Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Florida State pieced together another stellar recruiting class earlier this month, headlined by five 5-star recruits. The Noles will look to replace eight starters on the offensive side of the ball and will surely look to some of these incoming freshmen to contribute from day one. Here is a look at a few offensive prospects that I expect to battle for early playing time and make an impact in their freshman season.
Cole Minshew Offensive Guard (3-star)- Minshew is a mauling guard that excels in run blocking. Listed at 6’4, 350 pounds, he has the size and mean streak to catch the eye of offensive line coach Rick Trickett in fall camp. After losing starting guards Tre Jackson and Josue Matias, Minshew will have a great opportunity to play right away.
Jacques Patrick Running Back (5-star)**- Jimbo Fisher has talked about the importance of having an “SEC type running back” since his days as FSU’s offensive coordinator. He had a back that was close to that in James Wilder, and experimented the last two seasons with Karlos Williams. With Williams graduating, Fisher will be looking for a big back who is powerful enough to move the chains, but dynamic enough to rip off a big gain and catch the ball out of the backfield. He won’t have to look any further than Patrick, who is listed at 6’1, 225 pounds. Patrick has dominated recruiting camps for years with his vision as a runner and his reliable hands for a running back. Patrick should see significant playing time from game one, as he brings skills that no other running back on the roster can provide.
George Campbell Wide Out (5-star)**- This kid is a freak, there is really no other way to describe him. He has the long frame (6’3, 185) that you love in an outside wide receiver, but has the blazing speed of a smaller slot receiver. Campbell dominated at the Under Armour All-American game in January because his skill set is simply unfair to defensive backs. With the graduation of Rashad Greene, the Noles will be looking to add playmakers to the starting lineup aside from Travis Rudolph, who had a stellar freshman season. Campbell has the size and ability to come in and immediately be the deep threat that Florida State has been looking for.
Auden Tate Wide Out (4-star)- Florida State’s offense clearly missed the dynamic aspect that Kelvin Benjamin brought to the passing attack two seasons ago. Tate (6’5, 215) is built very similar to Benjamin (6’5, 240) who dominated the pro level in his rookie season racking up 1,008 yards and 9 touchdowns. Tate can bring that kind of redzone presence that the Noles were in search for last season. He is a player that has an extremely large catch radius and has shown that he is consistent with catching the football. If he can come in and learn the route tree, I think we will see a very big impact from him as a blocking receiver and a redzone threat. (Think about Tate (6’5) and Campbell (6’3) in the redzone! That’s an instant upgrade to the receiving unit.)
Deondre Francois Quarterback (4-star)- When you talk about a cannon of an arm, you have to mention Francois. After a year of tutelage from former FSU great Chris Weinke, at IMG academy, Francois skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings. His touch improved dramatically from the days where every pass was a bullet. At the Under Armour Game, Francois picked apart the secondary on a touchdown scoring drive. His arm strength is undeniable, but his ability to read defenses will be the determining factor in his chances to start in place of the departed Jameis Winston. It will be an open competition in spring and fall camp. Not being enrolled early like his 4-star counterpart De’Andre Johnson is likely to dampen his chances, but his ability alone will give the coaches a lot to think about.
Da’Vante Phillips Wide Out (4-star)**- As I’ve mentioned before, the Noles were in a desperate search for a big, physical wide receiver last season. Adding Phillips with Campbell and Tate should immediately improve the physicality of a smaller group of receivers from last season. We saw with Ermon Lane last season that wide receivers coach, Lawrence Dawsey, will not hesitate to play a freshman if they prove to be reliable blockers on the outside. Lane had his struggles to catch the ball, but was the best blocker in the unit. Phillips brings that same type of physicality in the blocking game, but is also known for his strong hands. Phillips should be able to work his way into the rotation, and could be a reliable option on third downs.
** denotes recruits that are already enrolled in the school and are taking part in spring football.
The attrition on offense will open up eight starting spots. Most of the back-ups lack experience, which should give these freshmen a fighting chance to earn a spot on the field. One thing we know about the Seminoles coaching staff is that the best players will play, regardless of age.
