2015 ACC Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

2014 Record: 13-1 (8-0 ACC)

Returning Starters: Offense (4) Defense (7)

Key Players: CB Jalen Ramsey, RB Mario Pender, QB Sean Maguire, QB Everett Golson, WR Ermon Lane

After a successful regular season was capped off with a disappointing finish in the College Football Semi-Final against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Florida State Seminoles are looking to reboot after losing some key contributors on both sides of the football. It will be a monumental task to replace the production lost on both offense and defense, but with the talent level of players that Jimbo Fisher has brought in over the last couple of seasons, the question is not about how the team will rebuild, but rather how quickly they will be able to return to a National Title level.

While the offense is returning most of the team’s starters, the magnitude of who they lost cannot be understated. Heisman trophy winner turned number one pick Jameis Winston is gone, and the team will also need to replace record-setting pass catcher Rashad Greene, and one of the top tight ends in the country in Nick O’Leary.

At quarterback, a serious competition has emerged between former Notre Dame starter, Everett Golson, and Winston’s backup the last two years, Sean Maguire. Coach Jimbo Fisher has yet to name a starter, and quite frankly, that’s because his decision will not be easy. Golson has more upside (we think), and has plenty of meaningful starts in his collegiate career, which has included an undefeated regular season in 2012 and a trip to the National Championship. Although Golson has made many plays at an elite level, he has struggled mightily with the turnover bug. In 2014 at Notre Dame, Golson’s 14 interceptions led to him getting benched and ultimately transferring. If the turnovers continue in fall practice at Florida State, the chances of him winning the job would obviously greatly decrease. However if he takes care of the ball, Golson can potentially turn himself into a starter and Heisman Trophy dark horse. Meanwhile, Maguire was a highly touted recruit who played in the shadow of Winston throughout his first couple of years in the program, with the only meaningful in-game snaps coming against Clemson in a spot start due to a one-game suspension for the former Heisman winner.

The running back and receiver positions have questions abound as well. Running back Dalvin Cook, who was the assumed starter after over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, remains indefinitely suspended while criminal charges from an offseason issue hang over his head. Mario Pender could be the fill-in for Cook, but his own injury issues marred any prolonged success that he was looking for last season.

At receiver, Rashad Greene is gone, but Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane are in with a more prominent role after combining for 822 yards and five touchdowns combined as freshmen in 2014. Bobo Wilson is also hoping to contribute after fighting inconsistency throughout most of last season.

On defense, four starters return to a mediocre 2014 unit. The most prominent of these is defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who is fresh off of All-American honors last season. Ramsey’s coverage abilities are second-to-none, and his responsibility of anchoring the secondary will go a long way to determining the success of this year’s Seminole defense. Additionally, with defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. heading to the NFL, second-year defensive coordinator Charles Kelly will look to find a way to generate a better pass rush with new faces in order to take some pressure off of the secondary. As a group, there is improvement needed for sure, after ranking 51st in total defense last year through allowing 397 yards per game and 5.51 yards per play.

On the special teams front, Roberto Aguayo will continue to hold down the kicking duties. He was 27-30 last year on field goals and a perfect 55-55 on extra points. His 90% field goal conversion percentage was first nationally, and helped him to further solidify his place as the best kicker in college football.

If all of this information isn’t enough, I go into even greater detail about the outlook for Florida State in 2015 with a new podcast with Mark Rogers. Check it out below.

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