This week, we're examining a problematic position for each Big Ten team during the 2014 season and how it can potentially be repaired in 2015.

Up next: Michigan

Problem position: Quarterback

Why quarterback was a problem in 2014: Offensive line, running back and wide receiver were no great shakes in 2014 for the Wolverines, either. But Michigan's repeated inability to develop a quarterback remains the most pressing concern, especially for new coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff. Devin Gardner regressed as a senior, throwing 15 interceptions and just 10 touchdowns, yet Michigan didn't have anyone who could beat him out. And now he's gone.

How it can be fixed (solutions on the roster): Shane Morris is the most experienced quarterback on the roster, though his main claim to fame is being left in a game after suffering a concussion. The junior has made two career starts, both of them blowout losses. Russell Bellomy looked overmatched in his previous exposure during the 2012 Nebraska game, but that was a long time ago. Wilton Speight redshirted last year.

How it can be fixed (potential help from 2015 recruiting class): Two new quarterbacks will be thrown into what should be a wide-open competition. Alex Malzone committed to Brady Hoke's staff and enrolled in January, so he'll be ready for spring practice. New coach Jim Harbaugh recently flipped former Texas commit Zach Gentry to Michigan. Both are four-star prospects, according to ESPN Recruiting.

Early 2015 outlook: Well, one thing's for sure. The era of the running quarterback is officially over, as all of Michigan's contenders for the job are suited for the pro-style system Hoke always talked about and that Harbaugh will run. Are any of them ready to step in and play well in 2015? That remains a huge question mark. The spring competition will be crowded, and the incumbents will have to learn a new set of plays and terminology. Don't be surprised if Harbaugh decided to go with one of the youngsters he recruited. There's hope for the future here, but it may take more than one more season for Michigan to finally solve its quarterback problem
Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week, we’re taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Syracuse Orange

Position to improve: Quarterback

Why it was a problem: Syracuse averaged just 5.8 yards/pass attempt in 2014 (118th nationally), had just six passing touchdowns (only run-heavy Army had fewer), and threw 17 interceptions (sixth most among Power 5 teams), while using three different starting quarterbacks along the way. Against Power 5 foes, Syracuse had four touchdown passes, 17 interceptions and a QBR of just 23.1.

How it can be fixed: This is a mess. Since Ryan Nassib and Doug Marrone departed for the NFL two years ago, Syracuse has thrown just nine touchdowns vs. Power 5 opponents compared with 34 interceptions, while averaging a woeful 5.5 yards-per-attempt. In 2014, the Orange cycled through three different starting QBs and two offensive coordinators, and no combination really seemed to show much consistent promise. Tim Lester, the QB coach-turned-coordinator will be back for 2015, and that could add some stability to the position, but the Orange still must identify a starter. Terrel Hunt ended 2013 with ample promise, but injuries and inconsistency sabotaged his 2014 campaign. Freshman A.J. Long showed flashes of potential during his stint as starter, too, but he also played miserably at times and was sidetracked by injuries as well. The Orange added JuCo QB Zack Mahoney and their top commitment for 2015, Eric Dungey, is also a QB. Finding one that can be a steadying influence on the offense would be a start in the right direction.

Early 2015 outlook: An optimist might point out that there’s really nowhere to go but up at the QB position for Syracuse, but that would miss the point that things could simply remain just as bad as they’ve been the last two years. Maybe Hunt comes back and shows improvement in 2015. He certainly appeared to have the confidence of his coaches and teammates last offseason, but there are still big questions about his accuracy and decision-making. Maybe Long learned a lot from his brief stint as starter and will be a bigger factor in 2015, but it will still be an uphill climb. Syracuse has had a strong defense and solid running game in each of the past two years, but it hasn’t been able to figure things out at quarterback. It’s priority No. 1 for the Orange, but there really don’t appear to be many easy answers.
After finishing in the top 20 nationally in both scoring defense and total defense each of the last three seasons, South Carolina saw it all come crumbling down defensively in 2014. The Gamecocks gave up 10.1 more points per game and 82.7 more yards per game than they did the year before. In seven of their 13 games, they allowed 34 or more points.

It was very much a train wreck defensively for the Gamecocks, who were young and inexperienced up front, and without Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, unable to get any pressure on the quarterback.

