TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Willie Taggart on Wednesday unveiled the Seminoles’ 2018 spring roster, and while all the storylines surrounding the team will pick up in earnest when the team begins practice on March 21, there are still a few interesting morsels to be gleaned. Here are five that might help hold FSU fans over until the Seminoles hit the practice fields next week.
Early enrollees get jersey numbers: A new spring means new faces and, along with them, new heights, weights and jersey numbers. Defensive back No. 20 Jaiden Woodbey (6-3, 216 pounds), linebacker No. 33 Amari Gainer (6-3, 208) and lineman No. 77 Christian Armstrong (6-4, 333) are all in the fold and expected to participate throughout the spring.
It’s worth note that Armstrong has added nine pounds since he signed (up from 328 in December) and is already among the biggest linemen on the roster.
While each freshman jersey number will likely stick, it might be wise not to read too much into them just yet, because …
New numbers for vets, too … sort of: There are several new numbers on the roster, including: QB James Blackman (No. 1 to 13), CB Levonta Taylor (No. 1 to 28), RB Cam Akers (No. 3 to 23), RB Khalan Laborn (No. 4 to 21), LB Dontavious Jackson (No. 5 to 16), TE Tre’ McKitty (No. 6 to 16), WR Nyqwan Murray (No. 8 to 11), CB Stanford Samuels III (No. 8 to 18) and RB Jacques Patrick (No. 9 to 19).
Notice something they all have in common?
That’s right, as of the start of spring practice, there are no single-digit jersey numbers on Florida State’s roster. Which isn’t to say that there won’t be any come Labor Day when the Seminoles host Virginia Tech. But to coach Willie Taggart, wearing a coveted, single-digit number is a privilege, not a right. And the players who seek to wear them will have to earn that privilege in practice and throughout the offseason.
Taggart did something similar last year at Oregon.
To re-claim their numbers, the players had to exhibit the three traits that Taggart most values: They must be good players, good students and have good character.
“We want guys to have all three things in order to get those numbers back,” Taggart told the Oregonian during the Ducks’ spring camp a year ago.
Of course, not donning a single-digit number hardly means that a player isn’t reaching those standards, as Brian Burns (No. 99), Marvin Wilson (No. 21), Demarcus Christmas (No. 90) and several others would likely attest.
It’s the end of the fullback as we know it: Taggart has made clear to Florida State fans that they can expect a new-look offense, and a glance at the roster provides the latest sign of it: There are no more fullbacks. Johnathan Vickers and Gabe Nabers, both of whom played the position last year, are now listed as tight ends and each should be a welcome addition to a group that must replace its two most productive players (Ryan Izzo, Mavin Saunders) from 2017.
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. As “spread” offenses become more common across college football, the traditional fullback is becoming something of an endangered species in the sport. Consider Florida State the latest program to get with the times.
Some bulk up, some slim down: While virtually everyone on the roster has made at least a marginal change in weight from last year, there are a handful of players who either gained or lost more noticeable amounts. Here are the ones have gained more than five pounds: QB James Blackman (from 169 pounds to 176); DT Arthur Williams (301 to 316); RB Deonte Sheffield (196 to 202); WR Tamorrion Terry (191 to 197), DB DeCalon Brooks (202 to 211); DE Delvin Purifoy (264 to 279); LB Josh Brown (208 to 218); OL Landon Dickerson (310 to 325); OL Josh Ball (325 to 335).
And those who lost more than five include: DT Marvin Wilson (332 to 323); S Hamsah Nasirldeen (219 to 211); OL Baveon Johnson (318 to 310); DE Adam Torres (290 to 280); OL Derrick Kelly (325 to 317); DE Tre Lawson (250 to 233) and DL Cory Durden (309 to 296).
Opportunity abounds: It’s been apparent to anyone paying attention for the last few months, but the spring roster reiterates that the Seminoles will have a much different look in 2018. Between graduation, the NFL draft and transfers, Florida State lost at least one player at every single position from last year’s team, with most groups experiencing multiple departures.
Which means that players throughout the team will have ample opportunities to impress their new coaches and get a leg up on what should be several position battles. Take quarterback, for instance. The Seminoles currently have just three quarterbacks listed on the roster, one of which (Deondre Francois) is not expected to be a full participant as he continues his recovery from knee surgery. So while Francois and Blackman are expected to compete for the No. 1 job, there should be plenty of reps for redshirt freshman Bailey Hockman as well.
There are similar dynamics at receiver, tight end, on the offensive and defensive lines, at linebacker and in the secondary, too.
Between a new roster, new offensive and defensive schemes and, of course, a new coaching staff, it all adds up to what will undoubtedly be Florida State’s most compelling spring in several years.