Florida State closed out the BCS era with a dominant 14-0 final record and a victory over Auburn in the national championship game. Not only was the win over the Tigers the Seminoles’ first title since 2000, it finally put to rest whether this program was truly back or not.
As the Seminoles open spring practice for 2014, the quest to become only the second team to earn back-to-back national titles since the BCS era began in 1998 is officially underway. Make no mistake: Repeating as college football’s national champion is challenging. But if there’s a team capable of winning back-to-back titles, the Seminoles would be a safe selection in 2014.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has signed five recruiting classes that ranked among the top 15 nationally and has assembled one of the nation’s best rosters. Quarterback Jameis Winston is back for another run at the Heisman, and in a scary thought for the rest of the ACC, he will only get better as a sophomore.
The Seminoles only have a few concerns on the depth chart for 2014, but the biggest issue might be something that doesn’t relate to a roster or replacing a starter. Complacency is always something national championship teams have to battle the next year. Expect Fisher and his staff to work hard on keeping the player’s focus on what is ahead in 2014 – not what transpired in 2013.
Florida State Seminoles 2014 Spring Preview
2013 Record: 14-0 (8-0 ACC)
Spring Practice Opens: March 19
Spring Game: April 12
Four Things to Watch in Florida State's 2014 Spring Practice
1. New Weapons for Jameis Winston: History suggests Jameis Winston won’t repeat as the Heisman winner, but even if the sophomore doesn’t hoist the trophy again, he is still poised to have a monster season. Winston’s supporting cast is going through an overhaul this spring, as wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. left early for the NFL. Wide receiver Kenny Shaw also expired his eligibility, which leaves Rashad Greene as the top returning option in the passing game, followed by a cast of unproven, but talented receivers. Seniors Christian Green and Jarred Haggins will be counted on to fill the voids from Benjamin and Shaw, while Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson and Isaiah Jones are three promising sophomores to watch. Florida State also reeled in one of the nation’s top freshman classes at receiver, headlined by Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph. Lost in the transition at receiver is one of the nation’s top tight ends in Nick O’Leary. Talent certainly isn’t an issue here, but it may take Winston some time to find his rhythm with a new group of receivers. However, by the end of September, the Florida State passing attack should be hitting on all cylinders. This spring is all about determining a pecking order, while Green and Haggins try to lock down a job before Lane and Rudolph arrive on campus.
2. Austin Barron steps in at center: With four starters back, Florida State should have one of the nation’s top offensive lines in 2014. Left tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre Jackson both earned first-team All-ACC honors last year, while guard Josue Matias was a third-team all-conference selection. Bryan Stork won the Rimington Trophy for the nation’s best center last season, but he expired his eligibility after the national championship. While Stork was a key piece in Florida State’s line, the drop-off in production at center should be very minimal. Austin Barron has five career starts and is slated to replace Stork at center. If there’s a concern on Florida State’s line, it has to be the depth behind the starters. The Seminoles avoided any significant injuries last season, which was a good thing considering the lack of proven options behind the starters. Fisher took steps to address the lack of depth by adding seven linemen in the 2014 signing class.
3. Who steps up at defensive tackle?: This position is easily the biggest concern for the Seminoles in 2014. New coordinator Charles Kelly has to replace standout tackle Timmy Jernigan, as well Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McAllister – two players who were crucial to the depth up front. The situation is better at end, as Mario Edwards Jr. is one of the best in the nation, and the Seminoles return Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker. Thanks to some of the nation’s top recruiting classes, there is talent available for Kelly at tackle. Nile Lawrence-Stample returns after starting six games and recording 15 tackles last season. Eddie Goldman is expected to anchor the tackle position after recording 19 stops in 13 games. Goldman can play at end or tackle, which is a product of Florida State’s multiple looks up front. Lawrence-Stample and Goldman are a solid combination, but the depth at tackle is largely unproven. Redshirt freshman Keith Bryant and senior Desmond Hollin need to step up this spring, while incoming freshmen Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas could push for time in the fall. Florida State probably won’t have a difference maker like Jernigan this season. However, assuming names like Lawrence-Stample, Bryant and Hollin emerge, the run defense shouldn’t suffer too much. This spring is the first chance for Kelly to put his stamp on the defense, while finding answers on the interior of the line.
4. Shuffling in the secondary: With Jeremy Pruitt taking the defensive coordinator position at Georgia, new play-caller Charles Kelly will shift from coaching the linebackers to the defensive backs. Much of the focus for Florida State’s defense is finding new faces in the trenches this spring, but don’t overlook the secondary. Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks depart after standout 2013 campaigns. However, the cupboard is far from bare. Jalen Ramsey was one of the nation’s top freshmen last year and should be in the mix for All-American honors in 2014. P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby didn’t get much national recognition last season, but both players are shutdown corners. Safety Nate Andrews was overshadowed by Ramsey, and he returns looking to build off a freshman season that earned him third-team All-ACC honors. This unit will receive a boost with the return of Tyler Hunter, who missed nearly all of 2013 due to a neck injury. Even though Joyner and Brooks were outstanding, Kelly has to be confident in his defensive backfield for 2014. But how will the Seminoles mix and match the personnel to replace those two players? This spring should give us the first indication of who fills the spots left behind by Joyner and Brooks, along with any tweaks Kelly makes with the secondary.
2014 Early Projected Win Range: 11-12
Keep in mind this projection is just for the regular season. Florida State could stumble once during the regular season, but there’s not much on the schedule to suggest a loss is likely. Oklahoma State is rebuilding, and Clemson visits Tallahassee in early September. Notre Dame should be a top-25 team, but will the Fighting Irish find enough answers on the defensive line by then? At Miami could be Florida State’s toughest road game, and Florida should be improved, adding some spice to both rivalry contests. Barring any major injuries, the Seminoles appear to be a lock for one of the four spots in college football’s playoff.