By: Alex Turko
With just one day separating Florida State’s top prospects pen from the dotted line, Jimbo Fisher is fighting to close the recruiting cycle with a bang. Signatures from some of the highest ranked recruits in the country could mean an immediate boost to an already talented Seminole football team. Fisher has been a national recruiting force since he arrived at Florida State in 2007, and this year is no different. The Noles recruiting class is currently ranked in the top-5 according to Rivals.com and will look to improve upon that ranking come February 4th.
The Seminoles have the most 5-star recruits committed in the country, but what’s even more impressive is that four of these five blue chips are already on campus and enrolled in classes. That means that these elite players are already working out with the team and learning the playbook, making the possibility of them earning early playing time much more realistic.
Jimbo Fisher has twenty-one prospects committed to date and with limited spots remaining, here’s a look at the two main positions that Florida State should be focusing on:
*This list does not include positions of need that have already been successfully addressed (assuming the verbal commitments sign with FSU): Safety, Offensive Line, Quarterback*
Cornerback: With Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams bolting for the NFL, FSU will look to reload at cornerback after failing to sign one last year. The Noles already have a phenomenal player committed in 5-star CB Tarvarus McFadden but would love to add one more pure corner to the class (4-stars, A.J. Westbrook and Calvin Brewton are wild cards who can play “star,” corner or safety).
FSU has narrowed their focus on two 5-stars, Iman Marshall, and Minkah Fitzpatrick, an Alabama commit. Marshall is the top dog remaining at this position and has earned his ranking by dominating the competition at every venue he’s attended. Landing one of these players would be ideal, but landing both would be an enormous enhancement to a position that lacks depth. Both of these talented cornerbacks could earn significant playing time this season if they were to choose the Noles.
Defensive Tackle: The defensive line took a big hit when junior defensive tackle, Eddie Goldman, decided to turn pro after a break out year. The Seminoles brought in an assembly of tackles in last year’s recruiting cycle, but only reaped the benefits from one, Derrick Nnadi. The defensive coaches will still look for more of those recruits to contribute next season after a year of developing, but in the mean time would love to add one beast in the middle to this class.
Florida State already has one 4-star defensive tackle committed in Darvin Taylor, but is hot on the trail of highly ranked 4-star Terry Beckner Jr. Without a dominating force already entrenched in the Seminoles line-up, Beckner Jr. could be called into action early in his freshman year if he decided to bring his talents to Tallahassee.
Regardless of how the Noles close out the recruiting cycle, this class is one of the best in the country and will provide Fisher with a plethora of athletes that can contribute next season. If FSU adds one cornerback on Wednesday, everything else will be icing on the cake.
Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
The inaugural college football playoffs concluded Monday night after the Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Oregon Ducks 42-20 in AT&T Stadium. Watching the Buckeyes defense completely dominate the high-powered Ducks offensive attack has given Seminole fans a lot to think about.
Ohio State held Marcus Mariota and Oregon’s offense to an abysmal 2-for-12 (16%) on third downs while the Seminoles allowed them to convert on 7 of their 12 attempts (58%). The Buckeyes found a way to stonewall Oregon’s dominate rushing attack, only allowing 132 yards on the ground. When Florida State tried to stop this offense, they marched all over the Noles for 301 yards. Ohio State also found a way to get consistent pressure on Mariota, a task that seemed impossible for Florida State.
There are a lot of people that will point to the Seminoles 5 turnovers as the reason for this collapse, but guess what, the Buckeyes also gave the ball away 4 times and faired much better. When Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes needed the defense to get a stop after an offensive turnover, they were able to. On the flip side, when the Noles needed a stop…. well, you saw the final score.
This was the same Oregon offense that gashed the Noles defense for 639 yards just 10 days prior, so why couldn’t Florida State do what Ohio State did? Most people will put the majority of the blame on FSU’s defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly.
