2017 Garnet and Gold Spring Game Preview

Photo by Logan Stanford

Another year, another spring game.

The start of the 2017 is still many months away, but this year’s Florida State squad will suit up for the first time on Saturday as they take part in another spring game. After spending last year’s game away in Orlando, FSU returns to Doak Campbell Stadium for year’s festivities.

There are storylines aplenty in this game. With the departure of Dalvin Cook, perhaps the best running back in school history, to the NFL Draft, it seems like the weight of the run game rests on the shoulders of five-star early enrollee Cam Akers. One of the highest-rated recruits to ever commit to Florida State under Jimbo Fisher’s tenure, Akers is everything you want from in a running back. While he doesn’t possess the top-end speed that Cook has, Akers is big, strong, physical and quicker than he looks.

Akers will team up with 6-2, 230-pound junior Jacques Patrick to provide fans with relief from post-Cook life in Tallahassee. While neither may live up to the potential and excitement that Cook provided, there might not be a better tandem of running backs in the country by season’s end.

Unfortunately for fans, there is no quarterback competition this year. With redshirt sophomore Deondre Francois firmly cemented as the starter, the attention instead shifts to the backups. Redshirt junior J.J. Cosentino is penciled in as the backup, but early enrollee Bailey Hockman will give him a run for his money. If Hockman begins to steal snaps from Cosentino in the spring game, just like Malik Henry did last year, then perhaps it will indeed be a true freshman that will be backing up Francois come September.

The conversation at offensive line is where things begin to get interesting.

Gone is Roderick “Big Rod” Johnson, a starter at left tackle for three years. Kareem Are, a starter at left guard, is gone and starting center Alec Eberle is out after hip surgery. Landon Dickerson, who started at right guard, is still recovering from an ACL tear. Finally, right tackle has been a literal revolving door for players over the past two years.

It’s probably safe to say that no job along the offensive line is guaranteed.

With so many jobs open, there will be quite a few contenders looking to make their mark in the spring game. Redshirt freshmen Josh Ball, Jauan Williams, and redshirt sophomore Abdul Bello are athletic youngsters who will compete for both tackle jobs. Baveon Johnson and Andrew Boselli are two more redshirt freshmen who will battle Eberle for the center job.

With Dickerson out, redshirt sophomore Cole Minshew will have another opportunity to steal the show at guard. Minshew started a few games to end the season and the rising redshirt sophomore has all the talent in the world, he just needs to stay on the field. Other names like David Robbins and Mike Arnold will also see the field in the spring game as well.

Moving on to the defensive side of the ball, there is no bigger story than the return of Derwin James. The redshirt sophomore sat out most of last season after suffering a meniscus injury in the second game, but looks to be at 100% this spring. James, who many expect to go pro after this season, is a jack-of-all trades for Florida State, showing elite talent at safety, linebacker and even edge rusher in his time in the garnet and gold.

Tarvarus McFadden, a junior who tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions last season, is not playing after surgery, which will give many young players the opportunity to compete for the other cornerback job opposite him. Sophomores Levonta Taylor, Kyle Meyers and Carlos Becker are the top competitors there, but don’t forget about five-star early enrollee Stanford Samuels. Samuels has the size, length and pedigree to compete with anyone on the roster for the field cornerback job.

At linebacker, this is the last shot for Matthew Thomas, a senior, to make an impact on pro scouts. A former five-star recruit, Thomas’ tenure at Florida State has been well chronicled. Between asking for a release from his letter of intent, suspensions and injury, Thomas’ career in Tallahassee has been anything but normal. But there is no denying his talent, as he showed at times last season. If he can put it all together, there might not be a more talented linebacker in the country.

There are many familiar names returning along the defensive line. Despite losing DeMarcus Walker to graduation, Florida State returns starters in junior end Josh Sweat, senior tackle Derrick Nnadi and junior tackle Demarcus Christmas. Names like sophomore Brian Burns, freshman Janarius Robinson and early-enrollee Joshua Kaindoh will all be battling to replace Walker at one of the end positions.

In short, there is something for everyone at this year’s spring game. Akers and Patrick will be the focal point of the offense, as they try to replace Cook’s production, but keep an eye on the backup quarterback competition between Hockman and Cosentino as well. On defense, look for James to make an impact in his first “real” action since early September. And, as always, expect Jimbo to play the role of referee at least once during the game.

If you are going to the game, make sure to wear sunscreen!

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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