Position to improve: Defensive end

Why it was a problem: The Gamecocks had very few true defensive ends ready to play and had to play several guys out of position to try and generate some semblance of a pass rush. The combination of inexperience and a lack of pure pass-rushers doomed the Gamecocks, and they also didn’t help themselves with their spotty tackling. They finished last in the SEC with just 14 sacks in 13 games, and that was reflected in their inability to hold leads. They couldn’t get off the field when they had to defensively, didn’t finish enough plays in the backfield and hung their defensive backs out to dry too many times. In eight SEC games, South Carolina forced a league-low six turnovers, including just two interceptions. Of course, when you don’t get after the quarterback, you’re not going to force many turnovers.

How it can be fixed: The Gamecocks already have two new faces on campus they think will make them much more formidable in the defensive line next season. Marquavius Lewis was the top junior college defensive end in the country, and at 6-3 and 266 pounds, has the size and athleticism to be the kind of finisher off the edge South Carolina lacked this past season. Also enrolled and ready to go through spring practice is former four-star recruit Dexter Wideman, who spent this past season at Camden Military Academy after signing with South Carolina last year and failing to qualify academically. The 6-4, 275-pound Wideman should be able to help at both end and tackle. A third heralded defensive end prospect is set to arrive this summer. Dante Sawyer spent this past season at East Mississippi Community College. Like Wideman, Sawyer signed with South Carolina last year, but needed to go the junior college route to get his grades in order. All three players have shown a penchant for getting to the quarterback. Now, they have to prove they can do it at the SEC level.

Early 2015 outlook: It’s not a stretch to think that the Gamecocks’ top three pass-rushers next season could be Lewis, Wideman and Sawyer. Lewis, in fact, could end up being one of the top impact newcomers in the SEC. Lewis and Sawyer are both ends. Wideman may grow into a tackle, and if he does, could provide some much-needed inside pass rush. Gerald Dixon will be a junior after starting at end this past season. He’s got a chance to make a big jump, and Darius English also returns for his junior season after starting for part of this past season. The Gamecocks return just about everybody at tackle, which should help, and they’re also bringing in two other end prospects as part of the 2015 signing class -- Devante Covington of Georgia Military College and ESPN 300 recruit Shameik Blackshear, who missed most of his senior season of high school in Bluffton, South Carolina, after suffering a torn ACL. It goes without saying that the Gamecocks need these reinforcements to be as advertised next season and for their returning players up front to grow from what was a humbling 2014 season.
There's no denying that what Hugh Freeze has done in his three years at Ole Miss has been nothing short of impressive. This was a drowning program, and now it's been to three straight bowl games.

Now, with the Rebels returning a handful of talent on both sides of the ball, expectations will be even higher in 2015, and Freeze knows that. But if Ole Miss is going to take that next step in its quest for an SEC West title, the offense has to be more consistent. The Rebels are looking for a new quarterback and the running game has to get going, but if the offensive line doesn't play with more consistency, the Rebels won't make a move in 2015.

Position to improve: Offensive line

Why it was a problem: The Rebels struggled with consistency up front for most of the 2014 season. When all was said and done, the Rebels gave up the third-most sacks in the SEC (31) and allowed 2.8 sacks per game in SEC play. Ole Miss’ line also struggled helping anyone with the ball behind the line of scrimmage, as the Rebels finished 13th in the league by allowing 89 tackles for loss (6.9 per game). Ole Miss dealt with injuries but kept that starting line intact for most of the season. However, the on-field production just wasn’t good enough at times to keep the offense going. For as poorly as quarterback Bo Wallace played at times, the line broke down too often in big games and failed to create enough lanes up front, as the Rebels allowed 3.3 sacks per game in their four losses and averaged just 88.8 rushing yards in those losses. Ole Miss dipped below 80 yards rushing four times last season, including totaling just 72 combined yards in losses to Arkansas and TCU (9 yards on 0.24 yards per carry).

How it can be fixed: Freeze has not shied away from the fact that the depth along the offensive line isn’t adequate to consistently compete in the SEC. He was absolutely right last season, but the good news for the Rebels is they return their entire starting lineup from the 2014 season. Star left tackle Laremy Tunsil will miss considerable time in the offseason after breaking his leg in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, as will starting left guard Aaron Morris, who suffered another ACL injury before the bowl game. While the Rebels would prefer to have a complete line, this will at least help get some younger guys into the rotation during the spring. Fahn Cooper and Rod Taylor -- both signees in the 2014 class -- saw good time last season, but their inexperience showed, so spring development will be key. As cliché as this sounds, Ole Miss’ line needs its younger members to get more reps between the start of spring practice and the start of the 2015 season. With the entire starting five coming back, the reserves need to get more comfortable with meaningful reps. Pure and simple, development and reps are essential for this crew getting better in 2015.

