2019 College Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

(Photo: Xavier Rhodes, FSU Football 2012)

Florida State Seminoles

Head Coach: Willie Taggart

2018 Record: 5-7, 3-5 ACC

Bowl: N/A

Over/under 7.5 wins (O -130; U EVEN)

To Make 4 Team Playoff: Yes +2500; No -10000

Willie Taggart seemingly just picked the wrong season to debut as Florida State Seminoles head coach. Snapping a 36-year consecutive Bowl streak seems to suggest that, as Florida State limped its way to a 5-7 record and lost five games by 21 points or more, including a 59-10 loss to the eventual national champions, Clemson. Taggart basically overhauled the entire program over the offseason, with three new coaches on offense and a new special teams coordinator. The defensive coaching responsibilities have been shuffled around a good bit, too. Taggart has five years to go on his contract (including this season) so he has a task ahead of him in theory, and getting stronger recruiting classes will hopefully jump-start ticket sales. FSU is not used to missing out on Bowl games, after all.

Offense

FSU is remaking its entire offense, because what else can be done after a disaster like last season? Sophomore James Blackman will take over at quarterback, while former Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook comes in as a grad transfer vying for his spot. The OL is redone and overhauled, and new assistant coaches will be working with the group. The QB coach is new. The WR coach is new. The picture is clear enough. Out with the old.

Kendal Briles takes over as offensive coordinator. He is well-known for his high powered offensive teams at Baylor, FAU, and Houston, and he has some talent to work with this season. Tamorrion Terry is one of the best playmaking receivers in the NCAA, and he averaged 21.3 yards-per-catch last season with eight TDs on 35 catches. Junior tailback Cam Akers set an FSU record for yards as a freshman in 2017, but he struggled with a horrible offensive line a year ago. The offensive line simply has to do a much better job for any back to succeed this season. Northern Illinois graduate transfer Ryan Roberts will help at tackle, but junior tackle Landon Dickerson must come back from his ankle injury and senior guard Cole Minshew must be fully healthy from his neck injuries. That pair will be crucial in creating a strong healthy line.

Defense

Harlon Bennett has a task as defensive coordinator. The Seminoles do return eight of its top 10 tacklers from last year, but the team ranked last place in the ACC in pass defense and was marginal against the run. Star pass rusher Brian Burns is gone for the NFL, and junior Marvin Wilson takes over as leader of the defensive front. He is a five-star recruit and led FSU’s interior linemen with 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year. HE did that despite coming off the bench and missing months with a knee injury. The LB group has been poor the last several seasons, but senior Dontavious Jackson should bring the group back to respectability this season.

Junior Hamsah Nasirildeen led the team in tackles as a safety last year and moves to OLB this season. The scheme will not be exclusively 4-3 this year, with more looks at a 3-4 due to the depth and talent at the linebacking positions, so that will be a new look for ACC foes. CB Levonta Taylor shifts to the safety this season, and junior Stanford Samuels III and sophomore Asante Samuel Jr. both will be the cornerbacks. The secondary gave up 30 TD passes last year, so it will have to be better in 2019 because that was tied for fifth-worst among FBS schools.

Special Teams

FSU fired special teams coordinator Alonzo Hampton after the season, and Taggart moved assistant Mark Snyder into that role. The Seminoles should be decent in the kicking areas, with senior Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler back and placekicker and punter. The coverage units were really poor last season, however, and the Seminoles allowed seventh-worst average on return yardage. Snyder has to improve these units or the Seminoles will continue to commit errors that the defensive unit especially has to make up for.

Final Word

Things should be better in Tallahassee this year, but perhaps that is too easy to state coming off a losing season from a program that simply expects far more. The schedule is a little softer, and the Seminoles really just need to return to Bowl action to get back to what people expect from Seminole football. Just flip-flopping the win-loss column and going 7-5 would constitute a success coming off last season’s nightmare.

Prediction: 7 wins (under)

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