Youngsters look to impress new coach Willie Taggart in spring ball
Vanilla Ice and Salt 'N Pepa might be performing following Florida State's spring game on April 14, but those aren't the names that football fans in Tallahassee will likely be coming to see.
New head coach Willie Taggart will be bringing a new system and excitement to FSU as he gets set to kick off his first spring at his "dream job." With a new face leading the Seminoles, what to expect and who to expect it from are largely unknown.
As the spring session inches closer and closer, here are five names to pay attention to as they look to make an impression on their new head coach:
Bailey Hockman, QB
The forgotten man in an expected quarterback competition for Florida State, Hockman may be a sleeper to be the starting quarterback for the Seminoles in 2018. With Deondre Francois questionable for the spring after tearing his patella tendon in the 2017 opener against Alabama, Hockman could get more live snaps in Taggart's system in the spring.
Sophomore James Blackman started 12 games for the Seminoles a season ago and came on strong toward the end of the year, but Hockman may combine the best of both Blackman and Francois' abilities. A 6-foot-2 lefty out of Georgia, Hockman has good mobility and is a heady kid. When it comes to Taggart's offense, all three scholarship quarterbacks are starting from zero, making game experience less of an advantage.
Khalan Laborn, RB
Most expect Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick to again be the one-two punch for Florida State in the backfield. Both performed admirably a season ago as Akers broke Dalvin Cook's school rushing record for a freshman. That's not the only name to know however, when it comes to FSU tailbacks.
Laborn, a redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach, is likely too talented for FSU to keep off the field this season. Taggart had three different backs carry the ball at least 88 times at Oregon last season and Laborn does a lot of things well. At 5-foot-11 and almost 210 pounds, Laborn has good size, but he's faster than most know and a very good receiver. His versatility should make him a weapon for Taggart and his offense.
Baveon Johnson, C
A redshirt sophomore, Johnson was expected to challenge incumbent Alec Eberle for the starting center position last offseason, but injuries in the fall kept that from becoming a reality. Eberle, a three-year starter, does return, but with a new head coach and staff, his position is not necessarily safe.
Eberle did improve as a redshirt junior a season ago, but even if he holds onto his job, Johnson could be a potential starter at one of the guard positions. Cole Minshew will be a redshirt junior who came on late in 2016 while Landon Dickerson is coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries. At 320 pounds, Johnson is big, but may be the best athlete of any player on the interior of the line.
Janarius Robinson, DE
The starting duo at the defensive end positions are expected to be Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh, but depth is limited. With both Josh Sweat and Jalen Wilkerson declaring early for the NFL draft, the Seminoles will be looking for capable bodies to rotate in and one of them should be Robinson, a redshirt sophomore.
At 6-foot-5 and nearly 260 pounds, Robinson has tremendous upside, but has yet to put it all together. Robinson saw more reps late in 2017 and with his athleticism, could be a candidate to push Kaindoh for his starting job. Either way, the Seminoles have depth concerns and Robinson could find himself being the most improved player on the defensive side of the ball after recording four tackles and one sack last season.
Jaiden Woodbey, S
The highest ranked member of Florida State's 2018 recruiting class, Woodbey enrolled early and should be something to see this spring. With safeties Derwin James, Trey Marshall, Nate Andrews and Ermon Lane (although he switched back to receiver last season) all gone, enrolling in January should give Woodbey a chance to see the field early and often in 2018.
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Woodbey is an excellent athlete and a big hitter with a high football IQ. It won't be easy and maybe not possible to replace James, but Woodbey could be the next great safety for the Seminoles. Don't expect him to hit the ground in any way other than running (and tackling).