Early 2015 outlook: With all five starters returning in 2015, the Rebels will bring back 102 combined starts from those guys. Now, that clearly hinges on Morris (31 career starts) being able to recover from his ACL injury. Also, the Rebels should get back transfer Christian Morris, who missed the entire 2014 season because of injuries. That’s a pretty good foundation to start with, and the Rebels are hoping to really build on their depth up front with what’s shaping up to be a pretty solid offensive line recruiting class. Ole Miss currently has three ESPN 300 offensive linemen committed, including No. 3 guard Javon Patterson, who is already on campus. Fellow ESPN 300 recruit Drew Richmond (OT) is committed but has flirted with Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee. Keeping him in this class will be crucial for the Rebels as they look to create solid SEC depth up front for this season and beyond.
Looking ahead at potential playmakers in 2015, there should be two divisions: Ohio State, and everyone else.

[+] EnlargeEzekiel Elliott
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesEzekiel Elliott is among Ohio State's many offensive weapons returning for the 2015 campaign.
Heaven help Big Ten defensive coordinators trying to plan for a team that will have the power element of Ezekiel Elliott’s running complemented by the ankle-breaking athleticism and versatility of utility types Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson. Oh, and there’s that Braxton Miller fella, if he returns to OSU.

Jokes about “Big Ten speed,” or lack thereof, are hereby declared dead. They have ceased because of the recruiting of Urban Meyer and his staff.

Miller, the Buckeyes' quarterback from 2011-13, will be one of the country’s top playmakers regardless of where he plays. Most people in college football believe returning is his best option, even if it means a new, varied role.

Miller’s size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) compares well to NFL running backs such as Matt Forte, Darren McFadden and Arian Foster, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Miller, though, needs to prove to NFL teams that he can play the position without injury. Miller’s ability in space is uncanny, but I was surprised to learn that he rushed for 701 yards between the tackles in 2013 (508 outside). One more Stats & Info nugget: His 7.3 yards per carry since 2011 puts him behind only Melvin Gordon (minimum 320 carries).So, yeah, it would be highly intriguing to add Miller’s skill to the elite-level playmaking talent that’s already present.

As a redshirt freshman, Marshall was the team’s breakout playmaker in 2014. He scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, one rushing, one punt return). If something happened to Cardale Jones in the postseason, Marshall likely would have played QB, too.

Samuel, a freshman this past season, and Wilson, a sophomore, are similarly versatile. They’re the team’s primary kick returners, averaging 22.8 yards per return last season. They’re nowhere near their ceilings, either. You think new co-OC and QBs coach Tim Beck entered into a good situation?

Here are playmaker standouts from the non-Ohio State crop
Every team has issues to address this offseason, and this week, we're taking a look at the most glaring holes for each ACC team and figuring out where they might find answers between now and the season opener.

Position to improve: Quarterback

Why it was a problem: Though there were a lot of question marks surrounding the quarterbacks in the ACC before the 2014 season, the league returns a number of talented signal-callers in 2015. So maybe more so than in other years, teams will need strong play from their quarterbacks to remain in the division races. Chad Voytik was hardly the biggest issue for the 6-7 Panthers, and in fact he progressed throughout the season. His passer ratings were significantly better in the second half of the season. But there was still some inconsistency in Voytik’s play, and he still might be a better runner than passer at this point in his career. With All-American talents at running back and receiver, if Voytik elevates his performance in his second year starting, the Panthers could have one of the conference’s best offenses. The most glaring holes are on defense, as only NC State and North Carolina allowed more points to conference opponents in 2014, but the Panthers hired celebrated defensive mind Pat Narduzzi as head coach. Narduzzi should help turn around the unit quickly.

