The start of spring practice for Florida State is less than a week away and what everyone seems to be focused on is the new-look offense under coordinator Kendal Briles.
Head coach Willie Taggart brought Briles in to implement Briles’ version of Taggart’s “Gulf Coast Offense”. The Seminoles were dismal a season ago on the offensive side of the ball and hope that Briles’ proven track record translates into instant improvement.
Ultimately, the season will come down to how players perform on the field. Here’s a look at five FSU offensive players to watch this spring:
1. James Blackman, QB
There will be no quarterback controversy entering 2019 as the job belongs to redshirt sophomore James Blackman. After becoming the first FSU true freshman to start a game at quarterback in 32 years in 2017, Blackman made just one start last season behind Deondre Francois. Blackman proceeded to pass for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to NC State, but has fans hopeful about the future of the position. Although depth isn’t great in the backfield, Blackman will have a talented slew of skill players around him to distribute the ball to. While Blackman was recruited for his arm, he’s hardly immobile. How the new staff utilizes his skill set will be something to watch.
2. Khalan Laborn, RB
The MVP of last season’s spring game, running back Khalan Laborn had FSU fans foaming at the mouth to see what he could do in 2018. Unfortunately for Laborn, he suffered a kneecap injury in Week 2 that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. He caught one pass for 37 yards in his only touch of last season and is expected to share carries with Cam Akers. Although he’ll likely be limited, whether or not Laborn can return to form will be something to pay attention to this spring.
3. Keyshawn Helton, WR
This spot could also probably be occupied by either Tre’Shaun Harrison or Jordan Young, given their similar skill sets, but Keyshawn Helton was the most productive of the three a season ago. A speedster from Pensacola and the nephew of FSU legendary linebacker Derrick Brooks, Helton finished with 176 yards receiving and a touchdown a season ago. Given his raw speed, there are a number of ways that Briles and the new offensive staff could utilize Helton, Young and Harrison. Those three certainly allow for some offensive creativity.
4. Camren McDonald, TE
Tre’ McKitty performed admirably early last season and is expected to be the No. 1 tight end in 2019, but sophomore Cam McDonald’s versatility makes him an option to see plenty of the field. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, McDonald considers himself a receiver/tight end hybrid and will be a mismatch for opposing linebackers and safeties. McDonald has work to do as a blocker, but given the nature of FSU’s offensive line struggles a season ago, the Seminoles could again take a pass-heavy approach.
5. Dontae Lucas, G
An early enrollee and true freshman, guard Dontae Lucas will arrive in Tallahassee, hoping to play right away. The offensive line for FSU in 2018 was a complete mess and Lucas arrives with the hopes of fixing it. At 6-3 and 325 pounds, Lucas’ body is college-ready and the coaches really like his mean streak. With Arthur Williams, Alec Eberle and Derrick Kelly all graduating, virtually every position up front is up for grabs.