For Jimbo Fisher’s Florida State Seminoles, talent won’t be a problem in 2016. FSU returns 21 of 22 players from the two-deep on its offensive depth chart from 2015 and on defense, the Seminoles have a nice mix of youth and experience.
But like every other team, FSU has its players that stand above the rest. Many of those talents have a chance to be recognized among the best in the country by season’s end. Here’s a look at the five Seminoles most likely to receive All-American honors in 2016:
5. Marquez White, CB
In his first season as a starter in 2015, White was outstanding as a boundary cornerback opposite eventual No. 5 overall NFL Draft pick Jalen Ramsey. White will likely be pegged by many as a preseason All-ACC performer, but if he makes strides similar to last season, he could be in for something even bigger.
White played against a slew of talented receivers in 2015 and more than held his own. White was rarely beaten deep and rarely thrown against. His only interception came in the end zone of a Week 2 victory over South Florida.
With players like Ramsey, Tyler Hunter and Lamarcus Brutus gone, White will become one of the leaders of the secondary as a senior. While his biggest strength is in coverage, White also proved himself to be a good tackler from his cornerback position. Last offseason, White announced that he was done splitting his time between football and basketball and boy, has that paid off.
4. DeMarcus Walker, DE
As a junior in 2015, Walker was perhaps Florida State’s most improved player. Walker increased his sack totals from one in each of his first two seasons in Tallahassee to a team-high 10.5 to go along with 15.5 tackles for a loss.
At nearly 280 pounds, Walker not only excels when it comes to setting the edge, but he also can be moved inside for obvious passing situations. In addition to the sacks and stops behind the line of scrimmage, Walker was responsible for forcing four fumbles to go along with a Peach Bowl interception.
All 10.5 of Walker’s sacks a season ago came over the final 10 games. If Walker can pick up where he left off in 2015, opposing ACC quarterbacks could be in a world of trouble.
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3. Roderick Johnson, OT
The most consistent piece to a young offensive line a year ago, junior left tackle Johnson enters 2016 having started 18 straight games for the Seminoles.
Johnson made his first start late in the 2014 season against Miami, but still did enough to be named a freshman All-American. Johnson has been a mainstay in the lineup ever since, using his long reach to keep pass rushers at a distance and his deceptive quickness to open holes for Dalvin Cook and the FSU ground game.
As a sophomore in 2015, Johnson was recognized with the ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy and was named to the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists. He also is an Athlon Sports preseason first-team All-American.
2. Dalvin Cook, RB
Cook is one of college football’s most explosive players and is seeking to join Warrick Dunn as the second Seminole ever to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
Last season, Cook enjoyed the greatest season ever for an FSU rusher, accounting for nearly 1,700 yards on the ground and 20 total touchdowns. That came despite missing a game to injury and having another contest where he was forced to leave after just two carries. Cook broke the 100-yard rushing mark eight times in 2015 while going for more than 200 twice.
Cook averaged more than seven yards per carry last season and was one of the best backs in the country when it came to average yards per carry after contact. Cook also has an exceptional burst when trying to run away from defenders. In just three years on campus, Cook is less than 1,300 yards away from becoming the Seminoles’ all-time leading rusher.
1. Derwin James, S
Just a true sophomore, James has already started turning heads with what he’s capable of. James is not only a heady player in pass coverage, but he might be FSU’s biggest hitter. All in all, James does just about everything for the Seminoles’ defense.
Last season, James ranked either first or second on the team in tackles (91), sacks (4.5), tackles for a loss (9.5), forced fumbles (2) and fumble recoveries (2). At 6-foot-3 and nearly 215 pounds, James was named a freshman All-American by four different organizations in 2015 and was a third-team All-ACC selection.
With still at least two seasons on campus remaining, big things are expected out of James in 2016. In addition to always seeming to be in the right place and being a tenacious hitter, James also might be the best pass rusher on this defense. This should be the year that James adds his name to a long line of outstanding Florida State defensive backs.