like to bring in probably two, maybe three, more WRs to this class.  If one of those guys is a intimidate impact type of player like a Malachi Dupre (longsot), Ermon Lane (Gator commit), or Travis Rudolph (FSU lean), than you could make an argument for the WR corps to be better in 2014.

 

Tight End: Improvement

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Tight End (6) 33 – Kevin Haplea (RS) 4 – Giorgio Newberry (RS) 85 – Jeremy Kerr (RS)
35 – Nick O’Leary Marvin Saunders
Ryan Izzo

If Nick O’Leary returns, this should almost certainly be a position of improvement.  O’Leary is already one of the top tight ends in the nation and will only get better with another year of growing and getting stronger.  In 2013, with only one healthy scholarship tight end, FSU moved Giorgio Newberry over from defense with, at best, mixed results.  Newberry hasn’t made an impact at all in the passing game, though he has provided an extra big body in short yardage and goalline situations.  Kevin Haplea and Jeremy Kerr should return from injuries that cost both of the 2013. Haplea is a proven blocker on the edge and can catch the ball.  Kerr is a massive, but unproven, tight end that very well could be an excellent blocker on the edge next season.  FSU has committments from two tight ends, Marvin Saunders who is one of the top tight ends in the nation, and Ryan Izzo.

 

Offensive Line: Equal

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Offensive Line (16) 62 – Austin Barron 65 – Ruben Carter (RS) 78 – Wilson Bell (RS)
51 – Bobby Hart Chad Mavety 55 – Ira Denson (RS)
54 – Tre’ Jackson Kareem Are 59 – Ryan Hoefeld (RS)
53 – Sterling Lovelady Corey Martinez
70 – Josue Matias Ethan Firth
75 – Cameron Erving Alec Eberle
Brock Ruble

This is the position that in my mind has the most questions and the biggest variance between being slightly worse next year and better next year, so I went with down the middle at equal.  Let’s start with the only thing we know with 100% certainty right now – Bryan Stork is gone.  In his place, Austin Barron most likely steps in.  Barron has been a backup and spot starter for the past 3 seasons and does a very good job.  The coaches have been comfortable enough with Barron to slide Stork over to tackle when needed and he is experienced and proven.  The two guys surrounding Barron should be two of the top guards in the nation next season.  Tre Jackson and Josue Matias will enter their 3rd straight year as starters and are both All-ACC performers with NFL futures.

The possible question will again be the tackles.  If Cam Erving returns, which I have not predicted above, than there are no questions and FSU will have one of the top offensive lines in the country.  If he leaves, than there are a couple of options.  First, Bobby Hart could slide over from right tackle to left tackle and leave the right tackle job open for competition.  Hart might be a better fit at the his right tackle spot and the left tackle would then be open for competition.   Either way, the same players would be competing.  Wilson Bell was really impressing the coaches this season before going down with a knee injury.  There is a distinct possibility he’s in the mix next season. The other possibilities aren’t really known at this point.  FSU would like to sign 1-2 JUCO offensive tackles to compete for the job.  Chad Mavety’s recent commitment is certainly a step in the right direction. Kareem Are is also a JUCO signee for FSU, but will start out at guard for the Noles..  It is believed that the coaching staff would like to sign 6-8 OL this year.  As of now, they have verbal commitments from Mavety, Brock Ruble, Corey Martinez, Alec Eberle, and Ethan Firth.  In addition there are several highly rated lineman that have Florida State at or near the top of their list.

 

Defense: Equal or Slight Decline

Much like the Florida State offense, it’s hard to project that the defense will be much better next season.  They have been outstanding this year and will lose some key pieces.  That said, there are some talented players waiting in the wings.  In addition, there is enough of a returning nucleus in each position group that I can’t envision too much of a drop off.   Obviously, Timmy Jernigan at defensive tackle and Lamarcus Joyner are two of the real big loses that the defense must overcome.

Another factor that makes projecting what next year’s defense will look like is how much of a transition the unit will make from a 4-3 to a 3-4 or whether Jeremy Pruitt will continue to feature a heavy dose of 4-2-5.

 

Defensive Line: Slight Decline

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Defensive Line (18) 43 – Desmond Hollin 15 – Mario Edwards Jr. 21 – Chris Casher (RS) 91 – Davarez Bryant (RS)
90 – Eddie Goldman 44 – DeMarcus Walker 95 – Keith Bryant (RS)
99 – Niles Lawrence-Stample (RS) 92 – Justin Shanks (RS) Dexter Wideman
11 – Derrick Mitchell (RS) Demarcus Christmas
Blake McCain
Rick Leonard
Arthur Williams
Adam Torres
Fredrick Jones
Lorenzo Featherston

I’m grouping the defensive line as one unit because after this year it’s hard to pigeon hole players into a particular position.  I don’t think anyone expected Eddie Goldman to open the season at defensive end!  While the roles seemed to be more traditional as the year progressed, the lines between defensive end and defensive tackle have certainly been blurred.  As far as next year goes, you can’t lose players like Timmy Jernigan at defensive tackle and Christian Jones at defensive end and not expect a bit of a drop off.  Jernigan has been an absolute beast in his 3 year career in Tallahassee and will be missed.  Jones has really found a home at defensive end the latter half of the season after spending 3+ years at linebacker.  The Noles have some definite candidates to replace both players, though.

