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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #1 Florida State

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 27, 2014

Editor's Note: This is the final team for DJ Boyer's 2014 Fierce 40 Countdown. Look back to see choices 2-40...

 

#1 Florida State Seminoles

 

2013 Recap:

It doesn't get any better than winning a National Title and having your freshman quarterback win the most coveted award in college football. 14-0, and before the win against Auburn, the closest game they had was winning 48-34 against Boston College. They not only won, they made it look easy.                        

 

Coaching:

Jimbo Fisher is finally starting to emerge from the shadow of Bobby Bowden and cut his teeth at the head coaching ranks. Fisher always employs a vast array of impressive coaches to help him along the way but he ensures the team still has a Jimbo Fisher look.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Well the Seminoles have the Heisman Trophy winner returning, as the freshman was not eligible for the draft. We hear from the Winston camp that he will return for his junior season and since he ran into some trouble with the law in the offseason with a shoplifting charge, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Jameis Winston has a vast array of targets to throw at and even though two of the top three runners from last season are gone, there are a number of capable bodies able to tote the ball for the Seminoles. Winston is big and has mobility, not that he needs to utilize it often behind the best offensive line assembled in the NCAA. Karlos Williams gets his crack at starting and is a bruising back at 225 pounds with blinding speed. Williams had over 700 yards with 11 touchdowns and 8.0 YPC in his first season as a running back after being converted from defensive back. Mario Pender, Dalvin Cook, and Ryan Green all give the Seminoles running backs that are threats to go the distance. Look for all four to get at least five carries a game and spread the wealth with Williams getting about 15 a game and leading the charge.

Best Draft Prospect: Jameis Winston QB 1st Round 2015 (Likely to declare this season as a redshirt sophomore or in 2016).

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

Kelvin Benjamin took his huge body to the NFL after his sophomore season and catching the winning touchdown pass against Auburn to give Florida State the National Title. Rashad Greene was the big target last season as he led the Seminoles with 76 catches for 1,128 yards and 9 touchdowns. Green has a chance of being the first wide receiver off the board for the 2015 Draft and most certainly should be off the board by the middle stages of the 1st round. Greene leading the Seminoles in receiving was not surprising since he did it as a freshman, sophomore, and a junior. He is looking to be one of a handful of players at the NCAA level to lead his team in catches and yards each of the four seasons in which they have played. Greene has a small void alongside him as the other wide receiver spot is a battle between Jesus Wilson and Christian Green. Both have experience in the offense but neither will be the true #2 target, as that distinction will belong to senior tight end Nick O' Leary. O' Leary posted 33 catches with 7 touchdowns and averaged just under 16 yards per catch, impressive numbers for the athletic tight end. O' Leary should be taken by the middle rounds of the 2015 Draft and could go as high as the 3rd round with a big season.

Best Draft Prospect: Rashad Greene WR 1st Round 2015.

 

Offensive Line:

We have chronicled some outstanding offensive lines over the course of the Fierce 40 this year, but there isn't one that comes close to the overall play and skill of Florida State, even after losing a couple of important players last season. Florida State has two 1st round prospects for this year with Cameron Erving at tackle, a player that likely would have been a 1st round selection had he declared last year, and guard Tre Jackson, a player that grades out as the top guard available in this draft. Another great guard is Josue Matias who is a 3rd round prospect for the upcoming draft, a player that could have went pro last year, and one that we chronicled for the New York Post in January. Since he plays with Tre Jackson, he is overshadowed by being a teammate of the best guard that is draft eligible. Bobby Hart is a solid right tackle and he will certainly hear his name called in the later rounds on draft day. That means center is the only spot with a bit of a question mark with Bryan Stork now at the NFL level and being replaced by Austin Barron. Barron has spot starting experience at various positions so this should be fine. He just needs to show that he can handle being the center and vocalize the calls and communication on a regular basis. This is a special unit. With all the talent at Florida State, the offensive line is the most important aspect.

Best Draft Prospect: Cameron Irving OT 1st Round 2015.

