NoleGameday

Predicting Position Battle Winners

Photo by Logan Stanford

Like every year, Florida State will enter the 2016 season with question marks at some positions. Players have graduated and departed to the NFL, leaving an open void where they used to start. This year, Florida State returns many of its starters on both sides of the ball but still has some very important questions to answer. Who will step up to replace Jalen Ramsey? How will the offensive line sort out? And finally, who will start at quarterback. Although it is still early in the offseason, let’s take a look and see who might emerge as a starter in 2016.

Right Guard

The Contenders: Wilson Bell, Cole Minshew, David Robbins

One of the most underrated battles going on throughout spring camp was the competition for the starting right guard position. Wilson Bell started all 13 games last year at right guard, but his play left much to be desired. Talented freshman Cole Minshew received a lot of preseason hype but was limited by concussions and was forced to take a redshirt. Similarly, David Robbins was redshirted because he was not physically ready for playing time. Minshew and Robbins each flashed at times throughout spring practice and in the Garnet and Gold spring game, but will it be enough to push Bell for the job?

Predicted Starter: Wilson Bell

Wilson Bell might have played poorly at times, but he has the most experience out of the three contenders. He knows the blocking schemes better than either of the freshman and his experience will push him over the top. Unless either Minshew or Robbins takes a huge step forward in their development, it’s safe to assume Bell will start come opening day.

Right Tackle

The Contenders: Brock Ruble, Derrick Kelly, Rick Leonard

Right tackle was a revolving door last year and saw several players start at times. Brock Ruble started the year, but was benched for Derrick Kelly, who was benched for Chad Mavety. Mavety went down with an injury and Ruble started in the bowl game. Neither of the three were all that impressive. In the spring, the coaching staff moved Rick Leonard from defensive end to offensive tackle and Leonard was actually quite good in the spring game. He obviously has a ways to go in his development, but presents more of an athletic option than the other contenders.

Predicted Starter: Rick Leonard

Do other players have more experience? Yes. But Rick Leonard brings superior athleticism to the position. He showed some good things in the spring game and was impressive working one-on-one against Josh Sweat. There might be some early bumps in the road, but Leonard has the highest upside out of any of the contenders.

Wide Receiver

The Contenders: Bobo Wilson, Auden Tate, George Campbell, Ermon Lane

Two of the starting wide receiver positions are locked down with Travis Rudolph on the outside and Kermit Whitfield in the slot. The other outside position, however, is up for grabs. Bobo Wilson has started the past two year but does not bring great size to the position and has struggled with drops. Auden Tate had a great spring game performance and George Campbell is the freak athlete of the group. Finally, Ermon Lane came to FSU as a five-star recruit but has not proven to be a capable weapon in the passing game.

Predicted Starter: Auden Tate

Tate had a breakout spring game performance (for what it’s worth). He showed a great use of his hands to snatch the ball out of the air and proved that he could be that big weapon in the end zone that FSU has so desperately missed. His highlight touchdown grab over Tarvarus McFadden in the end zone was excellent. Tate brings a vertical element to FSU’s red zone attack that really hurt them last year.

Cornerback

The Contenders: Tarvarus McFadden, Marcus Lewis

With Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville now, there is a vacancy at the boundary cornerback position. Two sophomores, Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis, have been battling it out for the job throughout spring practice. Both started in the spring game and showed some impressive qualities. While many assumed McFadden would win the job hands down, Lewis has put up a great fight and locked down Travis Rudolph in the spring game.

Predicted Starter: Tarvarus McFadden

McFadden obviously spent a lot of time in the weight room over spring and showed up to practice looking jacked. Many compared him to Xavier Rhodes simply because of his athleticism and frame. He brings great height (6-2) to the position and showed that he is capable of moving fluidly one-on-one with receivers. McFadden can match up against big receivers and has the athleticism to attack the ball in the air as well.

Star

The Contenders: Trey Marshall, Marcus Lewis, Levonta Taylor

Walk-on sensation Javien Elliott has graduated, meaning the star position is up for grabs. Trey Marshall started last year before an injury sidelined his season, but not overly impressive at the position. Marcus Lewis will likely all get some looks at star because of his coverage abilities. Finally, five-star freshman Levonta Taylor is garnering a lot of preseason hype due to his athleticism and potential, but will have an uphill battle winning the position over more experienced players.

Predicted Starter: Trey Marshall

Marshall started the early portion of last season before an injury sidelined him. He brings great physicality to the position and is adept as providing run support. His coverage abilities are a bit lacking, but FSU will have the versatility to bring other players in on passing downs if need be. While this position might be very fluid in 2016, expect Marshall to take the first snaps against Ole Miss.

Free Safety

The Contenders: Nate Andrews, Marcus Lewis, A.J. Westbrook, Calvin Brewton

While he wasn’t the biggest name on the team, Lamarcus Brutus was a very good sideline-to-sideline free safety. Nate Andrews enters as the favorite to win the battle simply because of his prior experience at the position. However, his coverage abilities are a bit lacking. Marcus Lewis pops up again simply because of his athleticism. He won’t be sitting on the bench for long. Finally, sophomores A.J. Westbrook and Calvin Brewton weren’t highly ranked recruits, but both showed good things during spring practice.

Predicted Starter: Marcus Lewis

The coaching staff will want to get Lewis on the field as soon as possible. He has a really high upside and can bring great coverage abilities to the free safety position. Think of it like 2013, when Florida State had Terrance Brooks at free safety who had the coverage abilities of a cornerback. This allowed them to implement many more complex defensive packages without having to sub out a liability in the passing game.

Quarterback

The Contenders: Sean Maguire, Deondre Francois, Malik Henry

This topic has been discussed ad nauseam, but the quarterback battle is obviously the most important position battle of the offseason. Sean Maguire started late last year and showed some good passing abilities, but struggled with turnovers and simply does not have that high of a ceiling. With Maguire injured for the spring, freshmen Deondre Francois and Malik Henry each wowed the audience in the spring game. Francois was more consistent, but Henry flashed his elite upside.

Predicted Starter: Deondre Francois

Francois has a huge arm and has been in the program for a year now. He showed in the spring game that he is capable of making all the throws that are required from a quarterback in Jimbo Fisher’s offense. Francois had a couple of turnovers in the game, but showed that he is more than capable of leading the team down the field through the air. According to all the reports, he has won the team over in the locker room and will likely be the starter when Florida State takes on Ole Miss on September 5th.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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