The Nose Tackle Situation
I continue to believe that the nose tackle position is the single most important key to Florida State's championship hopes in 2014. Timmy Jernigan's ability to force double teams and dominate the interior was critical to FSU's defensive success in 2013, and the Seminoles would not have beaten Auburn without the Lake City product.
Jernigan is now departed, and Nile Lawrence-Stample is slated to step in as his replacement. Lawrence-Stample has flashed excellent potential in his first two years, but he was carrying about 10-15 pounds of bad weight last year and needs to get significantly more consistent and disruptive to fill Jernigan's shoes. Early returns from the parts of practice that media can observe have been very positive, however, as Lawrence-Stample has improved his body composition and has dominated board drills against FSU's highly regarded interior offensive linemen.
With Justin Shanks out for the spring due to shoulder surgery, the other key player at this position is former four-star (#18 DT) recruit Keith Bryant, who is the one interior lineman currently on the roster with anything resembling Jernigan's physical talent. Bryant carries 315 pounds very easily, has explosive hands, and demonstrated outstanding ability to get penetration in high school, but maturity questions loomed over him in his first year on campus. He also has needed to gain some lower body strength and learn to anchor against double-teams to protect the linebackers in FSU's hybrid defensive scheme.
Coach Odell Haggins has been spending extra one-on-one time with Bryant so far this spring, and the early returns and reports have been promising. If Bryant can provide another disruptive presence at the nose tackle position, Florida State's defense will again be elite in 2014.
John Franklin's Progress
Presuming FSU provides enough detail in its practice report, the stat line I'm most interested in is John Franklin's completion percentage and yards per attempt. There is no questioning Franklin's athleticism at the position, but this spring offers his first opportunity to show that he can flourish in Jimbo Fisher's passing offense. We won't get to see him until the Spring Game, but reasonable efficiency operating with the second team offense would be a great sign for the future.
The Wide Receiver Position
Fisher continues to rave over sophomore receiver Bobo Wilson, and we already know what Rashad Greene can offer, but questions continue to loom beyond that pair. What level will Scooter Haggins reach as he returns from injury? (We'll have to wait a little longer for that question as Haggins is presently dealing with a hamstring issue.) How far has Isaiah Jones come since stepping onto campus as a raw freshman a year ago? Is Kermit Whitfield becoming a better technician at the position? Again, we won't be able to see anything other than the raw numbers released, but seeing who is actually getting the targets will give some indication on where things stand at present.