2014 CFN Preview - Florida State Seminoles
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
Florida State QB Jameis Winston
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 4, 2014


Preview 2014 - The defending national champions are coming back just as loaded. (Getty Images)


Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2014
 

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By Rich Cirminiello

Head coach: Jimbo Fisher
4th year: 45-10
Returning Lettermen
Off. 27, Def. 26, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 22
Ten Best FSU Players
1. QB Jameis Winston, Soph.
2. OT Cameron Erving, Sr.
3. WR Rashad Greene, Sr.
4. OG Tre' Jackson, Sr.
5. CB P.J. Williams, Jr.
6. DE Mario Edwards, Jr.
7. DB Jalen Ramsey, Soph.
8. CB Ronald Darby, Jr.
9. RB Karlos Williams, Sr.
10. TE Nick O'Leary, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Oklahoma St (in Arl)
Sep. 6 The Citadel
Sep. 13 OPEN DATE
Sep. 20 Clemson
Sep. 27 at NC State
Oct. 4 Wake Forest
Oct. 11 at Syracuse
Oct. 18 Notre Dame
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Oct. 30 at Louisville
Nov. 8 Virginia
Nov. 15 at Miami
Nov. 22 Boston College
Nov. 29 Florida

Everyone in America is looking up at Florida State. The ‘Noles are planning to keep it that way.

FSU is the king of the college football world. Remaining on the throne is Jimbo Fisher's singular priority in 2014. He'll be reloading with a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, Jameis Winston, and a roster littered with gifted former high school stars. Fisher and the staff know they possess the right mix of talent to repeat, at least as the ACC champ. Maintaining the drive and focus that helped Florida State navigate last year's schedule without a loss will be a far tougher task than filling a few holes on the depth chart.

It's been a steady climb up the mountaintop for Florida State. The Seminoles finished the season ranked in 2010 and 2011, Fisher's first two years as Bobby Bowden's successor.

A year later, they won the ACC for the first time since 2005. And last fall, they put it all together, capping a perfect season with a thrilling 34-31 win over Auburn in the final BCS National Championship Game.

Moving beyond the malaise that gripped the end of the Bowden era was hard. On some level, keeping the defending champs motivated in ‘Bama-like fashion, will be every bit as challenging.

Fisher is facing more distractions than any coach in the FBS. It doesn't help matters when the face of the program, Winston, gets dinged for shoplifting crab legs from a supermarket in April. It's not as if opposing fans will use that little indiscretion as fodder for heckling this fall. Fisher has been fantastic through four seasons as the head coach. If he can keep his kids from taking their eye off the ball in 2014, he'll skyrocket toward the top of his profession.

In terms of personnel, the Seminoles have issues, but few pressing enough to keep the team out of the inaugural College Football Playoff chase. The offense will again be borderline unstoppable. The top priority will be for Winston to develop chemistry with a retooled receiving corps that's going to miss WR Kelvin Benjamin. There's a key opening on the outside across from Rashad Greene, which seniors Christian Green and Jarred Haggins, and sophomores Jesus Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Isaiah Jones are battling to fill.

The defense lost a lot, from last year's five All-ACC first or second-teamers to influential coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. But you might not notice it this season. The Seminoles boast a revolving door of next-level defenders. Yeah, you don't get better by losing Lamarcus Joyner, Timmy Jernigan, Telvin Smith and Terrence Brooks. But you don't get much worse either, when you've got Mario Edwards, P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby and Jalen Ramsey ready to explode into the spotlight. Tallahassee is once again a breeding ground for elite young defenders.

There's no doubting that Florida State has the requisite talent to repeat as the national champs. Years of recruiting—and developing—the right kids has the ‘Noles as stacked as ever. But are they hungry, hungry enough to thrive with a huge target on their chest? Fisher and the staff are working overtime this offseason to keep their kids from falling into the trap of complacency and malaise that can derail even the deepest of teams.

What to look for offense: Who takes heat off WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary in the passing game? The early departure of Kelvin Benjamin leaves a gaping void in the receiving corps. Not only was he one of the most physically imposing receivers in the game, but he was unstoppable down the stretch last year. Might this be the year that seniors Christian Green and Jarred Haggins stay healthy long enough to provide a one-year patch on the corps? If not, look for jackrabbit sophomores Jesus Wilson and Levonte Whitfield to emerge in a big way. Wilson is coming off a terrific spring, and Whitfield has world-class speed.

