TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Atlantic Coast Conference will hold its annual Football Kickoff – otherwise known as media days – this week in Charlotte, N.C., and along with it comes the unofficial start of football season.
With two potential national title contenders, two Heisman Trophy candidates and four new head coaches in the league, there already was plenty of intrigue surrounding this year’s event. And that was before a report surfaced on Monday that the league had secured a new TV network with ESPN, due to launch in 2019.
As usual, Florida State will be one of the top draws at ACC Kickoff, with coach Jimbo Fisher, running back Dalvin Cook and defensive end DeMarcus Walker set to meet with reporters on Friday.
Here’s a look at some storylines surrounding the Seminoles and some questions they’re likely to be asked once they step into the spotlight.
1. What’s new with the quarterbacks?
The chances that Fisher will announce a starter this week are all but zilch, but FSU’s head coach can still share some insight on how Sean Maguire, Deondre Francois, J.J. Cosentino and Malik Henry have spent their summer vacations. What’s known is that, as the group’s lone senior, Maguire will enter fall camp as the presumed No. 1. And that, because of an ankle injury Maguire suffered at the end of last season, the door opened for Francois, Cosentino and Henry to get extra reps and experience during spring practice. As a result, FSU is left with a quarterback race that could go in multiple directions before the Seminoles open the season.
2. Dalvin and DeMarcus take the reins
Each year, Fisher picks two players – one from the offense and one from the defense – to represent the team at ACC Kickoff. These players are essentially the faces of the program, and past selections have included Christian Ponder, Lamarcus Joyner, Jameis Winston and Jalen Ramsey. This year’s choices, Cook and Walker, seem like the most obvious in years. And, based on their previous interviews, each should do well in front of the swarm of cameras and recorders. That’s especially true for Walker, who over the past year or so has emerged as one of the more quotable players on the team.
3. Establishing expectations in the ACC
Florida State enters the 2016 season with national-title aspirations and a Heisman hopeful at running back. And yet the Seminoles might not even be picked to win their own division when the media’s preseason poll is released. That’s just life these days in the ACC Atlantic, where FSU and Clemson fight for real estate as two of college football’s premier programs. In quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Tigers have a Heisman contender of their own. And Clemson came just short of a national championship of its own last season. All told, FSU and Clemson have combined for two national title game appearances and an additional College Football Playoff appearance in the last three years. And the winner of the FSU-Clemson game has gone on to win the Atlantic for each of the last six years. So maybe this year voters will be allowed to just write “FSU-Clemson winner” at the top of their preseason polls.
4. Wanted: cornerback and kicker
In addition to being All-America performers on the football field, Roberto Aguayo and Jalen Ramsey each enjoyed popular showings at last year’s ACC Kickoff. While Cook and Walker will likely do just fine filling in at the press conference podium, who fills those shoe
s on the field remains to be seen. Fisher at least has some promising options. Roberto’s younger brother Ricky enrolled at FSU in January and gained some early experience in spring camp. He’ll be joined this fall by Logan Tyler, a do-everything standout (he played running back, quarterback, safety and linebacker in addition to his duties as a specialist) at his high school in Missouri. And the Seminoles have an embarrassment of riches in the defensive backfield, where they’ve recruited as well as anyone in the country since Fisher took over as head coach. Candidates at cornerback include underclassmen Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis, as well as heralded freshman Levonta Taylor.
5. There’s no business like Show business
Word came down Tuesday that Florida State will be featured this fall on Showtime’s “A Season With …” series, which will go behind the scenes to document the 2016 season in Tallahassee. Showtime’s cameras and crew will be all over the FSU football facilities this fall, and they might even have a presence at ACC Kickoff this week. At first blush, appearing on a show like this seems out of character for Fisher, who, like most modern coaches, likes to keep his cards close to the vest. But while Fisher will no doubt offer his thoughts on the subject this week, it’s easy to see why the show would appeal to him. With only one team selected for the show each year (Notre Dame was on the inaugural season in 2015), FSU is joining the most exclusive of clubs. The Seminoles will be given national exposure that no other team can match and fans will get the type of all-access look at their program that most others can only dream of. And that’s to say nothing of all the recruits across the nation who will get a weekly look at the ins and outs of FSU football without having to leave their living rooms.