Florida State Football: 5 breakout candidates during 2017 spring game

Sep 12, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Giorgio Newberry (4) warms up with defensive end Josh Sweat (9) before the game against the South Florida Bulls at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State football is another ACC team looking to return to prominence. Here are five breakout players to watch in this season’s annual spring game.

The Florida State Seminoles open the 2017 season against the Alabama Crimson Tide on September 2. After finishing 10-3 and in the AP Top 10 last season behind freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, the stakes will certainly be higher for the team despite some key losses.

The Seminoles finished 5-3 in the ACC but to be better they’ll need to replace some key offensive lineman. They’ll also need to replace running back Dalvin Cook on offense. Defensively, Florida State looks to replace defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Both Walker and Cook are leaving early for the NFL Draft.

Francois will return a more experienced passer this spring but he’ll need to find a better receiving target. He’ll also need to find a new starting running back. Some say it will be rising junior Jacques Patrick.

Patrick returns as the Seminoles leading rusher this spring with 350 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns through 12 games in 2016. But with early enrollee running back Cam Akers on campus, there’s competition this spring. Akers is making some early noise both at running back and on special teams.

Replacing Cook and Walker won’t be easy, but returning nine starters on defense certainly helps matters. The Seminoles have a chance at winning the ACC Title next season, but.

Here’s a look at the players to watch in the Florida State Seminoles Spring Game this weekend.

Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (80) reacts after making a touchdown in front of Michigan Wolverines safety Dymonte Thomas (25) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


Nyqwan Murray

WR, Florida State

Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray returns this spring as the most experienced receiving target. With wide receiver Travis Rudolph off to the NFL Draft, its up to Murray to make plays this spring.

Murray caught 27 passes for 441 receiving yards and five touchdowns a season ago. He appeared in nine games for the Seminoles in 2016 and showed steady improvement as the season progressed. He had six catches for 96 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Clemson Tigers in Week Four.

His improvement culminated with a two-catch, 104 receiving yard performance with two receiving touchdowns in Florida State’s 33-32 Orange Bowl victory over the Michigan Wolverines. He caught a 92-yard touchdown and the 12-yard game-winning touchdown from quarterback Deondre Francois, becoming the unsung hero for the Seminoles’ offense.

This spring, Murray has an opportunity to crack the starting lineup. With a few playmakers to replace, coaches are hoping he can pick up where he left off in the Florida State Seminoles’ bowl victory.

Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Amara Darboh (82) makes a catch behind Florida State Seminoles defensive back Tarvarus McFadden (4) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports


Tarvarus McFadden

CB, Florida State

Florida State Seminoles cornerback Tarvarus McFadden isn’t a heavy-hitter but he’s got a nose for the football in coverage. With safety Derwin James returning in the secondary, McFadden is a player who can thrive off James’ play.

In 2016, McFadden didn’t rack up a whole lot of tackles, although he did have 19 total tackles (16 solo, 3 assisted) and 3.0 tackles for loss. But he did record eight interceptions as well. He was superb for the Seminoles in pass coverage coming in first in the FBS and ACC in interceptions. He also finished with six pass breakups.

McFadden didn’t have too bad of a season considering he recorded an interception in all but five games for the Florida State defense a season ago. He was a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Award for his play in the secondary, given to the nation’s top defensive player. With Derwin James back behind him, he could certainly have a higher ceiling to improve this spring.

Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi (91) reacts after a sack with defensive end Josh Sweat (9) in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports


Joshua Kaindoh

DE, Florida State

Defensive end Joshua Kaindoh is one of the coveted recruits in the the Florida State Seminoles 2017 recruiting class. The other, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, has yet to arrive.

Kaindoh enters the fold rated as a five-star defensive recruit out of IMG Academy in Florida, according to 247Sports.  He was originally committed to the Maryland Terrapins, but decommitted this past fall. With multiple offers from some of the top schools, he ultimate chose the Seminoles on National Signing Day. With the departure of defensive end DeMarcus Walker, Kaindoh is one guy looking to take his place.

His early arrival shows he’s wasting no time in getting on the field. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound prospect racked up 41 tackles and 7.5 sacks in his senior season to earn All-USA Today first team honors in 2016. He enters the ACC as one of the better freshman defenders to step on the football field.

Spring ball is certainly a new curve for Kaindoh but he’s sure to impress early. Either him or teammate Josh Sweat could be key at the weakside defensive end position.

Nov 14, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State University defensive end Josh Sweat (9) chases down North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Dakwa Nichols (27) during the first half of the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports


Josh Sweat

DE, Florida State

Florida State Seminoles defensive end Josh Sweat was overshadowed by fellow ends Brian Burns and DeMarcus Walker. But he still produced with the time given. Sweat is another returning player on the Florida State defensive line to watch this spring.

Sweat recorded 41 total tackles (25 solo, 16 assisted), 11.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and a forced fumble for the Seminoles defense. He made 10 starts and appeared in 12 games for Florida State in 2016. He was third on the team in sacks behind Burns and Walker, who did most of the damage, and second in tackles for loss behind Walker. The team got 24.5 sacks and 29.0 tackles for loss between Burns and Walker.

With a productive spring, Sweat could reach the status of his teammates. After reaching Freshman All-American honors in 2015, Sweat didn’t get much recognition for his play, despite his numbers. He’ll have an opportunity to silence his critics a bit this spring.

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Jacques Patrick (9) and running back Dalvin Cook (4) celebrate after they beat the Mississippi Rebels at Camping World Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Mississippi Rebels 45-34. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Cam Akers

RB, Florida State

Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook is off to the NFL Draft. But that just means the door is wide open for a new starting running back. The Seminoles have Jacques Patrick at the ready but running back Cam Akers is looking to change all of that.

Akers is a true freshman who enrolled early after graduating high school in December. While Patrick is the projected starter, Akers has still made his presence felt as he gets a headstart on his collegiate career.

Akers was named the US Army All-American Player of the Year after leading his high school back in Mississippi to a 13-1 record. He brings experience at both the quarterback and running back position to the Florida State Seminoles.

With so much talent, it will be hard for head coach Jimbo Fisher and staff to keep Akers off the field. After all, the Seminoles are looking to return to the top of the ACC. To do that, they’ve got to put the best players, like Akers, on the field. Stay tuned this weekend for Florida State’s annual Spring Game.

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