After a disappointing 7-6 showing, Florida State has turned to native son Willie Taggart to turn the Seminoles' fortunes around. Taggart has embraced the opportunity to coach at his dream school but he knows in the end that he will be judged by the wins and losses. FSU should improve in that department this fall, especially if the talent on the roster adapts quickly to Taggart's up-tempo approach. The defense figures to be more of a work in progress with just three starters returning. The Seminoles should be better in 2018, but probably won't be quite ready to challenge Clemson for supremacy in ACC Atlantic or contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Previewing Florida State Football's Offense for 2018
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Given Willie Taggart's track record and Florida State's abundance of talent at running back, it's a safe bet the Seminoles will run early and often this fall. At Oregon in 2017, Taggart's offense ranked 12th nationally in rushing yardage, and his USF squads ranked in the top 10 in 2015 and 2016.
Cam Akers, who broke FSU's freshman rushing record with 1,024 yards in 2017, is back to lead the ground game. He will be joined by senior Jacques Patrick, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards in his career.
If Taggart has a strong sense of who his quarterback is going to be this fall, though, he isn't letting on. Junior Deondre Francois, who started 13 games in 2016 before missing most of last season with a knee injury, likely would be the top choice if the decision were based solely on athletic ability. The problem is that it's still unclear when he will return to full speed, and he also has to rebuild his reputation in the locker room after several off-field missteps. Sophomore James Blackman, who started the final 12 games of 2017, merits an A-plus in the intangible categories but is not quite as accurate or athletic.
At receiver, senior Nyqwan Murray will be back despite missing spring drills with a minor knee injury, and junior Keith Gavin returns as well. Other than that, there isn't another returning wide receiver who had more than six catches in 2017. The Seminoles also will need to make strides on the offensive line, where they return five players with starting experience. They surrendered 32 sacks last season and 36 the year before.
Previewing Florida State Football's Defense for 2018
The lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher's staff is defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins, and his group could be the strength of the defense. Senior Demarcus Christmas returns for his third season as a starter, and he likely will be joined up front by former five-star recruit Marvin Wilson. Depth could be an issue at end, but starters Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh are exceptional talents.
FSU will be tasked with replacing all three starting linebackers, but the Seminoles return plenty of talent and experience in the secondary - even after losing talented underclassmen Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden to the NFL. Cornerback Levonta Taylor was very sound in his first season as a starter, and Stanford Samuels III showed star potential in the spring.
Previewing Florida State Football's Specialists for 2018
There's nothing but familiar faces at placekicker and punter, as Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler return for their third seasons as starters. Aguayo has been solid but not spectacular during his career; he converted on 18-of-21 field goals in 2017. Tyler has an exceptionally strong leg, but issues with consistency have hurt the Seminoles' coverage units.
Check out the 2018 Florida State Football Schedule
After Jimbo Fisher bolted for Texas A&M, FSU's administration wanted a head coach who could take the football program in a completely new direction. Taggart checked every box. The biggest change, of course, is the swapping of Fisher's plodding pro-style offense for the up-tempo, spread attack Taggart employed at Oregon and USF. FSU's defense also will take a more aggressive stance under former Michigan State co-coordinator Harlon Barnett. Judging by the excitement during spring drills and offseason workouts, FSU's players are fully on board. That alone should help the Seminoles improve upon their dismal 7-6 campaign from a year ago. How much they improve will depend largely on how quickly they can execute their new schemes at a high level.