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The big 2014 Florida State football guide: Just accept it

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State is the reigning national champion. The Seminoles have the reigning Heisman winner. They will probably have more players picked in the 2015 draft than any team of the last 20 years. We'll go out on a limb and say they're officially back.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

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1. Acceptance

All you can do is put a really good product on the field every year, execute as well as you can, roll the dice each year, and hope that you get the breaks you need at some point. Hope that one year you don't lose to NC State.

-- 2013 Florida State football's 10 things to know

I cannot say for sure that fans of Florida State's rivals and college football in general followed each of the five stages of grief when it came to FSU's revival. There was certainly plenty of Stage 1 (denial), and at least a little bit of Stage 2 (anger). And if SB Nation's primary Florida representatives are any indication, there's certainly plenty of Stage 4 (depression) to go around, about FSU and plenty of other matters.

But following the Seminoles' romp through the 2013 season, there was no more doubt about whether FSU's glory days were left in the past. There was no more wondering if the Seminoles could come through when it counted the most under Jimbo Fisher. And there was no more doubting what Fisher has built.

Florida State had improved in each of Fisher's first three seasons since succeeding Bobby Bowden in 2010. After sinking to 42nd in the F/+ rankings in Bowden's final year, the Seminoles improved to 18th in 2010, then 10th in 2011, then fifth in 2012. There was always something holding FSU back and allowing naysayers to believe they weren't as close as they were. Injuries and youth crippled the offensive line in 2011 and prevented the offense from gaining steam. And in 2012, a nearly complete machine still figured out a way to sputter and collapse late against NC State.

Haters had their narratives, but FSU had the numbers. And in 2013, one extra piece -- a confident, calm, quarterback -- pushed the 'Noles over the top.

Best teams since 2005 (according to F/+)
1. Alabama 2011 (+53.9%)
2. Alabama 2012 (+50.6%)
3. Florida 2008 (+49.4%)
4. Florida State 2013 (+49.2%)
5. USC 2008 (+47.6%)

With a devastating, experienced offensive line, a deep array of skill position support, and a defense that was too big, too fast, and too well-coached to falter, Jameis Wisnton and Florida State not only won the national title in 2013 but did so with almost no challenges. Until the BCS Championship game against Auburn, a 48-34 win at Boston College was the only FSU game decided by fewer than 27 points. A relatively weak schedule allowed critics to continue residence in the Denial stage, but what was taking shape was pretty obvious.

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In the end, nothing could stop FSU's run -- not a slow start in the BCS Championship, not Auburn's late-game Malzahn magic, not Auburn assistant Dameyune Craig's familiarity with FSU's signals and play-calling (Craig was FSU's quarterbacks coach for three years before becoming Gus Malzahn's offensive co-coordinator), and not Winston's participation in the calorie-heavy Heisman banquet circuit. In their first close game of the year, the Seminoles came back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to take the national title, 34-31, in the closing seconds.

FSU is back. Obviously. The only thing the Seminoles have to prove in 2014 is how they can handle encores and expectations. Winston is back, as are quite a few of the names you got to know last season. There are a couple of interesting road land mines on the schedule, and we'll do our best to find some weaknesses below, but any conversation about 2014 title contenders must start with FSU.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 14-0 | Adj. Record: 14-0 | Final F/+ Rk: 1
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
2-Sep at Pittsburgh 54 41-13 W 54.3 - 25.2 W
14-Sep Nevada 88 62-7 W 46.7 - 13.1 W
21-Sep Bethune-Cookman N/A 54-6 W 40.7 - 19.2 W
28-Sep at Boston College 65 48-34 W 43.7 - 27.8 W
5-Oct Maryland 63 63-0 W 51.5 - 11.7 W 28.0
19-Oct at Clemson 16 51-14 W 55.6 - 14.0 W 30.4
26-Oct N.C. State 92 49-17 W 46.8 - 17.9 W 29.5
2-Nov Miami 36 41-14 W 41.0 - 18.5 W 29.7
9-Nov at Wake Forest 81 59-3 W 25.7 - 5.3 W 30.6
16-Nov Syracuse 75 59-3 W 73.0 - 13.2 W 34.6
23-Nov Idaho 116 80-14 W 35.3 - 22.6 W 28.9
30-Nov at Florida 48 37-7 W 40.9 - 12.9 W 28.7
7-Dec vs. Duke 41 45-7 W 44.6 - 10.8 W 30.9
6-Jan vs. Auburn 4 34-31 W 28.5 - 19.5 W 28.6
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ +21.5% 3 +25.7% 1 +2.0% 27
Points Per Game 51.6 2 12.1 1
Adj. Points Per Game 44.9 1 16.5 2

