NoleGameday

How many All-Americans will Florida State produce in 2017?

Photo by Logan Stanford

As we inch closer to the start of the new college football season, no doubt you’ve seen the numerous preseason All-American lists that have been unveiled.

Preseason All-American lists, and the countless “award watch lists” that have spawned in recent years as well, aren’t really worth more than the paper they are printed on. At the end of the day, the end-of-the-season All-American lists are worth a lot more and paint a more accurate picture of the college football season as a whole.

Right now, the two names from Florida State that are popping up across many of these lists are sophomore safety Derwin James and junior cornerback Tarvarus McFadden. It seems more and more college football media are falling in love with James as a player and have remembered how fantastic he played as a true freshman. Meanwhile, McFadden returns to Tallahassee after he tied for the lead in interceptions last year.

But are James and McFadden the only two names that could appear on the all-important All-American lists when all is said and done with the 2017 season?

Certainly those are the two players most likely to produce at an All-American level, but Florida State is not without talented recruits on their roster. Just like how McFadden popped up out of nowhere to become an intercepting machine, there are several players on the roster who could have All-American caliber years in 2017.

Let’s take a look at each position group and determine how likely it is that Florida State produces an All-American from there. We’re going to rank each position with grades of very high, high, medium, low or very low.

Quarterback

Unfortunately for Deondre Francois, the bar is set high at the quarterback position. The past five All-American quarterbacks in college football have either been a Heisman winner or finished in the top three in terms of voting for the award.

More so, they have put up some insane numbers as well. Those past five All-American candidates have averaged 3,978 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns, 1,009 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns between them. That’s nearly 5,000 yards of total offense and 50 total touchdowns. Not an easy feat.

In short, you have to be a Heisman contender to be an All-American at quarterback.

That’s not saying Francois doesn’t have the potential to be a Heisman contender either. Current odds list him as a 15/1 favorite to win the trophy. With another offseason in the program and a more balanced offensive line in front of him, Francois has all the tools to be a great college quarterback. Jimbo Fisher himself has said that Francois will be a high draft pick when all is said and done.

Another factor working against Francois is the current crop of quarterbacks in college football. Between USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, there are lots of talented players in the college game today. Oh, and that’s not even mentioning defending Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson at Louisville.

The odds are stacked against Francois, but don’t count him out just yet.

Potential for an All-American at QB: Medium

Running Back

Could Florida State produce an All-American at running back the year after having Dalvin Cook earn unanimous honors in 2016?

Yes, they very well could and the reason is Cam Akers. The freshman tailback is already earning Heisman odds and college media seems to be falling in love with him before he has even taken a snap. A top-five recruit in the country, Akers has big shoes to fill but has all the talent in the world to live up to those expectations.

Akers’ odds on producing at an All-American level depends on the type of rushing season that Jimbo Fisher calls on offense. Fisher’s preference is to have a balanced core of running backs, as seen by the 2013 national championship year where the leading four carriers had 173, 91, 88 and 81 carries respectively. Alternatively, he is known to ride a running back hard, as seen by Cook’s workload over the past two seasons when he carried the ball 229 times in 2015 and 288 times in 2016.

If Jimbo stays true to his preference and works with a balanced staple of carries, then the potential for All-American play at the running back position is very diminished. Unless Akers is by far and away the best back on the team and deserves nearly 250 carries, expect a more balanced approach in 2017 from Fisher’s play calling.

Potential for an All-American at RB: Medium

Wide Receiver

In this day and age of college offenses, wide receivers are putting up more ridiculous numbers by the year. Just look at Corey Davis’ production from last year, when he totaled 1,500 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns.

Does Florida State have anyone on their roster who could produce at this level?

If there’s one player who could do it, it would be Auden Tate. At 6-5, 225-pounds, he has the size to be a major threat in the red zone, similar to Kelvin Benjamin in 2013. Touchdowns win awards, and Tate has the potential to catch a lot of them in 2017.

Another name is Nyqwan Murray, but we don’t normally see shorter receivers put up huge numbers unless they operate in an air-raid type of offense like Dede Westbrook did last year. Keith Gavin is another player, but the likelihood that Gavin produces at an All-American type of level as a sophomore after failing to catch a pass as a freshman is astronomically low.

Unfortunately, this might be another year without a major award winner at the wide receiver position from Florida State.

Potential for an All-American at WR: Very Low

Tight End

Strangely enough, the likelihood of All-American level play might be higher at tight end than wide receiver.

Florida State’s starter at tight end, Ryan Izzo, is entering his fourth year in the program, typically when you see breakout seasons at the position. Izzo is a very good blocker in the run game and has proved to have reliable hands in the pass game as well. If Francois targets him more, there’s no saying he couldn’t produce at an All-American level.

