Jan. 31, 2014
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Seminoles.com Managing Editor
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National Signing Day is next week so let’s continue our breakdown of Florida State’s personnel needs heading into the big day with a look at the offense.
In case you missed it, here’s Tuesday’s defensive breakdown.
Just like on defense, FSU needs to stock up in the trenches on the offensive line. The Seminoles were remarkably healthy up front in 2013 and that played a significant role in the team’s journey to a national championship.
And while FSU hopes it’s just as lucky with the injury bug moving forward, signing depth is critical not just in case of emergency but for the future of the team as well. The Seminoles will likely have five senior starters heading into the season opener against Oklahoma State so inking the players of tomorrow on Wednesday is important.
In addition to projected starters Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Austin Barron, Tre’ Jackson and Bobby Hart, backup center Sterling Lovelady is a senior, too, and key reserve Ruben Carter will be a redshirt junior in 2014. Behind those veterans are just a few unproven youngsters.
With the lack of depth, FSU needs to sign as many offensive linemen as possible Wednesday.
The Seminoles already have junior-college guard Kareem Are enrolled for the spring semester so that helps, but bringing in five to six more icemen would fill a huge need and would provide the team with the kind of security it needs on the roster for a run at a second consecutive title.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has proven to be one of the best quarterback evaluators and developers in college football, so who will be his next protege?
Fisher has done an excellent job at FSU with the quarterback position that two of his players have already been drafted in the NFL’s first round (Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel), another has won the Heisman Trophy and sparked a national title run (Jameis Winston) and two more have gone from backups to big-time roles at other major schools (Clint Trickett transferred and started for West Virginia last year and Jacob Coker will possibly start for Alabama next year).
Needless to say, quarterbacks under Fisher are rarely left holding the clipboards their entire careers. So when Fisher and his staff go into signing day, you know whoever they target at the position is going to be someone that has the chance to make his mark on the field.
With Coker off to Tuscaloosa this summer, the Seminoles will enter the 2014 campaign with Winston, Sean Maguire and John Franklin III as returning players. Look for FSU to sign at least one quarterback to add to the depth chart and continue the natural progression at the position.
Whoever Fisher signs under center — whether its one or two players — will almost assuredly redshirt in his first year.
FSU had some major depth concerns at tight end entering the 2013 season — so much so that defensive end Giorgio Newberry was moved in fall camp across the line of scrimmage to bolster the roster.
Luckily, FSU was healthy at that position all year and Nick O’Leary put together a memorable season as the only pass-catching option at the position. Newberry, who was used as a short-yardage blocker, is back for his redshirt junior year and the Seminoles benefit from the healthy returns of Kevin Haplea and Jeremy Kerr.
A year after having just one healthy true tight end, the Seminoles are suddenly stacked at the position for spring practice. But that doesn’t mean they don’t help. Signing at least two tight ends this recruiting cycle could help ease the transition of losing O’Leary and Haplea to graduation after this year.
The tight end position has become a much more attractive spot at FSU after O’Leary’s break-out season so the ‘Noles should be able to bring in some quality players at the position this Wednesday.
It may sound crazy, but is FSU more dangerous in the backfield entering the new season than they were a year ago when James Wilder, Jr. and Devonta Freeman were the bell cows of the backfield?
FSU might be.
The defending champions will certainly miss “Wild & Free” but Karlos Williams showed superstar flashes after moving from safety to running back last year and as a senior will have the chance to become a household name. Mario Pender is also back after academics cost him all of last year and rising sophomore Ryan Green has game-breaking potential.
The Seminoles also benefit from the early enrollment of stud freshman Dalvin Cook. The five-star running back was a verbal commit to rival Florida before switching allegiance to the good guys and enrolling in classes in January.
With Williams, Pender, Green and Cook forming a formidable foursome at tailback, there’s a lot to look forward to from the run game this season.
At fullback, FSU has to replace its starter for the second year in a row after Chad Abram became a very good player when he took over for Lonnie Pryor. Freddie Stevenson should get the nod as the starter entering spring practices after a freshman year of spot duty and the Seminoles also have redshirt senior Nigel Terrell as a reserve.
Florida State could use at least one more big-bodied tailback this recruiting cycle that could add depth to a fullback position that is very important in Fisher’s offense.
Benjamin’s early defection to the league is a blow but it also opens the doors for someone else to step into the game-breaker role he’s vacated. Could that player be returning sophomores Levonte Whitfield or Isaiah Jones; or perhaps redshirt seniors Christian Green or Jarred Haggins?
Rashad Greene will undoubtedly be the star at wide receiver in 2014 but he needs the unproven talent around him to take the next step and become go-to players like Shaw and Benjamin were. Greene also needs a few freshman additions.
The Seminoles have room to bring in three or four wide receivers with this class and it should make for an exciting National Signing Day with elite prospects realizing there are plays to be made in Tallahassee — and the chance to make them right away.
*This information is just educated guesses on what Fisher and his staff will do on National Signing Day.
Stay tuned to Seminoles.com Feb. 5 for live updates as each new `Noles player is cleared by FSU Compliance. At that time, we will post official bios and instant analysis for each signee online.