Inside, look for Eddie Goldman to continue his maturation into the dominant player he was projected to be out of high school.  Hopefully, he can become the terror in the interior that Jernigan has been.  If that happens, the Noles defense will be one step closer to continuing the dominant trend they’ve been on.  Niles Lawrence-Stample is the only other interior player returning with good experience.  Justin Shanks and Derrick Mitchell are both big bodies that will hopefully be ready to contribute.  Keith Bryant is another guy that, after redshirting this season, should be ready to go next season.  The Noles have 5 guys committed that are listed as defensive tackles.  Of those, Demarcus Christmas and Dexter Wideman are the ones that could possibly be ready to come in and provide some immediate depth.  Wideman, however, has been rumored to be a possible flip to South Carolina and may not ever ink with Florida State.

On the outside, one spot is sewn up by Mario Edwards Jr. who has really improved as the year has gone on and is playing great football right now.  If he continues to progress into next season, that’s only better news for the Noles.  On the other side of the line, Chris Casher is a good bet to replace Christian Jones.  Casher is bigger than Jones, but possesses good speed and quickness.  He has shown glimpses of his talent this season.  In particular, the sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery, with a scoop and score against Syracuse was jaw dropping.  Demarcus Walker actually started several games early this season and in his second season should be expected to make a greater impact.  One other player to consider is Ukeme Eligwe.  Much like Jones, Eligwe was a linebacker who spent a lot of time with his hand on the ground at the end position this season.  He could be used much the same was Jones was used this season.

Linebacker:  Equal

Senior  Junior Sophomore Freshman
Linebacker (10) 28 – Nigel Terrell 5 – Reggie Northrup 52 – Ukeme Eligwe (RS)  18 – Ro’Derrick Hoskins (RS)
24 – Terrance Smith (RS) 10 – EJ Levenberry Kain Daub
12 – Matthew Thomas Delvin Purifoy
Jacob Pugh 

Because Christian Jones spent most of the year lined up at defensive end, Florida State is really only losing Telvin Smith.  Smith was a special player with excellent closing speed and great instincts.  Terreance Smith has really played well after moving into the starting lineup after BC and will certainly be counted on in 2014.  As for replacing Telvin, Reggie Northrup has the most experience and impressed as a freshman, though didn’t stand out quite as much this season. Matthew Thomas is the big wildcard here as the all-world recruit didn’t get to showcase his talent much this year after missing most of the season with an injury.  If he lives up to his potential after a full offseason, the linebacker corps may not miss a beat.  In addition, Florida State has three mighty fine linebackers committed for 2014.  Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh, and Delvin Purifoy are all rated as Top 10 linebackers in the nation and big grown men that should be physically ready to contribute immediately.

 

Defensive Back:  Improvement

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Defensive Back (13) 6 – Nick Waisome 1 – Tyler Hunter (RS) 29 – Nate Andrews 36 – Tyrell Lyons (RS)
3 – Ronald Darby 30 – Colin Blake (RS) Trey Marshall
26 – PJ Williams 13 – Jalen Ramsey Malique Jackson
37 – Keelin Smith (RS) 27 – Marquez White
42 – Lamarcus Brutus (RS)

Wait, how can Florida State lose 2 long time starters including a Thorpe Award finalist and improve in the secondary?  Young talent that has done nothing but impress this season is how – plus the hopeful return of Tyler Hunter.  Ronald Darby, Jalen Rasmey and PJ Williams return as starters in the secondary.  Nate Andrews has shown a special knack in his limited opportunity this season.  Add in a healthy Tyler Hunter, who has already shown the ability to play corner and safety and was a starter early this season before an injury and you already have an impressive group that is among the best in the country.   Marquez White has also shown some promise in reserve action as a true freshman this year, too.  Currently, the Noles have just two defensive backs committed led by Trey Marshall.  The number one cornerback and Top 10 player in the nation, Marlon Humphrey has also shown some real interest in Florida State.  He’ll be almost impossible to pull out of Alabama, but there is a shot.  There are also a couple other top rated defensive backs with a good shot of ending up in Tallahassee.  As Ronald Darby, Jalen Ramsey, and Nate Andrews have shown over the last several years – if you’re a top player you can come in and contribute immediately.

 

Kicker: Equal

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Kicker(1)  19 – Roberto Aguayo (RS)

Roberto Aguayo is having a year that it’s hard to improve on.  He’s got a strong and accurate leg. As of now, the only improvement we could expect from him is…perfection?!?

 

Punter: Improvement

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Punter(1)  38 – Cason Beatty (RS)

Cason Beatty was the subject of much consternation early this season.  However, it may have gone unnoticed with the few times the Noles have been required to punt, but he’s really improved as the season has gone on.  He’s averaged 40.7 yards per punt on the season, but for the last 3 games he’s averaged 44.6 yards per punt.  That was after averaging just 38.0 yards per punt in the 3 games directly prior.  If he follows the tract of Shawn Powell, he should see a significant jump in production in his junior season.  After two seasons of a 41 yard average, Powell increased his average to 44 his junior season before topping out at a 47 yard average in a superb senior year.

 

Longsnapper:  Equal

Senior Junior Sophomore Freshman
Longsnapper(1) Stephen Gabbard

Phillip Doumar has done an excellent job this season after winning a scholarship for his senior year.  Florida State is making the interesting decision to recruit and offer a scholarship to a high school long snapper.  That’s not something that’s normally done, so obviously there must be a reason.  The reason is Stephen Gabbard is rated as the number three long snapper in the nation and is out of local high school Godby in Tallahassee.

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