Wayne McGahee III

Three Areas Where FSU Must Improve In 2016

A look at the three areas Florida State must improve in to be championship contenders in 2016.

1. Short Yardage Rushing

Florida State was the worst short yardage rushing team in the country last year. On third down and three or less Florida State made just 7 first downs, the lowest of any team in the country, while averaging just. 1.84 yards per rush. If the Seminoles want to be contenders next year this will be the first area they will need to shore up.

Part of that issue was the lack of an experienced offensive line as well as injuries that prevented the group from ever gaining cohesion. The good news for the Seminoles is that with so many players being forced into action, there is a lot of returning experience. That should help quite a bit in these situations.

The other part of the issue was at the running back position. Florida State brought in 6-foot-1, 230-pound running back Jacques Patrick to be their big back, but he didn't play like one his freshman year. Patrick ran with a high pad level, and forced the Seminoles to rely on Dalvin Cook to be their short yardage back. Florida State will need Patrick to step up this season, and that process has already started with a solid spring for the sophomore.

2. Third Down Defense

As good as the Florida State defense was last season, they gave up a very high number of third down conversions. The Seminoles ranked 65th in third down conversions by Power-5 opponents at 40.56 percent. One of the main issues here was depth. The defense was worn down by the end of games, and it really showed as the season went on.

Depth at linebacker and on the defensive line was limited all of last season. That should not be the case this year. With Matthew Thomas returning, and the emergence of Wally Aime, Josh Brown, and Fred Jones the Florida State defense looks to be in even better shape this year than last. It will allow the defense to be fresher at the end of games, and a heavy rotation will really help this issue. 

3. Punt Returns

Florida State was one of the worst punt returning teams in the nation last season. They spent most of the season with an average of negative yard per return, but finished the year averaging 3.74 yards. That mark was good enough for 115th in the country. 

Bobo Wilson was the main punt returner last season, and while he was reliable catching punts, he never showed the ability to be a play maker at the position. Nyqwan Murray got in to return a few punts at the end of the season, and showed promise at the position. This year the punt return job is going to be up for grabs, and a newcomer is the favorite to win the job. Levonta Taylor will not be on campus until June, but his ability as a punt returner is well documented. If he proves he can catch the ball reliably he has the ability to be the play maker that the Seminoles are looking for.

It's not all on the returners though. A lot of the issue was that the blocking on punt returns was downright awful for the Seminoles last season. On most punts there were three or four opposing players surrounding Wilson before he caught the ball. Florida State will need to find an answer to this problem as well.  

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