Florida State Seminoles 2016 Preview and Prediction

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#2 Florida State Seminoles

NATIONAL FORECAST

#2

ACC Atlantic PREDICTION

#1

HEAD COACH: Jimbo Fisher, 68-14 (6 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jimbo Fisher | DEF. COORDINATOR: Charles Kelly

After finishing 10-3 in a rebuilding season, Florida State is loaded for another run at a national championship in 2016. The biggest question mark for coach Jimbo Fisher is at the quarterback position, but the Seminoles aren’t hurting for talent. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry will push Sean Maguire for the starting job, with Francois expected to start. Helping Francois ease into the starting role is a talented supporting cast, headlined by Heisman Trophy contender Dalvin Cook at running back. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey will be missed, but Florida State’s defense could be better than the 2015 version that limited opponents to 17.5 points a game. Another huge advantage for Florida State? Clemson has to visit Tallahassee this season.

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Previewing Florida State’s Offense 
 

During a remarkable sophomore campaign, tailback Dalvin Cook established new FSU records for rushing yards (1,691) and all-purpose yards (1,935) in a season. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry and 140.9 yards per game. What made Cook’s performance even more impressive were the circumstances. Not only did he play through hamstring and ankle injuries that caused him to miss one game and parts of others, but he also was running behind an inconsistent and injury-plagued offensive line. FSU’s inability to establish a vertical passing game also allowed opposing defenses to crowd the line of scrimmage.

The offensive line should be much improved with seven players returning with starting experience, including All-America candidate Roderick Johnson at left tackle, and the wide receiver group is deep and talented. The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where senior Sean Maguire returns but will be pushed by a pair of talented underclassmen — redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry — who were very impressive in spring drills.

Previewing Florida State’s Defense 
 

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After recording career highs with 58 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks, DeMarcus Walker flirted with a jump to the NFL before returning for his senior year. That decision gives the Seminoles an elite pair of defensive ends, with Walker on one side and sophomore Josh Sweat, a former five-star recruit, on the other.

FSU must replace All-America cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but the Seminoles have recruited so well in the secondary that it shouldn’t be much of a concern. Senior Marquez White returns at one corner, and much-hyped sophomores Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis are battling it out for the other. The rest of the secondary is filled with experienced players, including senior Nate Andrews, junior Trey Marshall and super sophomore Derwin James.

If there is one area of concern on a defense that ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring defense (17.5 ppg) last season, it’s at linebacker, where FSU lost seniors Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith. Projected starters Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins are talented, but Thomas has yet to play a full season of college football. He was suspended for half of the 2014 season and was ineligible for all of 2015.

Previewing Florida State’s Specialists
 

The Seminoles have major holes to fill here as All-America placekicker Roberto Aguayo bolted early for the NFL and four-year starting punter Cason Beatty graduated. Aguayo’s younger brother, Ricky, enrolled in January and should take over field goals and kickoffs. Fellow freshman Logan Tyler is expected to win the punting job.

Final Analysis 
 

To understand just how much talent Jimbo Fisher has ushered into Florida State’s locker room during the first six years of his tenure, one needs only consider this simple fact: The Seminoles are coming off of a rebuilding year that saw them go 10–3 and earn a coveted spot in a New Year’s Six bowl. Did we mention that it was a rebuilding year?

Despite losing No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jameis Winston at quarterback and another dozen starters, the Seminoles reached double-digit wins for the fifth time in six years and once again swept rivals Florida and Miami. Now, FSU appears to have the experience to go with that talent. Florida State returns nine starters on offense and six on defense. They even bring back several key reserves who have started games in the past.

The schedule won’t necessarily be easy, but the always-crucial ACC Atlantic Division battle against Clemson will be played in Tallahassee. The winner of that game has advanced to the College Football Playoff in both of its first two years of existence.

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