ACC: Ro'derrick Hoskins

Florida State expected departures in the front and back end of its defense, but the Seminoles received news earlier this week the depth at linebacker will also take a hit.

Sophomore E.J. Levenberry has left Tallahassee, Florida, and intends to transfer from Florida State, his father, Eric, told on Tuesday.

Coupled with the midseason dismissal of Ukeme Eligwe, the Seminoles are down to seven scholarship linebackers, a unit that had its bouts with consistency all season. Reggie Northrup, who battled Levenberry for a starting spot through fall camp, and Terrance Smith are returning for their senior seasons, but there is not much experience beyond those two.

The Seminoles do have a number of talented younger players at linebacker, and the group will need to step up as a whole to fill out the starting lineup and provide production throughout the linebacker rotation. Redshirt freshman Matthew Thomas is a former five-star player, although he has battled injuries and off-field issues through his first two seasons. From the 2014 class, third-ranked inside linebacker Kain Daub and top-six outside linebackers Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy should have roles in 2015. Ro'Derrick Hoskins has not seen the field much his first two seasons, but he was highly regarded coming out of high school, too.

Daub could be the beneficiary and slide into a second-string role for the Seminoles at middle linebacker. The Jacksonville, Florida, native was an early enrollee, and the 6-foot-4, 243-pound Daub could earn the role of primary backup to Northrup, who also hails from Jacksonville.

Florida State was not as athletic at linebacker this past season, especially with a sprained knee limiting Smith the second half of the season. The expectation was the unit would struggle to match the 2013 production considering mainstays Telvin Smith and Christian Jones were lost to the NFL. Florida State’s young core of linebackers could provide some of that same athleticism this coming season.

The loss of Levenberry still could sting Florida State, especially as the sophomores and freshmen continue gaining experience. As a freshman, Levenberry racked up 39 tackles, but he played sparingly as a sophomore. Few matched Levenberry’s work ethic, and the second-year player had reshaped his body to withstand the expected pounding at middle linebacker. He gained 20 pounds between the end of spring practice and start of fall camp last year. Eric, Levenberry’s father, said his son felt there was a better chance he would see the field elsewhere.

“He loved Florida State, loved Jimbo Fisher, loved Tallahassee, loved the fans,” Eric said. “… We just didn’t see a future for him under the current defensive regime.”

When former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left for Georgia, Fisher promoted Charles Kelly to coordinator and hired Bill Miller to replace Kelly as the linebackers coach.

“Sometimes a system might not be for a kid,” Eric said. “He’s going to be an asset. He’s not going to test positive for drugs or make a program look bad. We hope a college coach can recognize that and recognize his talent.”

FSU spring: What we learned

April, 14, 2014

Florida State’s spring camp came to a close on Saturday with the annual Garnet and Gold game, and now the Seminoles are prepping for a second straight national title.

The game is secondary compared to the rest of spring practices, so with that in mind, here are some of the biggest answers the 15 spring sessions presented.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher escaped the spring with a healthy roster.
1. FSU will be at full strength this fall.
In early March, Noles coach Jimbo Fisher noted how healthy his team was and how rare it is to have a squad almost entirely intact for spring practice. As the practices mounted, though, so did the injuries. The silver lining is that none of the injuries are expected to linger into preseason camp. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Ryan Green had shoulder surgery but will be 100 percent by around July. Nick O’Leary missed the final half of spring practices with a second motorcycle accident, but he avoided any serious injuries. There were a few concussions in camp, but Terrance Smith, who suffered one of them, was back for the spring game. The lone setback that could impact fall camp is the foot injury Ukeme Eligwe sustained, which Fisher hinted could be the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which has a tendency to persist for quite some time. The thought is he should be fine for August, though.

2. The secondary is among the best in the country.
Quarterback Jameis Winston said after the spring game that “we got the best [defensive] backs in the country.” He should know, having thrown against the unit for much of the spring and the entire Garnet and Gold game. The secondary of P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey, Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter shut down the No. 1 offense’s passing attack the entire first half, and the unit was without sophomore Nate Andrews. Fisher said throughout the spring that Ramsey is a star-in-the-making and should become a nationally recognized name replacing Lamarcus Joyner. Ramsey showcased his skills by moving around at cornerback, safety and nickel during the game. Fisher and Winston are raving about freshman Trey Marshall, too. Williams is a star in his own right, shutting down No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene.

3. The receivers need to step up.
Speaking of Greene and the receivers, that position is probably the biggest weakness heading into the season. Fisher was upset with the production and consistency his receivers showcased through much of the spring, and the starting unit did not get any separation from the Noles’ secondary. Jesus Wilson has the potential to be a playmaker from the slot, but can he replace Kenny Shaw’s production? Isaiah Jones is 6-foot-4, but his production did not match that of departed 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Levonte Whitfield announced himself to the world in the national title game, but he is still needs some refinement as a receiver. The coaches can spend two hours a week breaking down film with players during the offseason, and Fisher said that will be a critical step in Florida State’s development at receiver.

4. The talent is there at linebacker.
The Noles lose beloved figure Telvin Smith and consistent producer Christian Jones, but the depth at linebacker is there so those losses might not be felt all that much. Matthew Thomas is a budding star, and the former five-star recruit will not be kept off the field this fall. Terrance Smith is the leader of the unit and could be a viable replacement for Telvin Smith. Before Eligwe’s injury, Fisher voiced his opinion that Eligwe was having as good of a spring as any player. Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry should each see significant snaps in the rotation, and Ro’Derrick Hoskins could be a dangerous third-down specialist from the position.

5. Sean Maguire is a quality backup for Noles.
Earlier this spring, Winston missed a practice to travel to Clemson with the baseball team, putting the pressure squarely on No. 2 quarterback Maguire to perform at a competent level. Following the practice, the third of the spring, Fisher was lukewarm on Maguire’s performance. But Maguire looked the part of a quality No. 2 option for Florida State during the spring game. The Noles got him in rhythm with three straight passes to the flats to open the game, and then Maguire dropped in a 26-yard touchdown on a post route over the defender. Maguire, a redshirt sophomore, said he made the most progress this spring than he’s ever made at any point in his college career.