Plus, All-American tight ends are not expected to be touchdown machines either. Jake Butt from Michigan was an All-American as a junior and senior after only catching seven total touchdowns between the two seasons.

The possibility is low, but it exists.

Potential for an All-American at TE: Low

Offensive Line

Unfortunately, this is likely the one position on the roster that we can fully expect not to produce an an All-American level.

Simply put, All-American lists are dominated by offensive linemen who are juniors and seniors. Just like tight end, the offensive line is a position where, even in the pros, older players are better. The line takes experience to learn, which is why very few freshmen and sophomores earn awards and honors.

Because Florida State is expected to start three or four underclassmen along their offensive line, we might have to wait one or two years before we see All-American play along the line.

Potential for an All-American at OL: Very Low

Defensive Line

Oh boy, where do we begin with the defensive line?

Should we start with Derrick Nnadi, who elected to return to Tallahassee for his senior season and is among the best defensive tackles in the nation? Or should we turn to Josh Sweat, who is three years removed from his freakish knee injury and has shown flashes of his No. 1 overall recruit potential? Or maybe Brian Burns, who led all freshmen with 9.5 sacks?

The possibility is endless along the defensive line. In the end though, what makes All-Americans is the number of sacks that you produce. That was the big reason why Demarcus Walker earned the honors last year after posting 16 sacks.

Burns established himself as a sack artist last year despite playing limited snaps. If he bulks up and works himself into the starting rotation, he might have the most potential to put up 15+ sacks. Alternatively, Sweat is already locked into a starting job and has begun to show flashes of his elite speed around the edge.

One factor working against Nnadi is the fact that the defensive line classification is a combination of both defensive ends and defensive tackles. As such, he’ll be going against players that put up dozens of sacks, when Nnadi’s game is more of destroying the run game and clogging holes. Last year’s All-American defensive line, there were three edge rushers and a fourth (Jonathan Allen) who also moonlighted as an edge rusher.

Regardless, the possibility is high of All-American level play along the defensive line. If not one of the three names mentioned above, then perhaps players like Joshua KaindohJanarius Robinson, or Demarcus Christmas become those names.

Potential for an All-American at DL: Very High

Linebacker

The potential for an All-American at the linebacker position rests on Matthew Thomas’ shoulders.

Simply put, there is not any other player on Florida State’s roster, right now, that could potentially produce at that high of a level. Perhaps in one or two years, but not in 2017.

Thomas’ career in Tallahassee has been well documented. A former five-star, all-everything recruit, his time in the garnet and gold has been marred by suspensions, injuries and ineligibility. Last year, he started every game, but showed a lack of effort at times and his play left a lot to be desired.

If he plays at 100%, then there might not be a better linebacker in the country. But that’s a big if given his history. Florida State’s key to producing not only an All-American, but performing at a national championship-level, rests with Thomas.

Potential for an All-American at LB: Low

Defensive Backs

At this point, do we even need to give Derwin James an introduction anymore? He’s Wolverine, the Hulk and Doomsday all rolled into one freak of an athlete.

Let’s just get this over with right away. If healthy, James might be the best player in the country. If he plays all 12+ games this season and produces at the same level he did as a freshman, and the few games as a sophomore, he is an All-American and Top-5 draft pick.

Meanwhile, Tarvarus McFadden might have a harder time to becoming an All-American this year. After his eight interception performance last year, quarterbacks will be sure to look away from him this upcoming year. He’ll still see a lot of targets this season, but replicating or even surpassing his performance last year will be a tough task.

However, there are other names in the secondary that could emerge as well. Levonta TaylorKyle MeyersCarlos Becker and Stanford Samuels are all battling for the other cornerback job and all four have the talent to produce at an elite level. Senior Trey Marshall doesn’t get the spotlight that James does, but has been one of the most important players in the secondary.

The possibility for All-American level of play in the secondary is high. How high? Very high.

Potential for an All-American at DB: Very High

Special Teams

Earning All-American honors at kicker or punter likely means you’ve won either the Lou Groza or Ray Guy award. Doing so requires the best kicker or punter performance in the country.

That’s a tall task for sophomores Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler. Both had up-and-down freshmen campaigns and struggled in parts. This isn’t to say a sophomore surge isn’t forthcoming, but expecting a pair of young players to suddenly emerge as the best one or two specialists in the entire country is a tall task.

Meanwhile, the All-Purpose or return specialist award is dominated by players who excel at kick and punt returns. Florida State hasn’t had an athlete produce highly at those positions in a while, but with players like Levonta TaylorDerwin James and Cam Akers looking to be the main options at those roles, the possibility exists that one of them returns four or five touchdowns over the course of the season.

Potential for an All-American at DB: Very Low

Dakota Moyer
Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.

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