The Florida State Seminoles released their starting roster for Saturday night’s Cowboys Classic against Oklahoma State, bringing two intense position battles to a close.
The competition for the starting wideout positions opposite of team leader Rashad Greene was arguably the most open and exciting of fall camp.
Entering camp, there were opportunities for freshmen Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane or Ja’Vonn Harrison to earn a starting position, but Florida State coaches decided to go with experienced senior Christian Green and the proven playmaking ability of Kermit Whitfield.
Green has fought through nagging injuries and lost out on previous starting opportunities to receivers such as Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw (both in the NFL), but he has stayed positive through it all.
"He’s got a great attitude, nobody works harder than Christian," wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey said of his new senior starter. "He’s been a leader for the group as a whole."
Whitfield, a sophomore and key player in last year’s BCS National Championship victory, may be considered a surprise to outsiders, but not to coaches.
"The guy can fly, he is dynamic with the ball in his hands, and he is physical," head coach Jimbo Fisher said of Whitfield. "He is getting extremely comfortable, and he is really evolving into a very, very good receiver."
Redshirt senior Jarred "Scooter" Haggins and sophomore Isaiah Jones were not named starters but are expected to see playing time. Sophomore Jesus "Bobo" Wilson is still suspended heading into the opening weekend due to off-the-field issues.
"I have confidence in all nine guys we’ve got on scholarship," Dawsey said. "I won’t hesitate to put any of them out there."
The only other newcomer outside of Green and Whitfield to the starting lineup is senior running back Karlos Williams. After leading the team with an 8.0 yards-per-carry average, Williams returns for his final year prepared to take over the bulk of the workload.
The most important returning starter is, of course, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston. At tight end, Nick O’Leary returns.
The linemen blocking for Winston are no strangers to the starting lineup, as left tackel Cameron Erving, left guard Josue Matias, center Austin Barron, right guard Tre’ Jackson, and right tackle Bobby Hart have a combined 113 starts between them.
The linebacking corps offered another crucial and highly contested position battle.
Junior Reggie Northrup and sophomore E.J. Levenberry were both vying for the starting Mke linebacker position, but Northrup edged out Levenberry and will start alongside redshirt junior Terrance Smith (10-game starter last year) on Saturday.
Northrup may have earned the title of starter, but that’s all it may be, a title.
"They’ll both be playing and rotating consistently," Fisher said. "It’s like having two co-starters there."
Redshirt freshman linebacker Matthew Thomas had a great spring and was having a great preseason camp and coach Fisher even projected him as a starter. But an ankle injury will force him to miss the opening game.
The remainder of Florida State’s defense returns multiple starters at all three levels from last year’s record-setting unit.
The secondary returns starters in all four positions. Safeties Tyler Hunter and Jalen Ramsey protect the deep middle and junior cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby will attempt to shut down the other two thirds of the field. Also, coaches believe that sophomore safety Nate Andrews and freshman safety Trey Marshall, who aren’t listed as starters, will play big roles and big-time minutes this season.
The defensive line welcomes two new starters in nose guard Nile Lawrence-Stample and defensive end Derrick Mitchell Jr. and also sees junior Eddie Goldman slide into the starting defensive tackle position formally held by Timmy Jernigan.
Edge-rushers Chris Casher and Mario Edwards Jr. fill out the rest of the starting defensive unit.