Fall camp is one day away, and Florida State is once again ranked inside the Top-5. The Seminoles are expected to compete for the ACC and National Championships, but that will only happen if some of the offseason questions are answered. There are five position battles that could make or break the Seminoles season in 2016.
This is easily the biggest question of the offseason. Will it be veteran Sean Maguire or redshirt freshman Deondre Francois? An ankle injury to Maguire in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl left the door open for Francois to take all the first team reps during the spring.
Maguire has paid his dues at Florida State after sitting behind Jameis Winston and then losing the job to Everett Golson twice before taking over the job for good with three games left in the season. He put up great numbers against the subpar defenses that the Seminoles went up against, but he struggled mightily against the Top-2 defenses he faced. Against Clemson and Florida he averaged a 52.6 completion percentage, 162 yards, 0.5 touchdowns, and 0.5 interceptions. Some of that can be attributed to below average offensive line play and lack of consistency at wide receiver, but Maguire will need to take a big step forward if he wants to win the job and lead the Seminoles back to the National Championship.
Francois is the young gun with a lot of talent and not a lot of experience. He redshirted his freshman season, but got a lot of valuable experience during the spring. He took advantage of Maguire's injury and placed himself firmly in the race for the starting job. He is considered the more talented quarterback of the two, but with a game against a Top-15 opponent in Ole Miss to start the season, will he be ready for the spotlight?
The right side of Florida State's offensive line last year struggled, and that was mainly due to a revolving door at the right tackle position. This season Brock Ruble, Rick Leonard, and Derrick Kelly will all compete for the job.
Kelly suffered multiple injuries last season, but was the starter for the few games he was healthy. Meniscus surgery ended his season prematurely after starting just four games. If Kelly is healthy, he could be the favorite to win the job, although he hasn't proven that he can do that for a full season yet.
Rick Leonard is the most interesting player in this group. He moved over from defensive end during the spring, and rotated in at first team right tackle, and first team right guard at times. He is an excellent athlete that seems to have found a home at the position. He picked it up quickly, and if he has made progress during the summer he could find his way onto the field, especially if Kelly is not ready to go.
Ruble took a step forward this spring after a decent 2015 season. He wasn't expected to play significant snaps this early in his career, and it showed during the season. He needed time to develop, but a big step forward during the summer could have him right back in contention for a starting spot.
This position didn't have the same amount of turnover as right tackle with Wilson Bell starting all 13 games for the Seminoles. Still, there are plenty of talented lineman behind him gunning for that starting spot.
Bell started every game, and led the Seminoles in penalties committed in 2015 with nine including seven false starts. He will need to clean up his game if he wants to hold off the younger players behind him.
Cole Minshew is next in line to compete for that job. He dealt with an ankle injury, and multiple concussions that kept him off the field in 2015. Before he went down with those injuries he spent some time with the first team at center and right guard. His combination of size and power could get him on the field with a great fall camp.
The dark horse for the spot is incoming freshman Landon Dickerson. Dickerson was a standout guard in high school, and the staff is extremely high on him. He may not win the starting job at the start of the season, but could find his way into the lineup at some point during the season.
Florida State has the tough task of replacing Top-5 NFL draft pick Jalen Ramsey, but they luckily have to elite talents to do so. The battle between Marcus Lewis and Tarvarus McFadden will be a fun one to watch during fall camp.
Lewis has great size, excellent speed, and the best hips of any defensive back on the team. He is physical and has a great understanding of his position and how it fits into what the Seminoles are looking to do on defense. He heads into fall camp with a small lead over McFadden, but that could change quickly.
McFadden has excellent size and great speed. At 6-foot-2, 198-pounds he has the size to compete with the bigger, more physical receivers. His speed is underrated by most as he is also competing for a starting spot as a kickoff returner.
Whoever wins this job will have earned it because both players are exceptional. It should also be noted that both players will be on the field a significant amount regardless of who wins the job.
This one is more of a "if this player can take over this role, we can move another player and make the defense better as a whole" type of position battles. Right now Trey Marshall is the starting start, but true freshman Levonta Taylor was built for that role. Taylor has already received rave reviews this offseason for his work at the star position.
Taylor stepping forward and proving able to start quickly would allow Marshall to move back into the starting strong safety role next to Derwin James. By doing that, Florida State will be able to get their best defensive backs on the field.