By Bob Thomas, Associate Sports Information Director
Since the 2007 season – the same year Jimbo Fisher joined the Florida State staff and began to impact recruiting – a total of 19 Seminoles have been recognized on some level (from first-team to honorable mention) on Freshmen All-American teams. Given the quality and depth of talent in the 2014 signing class, a few more could join that list. With a tip of the hat to No. 5 – one of last year’s Freshman All-Americans – here are “5 Fresh Faces” worthy of attention entering 2013:
1. Travis Rudolph, Wide Receiver, Fr.
Four years ago a young wide receiver opened eyes in the preseason with his ability to get off the line of scrimmage, create space and softly corral virtually every ball thrown in his direction. Rudolph will have to prove he’s worthy of comparisons to Rashad Greene between the lines on Saturdays over the next four years, but he has flashed many of the same practice qualities since returning to full speed from a foot injury. With 59 career high school touchdowns, he knows how to find the end zone.
2. Dalvin Cook, Tailback, Fr.
Rated the No. 1 player in Florida and No. 2 back in the U.S., Cook was one of FSU’s brightest stars on signing day. It doesn’t take long to see why. His ability to accelerate into gaps, change direction and avoid tacklers, is reminiscent of some of FSU’s very best backs, not the least of whom is the guy he will help replace – fellow Miami Central grad Devonta Freeman. Like Rudolph, he will get an opportunity to play early on and there’s no reason to suggest he won’t flourish behind FSU’s veteran line.
3. Trey Marshall, Safety, Fr.
You need only know that 2013 Freshman All-American defensive back Jalen Ramsey said Marshall is further along at this point than he was a year ago. While Ramsey started at corner in last year’s opener at Pitt, Marshall will more than likely come off the bench early in the year. Still, the January enrollee plays with the same hunger to hit shared by a long line of former Lake City Columbia ‘Noles, including Reinard Wilson, Brian Allen, Kendyll Pope and Jerome Carter.
4. Derrick Nnadi, Defensive Tackle, Fr.
Defensive tackles with explosive first steps and expanding array of moves don’t emerge often as freshmen. Nnadi appears to be the exception. On a unit that has limited experience beyond the projected starters, he is emerging as a potential force in the rotation along with redshirt freshman Keith Bryant and fellow true freshman Demarcus Christmas. Nnadi’s quickness and strong base may remind some of a young Corey Simon.
5. Stephen Gabbard, Long Snapper, Fr.
It’s often said that the least-known player on any team is the long snapper; at least until they misfire. In time, Gabbard may well be known as a rare four-year starter at the specialty position, which carries a great deal of responsibility. A Seminole legacy – his father Steve played offensive tackle in the late 80s and was later a grad assistant in the program – the tall and rangy Tallahassee Godby grad has been exceptional in his preseason preparation to step into the starting role.