What to look for on defense: The linebackers will be on the spot. The Seminoles lost last year's two best linebackers to graduation. And since opposing quarterbacks will cautiously target the air-tight FSU secondary, the team's front seven will be under the microscope. Terrance Smith is a returning starter and an emerging star, but who joins him? Junior Reggie Northrup is the veteran of the contenders and a valuable member of special teams. He'll be pushed by the talented young kids, namely 2013 blue-chippers Matthew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry.

The team will be much better if ... the defensive linemen spend more time in opposing backfields. Sure, the Seminoles produced 35 sacks in 2013, a solid overall output. But a cornerback led the way, and the only lineman with at least four sacks, Timmy Jernigan, is now a Baltimore Raven. If Florida State can mount a consistent push up front from the likes of Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher, throwing the ball on this D will be borderline impossible in 2014.

The Schedule: The defending national champs start tough early in a fun test against Oklahoma State in Arlington, end nasty late against an improved Florida, and have a nice and easy midsection that looks potentially dangerous, but isn't as long as they can hold serve at home. There aren't two road games in a row, and the toughest away dates are at Louisville and Miami – those need to be manageable for a team thinking national title repeat. The spotlight will be on dates with Clemson and Notre Dame, but those are both in Tallahassee, and there shouldn't be any issues whatsoever with a slew of scrimmages against The Citadel, Wake Forest and Boston College. Missing Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina from the Coastal will help.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore QB Jameis Winston. Florida State was tough when EJ Manuel was under center. But it wasn't until Winston took the reins that the Seminoles became national champs and the highest-scoring team in NCAA history. He was otherworldly as a rookie, playing with uncommon poise and confidence for such a young quarterback. The program, though, needs him to be as cool and decisive away from the field as well, or else dreams of a repeat will quickly evaporate. Winston makes this offense—and this team—go. Plus, now that Jacob Coker has transferred to Alabama, and sophomore Sean Maguire is the backup, the ‘Noles don't have the same safety net off the bench that they did in 2013.

Best Defensive Player: Junior CB P.J. Williams, Jr. This spot could easily be occupied by Mario Edwards, Ronald Darby or Jalen Ramsey, testament to the depth of defensive talent currently in Tallahassee. Williams, though, is already generating a first-round buzz for the 2015 NFL Draft, which means he should school wide receivers at this level. He's the leading man of a secondary that's so good, it'll force the opposition to either abandon the pass or try to live off screens and short tosses. The DBs are big, physical and athletic, allowing the defensive staff to experiment with blitzes, without paying the price over the top.

Key player to a successful season: Senior C Austin Barron. Barron is the lone newcomer to the starting lineup, though he does have experience in the lineup. He's expected to replace Bryan Stork, who was one of the nation's premier centers a season ago. Barron is intelligent and he's seasoned, which are pluses, because he's the guy who'll be snapping the ball to Jameis Winston at the start of every play. Barron isn't expected to be Cameron Erving or Tre' Jackson, but the ‘Noles will need him to be steady for the offense to avoid any unnecessary stumbles.

The season will be a success if ... the Seminoles repeat. With the talent left in Tallahassee, and the manageable schedule the team faces, anything less than another ACC and national championship will be viewed as a disappointment at Florida State. As it should be. The ‘Noles are bringing back a Heisman-winning quarterback and as much talent as any other FBS school. Plus, Clemson must visit Doak Campbell Stadium in Week 3, which will likely give the host a head start on capturing another Atlantic Division title.

Key game: Sept. 20 vs. Clemson. Sure, the Seminoles will be heavily-favored at home, especially since Tajh Boyd has graduated … and Jameis Winston has not. And no, this won't be the only tough game on a schedule that includes an opener with Oklahoma State, visits from Notre Dame and Florida and trips to Louisville and Miami. However, the Clemson game sets the tone for the rest of the season, and establishes a defined pecking order in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Points per game: Florida State 51.6 – Opponents 12.1
- Yards per catch: Florida State 15.4 – Opponents 9.9
- Sacks: Florida State 35 - Opponents 33

- 2014 Florida State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players