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Five Questions heading into Spring Practice

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It’s that time of year again. After a brief hiatus, Florida State is back on the football field for spring practice. After a disappointing end to the 2015 season, players and coaches are eager to put the Peach Bowl behind them and focus on preparations for 2016. Much like last spring, Florida State enters spring practice with another quarterback competition. Sean Maguire, the starter at the end of last season, is out for the spring with a fractured ankle, leaving the door open for some talented underclassmen to snatch the job. Dalvin Cook returns for what many expect to be his final season in the garnet and gold along with every other starter on offense. DeMarcus Walker and Marquez White spurned the NFL Draft to help lead the Seminoles defense to another championship. However, there are many questions that this squad needs to answer about themselves in the spring before we can pencil them in for another run at the college football playoff.

  1. Who will step up to replace Jalen Ramsey?
    • Jalen Ramsey departed for the NFL and will likely be a top-five pick come draft day. Replacing him will be no easy feat, but luckily Florida State has recruited defensive back very well over the last couple of cycles. It remains to be seen if Marquez White will shift over to boundary cornerback from his field cornerback position but regardless, Charles Kelly will be looking for another starting cornerback. The leader for the job at the moment seems to be sophomore Tarvarus McFadden, a former five-star player. McFadden has great size for the position (6-2, 201 lbs.) and played in seven games last year, primarily in backup duties. Another sophomore cornerback, Marcus Lewis, will challenge McFadden for the starting job. Lewis, listed at 6-1, 196 lbs., was a late addition to Florida State’s recruiting class last year and spent his true freshman season in backup duties and on special teams. If McFadden and Lewis are the front runners for the job, then Ryan Green can be considered the dark horse. A former running back, Green sat out last season due to injury but was seen working fine through fourth quarter drills.
  2. Will the offensive line finally solidify?
    • Last year, nine different players started along the offensive line. Only two, Rod Johnson and Wilson Bell, started all 13 games for the Seminoles. Although they were hampered by injuries and inconsistent play, Florida State needs to find a solid starting five if it wants to make a run at the college football playoff. Left tackle, left guard and center all seem to be solidified, with Rod Johnson, Kareem Are and Alec Eberle. Wilson Bell started all 13 games last year at right guard, but his play left much to be desired. Talented redshirt freshman Cole Minshew had an injury plagued 2015 campaign, but pushed for first team reps when he was healthy. If he can put his injury concerns behind him, Minshew is a player that will challenge Bell for playing time at right guard. Right tackle is another position that was a revolving door in 2015. Derrick Kelly and Chad Mavety, two players that started at right tackle last year, are both out, meaning Brock Ruble is the de-facto starter. Ruble struggled at times in 2015, so his development through the spring will be an important storyline if the offensive line is to find some consistency.
  3. Is Matthew Thomas healthy and eligible?
    • After losing Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup to graduation, Florida State will be relying on Matthew Thomas at linebacker in 2016. A former five-star recruit, Thomas’ career with Florida State has been an up and down affair that has been long chronicled by the national media. After sitting out last season due to an NCAA issue and knee surgery, Thomas returns to the field as a redshirt junior. During fourth-quarter drills, Thomas was seen leading his group and looks to be in excellent shape at 6-3, 222 lbs. Spring practice will answer any lingering questions that the coaches will have about his conditioning and desire to get back on the field. If he’s healthy, Thomas is likely the de-facto starter at linebacker alongside Ro’Derrick Hoskins and will be an important cog in Florida State’s defense.
  4. Who pushes for playing time at wide receiver?
    • With Bobo Wilson out until the end of spring, the time is ripe for someone to rise up and steal some playing time at wide receiver. Florida State signed a talented class in 2015, but none of the four contributed last season (which was expected). George Campbell was a five-star recruit in high school and flashed some of his abilities in limited playing time. If he can correct his issue with drops, he has all of the tools to have a breakout season. Auden Tate was another blue-chip recruit and is a red-zone weapon at 6-5, 218 lbs. It seems as if the coaching staff wanted to use Tate more before injuries ended his season so it will be interesting to see his role moving forward. Nyqwan Murray isn’t the biggest receiver at 5-11, 179 lbs., but got the most playing time out of any of the true freshmen last season. He is strictly a slot receiver and will push Kermit Whitfield for playing time this offseason. Finally, Ermon Lane and Ja’Vonn Harrison are both entering their junior seasons, neither having particularly contributed during their first two seasons. With the underclassmen pushing for snaps in the spring and a talented true freshman arriving over the summer, Lane and Harrison will need to work extra hard if they want to see the field this upcoming season.
  5. Can any of the three underclassmen win the quarterback job?
    • Sean Maguire ended last season as the starter, but suffered a horrific ankle injury in the Peach Bowl that will keep him out of spring practice. As such, a trio of talented underclassmen will have every opportunity to get a leg up on the job before Maguire returns. J.J. Consentino, a redshirt sophomore, will likely enter spring as the de-facto No. 1, due to his role as backup last season, but Deondre Francois and Malik Henry will be nipping at his heels. Consentino struggled when he saw the field last season and did nothing in the Peach Bowl to solidify his status as the first-stringer. Francois, a redshirt freshman, is a former blue-chip recruit and a player that most believe will be the starter when Florida State opens in Orlando versus Ole Miss. He has a lightning-quick release and is a more mobile quarterback than he is given credit for. Malik Henry, a true freshman, is an early enrollee and is at a serious disadvantage given that his competitors will know the playbook better than he. Henry is also very small at 6-3, 181 lbs. and will have to put in some serious time in the weight room this summer to bulk up. The quarterback competition this spring will be very interesting, given that coaches will be seeing all three options run with the first-stringers for the first time. While Francois seems to be the favorite at the moment, the job won’t be handed to him. All three underclassmen will have to compete with each other, and then with Maguire when he returns for fall camp.

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