2. A nearly flawless season

Seasons tend to take on a certain ebb-and-flow quality. A young team gets better as the year progresses. An older team peaks early but slips late. An injury or two cause clear regression. There are ups and downs for almost everybody. But there were only ups for Florida State. There was a peak in the middle, I guess, but it was all pretty fantastic.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): FSU 46.4, Opponent 21.3 (plus-25.1)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): FSU 48.7, Opponent 15.5 (plus-33.2)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (final 6 games): FSU 41.3, Opponent 14.1 (plus-27.2)

On average, FBS teams scored around 28 points per game last year. Using that as your guide, you see that FSU played below average offense just once -- against Wake Forest, in a game the 'Noles won by 56 (Wake handed FSU some easy early points, and the 'Noles just tried to sit on the ball for the most part) -- and only came close to playing below average defense once (against Andre Williams and BC). FSU allowed 2.6 yards per play to Wake Forest one week, then averaged 11.6 per play against Syracuse the next.

This was a killing machine.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.39 1 IsoPPP+ 116.9 6
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 54.5% 2 Succ. Rt. + 130.4 2
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 27.1 15 Def. FP+ 102.4 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 5.5 2 Redzone S&P+ 139.0 2
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.4 ACTUAL 18 -1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 6 1 2 9
RUSHING 28 14 14 32
PASSING 14 1 1 12
Standard Downs 4 9 2
Passing Downs 1 1 53
Q1 Rk 14 1st Down Rk 13
Q2 Rk 4 2nd Down Rk 3
Q3 Rk 1 3rd Down Rk 5
Q4 Rk 14

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Jameis Winston 6'4, 235 So. 5 stars (6.1) 257 384 4057 40 10 66.9% 27 6.6% 9.4
Jacob Coker 18 36 250 0 1 50.0% 5 12.2% 5.1
Sean Maguire 6'3, 220 So. 3 stars (5.5) 13 21 116 2 2 61.9% 1 4.5% 5.0
John Franklin III 6'0, 171 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
J.J. Cosentino 6'4, 216 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

3. Hey, Jameis

We so often end up in a gray area when sports are involved, attempting to talk about an athlete's performance while tuning out a less-than-stellar track record in real life. And off the field, Jameis Winston has brought to the table plenty of shades of gray.

On one hand, Winston has never been charged with anything worse than stealing crab legs (and even then, he was "charged" more than he was charged). On the other, he was investigated for his role in a sexual assault and was perhaps never charged simply because of shaky/shady investigation tactics on the part of the Tallahassee police department. Since he has never been charged with anything serious, we continue to talk about him as a Heisman winner and national champion while a giant elephant just hangs out over in the corner of the room.

For the purposes of this preview, we'll just acknowledge the elephant, roll our eyes about how Jameis' judgment and decision-making off the field need to quickly catch up to those same on-field abilities, and move on, knowing that we might not know everything we should (and that we also know more than we want to).

Off-the-field issues aside, here's something rather incontrovertible: Winston is one hell of an athlete. In two seasons on the FSU baseball team, he has compiled a 1.95 ERA with nine saves and 52 strikeouts. And in just one season on the FSU football team, he threw 40 touchdown passes, helped the Seminoles to improve from 23rd in Off. F/+ to third, won the Heisman, and led FSU to a national title. As the rumblings from the sexual assault investigation were growing louder, he just continued to dominate. When it comes to shutting out noise and focusing on football, it was as admirable a performance as one can remember ... at least until you think about why the noise existed in the first place.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Devonta Freeman RB 173 1016 14 5.9 5.8 42.2%
Karlos Williams RB 6'1, 219 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 91 730 11 8.0 7.5 52.7%
James Wilder, Jr. RB 81 563 8 7.0 6.2 49.4%
Jameis Winston QB 6'4, 235 So. 5 stars (6.1) 61 407 4 6.7 4.2 55.7%
Ryan Green RB 5'10, 195 So. 4 stars (6.0) 33 163 1 4.9 8.0 33.3%
Freddie Stevenson FB 6'1, 230 So. 4 stars (5.8) 8 33 1 4.1 1.9 37.5%
Chad Abram FB 7 29 0 4.1 1.2 42.9%
Jacob Coker QB 5 55 1 11.0 6.1 80.0%
Mario Pender RB 5'10, 194 So. 4 stars (6.0)
Dalvin Cook RB 5'11, 192 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)




Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Rashad Greene WR 6'0, 178 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 113 76 1128 67.3% 27.2% 63.0% 10.0 228 11.1 227.6
Kelvin Benjamin WR 87 54 1011 62.1% 20.9% 60.0% 11.6 345 11.6 204.0
Kenny Shaw WR 76 54 933 71.1% 18.3% 54.2% 12.3 310 13.5 188.2
Nick O'Leary TE 6'3, 244 Sr. 4 stars (6.0) 42 33 557 78.6% 10.1% 40.7% 13.3 194 11.0 112.4
Devonta Freeman RB 25 22 278 88.0% 6.0% 42.9% 11.1 48 11.6 56.1
Christian Green WR 6'2, 207 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 20 13 157 65.0% 4.8% 87.5% 7.9 0 10.1 31.7
Jarred Haggins (2012) WR 6'0, 202 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 8 108 61.5% 3.1% 61.5% 8.3 N/A 8.4 15.9
Karlos Williams RB 6'1, 219 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 12 8 63 66.7% 2.9% 100.0% 5.3 -32 1.9 12.7
Chad Abram FB 10 9 73 90.0% 2.4% 75.0% 7.3 -20 8.8 14.7
Isaiah Jones WR 6'4, 193 So. 4 stars (5.8) 6 2 31 33.3% 1.4% N/A 5.2 -5 0.0 6.3
Jesus Wilson WR 5'9, 177 So. 3 stars (5.7) 6 3 23 50.0% 1.4% N/A 3.8 -19 0.0 4.6
Freddie Stevenson FB 6'1, 230 So. 4 stars (5.8) 4 2 18 50.0% 1.0% N/A 4.5 -10 0.0 3.6
Kermit Whitfield WR 5'7, 184 So. 4 stars (5.8) 4 4 78 100.0% 1.0% N/A 19.5 38 0.0 15.7
Kevin Haplea TE 6'4, 246 Sr. 3 stars (5.7)
Jeremy Kerr TE 6'5, 251 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Ermon Lane WR 6'2, 172 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)
Travis Rudolph WR 6'0, 189 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)
Javon Harrison WR 6'2, 190 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)









4. Searching for flaws: injuries could lead to youth

The Florida State process

Winston's a hell of a quarterback, and his supporting cast returns an incredible number of potential (and verified) studs. Converted defensive back Karlos Williams takes over at running back; in a backup role last season, he proved both explosive and devastatingly efficient, and with another offseason of acclimation to the position, there's little reason to doubt that he'll be one of the nation's better running backs.

Meanwhile, Winston's No. 1 target, Rashad Greene, is also back; he's either one of the most explosive possession receivers in the country or one of the most efficient big-play guys. Take your pick. Tight end Nick O'Leary, who really needs to stay off of anything that has only two wheels, should be healthy this fall; if so, he's one of the best, meanest tight ends in the country.

And then there's the offensive line. Despite the loss of All-American Bryan Stork, FSU returns five players who have combined for 114 career starts, one of the highest totals in the country.

The starting 11 for this offense is nearly unassailable. It is big, fast, strong, and experienced. But if we're looking for potential cracks, if we're looking for weaknesses that might appear this season -- and lord knows we have to look pretty hard -- it does bear mentioning that the second string will be pretty inexperienced. After Williams, FSU running backs have combined for only 33 carries, all from sophomore Ryan Green. After Greene, the next four leading receivers from 2013 combined for only 22 catches. And after a potentially all-senior starting five up front, we're looking at a whole lot of redshirt freshmen and newcomers on the OL depth chart.

And then, of course, there's Winston himself. Backup Jacob Coker transferred to Alabama, leaving 21 career passes (all from Sean Maguire, all in mop-up time) among FSU's backups. If FSU is hit pretty hard by injuries in 2014, the Seminoles could end up quite a few freshmen and little-used sophomores on the field.

