Young `Noles primed to step up in 2018

Logan Stanford

Just two weeks ago, Florida State decimated Southern Miss 42-13 in the Independence Bowl. The victory culminated the 41st consecutive winning season in school history. Since then, the buzz has been around Willie Taggart’s hard work on the recruiting trail while assembling his staff.

However, FSU’s roster has already taken a hit to its talent level. 14 players who were in the rotation during the 2017 season will not return due to graduation or declaring for the NFL early.

WR: Auden Tate

Replacement: Tamorrion Terry, redshirt freshman

Tate declared early for the NFL draft after recording 5 catches for 84 yards and three scores in the bowl game. His mix of size, athleticism, and ball skills gives him the chance to have a heck of a professional career. Insert Tamorrion Terry, a 6’4” playmaker who caught 19 touchdowns during his senior year of high school. The Turner Country product redshirted in 2017 but could be asked to play a huge role amongst FSU’s inconsistent wide receiver unit as a sophomore.

TE: Ryan Izzo

Replacement: Tre’ McKitty, sophomore

After catching just 54 passes for 761 yards and six touchdowns in his career, Izzo surprisingly declared for the 2018 NFL draft. He’ll be missed as a blocker and the `Noles are suddenly a little thin at tight end after Mavin Saunders elected to transfer to Kansas earlier in December. McKitty takes over here after recording one catch for 23 yards as a freshman. The 6’5” former four-star prospect should be the perfect pass-catching tight end in the Gulf Coast Offense. Alex Marshall, who redshirted in 2017, could also see time here.

RT: Rick Leonard

Replacement: Jauan Williams, redshirt sophomore

Give Leonard credit, he worked his tail off to try and transition to offensive tackle, he just wasn’t very successful. Now, the `Noles hope Greg Frey’s magic will work on an offensive line that has struggled heavily after the last few seasons. Williams was expected to be the starter at left tackle in 2017 before he suffered a season-ending injury in preseason camp. The 6’7” tackle is a physical prospect who has the reach to lock on to defenders.

DT: Derrick Nnadi

Replacement: Marvin Wilson, sophomore

Nnadi started 24 games over the final two years of his career and became a force on the defensive front. His presence inside will be sorely missed by the Seminoles. Luckily, the interior defensive line is probably the deepest position on this roster. The obvious candidates are Wally Aime or Fred Jones, but never count out rising sophomore Marvin Wilson. The five-star freshman broke into the rotation late in the season and his talent was obvious. His improvements over this offseason may be too much to ignore for Odell Haggins.

DE: Josh Sweat, Jalen Wilkerson

Replacement: Joshua Kaindoh, sophomore

Sweat declared early for the draft after finishing his junior season with 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. People will always wonder what the three-year starter could’ve been if he hadn’t suffered a devastating knee injury in high school. Jalen Wilkerson would’ve been in contention to start before his baffling decision to turn pro. Now, Kaindoh slides into this spot after appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman. The former five-star prospect recorded 6.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2017.

LB: Matthew Thomas

Replacement: Emmett Rice, junior

Thomas started all 12 regular season games and led FSU with 85 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. He left the team before the bowl game. Rice has played in a reserve role over his first two seasons. He earned his first start during the Independence Bowl before suffering an injury late in the first half.

LB: Ro’Derrick Hoskins

Replacement: Dontavious Jackson, junior

Hoskins moves on after starting 27 career games at linebacker. He had his fair share of ups and downs in garnet and gold. Jackson takes over here after starting two games in 2017. The former UA All-American prospect has the talent to become a star at linebacker for Florida State.

LB: Jacob Pugh

Replacement: Adonis Thomas, redshirt junior

Remember all the buzz in the spring about Pugh? That hyped turned into 19 tackles in 2017. Whether it was a system issue or player issue, Pugh simply wasn’t very productive. Thomas started two games as a reserve linebacker in 2017 and showed off a solid skillset. He’s the favorite to take over here if FSU switches back to a 4-3 defense.

CB: Tarvarus McFadden

Replacement: Stanford Samuels III, sophomore

McFadden got picked apart in 2017. After leading the nation in interceptions as a sophomore, he failed to record a single pick as a junior. However, most analysts are still projecting him to go in the second round because of his athleticism. Samuels finished his freshman season with 22 tackles, 2 interceptions, and a sack. He showed out during the Independence Bowl opposite of Levonta Taylor. The two could make up quite the duo on the outside in 2018.

SS: Derwin James, Trey Marshall

Replacement: A.J. Westbrook, Senior

James and Marshall move on after up and down 2017’s. It was a no-brainer for James, who’s a projected first-round pick. Marshall could work himself into draft consideration with a strong pro day and combine. Westbrook has started 12 games at safety over his career and he has improved in each of his three seasons so far. 

FS: Nate Andrews, Ermon Lane

Replacement: Hamsah Nasirildeen, sophomore

Andrews and Lane will not return after finishing their senior years in 2017. Andrews was the last remaining link to the 2013 championship team. Nasirildeen has the best chance to earn this spot after contributing in a reserve role as a freshman. The 6’4” safety recorded 29 tackles and 2 pass breakups in his first season. He’s a hard hitter who has the coverage skills to boot.

Dustin Lewis

Lead writer for NoleGameday. Majoring in English Editing, Writing, and Media at Florida State University. Writer for FSView Sports and Hashtag Basketball.

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