How it can be fixed: This isn’t so much as a fix as it is a molding of Voytik into a player who, at the very least, is equally dangerous with his arm as his legs. Voytik was already showing signs of his maturation as a passer through the second half of last season, so there is reason to feel confident the Panthers will see Voytik jump into the upper half of the league’s quarterbacks. He also has the advantage of being a dual-threat option, which can help get him into an early rhythm and keep drives alive on third downs. Accuracy was an issue for Voytik early in the season, and it showed up again during a rainy bowl game, so if he can be a little more accurate, it will do wonders for the offense.

Early 2015 outlook: With reigning ACC player of the year James Conner at running back and a dominant downfield threat in Tyler Boyd, the offense has the potential to be one of the ACC’s most explosive units. Voytik was a very respectable 29th in yards per attempt nationally, so he already is taking advantage of Boyd and creating big plays through the air. Voytik is also very judicious with the football, throwing only six interceptions a year ago. With the marked improvement Voytik showed as the 2014 season went along, there should be optimism among Pitt fans that Voytik will continue to grow and end the season as one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC.
Every Big Ten team is looking to improve in the coming months. This week, we're examining one position group for each squad that must be upgraded. The Illinois Fighting Illini are up next.

Problem position: Defensive line

Why defensive line was a problem in 2014: The front actually has been a problem throughout coach Tim Beckman's tenure after Illinois produced a nice run of NFL prospects from the defensive line. Illinois finished last in the Big Ten in run defense for the second consecutive season, allowing 239.2 rush yards per game (115th nationally). The Illini also finished near the bottom in the league in sacks (23) and tackles for loss (82). The poor performance cost line coach Greg Colby his job following Illinois' bowl loss to Louisiana Tech.

How it can be fixed (solutions on the roster): Illinois has loaded up on junior-college transfers and needs several to blossom this season along the defensive line. Jihad Ward is the one to watch after recording three sacks, two forced fumbles and a team-high four fumbles recovered in his first year as an Illini end. Illinois also needs more from Joe Fotu on the inside. Illinois fans are waiting for big things from Paul James III, a decorated high school prospect. Rob Bain, who started about half of last season at tackle, is back alongside Dawuane Smoot, who had 7.5 tackles for loss as a reserve in 2014.

How it can be fixed (potential help from 2015 recruiting class): A major problem could get worse if Illinois can't finish strong in recruiting. The Illini finally landed their first defensive line recruit of the 2015 class this past weekend when junior college defensive end Sean Adesanya committed to the school. There's some talent on the current roster, but Illinois really could use another lineman or two in this class.

Early 2015 outlook: Beckman's first step is finding an assistant to coach the line after missing out on Missouri's Craig Kuligowski, who would have been excellent. Whomever Illinois hires must get more out of the talent in the program, starting with Ward, a 6-foot-6, 295-pound potential matchup nightmare for opponents, but also others like James and Smoot. Run defense must be Illinois' single biggest priority heading into another make-or-break season for Beckman.
We continue our look at what positions groups need to improve between now and next season.

UCLA Bruins

Position to improve: quarterback

Why it was a problem: With Brett Hundley off to the NFL after three years as the starting quarterback, the future of the position at UCLA is a little hazy. The wide expectation is that it will ultimately come down to Hundley's backup, Jerry Neuheisel, and highly-touted freshman Josh Rosen, who recently enrolled and will take part in spring practice. However, Asantii Woulard could also be a factor. Neuheisel doesn't have the raw ability of Rosen -- who is ranked second among all pocket passers in the Class of 2016 by ESPN.com -- but he did lead the Bruins to a win against Texas last year after Hundley left due to injury. Outside of that game, Neuheisel didn't see much action -- he attempted a pass in just one other game.

How it can be fixed: It doesn't mean much, but Neuheisel will likely serve as the de facto starter in spring practice while Rosen learns the offense. Then, when Rosen is on more equal footing, the competition will begin in earnest during the fall. Whoever ends up being the guy, it will be interesting to see how the offense evolves without Hundley's diverse play-making ability.

Early 2015 outlook: It's really too early to hazard more than a guess about who ends up as the starter. As talented as Rosen is said to be, there's no guarantee it will manifest right away at the FBS level. For example, Zach Kline was the No. 2-ranked pocket passer in 2012 and never started a game at Cal before transferring to Butte College. He recently committed to FCS Indiana State. There are plenty of similar stories that should make people cautious about placing significant expectations on a kid based on a number or the amount of stars next to his name. That said, the player that beat Kline out, Jared Goff, is the obvious example of how enrolling early plus a summer and fall of preparation can be enough to bring a talented player up to speed in time to play well as a true freshman. Look for this competition to extend well into fall camp.

