NoleGameday

Way-Too-Early 2017 Offensive Depth Chart

Photo by Logan Stanford

2016 is officially over.

After a win over the Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl, Florida State has closed the book on an up-and-down 2016 campaign. We learned a lot about this team over the course of the season, from their early season struggles to ending on a high note with a victory over a top-tier program. With the last of the early draft declarers off to the NFL, we can now begin to speculate as to what this team will look like in 2017.

On offense, the Seminoles will have a major hole to fill at running back. Dalvin Cook, the most prolific runner in school history, departs for the NFL, but Florida State has several interesting and talented options waiting in the wings. They also return starters at quarterback, wide receiver and tight end but will need to formulate a new look for their offensive line with several key pieces departing.

Quarterback

Starter: Deondre Francois (r-Sophomore)

Backups: J.J. Cosentino (r-Junior), Bailey Hockman (Freshman), James Blackman (Freshman)

For the first time in two seasons, Florida State will not enter the offseason with a quarterback competition. Deondre Francois is firmly entrenched as the starter after an impressive redshirt freshman campaign. He made some questionable decisions at times, but overall proved that he can be trusted as a passer and will hopefully develop in his first offseason as the unquestioned starter and leader of the locker room.

Behind Francois, J.J. Cosentino will be the primary backup. The only other player on the roster who has taken snaps at quarterback, Cosentino has not made a huge impact in his time at Florida State but has game experience. Hockman and Blackman are two talented freshmen, but it is likely that they will redshirt in their first year on campus. So far under Jimbo Fisher, no true freshman quarterback has played.

Running Back

Starter: Cam Akers (Freshman)

Backups: Jacques Patrick (Junior), Amir Rasul (Sophomore), Khalan Laborn (Freshman), Zaquandre White (Freshman), Ryan Green (r-Senior), Jonathan Vickers (Senior)

Surprised? You shouldn’t be.

Cam Akers is one of the most talented recruits that Jimbo Fisher has ever brought to Tallahassee. The 5-11, 213-pound Mississippi native has drawn Dalvin Cook comparisons, but runs with more power than Cook did at the same age. Despite being a high school quarterback, Akers has already transitioned nicely to a traditional running back role as seen by his film in the Army All-American game. As an added bonus, he is already enrolled early at Florida State. This means more time in the weight room, at practice, and in the film room. He may not take the first snap against Alabama, but there is no doubt in my mind that Akers is the primary running back at Florida State in 2017.

Jacques Patrick has been a good backup behind Cook throughout his first two years, but his lack of touches on the ball, especially over the course of 2016, makes it difficult to project him into a starting role. In FSU’s biggest games of the season, he was a non-factor. He carried the ball five times vs Ole Miss, twice vs North Carolina, three times vs Miami, none vs Clemson, once vs Florida, and once vs Michigan. The 230-pounder has been a good player at times, but with younger, perhaps more talented players already on campus, his best role on the team may be as a situational player.

After Patrick, players like Rasul, Laborn and White will be great depth at the position. Laborn, who just earned his fifth-star on many sites, is a fantastic player by himself and would be the gem of many recruiting classes around the country. Rasul is a speed demon whom we may see in the return game as well. Don’t sleep on Zaquandre White as well, a 210-pound bowling ball who may work himself into situational roles for FSU.

Wide Receiver

Starter(s): Auden Tate (Junior), Nyqwan Murray (Sophomore), Keith Gavin (Sophomore)

Backups: George Campbell (r-Sophomore), Da’Vante Phillips (Junior), D.J. Matthews (Freshman), Tamorrion Terry (Freshman)

Despite the loss of Travis Rudolph to the NFL, FSU fans should be ecstatic with the talent that returns at receiver. At 6-5, 225-pounds, Auden Tate demonstrated over the season that he is matchup nightmare. As he continues to grow into his frame and learn how to box out defensive backs, Tate should become a legit No. 1 option for Francois and a player that will have NFL scouts drooling. Nyqwan Murray emerged from the Orange Bowl as a rising star after he mossed Jourdan Lewis for the game-winning touchdown. He has a a connection with Francois, a fellow Orlando native, and should be a dominant force out of the slot.

With Rudolph moving on, Keith Gavin could be a player that assumes that third receiver role for this offense. At 6-3, 225-pounds, Gavin has NFL-ready size at the position. After Tate went down in the Orange Bowl, FSU tried to get him the ball repeatedly and we all saw what he could do with the ball in his hands on his 66-yard kickoff return. If he can continue to develop as a route runner and pass catcher, Florida State could have a formidable trio with 6-5 Tate and 6-3 Gavin on the outside with 5-11 Murray working in the slot.

