When Jimbo Fisher led Florida State to the national title in 2013, it ended a 13-year championship drought and elevated the Seminoles back into college football’s top tier after a lost decade. Expectations at Florida State now are to be ACC and playoff contenders every year, and with a loaded 2016 roster that includes a No. 1 recruiting class, the Seminoles are among the early favorites to win the national championship.
1. The foundation for a preseason quarterback competition begins.
Florida State is not going to name a starting quarterback this spring. Fisher didn't name one last season when Sean Maguire was the clear favorite, so he certainly won’t tip his hand this spring with his most experienced quarterback sidelined while rehabbing a surgically repaired left ankle. With the fifth-year senior Maguire out through the spring, the Seminoles will get a good look at third-year sophomore J.J. Cosentino, redshirt freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry. The 15 spring practices will be the most extensive practice time any of the quarterbacks have had with the No. 1 offense. Those practices will allow the quarterbacks to gain comfort with the offensive line, build a rapport with the receivers and feel the pressure of being under Fisher’s scrutiny before preseason camp in August.
2. How will the rest of the offense progress?
The unknown at quarterback is the most obvious and glaring storyline facing the Florida State, but the Seminoles need better production from the rest of the offense. Replacing Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary over two years is tough, but it’s time for the receivers on the roster to elevate their play and produce a go-to threat. Travis Rudolph, Levonte Whitfield and Jesus Wilson are solid players, but the group is still searching for a true No. 1 option. Throughout 2015, Fisher expressed frustration with the receivers’ development. It’s not a lack of talent, as the Seminoles have routinely signed ESPN 300 receivers. The offensive line needs to play better, but league coaches are confident the physically imposing group will improve after a year of seasoning. Fisher had to cycle a few players on the line last season after being tasked with replacing four starters from the 2014 team. Every starter and contributor along the offensive line last season should return if Chad Mavety is cleared of a cardiac issue.
3. Florida State will be looking for linebackers.
Reggie Northrup andTerrance Smith graduated, leaving a position that lacks experience without its two top tacklers among linebackers from 2015. Despite the coaching staff’s best efforts, they’re low on numbers because of unexpected attrition. Injuries, suspensions and dismissals have left Florida State vulnerable at linebacker, but there is still enough talent to overcome the issues. Former five-star linebacker Matthew Thomas is back working with the team. Ro'Derrick Hoskins emerged as a solid player last season. Sophomore Sh'Mar Kilby-Lane will have opportunities to contribute, and Fisher is optimistic about Josh Brown, a true freshman already on campus. Junior Jacob Pugh is often a stand-up rusher, but he’s also listed at linebacker. Tyrell Lyons is coming off injury and will be limited this spring.