Whether it’s fair for Kelly to shoulder the blame or not, it’s easy to see why the fans are quick to point the finger in his direction. Last season Jeremy Pruitt lead one of the most dominating defenses in school history that ranked 3rd in the nation in total defense. That NFL caliber defense only allowed 21 touchdowns throughout the entire season. This season, Kelly’s unit was ranked 61st in total defense and allowed 44 touchdowns. So what went so brutally wrong to make Kelly’s defense much worse than Pruitt’s when schematically, they are quite similar?
Well for starters, the Noles lost 5 phenomenal starters to the NFL and some key back-ups. All five of these players weren’t just stars on the field, but they were imposing leaders that glued this unit together. In the beginning of the season I alluded to the fact that the defense lacked leadership, but in no way did I think that it would become this detrimental to its success. I thought that the talent alone would be enough to overpower opposing offenses but that wasn’t the case.
What fans need to realize before they start a riot to fire Charles Kelly is that there was not one single senior starter on defense. That is extremely rare for a team with a roster as a deep as the one in Tallahassee. On top of the lack of leadership, we saw how the lack of experience hindered the performances of this unit. I think that another component to the lackluster season performance was complacency. There were multiple occasions where I felt as though certain players had this aura about them that “we are the defending champs and we’re better than you.” It’s hard not to feel that way after dominating in the fashion that they did the season before, but when you have that attitude it’s hard to be as hungry for success play in and play out.
Don’t write off Kelly just yet because we’ve seen defensive coordinators turn programs around in their second season. Last year there were a lot of Clemson Tiger fans that wondered if Brent Venables was the right man for the job. In his first season as defensive coordinator, his unit was ranked 25th in the country in total defense, but after one short season his defensive skyrocketed to 1st in the nation for the 2014 season. The team that just shutdown Oregon’s potent offense had defensive coordinator questions going into this season too. Last season the Ohio State faithful were wondering if Luke Fickell was the weak link. But we saw what he did this season, improving the unit from 46th in 2013 to 19th this season.
With the loss of 4 underclassmen to the NFL Draft this offseason we could be in for another dreary season defensively, but there is hope that this uber talented recruiting class can provide instant impact players to add a spark to this mundane unit. I think with the majority of contributors from the freakish championship defense departed, the younger players will be hungry to prove their abilities and allow this defense to take strides in the right direction.
Sometimes we write people off too soon, and other times our initial assessment was spot on. I can’t tell you whether or not Charles Kelly will be able to revive this defense, but I can say that it’s too soon to make any irrational decisions. Kelly will be on the hot seat next season, and as we’ve seen so many times in this business, pressure will either elevate you, or cripple you. What’s it gonna be?
Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
On September 2nd, 2013, I watched a redshirt freshman from Hueytown, Alabama jog out onto the gridiron from my seats in the upper deck of Heinz Field. I’ll never forget the command that Number 5 had in the pocket in his first collegiate start. Passes were fitting perfectly between defenders, landing in the arms of the Seminoles receivers, racking up chunks of yards with each flick of the wrist. I remember wondering after his 25 of 27, 356 yards, 4 touchdown and 0 interception performance, if he was really that good, or if it was just a case of beginners luck. These near perfect acts were far from beginners luck, they were routine.
Jameis Winston took the college football world by storm with his jaw-dropping performances, immeasurable competitiveness and contagious charisma. He will go down as the best quarterback in Florida State history, over former Heisman trophy winners Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward.
FSU is losing the teams’ leading receiver, Rashad Greene, Nick O’Leary, the best tight end in school history, and four starters on the offensive line, so it comes to no surprise that Jameis Winston decided not to return to play for Jimbo Fisher next season. There isn’t anything left for him to prove here and I can’t wait to watch Number 5 compete on Sundays against the best competition and prove himself all over again.
With Winston declaring for the NFL draft, the Florida State coaches will now be taking auditions for a replacement. We’ve seen how difficult it is to replace a quarterback legend in college football. The Florida Gators have yet to find a replacement since Tim Tebow left in 2009. FSU struggled for years after Chris Weinke left, and even then with Christian Ponder, it is debatable if he brought the Noles back into the national spotlight. So, who will be summoned with the tall-task of replacing Jameis Winston next season?