George Campbell, a former five-star recruit, came to FSU with a lot of hype but has failed to live up to it so far. He sat out in 2016 due to a core injury, but should return fully healthy for next season. While he may not be a starter, a 6-4 receiver who runs a 4.40 40-yard dash would be a heck of a fourth receiving option for this squad. Da’Vante Phillips is another name who has largely underperformed in his time at FSU, but will likely work as a primary backup at either the outside positions or the slot.

Florida State currently has two recruits underclassmen set to enroll. D.J. Matthews is a great player from the slot and should push for snaps as soon as he sets foot on campus. Meanwhile, Tamorrion Terry is another player with size at 6-4, but may not see the field much next year outside of garbage time.

Tight End

Starter: Ryan Izzo (r-Junior)

Backups: Mavin Saunders (r-Junior), Jeremy Kerr (r-Senior), Naseir Upshur (Sophomore), Tre’ McKitty (Freshman), Alexander Marshall (Freshman)

Florida State might return the nation’s best tight end duo in juniors Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders. Izzo has progressed quite nicely as a blocker in his time at FSU and has proved to be a reliable pass catcher as well. Saunders is a freak of an athlete who made some acrobatic catches over the course of the season. If those two can continue to develop as blockers and catchers, that will make Florida State’s offense that more dangerous.

Kerr and Upshur project to be backups next season as well as primary special teams contributors. Florida State has two talented freshmen in McKitty and Marshall, but they can afford to redshirt them and let them develop with the upperclassmen talent already on the roster.

Offensive Tackle

Starter(s): Rick Leonard (Senior), Brock Ruble (r-Junior)

Backups: Ethan Frith (Junior), Josh Ball (r-Freshman), Abdul Bello (r-Sophomore), Jauan Williams (r-Freshman), Brady Scott (Freshman)

With Roderick Johnson off to the NFL, it’s time for Florida State to find a new blind-side protector. Right now, Rick Leonard projects to be the best option at left tackle. He ended the season on a high note, playing fairly well at right tackle against Michigan in the Orange Bowl. At 6-7, 306-pounds, he possesses the size necessary to play left tackle, but also has the athleticism that the coaching staff is looking for as well.

Meanwhile, Brock Ruble may assume his old job at right tackle. He is not a fan favorite, but enters his fourth year in the system and has played well at times. At 6-8, 319-pounds, he a mountain of a man and played well in spots, especially in the run game, over the latter half of the 2016 season.

By no means are either of these tackle positions locked down. Players like Josh Ball and Jauan Williams will give Leonard and Ruble a run for their money in spring and fall camp for the job. Both blue-chip recruits, Ball and Williams now have a year in the system and, perhaps more importantly, the weight room.

Ethan Frith has been the primary backup at left tackle, but it may be too much to project him as the full-time starter moving forward. Abdul Bello was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, but an ACL injury as a freshman set back his development. Finally, expect true freshman Brady Scott to redshirt in his first year on campus.

Offensive Guard

Starter(s): Landon Dickerson (Sophomore), Cole Minshew (r-Sophomore)

Backups: Wilson Bell (r-Senior), David Robbins (r-Sophomore), Derrick Kelly (r-Junior), Mike Arnold (r-Freshman)

Landon Dickerson was a bright spot along the offensive line before tearing his ACL in practice. He had some freshman struggles, but overall displayed good ability in both pass blocking and run blocking. Assuming he makes a full recovery from his ACL injury (the injury occurred at the beginning of November), then he should be penciled in as a starter.

Meanwhile, Cole Minshew is a player who quietly stole some snaps away from veteran players to end the season. At 6-5, 338-pounds, there is no questioning Minshew’s size or athleticism. He played well to end the season, but the question surrounding him is injuries. If Minshew can stay healthy, then that would give Florida State a great guard duo in him and Dickerson.

Wilson Bell has played quite a bit of guard for Florida State. If he is the primary backup at both guard spots, then that is a great bonus for the team. Players like Kelly and Arnold will also be factored into the equation as backups as well.

Center

Starter: Alec Eberle (r-Junior)

Backups: Baveon Johnson (r-Freshman), Andrew Boselli (r-Freshman), Corey Martinez (r-Junior), Ryan Hoefeld (r-Senior)

Perhaps the most controversial position on the offense, there are questions surrounding the center position heading into 2017.

Alec Eberle started all 13 games last season at the position, but his play left much to be desired at times. He was handled by defensive linemen and was often pushed back into Francois’ lap. On the other hands, he also played good at times, sealing linebackers at the second level in the run game and pass protecting well.

Behind him are redshirt freshmen Baveon Johnson and Andrew Boselli, the two primary contenders for the job. Johnson was the No. 1 center recruit in the nation coming out of high school and Boselli is the sone of Jaguars Hall of Famer Tony Boselli, so these are two players who are more than capable of stepping up and earning the job. Spring practice will be huge for these two and it will be interesting to see if either of them earns first-string snaps at all during the offseason.

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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