Florida State’s three-year run from 2012-14 was one of the best in college football.
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The Seminoles won 39 games during that stretch, claimed the national championship after the 2013 season and made the College Football Playoff last year.
It’s hard to stay at the top of the nation with personnel losses and early entries to the NFL Draft, and coach Jimbo Fisher will have a busy spring ahead if Florida State is going to win at least 12 games for the fourth season in a row.
Let’s look at five storylines facing the Seminoles during spring practice.
1. Quarterback battle
There’s no doubt all eyes in Tallahassee will be on the quarterbacks this spring. Jameis Winston leaves big shoes to fill, and junior Sean Maguire enters spring ball as the favorite to win the job. Maguire made one start in 2014, completing 21-of-39 passes for 304 yards against arguably the nation’s No. 1 defense (Clemson). He will be pushed by redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino, sophomore John Franklin III and incoming freshmen De’Andre Johnson and Deondre Francois.
Talent certainly isn’t an issue here. Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane ranked among the top six receivers in last year’s signing class, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. The Seminoles also inked George Campbell (No. 19 overall prospect), Da’Vante Phillips (No. 99) and Auden Tate (No. 265) in 2015. Which players will emerge to help replace the production lost by Rashad Greene? Also, who steps up at tight end to replace Nick O’Leary? Redshirt freshmen Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders are two names to watch.
3. Offensive line replacements
Four new starters are slated for Florida State’s offensive line in 2015. This unit struggled at times in 2014 but was bolstered late by the addition of tackle Roderick Johnson into the lineup at left tackle. Johnson is expected to anchor that side of the line once again, but the other four spots are up for grabs this spring. Junior college recruits Chad Mavety and Kareem Are redshirted last season and are expected to prominently factor into the mix.
4. Focus in the front seven on defense
After leading the ACC in fewest yards per play allowed in 2013 (4.1), Florida State’s total jumped to 5.5 in 2014. And even though seven starters are back for 2015, there will be growing pains on this side of the ball. Linemen Mario Edwards (DE) and Eddie Goldman (DT) earned first-team All-ACC honors last season and will be playing on Sundays next year. Who emerges as a key contributor in the trenches? Will tackle Demarcus Christmas or end Lorenzo Featherston have a breakout season?
5. Reloading the cornerback position
Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams departed Florida State for the NFL, leaving a big void at cornerback this spring. Much like the other positions mentioned here, the Seminoles aren’t hurting for talent — they just need a few names to emerge. Jalen Ramsey is expected to slide to cornerback, which should solidify one spot. Converted running back Ryan Green and Marquez White are two players to watch, but freshmen Tarvarus McFadden, Marcus Lewis, Calvin Brewton and A.J. Westbrook also factor into the battle throughout the offseason.
Pre-spring outlook on Florida State in the ACC
With the talent in place, combined with one of the top coaches in the nation, it’s tough to count out Florida State from contending for a playoff spot in 2015. However, the Seminoles are likely to take a small step back in the win column. Even if Sean Maguire performs at a high level this season, this team still has concerns on the offensive line and on defense. Running back Dalvin Cook will be an All-American candidate and figures to shoulder more of the offensive workload next year. Road trips to Clemson and Georgia Tech could determine whether Florida State wins the Atlantic or falls in second behind the Tigers. A finish among the top-10 teams in the nation wouldn’t be a surprise. But the Seminoles seem like a team poised to rebuild in 2015 — and contend for the national title again in 2016.