The streak is over. Florida State has lost after winning 29 straight games. Jameis Winston, Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, has declared for the NFL draft along with at least four other underclassmen. Nearly the entire offensive line and the best tight end in Florida State history are graduating. Rashad Greene, arguably the best receiver in Seminole history, has also graduated. The deck seems stacked against Florida State, so where do the Seminoles go from here?
The good news for Florida State fans is that head coach Jimbo Fisher is still in Tallahassee and recruiting at a high level. The Seminoles are set to reload rather than rebuild. Last years recruiting class finished third in the Scout.com Team Rankings with Dalvin Cook, Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane, and Roderick Johnson all playing big roles this season.
The 2015 recruiting class is off to a fantastic start with seven early enrollees, five of which could see serious playing time next season. 5-star safety Derwin James will find his way onto the field very early in either the star position or at safety, similar to the way Jalen Ramsey came in for the 2013 season. 4-star running back Jacques Patrick is a big back that will get plenty of carries in short yardage and around the goalline. 4-star receivers George Campbell and Da’Vante Phillips will both compete for playing time, and 5-star defensive end will look to do the same if he can recover quickly from a knee injury. The rest of the 2015 class will fill out in February, but 4-star cornerback Tavarus McFadden will have a chance to come in and start with the departure of P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.
While the defense is losing at least three, maybe four depending on Eddie Goldman’s decision, underclassmen to the NFL, the offense is the biggest question mark. Except for left tackle Roderick Johnson the offensive line will have to replace four seniors. JUCO transfers Chad Mavety and Kareem Are are expected to step in at right tackle and left guard. Sophomore Wilson Bell is the leading candidate to replace All-American Tre Jackson at right guard. The center position is the one with the most intrigue, as offensive line coach Rick Trickett will give multiple players a chance to win the job.
Coach Fisher will also have the impossible job of replacing Jameis Winston. There are two, or three if you consider John Franklin III a quarterback after his move to receiver this season, currently on the roster. There are also three quarterbacks in the 2015 class currently committed to the Seminoles. 3-star De’Andre Johnson early enrolled and is currently on campus. There is also the rumor that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is looking to transfer and is considering Florida State. This position battle won’t be decided anytime soon, and maybe not until the opening game against Texas State.
The quarterback that gets the start will not be Jameis Winston, but he won’t have to be. Florida State has one of the best running backs in the nation returning in Dalvin Cook, and a young, but immensely talented, receiving corps. The 2015 schedule is also much less daunting than the 2014 slate replacing Notre Dame and Oklahoma State for Texas State and UT Chattanooga.
On defense the Seminoles will have the tough task of replacing two of the best corners in the country. Jalen Ramsey, who played safety his freshman year and the star position this season, will likely slide out to one of the cornerback spots. This means that Marquez White, Malique Jackson, and true freshman Tavarus McFadden will compete for the other spot. Florida State returns both safeties, Nate Andrews and Tyler Hunter, but Trey Marshall and true freshman Derwin James will push for one of those spots. Marshall and James will also be fighting for who replaces Ramsey at the star position.
Linebacker is a position that will likely see the same rotation with Mathew Thomas, Reggie Northrup, and Terrance Smith seeing most of the action. EJ Levenberry has elected to transfer out which will leave the position extremely thin. Safety Tyrell Lyons could make the switch to Linebacker completely after moving there for the Louisville game due to injuries.
The defensive line is losing defensive end Mario Edwards Jr., and may lose defensive tackle Eddie Goldman to the NFL draft. Demarcus Walker, Chris Casher, Jacob Pugh, Lorenzo Featherston, and Josh Sweat, if he’s healthy, will compete for the starting defensive end positions. Florida State was one of the worst pass rushing teams in the country in 2014 and will look to find a way to fix that problem from that group. The defensive tackle positions will depend on Goldman’s decision. Nile Lawrence-Stample, who was injured for most of the 2014 season, will likely return to the starting lineup at nose tackle with either Derrick Mitchell or Goldman at the three technique. Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi will also look to get into the rotation.
Special teams will get both Cason Beatty and Roberto Aguayo back, but special teams coach Jay Graham will be trying to fix the kickoff return unit. The 2014 unit was arguably the worst in the country and while the blocking wasn’t great the returners had quite a bit of trouble. Travis Rudolph, George Campbell, Bobo Wilson, and Kermit Whitfield will battle it out for those two spots.
In all the 2015 team is still immensely talented and the schedule is much more favorable than the 2014 schedule. Traveling to Georgia Tech and Clemson will be the two toughest games next season. There are questions that the coaches will have to answer, but Florida State will remain a favorite for the ACC, and if the bounces go right, maybe a birth in the 2015 playoff.