The Florida State Seminoles have the talent this season to go deep into the postseason with an established quarterback, an electric running game, pretty good skill on the perimeter and at tight end, and a very good defense. The question for me is the Noles' offensive line.
Deondre Francois threw for 3,350 yards with 20 TDs and 7 ints in his redshirt freshman season. He did hit the turf 35 times as the line did not protect him well. He took a lot of shots, but kept getting up and making outstanding plays for his offense. He's a good leader, a good competitor, and it's critical that he stays upright for the Noles' success this season.
The Noles finished 10-3 overall and 5-3 in the ACC with nice bookend victories over Ole Miss, 45-34, a tremendous second half comeback, and finished the 2016 season off with a captivating 33-32 Orange Bowl victory over Michigan on Dec. 30th of last year.
The team has the running game in tact, though they lost second round draft pick Dalvin Cook to the Minnesota Vikings. Cook ran for 1,765 yards and 19 TDs last season. But they have good artillery in the running game to replace him. Jacques Patrick tallied 364 yards on 61 carries last season and 4 TDs, and looked stellar in the spring game. He's a hard-nosed runner, with good size (6'3", 231) and great cutting ability along with second level speed. Five star freshman Cam Akers, the No.9 player in the ESPN 300, was an early enrollee in the spring and ran for 88 yards on 10 carries and looked exceptional in the spring game. He did get stripped and fumbled at the end of a nice 17 yard run . The ball rolled out of bounds, but that's something to watch this season. He needs to hold onto the ball, but he should be a major factor in the Noles attack. He ran for over 5,000 yards in high school. Excellent player. Wide receiver Nyqwan Murray looks to be a big play threat on the outside. They need some other guys to step up. Guys like Auden Tate, Da'Vante Phillips and Keith Gavin will have to play big roles to give Francois options at wide out. Tight end is in good shape with Ryan Izzo (6'5", 245) a possible major target for Francois. Mavin Saunders and Naser Upshur are capable backups. The offensive line is a question mark. There's great size, but they had their struggles last season protecting Francois and they will have to do that this year to allow this team to be successful. Of course they'll have to run block well also.
On defense, free safety Derwin James is back after suffering an injury midway through the the 2016 season. He looked stellar in the spring game. Terrific player. Brian Burns, who had 9 1/2 sacks last year at defensive end, looks like a dominant player. He's not massive at 6'5", 220, but very strong for his size and lightning fast off the edge. He's good against the run and super at getting to quarterbacks and putting them on the turf. Josh Sweat, the other defensive end at 6'5", 250, posted 11 1/2 tackles for loss of 49 yards and 7 sacks last year. Linebacker looks solid and the secondary looks exceptional with corner Tarvarus McFadden back. McFadden posted 8 interceptions last year. The defense looks like a top 10 defense nationally.
The kicking game will be manned by Ricky Aguayo who converted 19 of 26 attempts last season and was 7 of 13 from 40-49 yards with a long of 47. He's pretty solid.
The Noles open up with the Crimson Tide on Saturday, Sept. 2nd in the new Mercedes-Benz Dome in Atlanta. Game time is 7 PM CT on ABC. Should be a classic with Alabama No.1 and FSU No. 3 in the preseason Amway Coaches Poll.
They then play Louisiana-Monroe at Doak Campbell Stadium on Sept. 9th to open their home schedule. The Miami Hurricanes come into Tallahassee for a huge Saturday, Sept. 16th matchup at 7 PM CT on ABC. Another big home game is next with the ascending NC State Wolfpack coming into Doak Campbell on Sept. 23rd. The Noles then go to Wake, Saturday, Sept. 30th. After an off week they play @ Duke Oct. 14th, then the Louisville Cardinals come into Tallahassee for a Saturday, October 21st clash with reining Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and the explosive Cardinals, which blasted the Noles 63-20 last year in Papa John's Stadium, entering the hostile confines where FSU will be ready to extract revenge on the Cardinals. The Noles then go to Boston College for a Friday, Oct. 27th matchup, they're at home against Syracuse, Nov. 4th, then have a massive clash against Clemson on Saturday Nov. 11th at Death Valley in what will certainly be the 7 PM CT prime time game on ABC with the game having possible major implications in both the ACC and nationally. Delaware State at home on Saturday, Nov. 18th, and the Florida Gators at the Swamp, Saturday, Nov. 25th, in that tremendously heated rivalry game to close out the regular season.
It's a challenging schedule without a doubt. It starts with the Crimson Tide, then a huge game against Miami, NC State will be a major battle, Louisville, Clemson and Florida will also pose stiff challenges to the Noles' hopes of making a deep run this season.
The Noles are capable of double digit victories and a possible ACC title and getting into the playoff where anything can happen. One other thing; they also signed the No.4 player in the country in the ESPN 300 in defensive tackle Marvin Wilson 6'4", 329. Akers is the No.9 player at 5'11", 213, Joshua Kaindoh, the 13th ranked player in the country, is a 6'6", 250 defensive end. Khalan Laborn, the 36th ranked player in the country, is a running back, who is 5'10", 199 and runs a 10.3 100 meters. And cornerback Stanford Samuels, the 51st ranked player in the country is a 5 star also. Samuels is 6'2", 175.
So the talent is off the charts good. This team can be highly successful. They will be tested severely in game 1 and in the ACC, but they can be elite if Francois can stay healthy and the offensive line can give him time to throw the ball down field. He runs well too. He threw a pick 6 in the spring game, so he'll have to not do that for sure. But this team can be exceptional this season with the talent Jimbo Fisher has assembled the last several years in recruiting including this 2017 incoming freshmen class.