Florida State’s Offense in 2017

With spring practice right around the corner, there’s no better time to take a look ahead as to what Florida State’s offense could look like in 2017. The Seminoles will need to replace all-world running back Dalvin Cook and left tackle Roderick Johnson, two players that were vital to the success of the team over the past three years, but luckily they have recruited as well as any team in the country at those positions. This spring will be our first opportunity to see the young players on offense that will have a chance to step up and fill those roles.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about this offseason is that, for the first time in two years, there is no quarterback competition. Redshirt sophomore Deondre Francois is the unquestioned starter after a solid freshman campaign and will work this offseason to improve his chemistry with his receivers. Junior J.J. Cosentino will compete with early enrollee Bailey Hockman for the backup job this spring.

The conversation at running back is a lot more interesting. Junior Jacques Patrick returns after serving as Cook’s backup for the past two seasons, but he will be challenged by incoming freshmen Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn and Zaquandre White for carries. All three freshmen have the talent to be a workhorse back and will make the battles in practice that more interesting. Keep an eye out for sophomore Amir Rasul as well, a speedster who can take the top off of a defense on any given carry. Sophomore Gabe Nabers will likely step into the fullback role this year as well.

No one really expected Travis Rudolph to go pro, but Florida State has talent to replace his production. Luckily, juniors Auden Tate and Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray stepped up big time last year and are proven starters. Sophomores Keith Gavin and George Campbell will also have opportunities to play major snaps this year with the departure of Rudolph. Junior Da’Vante Phillips and freshmen D.J. Matthews and Tamorion Terry will also be in the rotation.

Offensive line might be the most polarizing position group this offseason. Rod Johnson departs, which leaves a hole to fill at left tackle. The guard positions were filled last year by young, but inconsistent, freshmen. Right tackle has been a literal revolving door of players for the past two seasons. Finally, center has had some stability, but the level of play that Florida State is currently getting from it can be improved.

So what will this offense look like in 2017? They have a lot of pieces, but how will they all fit together?

First and foremost, this is likely the first-team offense that will step onto the field when the Seminoles hit the practice field next month.

Florida State’s likely first-team offense to begin spring practice.

There’s a good chance that this is not the offense we will see when Florida State takes the field against Alabama, but this is likely the first-team offense heading into spring practice. Rick Leonard slides over from right tackle to left tackle to replace Rod Johnson, perhaps the original reason why the coaching staff moved him to offensive line in the first place. Brock Ruble steps in to fill the void at right tackle, a position he has over 10 starts at over the past two years. Cole Minshew, Alec Eberle and Landon Dickerson (assuming he has recovered from his ACL tear) fill out the remainder of the offensive line.

The skill position talent should not surprise anyone. Tate and Murray are locked in as starters and Keith Gavin takes over as the third wide receiver. Having Tate (6-5, 225-pounds) and Gavin (6-3, 225-pounds) on the outside gives Florida State two behemoths for Francois to throw to, not to mention Murray working from the slot. Patrick is the starter at running back, but expect Florida State to rotate the backs quite a bit next year. Finally, Izzo has been a mainstay at tight end for the past two seasons so don’t expect anything to change there.

But there are several other combinations of this offense that we could see in 2017. Let’s take a look at another.

Changes along the offensive line highlight this possible starting lineup.

Notice anything different?

Yes, there is some competition for jobs along the offensive line that could change how things shape out. Baveon Johnson, a redshirt freshman, was a highly-touted recruit out of high school and could challenge Eberle for the job at center, especially if Eberle misses time due to offseason surgery. Josh Ball, another redshirt freshman and highly-ranked recruit, could also push for the job at either right or left tackle.

Cam Akers, one of the highest-ranked recruits that Florida State has ever signed, will likely push for carries immediately this spring. It would not be a surprise to see him get the first carry against Alabama come September. George Campbell, who redshirted last season due to a core injury, is one of the most talented athletes on the team. Standing at 6-4, Campbell has 4.40 speed and is a rare combination of speed and size. Florida State’s offense would be explosive if they could team him up with Tate’s circus-catching ability and Murray’s reliability from the slot.

But we’re not done yet.

Could Da’Vante Phillips surprise everyone next season?

This one looks a bit different, right?

It is assumed that Rick Leonard will slide over to left tackle, but what if the coaching staff feels like he is best suited at right tackle? That would open the door for someone else, say redshirt freshman Jauan Williams, to earn the job at left tackle. Williams, Ball and even redshirt sophomore Abdul Bello will all likely see snaps at both tackle positions this offseason as they work to find the best combination.

Meanwhile, Andrew Boselli takes over at center. Boselli, the son of Jaguars great Tony Boselli, worked as the Seminoles’ backup center last year before redshirting. He might not have the raw talent that fellow freshman Baveon Johnson has, but you’d better bet that the son of Tony Boselli is ready to step into a starting job next season if given the opportunity.

Amir Rasul is a name that many people might not know, but the speedster from Miami has all the tools required to be a starting running back at the college level. Meanwhile, Da’Vante Phillips has quietly been a backup over the past two years, but Phillips, another native of Miami, has the skill set to be that third wide receiver for Florida State. At 6-1, 206-pounds, Phillips was a reliable blocker for Florida State last season as well.

One of the most popular formations on offense is the I-Formation, when Florida State brings in a fullback to run the ball down the throat of the opponent.

Florida State likes to play power ball in their offense.

With the departure of Freddie Stevenson, sophomore Gabe Nabers steps in at fullback. Listed at 6-3, 244-pounds, Nabers has every bit the size to line up at the position when Florida State wants to play some smash-mouth football. He also has the hands to catch it out of the backfield, which FSU did many times with Stevenson, as well as the ability to carry the ball in short-yardage situations.

In their I-Formation and Goal Line packages, Florida State has the option to keep Tate or Gavin on the field or check in tight end Mavin Saunders. A junior and former basketball player from the Bahamas, Saunders is a freak of an athlete that has been working on his blocking skills over the past couple of seasons. He has the talent to take major snaps if Florida State wants to work with more 2TE formations.

Finally, here is a look at what the second team offense will likely look like in 2017.

Florida State’s second-team offense in 2017.

The second-team offensive line will be made up of those freshmen who do not earn starting jobs, as well as some veteran players like David Robbins and Derrick Kelly at guard. Jeremy Kerr is a fifth-year tight end and Naseir Upshur is a player that they would like to continue developing at tight end since they already have Izzo and Saunders as established starters.

J.J. Cosentino will battle Bailey Hockman for the backup job this spring, but it is likely that Cosentino will see the snaps in garbage time in order to preserve Hockman’s redshirt. So far under Jimbo Fisher, no true freshman quarterback has seen the field. The skill position players will likely rotate in the second team as well and expect to see a bunch of true freshman in garbage time.

In conclusion, there are many different starting lineups that we could see from Florida State in 2017. With the quarterback position already figured out, Fisher and the coaching staff will have a much easier job this offseason building an offense to surround Deondre Francois as he enters his sophomore season. Having players like Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers on the roster will make replacing Dalvin Cook’s production much more realistic as well. This spring will tell us a lot about this Florida State squad and if they have the talent to compete for a national title next season.

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