Position that needs improvement: TCU

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This week, we’re taking a closer look at one specific area each Big 12 team needs to improve before 2015. We continue the series with TCU, which doesn't have much to improve after a 12-1 season:

Position to improve: Secondary

Why it could be a problem: The TCU secondary was the best in the Big 12 last season, with safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter and cornerback Kevin White all earning all-conference honors. The problem is, Carter and White have both graduated, while Hackett declared early for the NFL draft. The Horned Frogs have talented secondary players coming back, but Carter has been a linchpin on the TCU defense, while Hackett and White were difference-makers this past season. The Horned Frogs will have to rely on some semi-new faces in the defensive backfield.

How it can be fixed: The good news is that many of the expected new faces aren't exactly new. Kenny Iloka likely will step in for Carter or Hackett in the starting lineup after playing a key reserve role last season. In TCU's three-safety defense, they'll be alongside Derrick Kindred, who's been a quality starter the last season-and-a-half. Ranthony Texada is coming off a banner 2014 as a starting redshirt freshman cornerback opposite White. Texada got better as the season wore on and seems primed to take over as TCU's primary corner. Someone will have to step in at the other corner, but the Horned Frogs have plenty of possibilities in Nick Orr, Torrance Mosley and Corry O'Meally -- who were all newcomers last season -- and Cameron Echols-Luper, who will be converting over from receiver.

Early 2015 outlook: On paper, the Horned Frogs have the potential to be solid in the defensive backfield, if not better than that. But they are replacing a ton of playmaking from a secondary that helped the Horned Frogs lead the nation in interceptions. Kindred is the only returning Horned Frog that had more than one pick this past season. With 10 starters back, the offense is going to remain a juggernaut, so the Horned Frogs don't have to be great in the back end. But to contend for a Big 12 title and a playoff spot, they need at least to be pretty good. That will hinge on how the likes of Texada and Iloka respond to their expanded roles.
The ACC will have an opportunity to make a big-time statement when the 2015 season kicks off.

That has become par for the course.

In what has become an annual rite of passage, the ACC has four blockbuster meetings against Power 5 opponents set for Week 1:
  • North Carolina vs. South Carolina on Thurs., Sept. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Louisville vs. Auburn on Sat., Sept. 5 in the annual Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. On the same day, Virginia travels to face UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
  • Then, perhaps the most anticipated game of the weekend: defending national champion Ohio State travels to play Virginia Tech on Labor Day Night. This marks the Hokies' third appearance on Labor Day Monday; the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.

Those were among the big games spotlighted when the ACC released its schedule on Thursday. In all, ACC teams will play more games against teams that are ranked in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early 2015 Top 25 rankings (12) than any of the other Power 5 conferences. ACC teams also are playing a higher percentage of Power 5 teams (38 percent) than any other Power 5 conference.

None of this comes as a surprise, considering how strongly the ACC has scheduled nonconference opponents in recent years. For the ACC to continue to make inroads toward changing national perception, it will have to keep winning the spotlight games. As it stands, the ACC most likely will be the underdog in those four opening -weekend contests. And many people believe the only way an ACC team can make it into the playoff is with an unblemished record.

In addition to those marquee nonconference games, all eyes will be squarely on Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech as prime playoff contenders.

We should know more about their ACC and College Football Playoff fates over a four-week period spanning October and November.

Circle your calendars for:
  • Georgia Tech at Clemson, Oct. 10
  • Florida State at Georgia Tech, Oct. 24
  • Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 7

As for the always important mid-week games, Virginia Tech might not be hosting a Thursday night contest in 2015, but it does have Labor Day against the Buckeyes and a Friday night home game against NC State on Oct. 9. The Hokies also travel to play Georgia Tech on Thurs., Nov. 12.

Florida State and Clemson have mid-week games as well: Louisville will host the Tigers on Thurs., Sept. 17 in a game that should have Atlantic Division implications, while Florida State plays at Boston College the next day. Boise State at Virginia (Sept. 25); Louisville at Wake Forest (Oct. 30); and Miami at Pitt (Nov. 27) round out the Friday night slate. North Carolina at Pitt on Oct. 29 is the only other Thursday night game.
Let’s go back to August, when one media outlet reported tensions rising between Louisville coach Bobby Petrino and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Hard to put much stock in that innuendo when you consider what happened Wednesday. Grantham turned down an opportunity to become Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator to stay with Petrino for another season. Does that sound like the move of a man desperate to get away?

