Throughout the 2013 season the Florida State Seminoles were one of the most dominant teams on both sides of the ball ranking in the top twenty in total offense and second in total defense. This dominance propelled the Seminoles to an undefeated season and a National Championship. FSU will be begin the road to defending that title when spring practice begins on Wednesday. The first step is replacing the key players who graduated or declared for the draft.
Last year the spring story lines were dominated by FSU’s quarterback battle. Jump forward a year and that is one of the most secure position on the team as Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston will return for his second year leading the offense. This year the battles will be to fill the spots left by the departure of some of the key players from last season’s run. On offense FSU will be forced to replace two of its star wide receivers, both of its running back, and find a new center. On defense FSU lost two of their three starting linebackers, nose tackle Timmy Jernigan, star corner back Lamarcus Joyner, and safety Terrence Brooks.
The cupboard is far from bare for the defending national champions though thanks to a run of top five recruiting class.
Wide receivers: FSU’s receiving corps was a three headed monster in 2013 with Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin, and Kenny Shaw all playing a significant role. Two of the heads are now gone after Benjamin declared for the draft a year early and Shaw graduated. The battle to replace them will be one of the biggest leading up to next season. Speedsters Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson will likely fight to replace Shaw as the slot receiver. Fellow sophomore Isiah Jones is one of the favorites to land the number two spot vacated by Benjamin along with veterans Christian Green and Scooter Haggins. If none of these players can assert themselves in the spring more help is on the way this summer. Five-star recruits Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane signed with FSU in February along with four-star athlete Javon Harrison.
Running Back: FSU lost James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman when the two junior backs left for the NFL. There is no reason to fear though as the Seminoles return one of the best running back corps in the country. Converted safety Karlos Williams is the favorite to take over as the feature back, and he is joined by a group of talented backs. Sophmore Ryan Green will battle for the number two spot with junior Mario Pender and early-enrollee Dalvin Cook. Pender is a very talented back and the favorite for the number two spot after missing the last two seasons with an injury and academic issues. Cook will miss the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Back-up quarterback: The starting spot is held by defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston, but the spot behind him is wide open. Last year’s back-up Jacob Coker will transfer to Alabama leaving Sean Maguire and James Franklin III to fight for the number two spot. Maguire filled in after Coker was injured last season, but he will be pushed during the spring by Franklin.
Defensive backs: The Seminoles bring back one of the best corner back tandems in the country in Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams, but they lose two of their biggest leaders in Lamrcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks. Nate Andrews, who showed a tendency to create big plays last season in the dime role, is one of the favorites to replace Joyner along with Jalen Ramsey who played both safety and corner last year. Ramsey will have the chance to move back to corner with the return of Tyler Hunter who missed most of last season with a neck injury.
Linebackers: FSU is blessed with a plethora of talent at linebacker, but they will have to replace two of their three starters after Christian Jones and Telvin Smith graduated. Terrance Smith is the veteran of the group after starting at Mike linebacker for most of last season and he will be the leader next season. Reggie Northrup enters spring as the favorite to replace Telvin Smith, but he will be pushed by a group of talented players. Ukeme Eligwe enters as the favorite to replace Christian Jones in the hybrid edge rusher/linebacker role. They are joined by studs Mathew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry who will push for playing time and a possible starting spot after playing well in limited time last season.
Defensive tackle: The most difficult player that the Seminoles have to replace will be nose-tackle Timmy Jernigan. A projected first round pick, Jernigan played a key role in the center of the defense. Back-ups Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel are also gone creating the need for young players to step up. Desmond Hollin has impressed during the off-season and enters as the favorite to replace Jernigan. He will be joined by Nile Lawrence-Stample, the largest member of the group, Keith Bryant, and Derrick Mitchell.
The Seminoles will also have to adjust to a new defensive coordinator for the second straight year following Jeremy Pruit’s departure for UGA. Charles Kelly was named the new defensive coordinator and secondary coach after spending last season coaching linebackers. Veteran coach Bill Miller filled the open spot on the staff and will replace Kelly as linebacker coach.