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College Football Preview 2014-2015: 1. Florida State Seminoles

Jameis Winston
1. Florida State Seminoles 


Coach: Jimbo Fisher (5th year)
2013-2014 Record: 14-0 (8-0 ACC)
Schedule:
August 30th vs. Oklahoma State (in Arlington)
September 6th vs. The Citadel
September 20th vs. Clemson
September 27th @ NC State
October 4th vs. Wake Forest
October 11th @ Syracuse
October 18th vs. Notre Dame
October 30th @ Louisville
November 8th vs. Virginia
November 15th @ Miami
November 22nd vs. Boston College
November 29th vs. Florida

Florida State ran through everyone in their way en route to a national title, in an exciting game in which they needed a miraculous comeback to beat Auburn. Other than that, the Seminoles dominated, their closest game coming in the form of a 14-point victory over Boston College. They wrecked two Top 10 opponents (Clemson and Miami) and would beat Duke in the ACC Championship Game by nearly 40 points. With the return of Heisman winner Jameis Winston and a bulk of last year's national title team, Florida State is nearly everyone's favorite to win the championship.

Backfield: A year after Johnny Manziel rocked the college football landscape by becoming the first freshman (he was a redshirt) to win the infamous Heisman, "Famous Jameis" was incredible. Winston threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns and playing better in the Seminoles' bigger games. Winston is gifted with incredible size for a quarterback, standing at 6'4", 235 pounds and a huge arm that can make all the deep throws. He is also gifted with impressive mobility and is so hard to bring down because of his great size. Consider this: Winston threw for those huge numbers, while sitting much of the second half because the 'Noles were killing their opponent. His return gives Florida State a superstar, but he isn't the only playmaker on this offense, not at all. Former defensive back Karlos Williams takes over as FSU's feature back with the departures of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder. Williams is a powerful runner who has proven his versatility. He ran for 730 yards in 2013, averaging eight yards per carry. He could easily be a workhorse this year in the Florida State backfield who will be exceptionally dangerous in short yardage and near the endzone. Sophomore Freddie Stevenson returns as a fullback who will help lead the way for Williams and a blocker who is very strong in pass blocking situations. True freshman Dalvin Cook is the nation's No. 3 running back in the 2014 class and he has a real chance to see a lot of carries in his first season in Tallahassee. Cook is a change of pace to the more powerful Williams as he is extremely dangerous because of his quickness and ability to make defenders miss.

Receivers: Give Jameis Winston a ton of credit, he deserves it. But, also give these receivers a ton of credit for how dominant the redshirt freshman was a season ago. Returning to help lead the passing game is senior Rashad Greene, the Seminoles leading receiver. Greene was an All-ACC receiver who mixed explosiveness with great hands to pick up 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and 9 touchdowns. His experience and leadership should make him Winston's favorite target for the second straight year. The loss of massive Kelvin Benjamin, a huge threat in the red zone, leaves the No. 2 receiver to senior Christian Green. Green, who picked up 13 receptions and 157 yards, has always had the talent but it hasn't necessarily translated into success. Green is another explosive athlete who has all the potential to put up some big numbers this season. Returning is speedster Kermit Whitfield, a talented sophomore who has proven his worth in special teams but is looking to make a larger impact as a receiver. Whitfield has the chance to be a real deep threat this season and could make a number of huge plays with defenders focusing on Greene and others. At tight end, senior Nick O'Leary is one of the best in the nation. O'Leary suffered a scary motorcycle incident before last season, then went on to catch 33 balls for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. He has proven to be extremely reliable, no matter where he is on the field. He isn't the quickest tight end in the nation but he just finds ways to get open and make important plays. Jimbo Fisher and his staff reeled in a number of receivers who are ready to make an impact. Florida prospect Ermon Lane has the potential to be an absolute monster in 2014, while four-star Travis Rudolph is an underrated player who is rated as a Top 5 receiver by many scouting services. Four-star tight end Mavin Saunders was great pickup from Houston who could be a dangerous backup tight end behind O'Leary.

Offensive Line: There may not be a stronger offensive line in the country than Florida State's in 2014 with the return of All-American tackle Cam Erving and absolute stud Tre Jackson along with two other returning starters. Erving, who likely would have been a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, instead decided he still had room to improve and opted to return for what will be his fifth season in Tallahassee. The left tackle is enormous and incredibly gifted and might be the nation's top tackle. With Erving leading the left side of the unit, Jackson should lead the right side. Jackson, an experienced senior, also could have been a pretty high draft pick but will now have a chance at All-American honors after earning All-ACC honors in 2013. Jackson, a right guard, is gifted with superb athleticism and an NFL body, weighing in at nearly 340 pounds. Also joining Jackson on the right side of the line will be tackle Bobby Hart, yet another senior. Hart's name will probably be lost behind Erving and Jackson, but he is an impressive talent. Hart is a stronger run blocker than Erving who has definitely improved his stamina. Junior Josue Matias is another experienced linemen who should start at left guard. Matias is another massive linemen, standing at 6'6", 330 pounds who showed a ton of improvement last season and should be expected to really be a great player this season. The only real question on the unit is at center, where the Seminoles lose Bryan Stork, who was fantastic in his career with Florida State. Though, there is a number of experienced players ready to step up, in senior Austin Barron. Barron isn't as big as some others on this line but he has long arms and has a strong, effective base. Talented newcomers Roderick Johnson, Corey Martinez, Alec Eberle and JUCO transfer Chad Mavety will provide depth and loads of potential. Mavety has the chance to see the most snaps because he is probably the most ready of the group to see major college football action. He was an absolute beast at powerhouse Nassau Community College in New York and he is rated as the No. 2 tackle coming out of the junior college ranks by ESPN.

