2014 FSU Preview: What You Need To Know
Florida State OT Cameron Erving
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Florida State (Getty Images)
2014 Florida State Preview
What You Need To Know...
Florida State Preview
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: No offense in the history of college football scored more points—723—than Florida State did a year ago. And the ‘Noles did it with a rookie quarterback under center. Jameis Winston is a special athlete, but it speaks volumes about the staff and the system that the offense actually elevated in the year after EJ Manuel graduated. With Winston back for his sophomore season, no drop-off in production is expected in 2014. The line will be among the best in the country, Karlos Williams and Mario Pender will pick up the slack on the ground and WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary will be Winston's best targets. If there are concerns, they hinge on the new center, likely Austin Barron, and a lack of proven playmakers in the passing game. Greene is a gamebreaker, and O'Leary brings grit to the attack. But someone, like Christian Green or Jesus Wilson, must emerge as a complement, much the way Kelvin Benjamin did late last season.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had an auspicious single season in Tallahassee. But now that Pruitt is in Athens, it's up to the internally promoted Charles Kelly to keep this D among the nation's stingiest units. Florida State was suffocating in 2013, yielding a nation's-low 12.1 points per game. It faces changes in personnel this fall, but nothing that's expected to keep this program from once again dominating the rest of the ACC. A new season means new emerging stars, particularly in a secondary that's going to be lights out. FSU has stockpiled future pros, like P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews and Ronald Darby. While the front seven is solid, it's not quite as certain as the defensive backfield. Expectations are high for DE Mario Edwards, DT Eddie Goldman and linebackers Terrance Smith, Matthew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry. Still, they'll have to prove this season that they can be more than just ballyhooed recruits who deliver in spurts. They've got to command starring roles now that their reps and importance to the team will be on the rise.
Players You Need To Know
1. QB Jameis Winston, Soph.
Last spring, Winston gave a hint to his enormous potential. For 14 games in the fall, he acted on that potential in one of the greatest seasons ever by a rookie. Winston's magical debut included a Heisman Trophy, a perfect record and the Seminoles' first national championship since 1999. He was the seminal figure throughout the title run, leading with the moxie of a veteran, while connecting on 257-of-384 passes for 4,057 yards, 40 touchdowns and 10 picks. He also ran for four more scores. Winston has NFL size, 6-4 and 235 pounds, an NFL arm, and he's bound to improve on his reads and his on-field decision-making in Year 2 at the controls.
2. OT Cameron Erving, Sr.
Watching the development of Erving over the past two seasons, it's hard to imagine he began his Florida State career as a defensive lineman. He wasn't just a First Team All-ACC left tackle a year ago; he also won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the league's premier offensive lineman. At 6-6 and 302 pounds, Erving has the long arms and the great feet needed to neutralize even the quickest of edge rushers. If he can improve his physicality in 2014, he'll have a shot to be taken in the opening round of next year's draft.
3. WR Rashad Greene, Sr.
Kelvin Benjamin is a Carolina Panther. Kenny Shaw is a Cleveland Brown. It's a good thing for the Seminoles that Greene opted to stay on campus for one more year. He is by far and away the program's best receiver, as evidenced by last year's team-high 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. The All-ACC first-teamer can also contribute on special teams as a punt returner. Greene is an explosive 6-0, 178-pounder, who'll make difficult catches, and requires just a little daylight to exploit the seam of a defense.
4. OG Tre' Jackson, Sr.
Jackson, more than any other lineman, deserves credit for Florida State's 5.6 yards per carry in 2013. He's not only the anchor of the right side of the line, but also a road grader at 6-4 and 339 pounds. The two-year starter graded second among the team's blockers to earn First Team All-ACC and even a smattering of All-American attention. Jackson handles his man with brute force. A bear at the point of attack, he can maul his guy, yet he still possesses the uncommon agility to get downfield and finish blocks at the second level.
5. CB P.J. Williams, Jr.
Williams is aiming high in his junior year. He wants to be the best cornerback in college football. If he evolves as rapidly in 2014 as he did in 2013, he'll be on track to achieve all of his goals. Williams is 6-0 and 196 pounds, but he actually plays smaller than his size, meaning he's extremely fluid and agile for a long athlete. His combination of skills allows him to stick to the big receivers as well as the shifty ones. After earning honorable mention All-ACC with 35 tackles, three picks and seven pass breakups, Williams is capable of blowing up into an All-American and a first-round draft pick.
6. DE Mario Edwards, Jr.
A year ago, Seminole DT Timmy Jernigan used his junior season to finally flash all of his potential before becoming a high NFL Draft pick. Edwards is capable of following a similar trajectory in 2014. He's coming off a table-setting sophomore year in which he used 28 stops, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks to earn a spot on the All-ACC Third Team. At 6-3 and 294 pounds, Edwards possesses the size and the strength to be one of the league's better run-stopping linemen. But he'll need to trim some weight and improve his conditioning to take it to another level as a pass rusher.
