A season that began with national championship expectations ended with Florida State having to reschedule a contest with Sun Belt opponent Louisiana-Monroe just to become bowl eligible. At 6-6, FSU will face Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl, looking to close the year on a four-game winning streak and complete a 41st straight winning season.
Although the 2017 campaign didn't end the way those in Tallahassee would have hoped before the year, the Seminoles had a number of players who stood out along the way. We revisit them with our end-of-the-year awards:
Offensive MVP: Cam Akers, RB
As expected, the highly-touted freshman running back was worked in slowly, but became the focal point of the Florida State offense as the season wore down. With 1,032 total yards, Akers leads the team in yards from scrimmage and is tied for first with seven total touchdowns. Akers is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but proved to be a complete back with the ability to catch the ball and pass protect.
Defensive MVP: Derwin James, S
A second-team All-American by most publications, James (above, right) didn't have the year that most expected, but was the guy for coordinator Charles Kelly's defense nonetheless. James won't play in the Independence Bowl, which means he'll finish his final season in Tallahassee with 84 total tackles, 5.5 for a loss and one sack. James also leads or is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, 11 pass breakups and one defensive touchdown.
Best Freshman: Cam Akers, RB
Akers appears on the list yet again as he proved to be the home-run threat the Seminoles were counting on in 2017. Of Akers' seven touchdowns, five came from at least 24 yards out and four from at least 40. Akers needs 79 yards in the Independence Bowl to eclipse Dalvin Cook's FSU freshman rushing record.
Best Play of the Season: Motlow Becomes Part of FSU History
This category is usually reserved for big plays in big or rivalry games, but perhaps the neatest moment for FSU in 2017 came in the fourth quarter of a 77-6 rout of FCS opponent Delaware State. With the Seminoles leading 63-6, backup quarterback JJ Consentino found walk-on wide receiver Justin Motlow for a 12-yard touchdown — Florida State's 10th of the day. What makes the play unique is Motlow is an actual member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. With the score, Motlow became the first Seminole ever to find paydirt for the Seminoles.
Best Performance by a Player in 2017: Brian Burns vs. Clemson
It didn't result in a victory for Florida State, but in Burns' first trip to Clemson, the sophomore defensive end was determined to make sure the Death Valley crowd knew his name. The Seminoles fell 31-14 to the eventual ACC champions, but fought valiantly and Burns was a big reason why. He finished with seven tackles, including 4.5 for a loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovery.
Best Game (Team Performance): 77-6 Senior Day Shellacking of Delaware State
A blowout victory over a bad FCS team is something Florida State rarely hangs its hat on, but the Seminoles were just 3-6 for the Nov. 18 contest against Delaware State and needed to run the table to become bowl eligible. More importantly, FSU needed to play well to build confidence and feel good about itself prior to the rivalry showdown against Florida. The Seminoles did just that as they notched their largest margin of victory ever. FSU scored touchdowns in all three phases of the game as nine different Seminoles found the end zone in the 77-6 win on Senior Day.
Defining Moment: The Injury to Deondre Francois
It didn't take long for Florida State's season to take a turn for the worst. The Seminoles lost to No. 1 Alabama in the opener, but that wasn't the worst thing to happen in Atlanta that night. In the fourth quarter, Francois went down with an apparent knee injury, which was later confirmed to be a tear to his patella tendon. The injury to Francois forced James Blackman to become the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Seminoles in 32 years. That was only the beginning on a string of unfortunate events for arguably the worst FSU team of the last 40 years.
Biggest Surprise: James Blackman, QB
To say it was a wonderful true freshman season for Blackman wouldn't be truthful, but no one would have guessed six months ago that he would be leading the offense. A three-star pro-style quarterback out of Belle Glade, Blackman was the last of FSU's four scholarship quarterbacks to arrive on campus and the lowest rated as a prospect. The skinny, 6-foot-5 youngster quickly won over coaches, surpassing redshirt junior JJ Consentino and early enrollee Bailey Hockman for the No. 2 position on the depth chart before ultimately taking over the reins for an injured Deondre Francois.
Biggest Disappointment: Tarvarus McFadden, DB
The junior cornerback was seen by many coming into the season as a Jim Thorpe Award favorite. As a sophomore in 2016, McFadden developed nicely and found himself tied for the nation's lead in interceptions with eight. In 2017, the South Florida native was picked on early and often, especially over the top. The most notable example came in the Seminoles' 24-20 loss to Miami as McFadden was beat by Miami's Darrell Langham for the winning score with six seconds remaining.
Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Derrick Nnadi, DL
Nnadi was a four-year contributor for the Seminoles at defensive tackle and a load to block in the middle. During a campaign to forget, Nnadi still battled through adversity and played well for most of the season. Nnadi will always be known for his efforts in big contests. As a senior, the Virginia Beach native has recorded 51 tackles, including nine for a loss and 3.5 sacks.
Player to Watch in 2018: Joshua Kaindoh, DL
A highly-touted freshman defensive end out of IMG Academy, Kaindoh was in the FSU lineup from the first day, but really started to become more productive late in the season. At 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, Kaindoh is an imposing figure with great athleticism, size and explosiveness. With Josh Sweat and Jacob Pugh moving on, Kaindoh will take on a bigger role next season.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Coaching Transition
Jimbo Fisher, who finished 83-23 with three ACC championships and a national title in eight seasons at FSU, is now at Texas A&M. The next chapter in FSU history will belong to new head coach Willie Taggart. Taggart has turned around each of his three prior programs, but has just a 47-50 overall record and has never faced expectations like he'll have in Tallahassee. Taggart is obviously an excellent recruiter and has invigorated the fan base. The questions however, are plenty. Taggart will be implementing a new offensive system and so far, has named just two assistants. Taggart also is tasked with salvaging a recruiting class that has been cut in half since late November.