TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State coaches had a feeling that they could lose Devonta Freeman or James Wilder after the national championship game. As it turned out, both opted to enter the NFL draft.
Florida State retains just one tailback with any significant college experience in Karlos Williams, who converted from safety in September and ran for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Seminoles also have rising sophomores Ryan Green (163 yards, 1 TD) and Mario Pender (missed 2013 due to academics).
So the timing is perfect for an early enrollee like Dalvin Cook to arrive on campus, use the spring to get a jump on academics and familiarize himself with coach Jimbo Fisher’s playbook.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Cook was named Florida’s Mr. Football in 2013 after running for 1,940 yards and 34 touchdowns and leading Miami Central to a state title.
"Every time he touched the ball, he made some big plays," Florida State running backs coach Jay Graham said. "He’s a lot bigger than you think he is. He is 200 pounds now, but strong."
Here’s a look at Florida State’s four other early enrollees:
Kain Daub: A Scout.com five-star linebacker, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Daub is a fast and aggressive player. The Jacksonville Sandalwood star has great instincts and excels at stopping the run, fighting through blocks to attack tailbacks.
Florida State loses starting linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, and there is a large group of linebackers fighting for playing time. So it’s not realistic to see Daub jump in and start in 2014, but he could earn significant playing time as a backup.
"Very good length, very good range," Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly said. "For his size, you might think he would be a limitation in pass coverage. He has a natural instinct to cover and match routes. He’s also a very good blitzer. We feel like he is going to fit in great."
Trey Marshall: Florida State likes to recruit defensive backs that can play corner or safety, and Marshall is no different. A former Lake City Columbia standout, Marshall is quick, physical and a good tackler. At 5-11 and 180 pounds, he is also good in run support.
"We anticipate him playing safety for us," Kelly said. "He can play any position in the secondary, in my opinion. He’s a very physical player. Has great ball skills. He can do anything."
Kareem Are: Considered one of the nation’s top junior-college offensive linemen, the Fort Scott (Kan.) standout can play two seasons at Florida State. Are is a massive (6-6, 335-pound) guard who should see playing time as a backup in 2014 and will fight for a starting job in 2015.
"He is a big boy," Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett said. "He will put you on your back. I really like this kid."
Stephen Gabbard: A standout from Tallahassee Godby, Gabbard is expected to compete for the long snapper job. He is also expected to play on multiple special-teams units. Gabbard has attended Florida State’s camps through the years, and his father, Steve, is a former Seminoles offensive lineman.
"The one thing we like about Stephen is not only is he a good long snapper, he’s a good athlete," Kelly said. "We feel like he’s going to help our special teams for a long time."