7. DB Jalen Ramsey, Soph.
The ‘Noles had a hunch Ramsey was going to be special when they landed him as a five-star recruit. It turns out, he could wind up being even better than expectations. Ramsey was an instant smash success as a true freshman in 2013, starting all 14 games, nine at free safety, three at strong safety and two at cornerback. Those two stats at corner made him the first Seminole true freshman to do so since Deion Sanders in 1985. Ramsey has all of the tools to be Florida State's successor to Lamarcus Joyner, from his tenacity and leadership to his 6-1, 198-pound frame and hops of an accomplished long jumper. Last season's 49 tackles were just the start of what promises to be an accomplished career in Tallahassee.
8. CB Ronald Darby, Jr.
Darby is one-half of arguably the best corner tandem in America. He followed up his ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2012 by making 14 tackles, two picks and four pass breakups in nine starts as a sophomore. Forget the numbers. Defensive backs with Darby's closing speed and coverage skills often post ho-hum numbers, because opposing quarterbacks elect to avoid them. The 5-11, 188-pounder was never quite right last season, held back by a nagging groin injury. When Darby is at full-strength, though, he's one of the toughest corners at this level to exploit.
9. RB Karlos Williams, Sr.
So much for needing reps to be successful. After spending two seasons and the 2013 opener as a backup safety, Williams made his move to offense look easy. The Seminoles finally started maximizing the athleticism of their 6-1, 219-pound hidden gem, who responded with 730 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 91 carries. This season, he's expected to headline a running game that lost Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. to the NFL. Mario Pender and Ryan Green will also get touches this fall, but Williams has the size and the motivation to use 2014 as his own audition for pro scouts.
10. TE Nick O'Leary, Sr.
The Seminole passing game needs help on the outside. In the middle of the field, though, it's set with O'Leary returning for his senior season. He's the reliable, often overlooked cog in the offense. An old-schooler, with strong hands and a knack for running over people as a blocker and a receiver, he caught 33 balls for 557 yards and seven touchdowns a season ago to earn Second Team All-ACC. The 6-3, 244-pound O'Leary brings a bare-knuckle, blue-collar attitude to the offense that's more identifiable with the team's linemen than its pass-catchers.
11. PK Roberto Aguayo, Soph.
Think Florida State's heroics in 2013 were resigned to the offense and defense? Think again. Aguayo didn't just replace prolific placekicker Dustin Hopkins; he nailed 21-of-22 field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder, to collect the Lou Groza Award and numerous All-American honors. Aguayo's 157 points, comprising the 21 three-pointers and all 94 of his extra point attempts, set a new NCAA scoring record for kickers. While the Florida State attack doesn't always need Aguayo, he's a useful weapon to have on special teams.
12. OG Josue Matias, Sr.
Although Matias doesn't generate as many headlines as linemates Cameron Erving or Tre' Jackson, he's still a terrific blocker, with an NFL career ahead of him. Matias is a tenacious and assertive run blocker, who'll use every ounce of his 6-6, 331-pound frame to pile up knockdowns at the expense of opposing linemen. The all-league enforcer from the left side of the line started all 14 games in 2013 and 29 in a row dating back to the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.
13. LB Terrance Smith, Jr.
Smith isn't just gifted. He's also pretty darn important to a Seminole defense that lost all-stars Christian Jones and Telvin Smith to graduation. Smith made a quantum leap in his development in 2013, starting 10 games in the middle. The honorable mention All-ACC selection wound up fourth on the team with 59 tackles, including 2.5 stops behind the line and a pair of sacks. At 6-4 and 228 pounds, he has the frame and the attitude to punish opposing players, and the range of safety to make plays all over the field.
14. DT Eddie Goldman, Jr.
The hope around Tallahassee is that Goldman can be to the interior linemen what Mario Edwards already is to the defensive ends. Goldman began to approach his considerable potential in 2013 by starting all but a single game. He's a versatile 6-4, 314-pounder, with the quickness to move outside in a 3-4, and the brute strength to command multiple blockers from tackle. Goldman scratched the surface of his five-star potential last season with 19 tackles, three stops for loss and a pair of sacks.
15. S Nate Andrews, Soph.
Andrews was not one of Florida State's can't-miss recruits a year ago. It didn't matter. He still went out and produced in his debut out of Fairhope (Ala.) High School. Despite starting just one game at strong safety, he still managed to earn Third Team All-ACC with 35 tackles and a team-high four interceptions and three forced fumbles. The 5-11, 209-pound received a crash course in ACC football after Tyler Hunter was injured, gradually becoming more comfortable as the season unfolded.
16. OT Bobby Hart, Sr.
The best is still ahead for Hart, who's remarkably just a 20-year old senior. His upside is tremendous, though his consistency hasn't always been. The 6-4, 318-pound has 23 career starts to his credit, and earned honorable mention All-ACC a year ago, but he still needs to bring it on every down. While Hart has next-level talent, possibly as a guard, it's time that he goes out and grabs that opportunity with a solid senior season.
2014 Florida State Preview