With the start of the 2019-20 athletic year still more than a month away, there’s not much to offer for “What to Watch For Wednesday”. Instead, we decided to switch it up this week to see how we did with prognostication articles for Florida State football, men’s basketball and baseball.
Examined will be a pair of joint pieces between Mike Ferguson and Clint Eiland with preview and predictions for FSU football and hoops and one piece by yours truly on FSU baseball players bound for a breakout season. Without further ado:
On Aug. 17, 2018, we gave our 2018 football preview and predictions. It’s safe to say that both of us overestimated the Seminoles as we predicted a 9-3 record with losses to Miami, Clemson and Notre Dame. While FSU did lose to those three schools, it also fell to Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State and Florida for its worst season in 42 years.
For “Offensive MVP”, we both selected running back Cam Akers. Akers did lead the Seminoles with 851 yards from scrimmage, but undoubtedly, the MVP for the Seminoles on that side of the football was wide receiver Tamorrion Terry.
For “Defensive MVP”, Clint nailed it with the selection of defensive end Brian Burns. Burns led the Seminoles 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles en route to being a first-round NFL Draft pick. My choice, cornerback Levonta Taylor, took a significant step back from his sophomore season while missing four games with a stress fracture.
For “Offensive Breakout” player, both of us selected running back Khalan Laborn. Laborn gained 37 yards on his only touch of the season before watching his 2018 campaign end in Week 2 with a kneecap injury.
For the “Defensive Breakout” category, Clint selected defensive end Joshua Kaindoh. Kaindoh finished with just three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss. My selection, Dontavious Jackson, ranked second on the team with a career-high 75 tackles, seven for loss and one interception. Hamsah Nasirildeen and Stanford Samuels III would have probably been better answers.
For “Most Glaring Question”, Clint and I were both spot on when we questioned the competency of the offensive line. That unit was one of the worst among Power 5 units. Offensive line coach Greg Frey, who had a lot on his plate, was relieved of his duties after just one season.
For “Bold Prediction”, Clint predicted that at least two freshman wide receivers would finish with at least 400 yards receiving. He was half-right, given that Terry was a redshirt freshman, who finished with a team-high tying 744 yards. The next best season for a freshman receiver was 176 yards for Keyshawn Helton.
I predicted that Terry and D.J. Matthews would be FSU’s top two receivers. Terry and Nyqwan Murray ended up tying for the team-lead with 744 yards receiving. Matthews was fourth with 382 yards receiving, but was second with 42 receptions behind only Murray.
For “Playoff Predictions”, both Clint and I were correct with Alabama and Clemson. Admittedly, I had the Crimson Tide topping the Tigers for the title. My other two playoff selections were Georgia and Penn State. Clint went with Washington and Michigan. The final two spots were ultimately occupied by Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
On Nov. 4, Clint and I collaborated to give our FSU basketball projections. Both of us correctly had FSU reaching the Sweet 16, but we weren’t optimistic enough. We each had the Seminoles finishing 25-11 overall and 11-7 in conference with one ACC Tournament win. FSU ended up setting new school-records with 29 total victories, 13 ACC wins and reached the ACC Championship for the third time in program history.
When it comes to “Offensive MVP”, Clint tabbed guard Trent Forrest while I went with Terance Mann. Mfiondu Kabengele was probably the best answer, but Mann ranked second in scoring, first in rebounding and second in assists. Forrest, battling turf toe, finished third in scoring for the Seminoles and led the team in assists.
For “Defensive MVP”, our selections were switched. Forrest led the team in steals by a wide margin, but Mann was a very good on-the-ball defender and the team’s top rebounder. Mann ranked fourth on the team in steals and third in blocks.
For “Breakout Player”, I nailed this one with the selection of Kabengele. Kabengele led the Seminoles in scoring with 13.2 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting and a team-high 56 blocks. Clint went with forward RaiQuan Gray, who averaged 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds after a redshirt season. Gray was tied for second on the squad with 29 total steals.
For our “Most Glaring Question”, Clint pondered if FSU could keep its focus and it did for the most part, although a 1-4 start to ACC play with losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College left much to be desired. I wanted to know if FSU could play elite defense as it did during its run to the Elite Eight the year prior. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Seminoles ranked 10th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency.
When it came to “Bold Prediction”, Clint pegged Kabengele as a top-3 scorer for the Seminoles. Kabengele wound up leading the team in that category. I predicted that Mann would be a first-team All-ACC performer. Not a single FSU player made an All-ACC team. Kabengele was named the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year.
Our only preseason baseball prognostication piece came from yours truly on Jan. 24 when I named five returning players in for a breakout season. The results for this one was pretty good as the list consisted of Reese Albert, J.C. Flowers, Conor Grady, Austin Pollock and Mike Salvatore.
The lone miss was probably Pollock, who posted a 10.22 ERA in 16 appearances.
Although a shoulder injury certainly complicated things, Albert’s improvements statistically were moderate. He raised his average by 15 points from .268 to .283 while hitting nine home runs compared to seven the year prior. He increased his RBI total by one from 34 to 35. While he did struggle in Omaha, the Seminoles may not reach the College World Series without his two home runs in the first game of the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
Flowers went from a sub-.230 hitter for his career to an All-American in 2019. Flowers set new career-highs with a .266 average, 13 home runs and 53 RBIs. Flowers had an even better season on the mound with a 1.69 ERA and ACC-best 13 saves after not pitching in either of his first two seasons. Flowers became the first FSU player in nine years with at least 10 homers and 10 saves in the same season. Oh, he also led the club with 11 stolen bases.
The other obvious hit on this list was infielder Mike Salvatore, who raised his average by nearly 100 points from .244 to a team-high .340. Salvatore led the ACC in hits with 90. He also finished with seven home runs, 55 runs scored and led the Seminoles with 23 doubles and four triples.
Conor Grady was the final selection. By the time all was said and done, Grady gave the Seminoles a solid Sunday starter and was outstanding in the NCAA Tournament. Among starters, Grady’s 3.64 ERA was the best for FSU. Grady struck out 71 hitters in 64.1 innings and his nine victories was second only to ace Drew Parrish.