Defensive Line: New defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will have one major challenge on his hands, entering 2014: replacing extremely productive defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, who is now in the NFL. Jernigan was a fantastic linemen who proved himself in the bigger games and stopped some of the nation's top rushing attacks (like Auburn in the national championship). Well replacing Jernigan's 63 tackles and 11 tackles for loss will be awfully tough, but the cupboard isn't bare. Junior Mario Edwards has always had a lot expected, but hasn't delivered yet. The defensive end will now likely have to be the star of the line after picking up 3.5 sacks last season. Edwards has an incredibly high motor but has to improve his stamina and athleticism in order to take the next step as a pass rusher. Up the middle, the defense will rely on another junior, Eddie Goldman to replace the production of Jernigan. Goldman had 19 tackles and two sacks a season ago but could breakout this year. On the other side of the line, Florida State's defense will rely on sophomore Chris Casher to take over. Casher has the potential to really be a beast opposite of Edwards but he is also prone to mistakes. He could be an excellent pass rusher, but he isn't much of a help in anything else. The likely replacement for Jernigan at the other defensive tackle spot, next to Goldman will be talented junior Niles Lawrence-Stample. Lawrence-Stample had 15 tackles in a reserve role last season but has the strength and size to be a pretty dangerous pass rusher. Depth might be a slight concern on the defensive line, but Giorgio Newberry was an important returner at defensive tackle who should see an ample amount of snaps. Four-star defensive end Lorenzo Featherston is going to be great someday in Tallahassee, maybe not this year, though. He is 6'7", 220 pounds and uses his huge frame to get in the quarterback's vision and force him into mistakes. He will still have to get a lot stronger but there is definitely potential there.

Linebackers: Kelly will also have some serious losses to overcome at linebacker, with the losses on Telvin Smith, the team's leading tackler a season ago, and dangerous outside linebacker Christian Jones. One starter does return, in the form of junior middle linebacker Terrance Smith, who will have to step up in a major way. Smith had 59 tackles and two sacks in 2013, numbers that could really take a major jump this season. Smith is a very knowledgeable player who communicates very well and should be the leader of the defense. Both outside linebacker spots are big-time question marks but there is talent. Junior Reggie Northrup is the most likely starter at one of the slots and he has the chance to grow into a pretty formidable pass rusher. Northrup is fast to the ball and will be very disruptive this season. At the other OLB spot, expect sophomore Ukeme Eligwe to start after a solid 2013, in which he had 28 tackles and two sacks. Eligwe could also grow into a pretty dangerous pass rusher, though he must get a lot stronger and more psychical. Redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas was a pretty important pickup for the 'Noles and he should finally get a chance to sign after that redshirt 2013. He has the versatility to play on the inside or the outside and the athleticism to play both positions very well. A number of linebackers arrive in the 2014 class, including inside linebacker Kain Daub, outside 'backer Jacob Pugh and versatile Delvin Purifoy, who should also spend most of his time on the outside. All three are four-star players and all three are local finds from Florida, who Fisher managed to keep away from some of the other elite programs in the state.
P.J. Williams

Secondary: The secondary is not devoid of losses either, as the unit loses longtime defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, who made the switch from safety to cornerback last season. Though, this is still probably the Seminoles' top defensive unit, with the return of rapidly improving junior P.J. Williams. Williams had 35 tackles and picked off three passes and proved to the ACC and the nation he can definitely be a shutdown corner. He is strong and gifted with pretty quality size, he shouldn't back down from any receiver. Joining him at corner should be another junior, Ronald Darby, who could have a breakout season. With Williams on one side, teams will probably try to pick on Darby, but that won't work very well. Darby is quick and a great athlete who has also proven he can pick off passes and do something with them when he does. The 14 tackles he posted a season ago could skyrocket with him moving to a full time starting role at corner. Terrence Brooks is gone at one safety position, but talented sophomore Jalen Ramsey is back. Ramsey had 49 tackles last season and could realistically play both safety spots and possibly even see some time at cornerback. Ramsey is a very hard-hitter who will constantly be around the ball and making his impact felt. The other safety spot should fall to experienced junior Tyler Hunter, who will have to fend off a number of others to win the job. Guys like Nate Andrews and reserve Nick Waisome give this unit an abundance of depth. Andrews was very good in a reserve role a year ago and should be pretty productive, while cornerback Nick Waisome was a starter in 2012 who was really pushed away from the role last year because of the talent at the position. Heck, if depth concerns become an issue, or injuries really hurt the unit, Fisher and defensive coordinator could just throw Karlos Williams back their again (he did have seven tackles in 2013). Williams could be the next Myles Jack, a very important two-way player for his team.

Special Teams: This should not be a weakness at all, as sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo returns after earning All-American honors in 2013. At punter, Cason Beatty is back after posting very impressive numbers a season ago as well. Kermit Whitfield had that huge return in the national championship game and will make a huge impact.

This team does lot some really talented guys, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But, they do return 15 starters, loads of experience and players ready to step up everywhere. With Winston, Williams and a veteran offensive line, the offense will be absolutely explosive and the defense will once more have one of the nation's best pass defense units. While the schedule is significantly tougher than last year, with Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Florida on it, the ACC is weaker, meaning FSU should once more roll through it and earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. They are so talented, it could be a national title or bust-type season in Tallahassee.
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