Just a few weeks earlier, offensive coordinator Garrick McGee turned away Oklahoma, where he played quarterback in the 1990s.

Petrino must be doing something right. Keeping both his coordinators in place after overtures from the NFL and a blue-blood college program is a bigger win than anything that happens next week on national signing day. A year into the job, with a host of skeptics remaining, Petrino absolutely needed this.

So did Louisville. The school is finally making people take notice it is no longer an afterthought. This is a program with one of the highest athletic budgets in the league. It is led by a risk-taking athletic director with a vision, completely willing to shell out the cash for coaches and facility upgrades.

With that perspective, it should not come as a shock that both coordinators elected to stay. McGee and Petrino have as close a relationship as you will find between head coach and assistant. McGee left his job as UAB head coach to become Louisville's offensive coordinator, a job he believes is among the best in the country.

His decision to stay did surprise those who know him best. His next move could very well end up being for another head coaching job.

The decision Grantham made may have been a little more surprising to some, considering his NFL background. He spent 11 years as an NFL assistant and does have a desire to be a head coach one day, on either level.

But in the end, there were several factors at play. The Raiders are not exactly built to win now. Louisville is. He already is one of the highest paid coordinators in the country at almost $1 million per season. Plus, the Grantham family has made a home in Louisville and wanted to stay. He was not ready to walk away after just one year on the job.

It was, in fact, a year ago this month that Grantham decided to leave Georgia for Louisville. Since then, Grantham has been asked repeatedly why he would leave the SEC. Each time, he said he truly believed Louisville was a school that could win a national championship.

McGee believes the same. Petrino believes the same. For the next year at least, they will work together to try and make that happen.

ACC tipping point classes 

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In Florida, the current recruiting landscape is run by Florida State coming off the last BCS National Championship a season ago, a College Football Playoff appearance this season and the success of many players in the past few years. For Miami -- and Florida, for that matter -- it’s a fight not only to keep the best at home from the two most talented counties in the country, Dade and Broward, but also to gain momentum on the recruiting trail in a region where battles with Alabama, Auburn and Florida State are the norm.


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Jimbo FisherDon Juan Moore/Getty ImagesJimbo Fisher has been able to attract top recruits to continue Florida State's success.
Alabama and Nick Saban have set the national recruiting pace the past five years, and that won't change in the week leading up to signing day as they close on a fifth consecutive recruiting title.

However, Florida State is not far off, and in Saban’s rearview mirror is the familiar face of his former offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher.

Florida State was the last program to finish ahead of Alabama in the rankings (2011), and the Seminoles are the only other team that will have a top-three class for the fourth time in the past five cycles. Their five-year average finish of 3.4 is second to only Alabama's five-year average of 1.6.

That’s why the FSU program is the strongest it has been in the past decade and why there should be optimism among Seminoles fans now that award-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, as well as a bevy of starters, are now off to the NFL.

The reality is 2015 is a transitional period for the Seminoles. Twelve players have left early for the NFL over the past three years. They’re replacing nearly the entire offensive line and their two best receivers, defensive linemen and cornerbacks. And gone, of course, is one of the greatest players in program history.

Two losses in the 2015 season is not out of the question for Florida State, which has lost only once in its past 30 games.

A fourth consecutive ACC championship would be equally unsurprising. There was the thought that Florida State might have missed a championship window in the 2012 season, which ended with two losses. Eleven players were drafted from that team, including five in the first two rounds. It’s hard to compensate for that many meaningful departures.

Of course, the Seminoles went undefeated the next season and went on to claim their first national title since 1999, and did it with key players from Fisher’s first recruiting class.

As many as a dozen former Seminoles could be selected in this upcoming NFL draft. Although that means Florida State is losing a significant amount of talent, it also indicates how well Fisher and his staff are recruiting. It shows the sustained recruiting success that Fisher has had over the course of his five-year tenure, and it’s why blue-chip prospects are stampeding down Interstate 10 toward Tallahassee.

