The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the fifth of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 21 Florida State Seminoles.
Willie Taggart takes over for Jimbo Fisher after one year at Oregon. He has an under .500 record, but has had to turn some programs around. There will be a lot of new faces stepping into new roles after a 7-6 season, but Florida State has talent from the past few recruiting classes to work with. They aren’t contenders for the College Football Playoff this season, but should be solid nonetheless.
The offense was below average last season, ranking 71st in scoring. Their run game, ranked 76th in the country, did better than their passing offense, which ranked 89th. With six starters returning, the offense figures to be improved.
Deondre Francois got hurt last season in the opening game against Alabama. The team had high expectations, but the loss of Francois drastically limited their ability. James Blackman stepped in and played decently. The good news is that whoever starts for them this season will have some experience. Both have the ability to run the spread-option offense that Taggart implemented at Oregon last season.
Nyqwan Murray led the team in receiving yards with 604 on 40 receptions and added four touchdowns. The receiving core took a blow when Auden Tate left early for the NFL Draft, but there are high hopes for Tamorrion Terry and D.J. Matthews.
For the running game, Cam Akers was a highly-touted recruit and didn’t disappoint as a freshman. He teamed up with Jacques Patrick to create a solid one-two punch. Akers led the way with 1,025 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
The offensive line brings back four starters, but they have to improve over last season. They allowed 32 sacks and could’ve done a better job run blocking as well.
With the new system and the return of Francois, there is hope that the offense can take a step forward in 2018.
Only three defensive starters return from a team that tied for 29th in points allowed per game. They stayed pretty consistent against the run and pass, ranking 31st and 29th respectively. With so few players returning, it is hard to imagine them playing at that high of a level once again. A 4-2-5 defense will be implemented this season by defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett.
The area with the most experience is the defensive line. Brian Burns is back at defensive end, while Demarcus Christmas will man his usual spot at defensive tackle. Burns had 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last season. Christmas added 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Joshua Kaindoh added four sacks as a freshman last season and will be expected to do more this season. The pass rush will have to be better out of these two this season.
Linebackers Dontavious Jackson, Leonard Warner III and Adonis Thomas are big and physical, but also have the speed to be effective against the pass.
Levonta Taylor was a star at cornerback last year, but will have new starters all around him. Stanford Samuels III played well last year too, but is new to the starting lineup with the departure of Tarvarus McFadden. The loss of Derwin James at safety is a big one, although they have ample talent filling in.
The talent on the defense is there, but they’ll have some growing pains to get out of to start the year.
In their non-conference schedule, the Seminoles play Samford (home), Northern Illinois (home), Notre Dame (away) and Florida (home). The first two games should be relatively easy, while the last two will be challenging.
They play one of the toughest schedules in the ACC, which includes games against Virginia Tech (home), Louisville (away), Miami (away), Clemson (home) and NC State (away). They won’t be able to win them all, but need to win at least two or three of these to make the season a success.
For the regular season, if Florida State plays to their talent level, they can win eight or nine games.
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