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

What is a little weird when you look at the stats from last season is that Lamarcus Joyner a cornerback/safety who has now moved on to the NFL actually led the team in sacks with 5.5. The Seminoles were great defensively finishing #3 overall while being #1 against the pass and in scoring defense giving up just 12.1 PPG.  Mario Edwards Jr. looks like the top prospect available and he may declare as a junior, but chances are he might need another season where he is the top dog along the line to show his worth for the NFL. Edwards had 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks but his strength may be as an overall defensive end because he plays the run as well as you can from the end position. Eddie Goldman started over half the year on the interior next to the departed Timmy Jernigan. Goldman took up a lot of space and contributed 19 tackles and a pair of sacks while making things happen for the players around him. Chris Caher will be a new starter at defensive end and look for big things from the sophomore, who like so many Seminoles is lightning fast off the snap. This is a nice defensive line although Clemson probably has the best in the ACC.

Best Draft Prospect: Mario Edwards Jr. DE 2nd Round 2016.

 

Linebackers:

Only one starter coming back at linebacker but Terrance Smith is far from the typical linebacker. Smith is well rounded, great in run support, and also the best pass coverage linebacker that the Seminoles have. We expect a nice jump in the 59 total tackles that Smith posted last season. Reggie Northrup had an up and down season but he has been marvelous in the spring and might be the player on defense that coaches are most excited to see since his improvement is supposed to be very noticeable. This unit is like so many Seminoles we have seen in the past; they come at you in waves, they are undersized, and cover the field sideline-to-sideline faster than any other team at the NCAA level. The Seminoles would like to see their total of 35 sacks from last season improve and having more help from the linebackers is something that was stressed by the coaching staff. Look for more blitzing from Florida State and more from the linebackers, versus the corners like we have seen over the last five years or so.

Best Draft Prospect: Terrence Smith LB 3rd Round 2016.

 

Secondary:

In the secondary, Florida State only has to replace one starter from last year and that was the aforementioned Joyner. P.J. Williams will be one of the first cornerbacks off the board and he has experience at safety, although he seems to be a lock at corner for the next level. 3 interceptions and a team leading 10 pass breakups is what you see for Williams when you look at the stat sheet from a year ago. Williams does an admirable job tackling in the open field, something we cannot always say about secondary players from Florida State. Ronald Darby contributed a few key turnovers last year. His action was limited but he always seemed to be in on an interception or was recovering or forcing a fumble. This is why Florida State may have been #3 overall in the country in turnover ratio at +17 on the season. Jalen Ramsey and Tyler Hunter will be the starters at safety and both are young with NFL aspirations, so they now have their chance to show it and this will be a huge year in their development.

Best Draft Prospect: P.J. Williams CB 1st Round 2016 (Likely to declare in 2015).

 

Special Teams:

When you are the defending national champs it stands to reason that you are at the top, or near the top, in every category and special teams is no different. Florida State is among the nation's elite in overall special teams effectiveness. Rashad Greene is a wonderful return man and he could be an All-Amercian at the end of the season on returns as well as the wide receiver position. Kermit Whitfield is an outstanding kick returner and he had the big return for a touchdown in the National Championship game against Auburn. Robert Aguayo is a now a sophomore kicker and already among the nation's elite and looks to be a future NFL kicker. Cason Beatty at punter is the weakest link and he isn't that bad, it's just that Florida State is exceptional at every other position.

Best Draft Prospect: Rashad Greene WR/PR 1st Round 2015.

 

Schedule:

The toughest part of the schedule may be the end of October as Florida State gets Notre Dame at home before traveling to Louisville. This is a situation where Florida State may overlook the Cardinals, although they do have a week off in between the games. Florida State has a road test late with Miami but it certainly looks like this team can run the table for a second consecutive season.

 

Draft Outlook:

I don't know where to start. The entire offensive line could be drafted and there is an insane number of offensive weapons available. Jameis Winston will be the story as he is draft eligible at the end of this season because he is a redshirt sophomore. Depending on who declares we could see 6-8 Seminoles getting drafted in the first three rounds this season.

 

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