Granted, that's an "if" that could be used for just about every team in the country. And granted, FSU has recruited well enough that a lot of these youngsters came with an impressive pedigree -- four-star freshman quarterback J.J. Cosentino, four-star sophomore running backs Green and Mario Pender, five-star freshman running back Dalvin Cook, four-star sophomore receivers Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield, five-star freshman receivers Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph, et cetera. I told you it was pretty hard to come up with weaknesses here, and this was the best I could do.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 113.1 3.41 3.13 47.5% 78.6% 15.9% 101.2 5.4% 7.2%
Rank 16 10 78 8 8 15 68 84 71
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Bryan Stork C 41 Consensus All-American, Rimington Trophy,
1st All-ACC
Cameron Erving LT 6'6, 302 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 28 All-American, 1st All-ACC
Tre' Jackson RG 6'4, 339 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 30 1st All-ACC
Josue Matias LG 6'6, 331 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 29
Bobby Hart RT 6'4, 318 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 23
Jacob Fahrenkrug RT 12
Austin Barron C 6'3, 292 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 4
Jonathan Wallace LT 0
Sterling Lovelady LG 0
Ruben Carter RG 6'4, 299 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0
Wilson Bell LT 6'4, 306 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Chad Mavety OL 6'6, 320 Jr. 4 stars (5.9)
Kareem Are LG 6'6, 335 Jr. 3 stars (5.7)
Roderick Johnson OL 6'7, 310 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Corey Martinez OL 6'4, 290 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Alec Eberle OL 6'4, 270 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.03 10 IsoPPP+ 118.0 4
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 32.5% 3 Succ. Rt. + 128.3 3
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 32.5 17 Off. FP+ 103.5 23
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.2 4 Redzone S&P+ 117.6 17
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 25.5 ACTUAL 35.0 +9.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 3 3 3 4
RUSHING 18 4 3 10
PASSING 1 4 8 4
Standard Downs 2 3 2
Passing Downs 12 30 4
Q1 Rk 6 1st Down Rk 2
Q2 Rk 1 2nd Down Rk 11
Q3 Rk 2 3rd Down Rk 9
Q4 Rk 35

5. Searching for flaws: Jeremy Pruitt did a spectacular job

Before Jeremy Pruitt arrived in Tallahassee in 2013, the FSU defense was already awfully good. The Seminoles ranked third in Def. F/+ in 2011 and fifth in 2012. They were too much for most opponents, and even random glitches -- 394 yards and a late explosion of points against Florida in 2012, 5.5 yards per play and 37 points to Clemson in 2012, 5.3 yards per play and 35 points in an upset loss against Wake Forest in 2011 -- were pretty minor. The national average for yards per play is in the 5.7 neighborhood, and FSU hadn't allowed that in the two years prior to Pruitt's arrival.

But Pruitt still figured out how to make one hell of a difference. FSU had the best defense in the country last season -- better than Michigan State's, better than Alabama's, better than Virginia Tech's. He brought discipline and the Alabama structure to the 'Noles, and when combined with a loaded two-deep of play-makers from front (tackle Timmy Jernigan) to middle (linebacker Telvin Smith) to back (corners Lamarcus Joyner and P.J. Williams, safeties Terrence Brooks and Nate Andrews), the results were ridiculous and impressive.

Pruitt got lured away to Georgia in the offseason, however. Plus, four of the six players I just mentioned are gone. Coordinator Charles Kelly, last year's FSU linebackers coach, now takes over a younger defense, and while the 'Noles have talent and athleticism to burn, there has to be at least a modicum of concern here.

With the No. 3 and No. 5 defenses, FSU was vulnerable to upsets. If the defense is only top-10 caliber and the offense has its first bad game since 2012, then that puts FSU on upset watch.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 122.7 2.54 2.72 30.8% 78.6% 19.0% 103.1 7.1% 6.7%
Rank 7 16 16 4 112 65 58 16 65
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Timmy Jernigan DT 14 49.0 6.4% 11.0 4.5 0 1 0 0
Mario Edwards, Jr. DE 6'3, 294 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 11 23.5 3.1% 9.5 3.5 1 1 1 1
Jacobbi McDaniel DT 14 22.0 2.9% 2.5 0.5 1 1 0 0
Chris Casher DE 6'4, 243 So. 4 stars (6.0) 10 20.0 2.6% 5.0 2.0 0 2 1 1
Demonte McAllister DT 11 14.5 1.9% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
DeMarcus Walker DE 6'3, 273 So. 4 stars (6.0) 10 13.5 1.8% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Eddie Goldman DT 6'4, 314 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 10 13.5 1.8% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Desmond Hollin DT 6'3, 286 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 7 12.0 1.6% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Nile Lawrence-Stample DT 6'1, 319 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 11.5 1.5% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Derrick Mitchell, Jr. DT 6'4, 292 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 4 6.0 0.8% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Justin Shanks DT 6'2, 322 So. 4 stars (5.8) 2 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Giorgio Newberry DT 6'6, 280 Jr. 4 stars (5.8)
Keith Bryant DT 6'2, 308 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Derrick Nnadi DT 6'1, 299 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Demarcus Christmas DT 6'3, 285 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Rick Leonard DE 6'7, 250 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