We got a quick glimpse into the future earlier this season when Sean Maguire had to start for the suspended Winston and that glimpse was nerve wrecking. We’ve been spoiled with an offense that can move the ball at will, but with Maguire under center, the Noles couldn’t get any offensive rhythm going. Maguire will be the lead candidate to replace Winston this offseason based strictly on his seniority and experience. Much like what we saw with Clint Trickett having the lead over Winston and Jacob Coker in that quarterback battle two seasons ago.
Behind Maguire is redshirt freshman J.J. Consentino from Pittsburgh Central Catholic (same school as Dan Marino). Consentino has yet to play a down for the Seminoles but was hand-selected by Jimbo Fisher in the 2014 recruiting class. In high school, he threw in person for Fisher at Jimbo Fisher’s summer camp and was praised for his mechanics and powerful arm.
Three freshman gunslingers from this years’ recruiting class will look to throw their name in the mix as well. Jacksonville’s own Mr. Football in the state of Florida, De’Andre Johnson (4-star), Deondre Francios (4-star), and Kai Locksley (4-star), will all be competing for the vacant quarterback spot. Johnson may have a advantage in the competition because he enrolled in school early and is already with the team and learning the playbook. Francios has the strongest arm of the three and had a phenomenal showing in the Under Armor All-American game this past week against the best high school players from around the country. Locksley is the most athletic of the three. He actually played wide receiver in the Under Armor All-American game and performed very well, but is coming in to FSU as a quarterback.
With the cupboard full at the quarterback position, completion will be heated throughout camp. The pressure of filling Winston’s shoes won’t set in until one of these guys is named the starter, but make no mistake about it, the pressure will be there. Regardless of who leads the Seminoles offense next season, he will never be Jameis Winston.
Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Florida State has once again been penelized for a close win, while other teams continue to be rewarded for “quality losses.” TCU is the most recent team to hop the Noles and send FSU to the backside of the playoff rankings at number 4. TCU was never panelized for their 34-30 victory over a Kansas team that boasts an embarrassing record of 3-9 while the Noles close wins remain detrimental each week.
The sad reality regarding the human committee’s power to determine the rankings is that money, whether consciously or subconsciously, plays a factor in the rankings. Florida State right now (if the rankings remain the same) would be set to face Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, drawing an enormous amount of money and TV ratings both in the southeast region and nationally. This matchup has been a pipe dream among college football fans since last season, and the committee now has the power to match these two teams up.
However, the Seminoles won’t be playing in any playoff game if they don’t beat No.11 Georgia Tech this weekend in the ACC Championship game. I think this season would be a complete failure if the Noles don’t win their own conference. Sure, an undefeated regular season is an amazing accomplishment, especially when you do it two years in a row, but at the end of the day, if FSU loses this weekend they will be the second best team in their own conference. On top of being out of the playoff picture, they would also be out of the BCS bowl game picture. If Jimbo Fisher can’t even get into a BCS bowl game then no one would even care, or remember about the second consecutive undefeated regular season.
No.11 Georgia Tech is coming off of an overtime victory over their archrival Georgia and look to snap the Seminoles 28 game-winning streak. The Yellow Jackets boast the 3rd best rushing offense in the nation behind their dangerous triple-option attack. Along with stopping the triple-option, Florida State will have the difficult task of containing QB Justin Thomas. Thomas is a superior athlete who is just as dangerous with his arm as he is with his legs. FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly coached at Georgia Tech under Paul Johnson and should have a good grasp on how to slow down this option offense.
The Noles rushing attack has been respectable in its’ own right. The emergence of freshman running back, Dalvin Cook, has made Florida State so much more dangerous. Senior running back Karlos Williams is out for this game with a concussion and with rain in the forecast, establishing the rushing game will be critical. Georgia Tech’s rushing defense is 70th in the country so look for Cook and backup running back Mario Pender to play a major role in the offense.
With no control over the rankings, the Seminoles can only keep winning. A win over the No.11 team would hopefully be enough to keep the undefeated Noles in the playoff mix.