The FSU Seminoles spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to follow leading up to the team’s spring game on April 8.
Florida State was knocked out of the College Football Playoff race fairly early in the 2016 college football season, but the Seminoles didn’t pack it in and ended the year on a high note.
Jimbo Fisher’s program is coming off of a 10-3 campaign, including an Orange Bowl win over Michigan. However, most college football fans probably remember FSU’s 2016 season more for the beat down delivered by Louisville, a game that really put Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign in the spotlight, than anything else.
The ‘Noles were comfortable as the king of the ACC, but now they are chasing two-time defending league champion Clemson. Good thing for FSU that talent is never the problem in Tallahassee, so the Nov. 11 showdown with the Tigers could determine the winner of the Atlantic division. What was a problem last year was consistency, as the ‘Noles looked very good at times yet very mediocre at others.
With spring football just around the corner, let’s take a look at the biggest questions facing the Seminoles as they get set to prepare for their spring game on April 8 at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium as well as the 2017 campaign.
FSU Seminoles Spring Practice Storylines
1. Further development of Deondre Francois
Francois showed his toughness from Day 1 as the starter last season, as he was beat up almost from the get-go in the season opener against Ole Miss. FSU’s shoddy offensive line play was one of the reasons why the ‘Noles fell out of the CFP race so early. Still, Francois was helped by his surrounding playmakers last fall, such as star tailback Dalvin Cook. Now, however, more will be on the plate of the redshirt sophomore. He will need to be the leader of the offense and help out an O-Line that loses left tackle Rod Johnson as well as three new primary receivers. Those were two units that had some issues in 2016. Fisher and Co. are hoping that the line will become cohesive before the start of the season and another receiving weapon emerges to help out Nyqwan Murray, who provides an explosive presence on the outside. Against the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl, he had a 92-yard touchdown reception as well as the game-winning score. The bottom line, though, is that Francois must remain upright, as he took a number of hits—especially against Clemson—last season.
2. Derwin James
It was a shame that college football fans were unable to watch James play for essentially the entire season in 2016. The safety underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, an injury that occurred in an early September game against FCS foe Charleston Southern. The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder entered last season as one of the best defensive backs in the entire nation, so his absence was a big reason why the FSU defense was so disappointing for most of the year. The ‘Noles gave up a lot of yards down the middle of the field against the pass in ’16, and it was no coincidence. James is also an accomplished pass rusher, so his return to the lineup immediately makes the defense much better. The ‘Noles have a much better situation at safety now with a healthy James, Nate Andrews, Trey Marshall and Ermon Lane. Expect far less coverage breakdowns in 2017 for Fisher and Co.
3. Nasty D-Line
Dabo Swinney, Brent Venables and Clemson have been fielding SEC-type defensive lines during their back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances. In 2017, FSU should have a nasty defensive line that can give opposing offenses—including Clemson’s—many problems. Derrick Nnadi is an elite interior presence, while Brian Burns and Josh Sweat are a lethal defensive end combo. Getting to the quarterback has never been more important in today’s game, and the ‘Noles should not have that problem in the fall. The prep work begins in the spring, though, especially when Clemson is the new standard-bearer.