Half of the Seminoles’ 22 commitments are ESPN 300 prospects, and with a few more scholarships remaining, that number figures to grow. The Seminoles have the No. 1 athlete and top-rated safety. They also have top-five players at quarterback, running back, defensive end, cornerback and linebacker.

To replace Winston, Fisher has three ESPN 300 quarterback commits (if including athlete Kai Locksley) to go along with 2014 ESPN 300 signee JJ Cosentino and Sean Maguire, who started in place of Winston against Clemson. Down the line, 2016 No. 1 quarterback Malik Henry plans to leave Southern California and head east to Florida State. (Henry is one of six 2016 FSU commitments, and five are among the top 184 players nationally.)

Although all of those players have the high school credentials, there are countless quarterbacks and high school players who fail to live up to the hype. Fisher has a track record of helping his players realize their potential, which is why the draft numbers have skyrocketed. Winston could be the second No. 1 overall pick Fisher has tutored. (JaMarcus Russell was the first.)

Before Fisher, the Seminoles finished in the top 12 of the rankings in three of Bobby Bowden’s last four recruiting classes, but there were too many misses during those cycles.

Florida State’s ability to develop players has been a key recruiting pitch, and it’s the reason Abdul Bello, No. 4 among offensive tackles, committed to Florida State. The ESPN 300 lineman immigrated to Florida from Nigeria in 2013 and admits he still doesn’t know many of the nuances to the game. He was looking for a coaching staff that would be able to help his raw athleticism mature, and it’s why he said so many top recruits are joining him.

“When those players [from earlier classes] were going there, they were good players, but when they went there … the coaches gave them good coaching,” Bello said. “We’ll get that same great coaching, same attitude, same hunger and that same will to win with this coaching. We’ll be really good.”

Fisher’s recruiting efforts are boosted now that Florida State has joined the college football arms race. The school received cosmetic upgrades recently with a new indoor practice facility and overhauled football offices and locker rooms. The school is also allocating more money to be spent on assistant coaches. The recruiting budget has increased to where the Seminoles are at least competitive with other top schools. Florida State might always struggle to keep up with the Joneses in Tuscaloosa and throughout the SEC, but Fisher has the pivotal pieces in place.

“I'm not a spoiled kid. If I want it, it's because it's going to make our organization better. Every decision we make is about winning and developing our players,” Fisher said not long after FSU unveiled its latest facility upgrades in July. “... I always ask folks, when you walk into an organization, you go into a business, the minute you walk in, you make a first impression: Is this place committed to excellence, is it a championship organization?”

Florida State is one of those organizations now, which is why the future is promising for the Seminoles even with so many unknowns awaiting them in 2015.

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In the 100 days leading up to signing day 2015, RecruitingNation will be looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and count down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Patrick Peterson, No. 8 in 2008 class

Coming out of Blanche Ely High in South Florida, the nation's top cornerback prospect went by the name Patrick Johnson. Originally a Miami (Fla.) commit, he opened up his recruitment during his senior year and ended up coming down to Florida, Florida State and LSU with the Tigers winning out. Johnson was a member of a 2008 LSU class that included Deangelo Benton, Jordan Jefferson and others.

Peterson appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman, including four starts to end the season. He finished his freshman campaign with 41 tackles and one interception.

As a sophomore in 2009, Peterson was awarded All-SEC second-team honors after starting 13 games and totaling 43 tackles and two INTs. He was also tabbed as a second-team All-American by the Sporting News following the season.

Peterson’s junior season would be his best. Not only did Peterson tally 33 tackles and four INTs in 11 games, but he also totaled 1,106 yards and two punt return touchdowns. He took home a number of awards following the season, including the Thorpe Award, Bednarik Award, first-team All-American, All-SEC first-team and SEC special teams player of the year.

Peterson entered the 2011 NFL draft following his junior season. He was selected No. 5 overall by the Arizona Cardinals, and has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of his four seasons in the league.

Honorable mention: Taylor Mays, No. 8 in 2006 class. Mays chose USC out of O’Dea High in Seattle, and lived up to his billing as an elite athlete at the safety position. After a standout career for the Trojans, he was selected in the second round (No. 49 overall) by the San Francisco 49ers.

On The Trail Show (Noon ET)

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
8:00
AM ET
We're less than a week from national signing day and facing a critical weekend of visits. RecruitingNation's panel of experts break down the biggest visits this weekend and what to expect during the last few days of the 2015 cycle.

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