Florida State opens up camp in just two days. Who are the players most likely to have a breakout season?
5. Mario Pender
With the Dalvin Cook situation still unresolved Mario Pender will enter fall camp as the first team running back. Pender came to Florida State with high expectations, but hasn’t been able to live up to those yet. Pender was on his way to having a very good year for the Seminoles last season, but an ankle injury sidelined him for most of the season. If he can stay healthy he has the ability to be an elite running back, but that is a very big “IF” at this point.
4. Ja’Vonn Harrison
Harrison didn’t play much as a freshman, and with Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph immediately stepping into playing time Harrison was the forgotten man. That’s not going to be the case this year as Harrison has thrown his name into the ring to not only earn a spot in the rotation, but to earn a starting position. Harrison has the athleticism and the speed to be an electric receiver, and should help Florida State push the ball downfield this season.
White has the speed and athleticism to be a lock down corner, but he will have to hold off Ryan Green and Tavarus McFadden for the starting spot. He is currently in position to be the starting corner opposite Jalen Ramsey, which means he’s going to be tested early and often. If he manages to hold onto the starting spot he will play a big role in turning the Florida State defense around.
2. Jacob Pugh
Pugh has the tools to be the best pass rusher on the team, which is something the Seminoles desperately need after only getting to the quarterback 17 times last season. He will be competing for a starting spot against Lorenzo Featherston, but Pugh is built to be an every down player, unlike Featherston whose size makes him somewhat of a liability against the run. With new defensive ends coach Brad Lawing putting a much bigger emphasis on pass rushing technique it will only make it easier for Pugh to make an impact.
Marshall has the tough task of following up Lamarcus Joyner and Jalen Ramsey at the star position. Marshall is not new to the position though. In the ACC Championship game against Georgia Tech last season Marshall took over the star position for Ramsey when Ronald Darby was injured and performed admirably. Marshall is one of the top athletes on the team and has the perfect skill set to take over the star position.
Jason’s Pick: Mavin Saunders
When this guy walks through the door, he looks like a current NFL player. Tight ends who are 6’6, 260 pounds and run and move with fluidity like this kid are very, very rare. Saunders is one of the most talented athletes on a very athletic roster and has the potential to bring a Kelvin Benjamin type physical mismatch to the passing game. But just like Benjamin early in his career, there are still a lot of question marks about whether the light bulb will ever completely come on. Saunders has to get much more consistent, which will take improved focus and intensity, particularly as a blocker in the running game where he still has a long way to go. But just like Benjamin, Fisher and the offensive staff will give Saunders extra opportunities and will push every button possible to get him to make that leap. I think the light bulb starts to flicker in 2015, with Saunders becoming a major weapon in the second half of the season. One other hidden factor is worth mentioning here: Saunders and fellow tight ends Ryan Izzo and Jeremy Kerr are all over 260 pounds and long, which should lead to some improvement blocking the edge in the running game, as Nick O’Leary was limited by his smaller stature as a blocker on the edge