Senior Seminoles

On Saturday, eleven scholarship seniors will take the field for the final time at Doak Campbell Stadium. Ten of them have been stalwart pieces to a defense that has been among the best in the country in each of their years. For one, a quarterback, this will be his final college game, a game that he might not even play in.

These are your seniors. Let’s take a moment to recognize them.

Terrance Smith’s contribution to Florida State is most noteworthy. He earned a starting job midway through the 2013 season and immediately became one of the bigger playmakers on the national championship squad. He paired with Telvin Smith to become one of the best linebacker tandems in college football and contributed to a defense that finished among the best in the nation. Injuries have limited his playing time, but there is no denying the impact that he has on Florida State’s defense. The NFL is surely in his future and Florida State fans will be hearing his name on Sundays in the near future.

Fellow linebacker Reggie Northrup has become a fan favorite for his robot dances and hard-hitting tackles. Northrup was a contributor to the 2013 national championship, the first linebacker off the bench, but earned a starting job last season and has been a vital part to the Seminoles’ success. Personally, my favorite memory of Reggie Northrup was seeing him make a huge tackle on a kickoff return that made the crowd burst into applause. He is a shorter linebacker and definitely has some limitations to his play, but there is no denying the heart that he plays with.

Did you know that Giorgio Newberry was on the field when Kelvin Benjamin caught the touchdown pass to win the national championship? Yes, Newberry spent the 2013 season as the backup tight end after Kevin Haplea went down with an injury in the preseason. Newberry didn’t make much of an impact that season, but his versatility and willingness to move positions has made him the epitome of a team player. He started at defensive end, moved to tight end, then back to the defensive line and is now a vital cog to this strong Seminole defensive front. He had made an unearthly transformation under defensive ends coach Brad Lawing and is playing himself into a draft pick at this point. Newberry’s name might not have been called a lot before this season, but the senior has quickly become one of the biggest playmakers on the defense.

Another emerging star is Javien Elliott. A former walk-on, Elliott earned a scholarship in the offseason for his hard work and competitive play on the scout team. But on a roster filled with blue chip players, Elliott wasn’t expected to compete for playing time at defensive back. In one of the most heart-warming stories surrounding Florida State football in a long time, Elliott proved everyone wrong and made an impact immediately when he came in during the Louisville game. He intercepted an errant pass and has been a starter on defense ever since. He is a smaller athlete, but plays like a man twice his size and with double the heart. Elliott’s impact on the defense has been astounding, making tackles for loss on bigger player and forcing fumbles despite his small frame. He has a bright future and I fully expect Elliott to make it with an NFL squad after his time in the garnet and gold is done.

Lamarcus Brutus wasn’t expected to make an impact this season either. He earned playing time in FSU’s dime packages in 2014, but burst onto the scene as a starting safety this season and hasn’t looked back. He is one of the leaders on the defense; the player assigned to call out the plays to the defense, and has been a force on the back end of the secondary. Brutus wasn’t the most highly recruited player in a Florida State secondary filled with four and five star players, but his contribution to the defense is one of the reasons why it is one of the best in the country.

One of the bigger playmakers on the 2012 squad, Tyler Hunter’s career was in jeopardy after a serious neck injury in 2013. But the senior safety didn’t give up on football and returned the following season to start all 14 games at safety. Hunter’s contribution to the defense this year has been somewhat limited, but there is no denying the impact he’s had on the team in years past. He sealed the win for the Seminoles on the road at Virginia Tech in 2012 with an interception, recovered a fumble on Miami’s first drive in 2014, and is the last player to return a punt for a touchdown in the 2012 game versus Duke.

Keelin Smith might not be a household name, but he has been a solid contributor as a defensive back coming off of the bench. He is best remembered for his impact in the 2014 ACC Championship against Georgia Tech when injuries gashed the defense. He made three tackles in that game and helped Florida State win their third consecutive ACC Championship.

Derrick Mitchell Jr. wasn’t expected to play major snaps in 2014, but injuries along the defensive front forced him into a starting role. Mitchell started 10 games at defensive tackle and was a vital cog in the Seminole squad that finished 13-1. A true team player, Mitchell continues to be an impact player on the defensive front this season and his impact in the 2014 season will never be overlooked by coaches and fans alike.

A key playmaker on the 2012 national championship team, Nile Lawrence-Stample has been a vital player along the defensive front and continues his spectacular performance this season. He suffered a pectoral muscle injury in 2014 and was expected to take a medical redshirt, but came back for bowl practice and was on the field in the Rose Bowl when Florida State took on Oregon. He is one of the leaders along the defensive line and has been one of the better defensive tackles to play at Florida State in recent years. The NFL will come calling and Lawrence-Stample is expected to be a draft pick come April.

The first time Everett Golson was in Doak Campbell Stadium, he was a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Now, Golson dons the garnet and gold and will be walking out with his teammates for senior day. Golson’s career has been unorthodox to say the least. He led Notre Dame to the national championship in 2012, was suspended the following season by Notre Dame, but returned in 2014. Golson was benched in favor of Malik Zaire, which made him transfer to Florida State in the offseason. This season, Golson’s play has been up and down but, as the only senior on a very young offense, his solid play and lack of turnovers were one of the major reasons why Florida State started with a 6-1 record. Golson will likely depart Florida State as the backup quarterback, but he will live on in fan’s memories for the plays he made with both his arms and legs and the amazing block he made in the Boston College game.

Finally, we get to Cason Beatty. The starting punter since day one on campus, Beatty has been a headache for Florida State fans for his low punting average and inability to flip the field for the Seminoles. However, Beatty has taken a major step forward this season and has put together some of the better performances in his career. In the Boston College game, a contest that Florida State narrowly won 14-0, Beatty punted seven times and averaged 52.3 yards per punt. He punted four times for a 50.0 average in their loss to Georgia Tech. Against Syracuse; Beatty hit 64-yard punt, only three yards shorter than his career long. Beatty has been the source of criticism for quite a while, but he is quickly turning into a fan favorite and will definitely go out on a high note for his remarkable turnaround at punter.

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