6. Searching for flaws: Not many proven entities at tackle

Even with the loss of Joyner and Brooks in the secondary, it's hard to fear too much for FSU's back four. The Seminoles still have Andrews and Williams, and while safety Jalen Ramsey didn't make a ton of individual plays as a freshman starter in 2013, he didn't need to. Safety Tyler Hunter returns to the rotation following an early-season neck injury, and players like Ronald Darby and Nick Waisome have shown plenty of play-making ability when given the opportunity.

There are a couple of unsettled issues for the defense, however. For one thing, last year's top three tackles are gone, including Jernigan, whose play helped to turn the BCS title game around. Juniors Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample are keepers and could play just as well as last year's tackles if given the opportunity, but they've only proven so much, and there's almost nothing else proven behind them. There are options, but few proven commodities.

Meanwhile, at linebacker, FSU still needs to figure out its rotation. Two starters who combined for 17.5 tackles for loss are gone, and a potential starter, sophomore Ukeme Eligwe, is battling injury. Again, former blue-chippers abound. But we're searching for potential flaws, not actual ones, and until former stud recruits like Matthew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry live up to hype, we don't know that they will.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Telvin Smith WILL 14 75.5 9.9% 9.5 2.0 3 4 0 1
Terrance Smith MIKE 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 46.5 6.1% 2.5 2.0 1 3 0 0
Christian Jones SAM 13 44.0 5.7% 8.0 2.0 1 0 0 0
Reggie Northrup WILL 6'1, 217 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 10 34.0 4.4% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
E.J. Levenberry SAM 6'3, 237 So. 4 stars (5.9) 10 28.5 3.7% 1.0 0.0 1 1 1 0
Ukeme Eligwe SAM 6'2, 233 So. 4 stars (6.0) 11 23.0 3.0% 3.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Dan Hicks SAM 10 18.0 2.3% 5.5 1.0 1 1 0 0
Matthew Thomas MIKE 6'3, 224 RSFr. 5 stars (6.1) 4 4.0 0.5% 2.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Ro'Derrick Hoskins WILL 6'2, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Delvin Purifoy LB 6'2, 228 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Jacob Pugh LB 6'4, 236 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Kain Daub LB 6'3, 240 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)







Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Lamarcus Joyner CB 14 57.0 7.4% 7 5.5 2 4 3 0
Terrence Brooks SS 13 47.0 6.1% 8 1 2 5 2 0
Jalen Ramsey FS 6'1, 198 So. 5 stars (6.1) 14 43.0 5.6% 2 1 1 1 1 1
Nate Andrews SS 5'11, 209 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 29.5 3.9% 1 1 4 4 3 0
P.J. Williams CB 6'0, 196 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 13 28.0 3.7% 1.5 0 3 7 0 0
Lamarcus Brutus SS 6'0, 202 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 8 15.0 2.0% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Keelin Smith CB 6'3, 191 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 9 13.5 1.8% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Ronald Darby CB 5'11, 188 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 9 12.5 1.6% 0 0 2 4 0 1
Nick Waisome CB 5'10, 182 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 8 10.5 1.4% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Marquez White CB 6'0, 168 So. 4 stars (5.8) 7 10.0 1.3% 1 0 1 0 0 0
Gerald Demps CB 6 9.0 1.2% 1 0 0 2 0 0
Tyler Hunter SS 5'11, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 3 7.5 1.0% 0 0 1 2 0 0
Colin Blake DB 6'3, 200 So. 4 stars (5.8) 3 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tyrell Lyons FS 6'0, 213 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)







Trey Marshall DB 6'0, 192 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)







7. So many future pros

For a lot of teams, I create a list of ifs to figure out what it will take for them to reach a certain height. For FSU, I've been using them to figure out how low I can make the floor.

Injuries, youth, etc., can strike any team, but it's impossible to write an FSU preview and not talk about how many future pros were on the field last year and how many will be on the field this year.

