- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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For the past four seasons, Florida State’s seniors have worked to rebuild a program that was mired in mediocrity when they arrived. The project was a resounding success, but after the VIZIO BCS National Championship on Jan. 6, they’ll be gone. If 2013 gave the seniors a chance to take that final step toward a title, it also offered a glimpse at what’s to come, and Florida State appears well stocked to weather the inevitable losses.
Out: Lamarcus Joyner, CB
After moving from safety to corner, Joyner proved he was one of the nation’s top defenders, leading FSU in sacks and finishing second in tackles.
In: Tyler Hunter, DB
Joyner is a huge loss, but Hunter is well prepared to step into the vacancy. His 2013 season was cut short by a neck injury, but he knows the defense well and his combination of size and speed allows him to fit well at safety, corner and nickel. Replacing Joyner is impossible, but Hunter could be in for a huge 2014.
Out: Terrence Brooks, S
He has been an under-the-radar performer since he arrived at FSU as a three-star recruit, but Brooks has been consistently good at safety for two years.
In: Nate Andrews, S
Brooks found a perfect protégé in the similarly underrated Andrews, and the relationship has already paid dividends. Andrews started just one game, but he leads the Seminoles with seven takeaways (four INTs, three forced fumbles) and is second on the team with eight passes defended.
Out: Telvin Smith, LB
For the past two years, there has been no louder voice in the locker room than Smith, and in 2013, he blossomed on the field, too, leading FSU in tackles.
In: Reggie Northrup, LB
Northrup hasn’t started a game in his two seasons at Florida State, but when he’s been on the field, he has proven to be a big-play defender. He has 46 tackles this season, and he has a skill set to both play the run and in coverage. Terrance Smith is FSU’s only returning linebacker with starting experience, but there’s ample depth at the position, led by Northrup.
Out: Christian Jones, OLB
Jones' move from traditional linebacker to edge rusher was a turning point for Florida State’s defense, helping to seal the edge and add another dynamic pass rusher to the D line.
In: Matthew Thomas, OLB
An injury ended Thomas’ season after just five games, but his potential is immense. He had two tackles for loss in his limited playing time, and his athleticism and strength could make for a smooth transition into the role Jones defined so well in 2013.
Out: Kenny Shaw, WR
Always a reliable option in the slot, Shaw blossomed as a senior and is on pace for 1,000-yard season while also handling punt return duties.
In: Levonte Whitfield, WR
Whitfield may lack Shaw’s consistency, but his big-play potential is through the roof. He racked up 646 total yards and three TDs on just 21 touches (an average of 31 yards per touch) as a runner, receiver and kick returner. It was valuable experience as a freshman, and Whitfield should be an excellent fit in the slot in 2014.
Out: Bryan Stork, C
As Florida State’s line developed from disaster in 2011 to dominant in 2013, Stork was the centerpiece. The veteran leader of the group has been the foundation for the unit’s growth.
In: Austin Barron, C
Losing Stork is big, but Barron is no rookie. He has six career starts already under his belt, and he has worked routinely with the first-team line during practices this season while Stork has nursed a foot injury.
Out: The underclassmen
No one has made it official that they’re leaving, and with so much talent on the roster, plenty of Florida State’s draft-eligible underclassmen could decide to come back for what figures to be another big season in 2014. Of the group, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan -- widely considered a first-round selection -- is the most likely to depart. Beyond that, tailbacks Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., receiver Kelvin Benjamin, tight end Nick O’Leary, and lineman Cameron Erving will all have big decisions to make.
In: The next regime
Replacing Jernigan will be a tough task, but Nile Lawrence-Stample (14 tackles, 2 QB hurries) took some big steps in 2013. Karlos Williams (705 yards, 11 touchdowns) is ready to pick up the slack if either tailback leaves, while Jesus Wilson and Isaiah Jones will see their workload at receiver increase in 2014. Kevin Haplea returns from a knee injury, though he’s unlikely to match O’Leary’s productivity in the passing game. Wilson Bell earned rave reviews before an injury ended his season, but he could step into a vacancy at tackle should one arise in 2014.