The Seminoles had seven players picked in the 2014 NFL Draft and currently boast top draft prospects at running back (Karlos Williams), receiver (Rashad Greene), tight end (Nick O'Leary), offensive tackle (Cameron Erving), offensive guard (Tre' Jackson, Josue Matias), center (Austin Barron, though he's a rung below others), and strong safety (Tyler Hunter). Depending on which underclassmen go pro, they could also end up with high draft picks at quarterback (Jameis Winston), defensive end (Mario Edwards, Jr.), defensive tackle (Eddie Goldman), linebacker (Terrance Smith), and cornerback (P.J. Williams, Ronald Darby).

That's just ridiculous. Yes, injuries could strike. Yes, there could be some hangover issues after last year's success. Yes, the 'Noles could get some bad breaks and get upset. There's a reason why teams rarely repeat as national champions. But if you're looking at both upside and proven entities, FSU is suddenly in better shape than even Alabama.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Cason Beatty 6'3, 224 Jr. 42 41.1 2 12 12 57.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Roberto Aguayo 6'1, 209 So. 120 60.8 45 5 37.5%
Clay Pickler 8 56.6 2 1 25.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Roberto Aguayo 6'1, 209 So. 94-94 12-12 100.0% 9-10 90.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Kermit Whitfield KR 5'7, 184 So. 17 36.4 2
Lamarcus Joyner KR 5 22.0 0
Kenny Shaw PR 26 9.7 0
Jesus Wilson PR 5'9, 177 So. 8 11.1 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 27
Field Goal Efficiency 6
Punt Return Efficiency 59
Kick Return Efficiency 4
Punt Efficiency 116
Kickoff Efficiency 44
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 13

8. When your punt coverage is your biggest weakness...

...you know you're doing pretty well. That said, FSU's punting game really was atrocious in 2013. Cason Beatty's averages were decent, but his per-kick efficiency was shaky, as was his coverage unit. FSU ranked in the bottom 10 of punt efficiency, and if the Seminoles find themselves in closer games in 2014, this could matter. Small shifts in field position add up.

That really was just about the only weakness, though, for the team as a whole and for a special teams unit that included an explosive kick returner in BCS title game hero Kermit Whitfield and a nearly perfect place-kicker in Roberto Aguayo.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug vs. Oklahoma State 18
6-Sep The Citadel NR
20-Sep Clemson 5
27-Sep at N.C. State 66
4-Oct Wake Forest 83
11-Oct at Syracuse 67
18-Oct Notre Dame 25
30-Oct at Louisville 16
8-Nov Virginia 62
15-Nov at Miami 30
22-Nov Boston College 69
29-Nov Florida 29
Five-Year F/+ Rk 26.2% (6)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 5
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* 17 / 6.0
TO Luck/Game +3.9
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)

9. Beware the landmines

Last season was almost too perfect. There were no random egg-layings on the road, and there were no serious injuries. Granted, part of that was simply because FSU was too good to be affected by such things, but again, this is college football.

Randomness happens. And if FSU is at less than perfect form, then the Seminoles could get upset by any number of teams away from Tallahassee: Oklahoma State, Louisville, Miami, et cetera.

But when randomness, complacency, and shaky punting are your biggest concerns, you're probably in great shape. FSU boasts draft prospects galore and the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. The Seminoles have both former blue-chippers and proven starters at nearly every position, and there's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't start the season at No. 1.

Jimbo Fisher has brought this program back, and even if you didn't see it coming (and you should have), there's no choice but to acknowledge it now.

10. ACC balance of power

At the end of each conference run-through, I take a look at how I perceive the conference's balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. They're just how I would rank the teams after writing 4,000 or so words about each of them.

For the most part, I try to lay out four tiers, but I couldn't avoid five this time. There's too much separation at the top (and, sadly, bottom).

Tier 1
1. Florida State

Of course.

Tier 2
2. Clemson

If ACC divisions were redrawn with general "balance of power" implications included -- not something I recommend, by the way, but something the ACC definitely attempted with its over-thought Atlantic and Coastal -- there's no way in hell Clemson and FSU would end up in the same division.

Tier 3
3. Louisville
4. Virginia Tech
5. North Carolina
6. Miami
7. Duke
8. Pittsburgh
9. Georgia Tech

Any of six teams could win the Coastal this year, and none of them would surprise me. My bet is on Virginia Tech, but I'm not putting a ton of money on that.

Tier 4
10. Boston College
11. Syracuse
12. N.C. State
13. Virginia

Tier 4 could really be more like Tier 3a.

Tier 5
14. Wake Forest

Sorry, Deacs.

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