The 2018 football season is one that virtually no Florida State fan will remember fondly.
The Seminoles finished just 5-7, suffered their first losing season since 1976 and missing a bowl game for the first time since 1981. Six of FSU’s seven losses came by at least 19 points and the other saw the program suffer its largest blown lead ever in a 28-27 loss at Miami after leading 27-7.
As bad as the losses were, Florida State was rarely impressive in its wins. The Seminoles needed late fourth-quarter comebacks just to beat Samford, an FCS program, and Louisville, a team that finished just 2-10 and without a win in ACC play. To add insult to injury, the Seminoles also drew criticism from their fan base and laughs from opposing fan bases when they unveiled a “turnover backpack”.
With the worst season in more than four decades in the rear view, it’s probably time for a re-branding in 2019. Although white numbers aren’t coming back to the home jerseys, it’s my contention that entering the year, head coach Willie Taggart and company should refer to themselves as the “Redeem Team”.
The moniker was used by the United States men’s basketball team in the 2008 Olympics. After settling for bronze in the 2004 Olympics, the U.S. went 8-0 in the 2008 Olympics with no contest decided by fewer than 21 points until a 118-107 victory over Spain in the Gold Medal Game.
The 2004 Olympics marked the first time that the United States failed to win the gold medal since NBA players were first allowed to participate in 1992. The 2004 team featured Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and a number of very young stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. The U.S. started the games in Athens with an embarrassing 92-73 loss to Puerto Rico before dropping a contest to Lithuania and ultimately, Argentina, in the semifinals.
The 2008 team consisted of a few of the same players with key additions to include Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams. While the FSU roster in 2019 consists of mostly returning players, there were some major changes to the coaching staff.
Although it’s been well-documented, Taggart seemingly upgraded with hirings of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans and offensive line coach Randy Clements. Moving former defensive ends coach Mark Snyder to special teams coordinator to replace Alonzo Hampton is also a move that should not be overlooked.
During the 2004 Olympics, James, Wade and Anthony all averaged 7.3 points per game or less. In 2008, those three were all among the five players on the team to average in double-figures scoring. Wade and James were the top two scorers with 16 and 15.5 points per game, respectively. Anthony averaged 11.5 points to rank fourth on the team.
While FSU in 2018 saw players such as Tamorrion Terry and Hamsah Nasirildeen have breakthrough seasons, there were other players who had considerable preseason hype, only to have disappointing campaigns.
After breaking the FSU freshman rushing record in 2017, running back Cam Akers never could get things going being a poor offensive line. After being one of college football’s lockdown defenders in 2017, cornerback Levonta Taylor took a significant step back while dealing with a stress fracture. Kicker Ricky Aguayo, who made 18 of 21 field goals as a sophomore in 2017, finished just 11-for-17 in 2018 — the worst percentage for an FSU starting kicker since Xavier Beitia in 2004. There was also widespread speculation that the best quarterback on the roster spent most of his time on the sidelines.
Those players are expected to play a big role in FSU’s success in 2019. For seniors like Taylor, Aguayo, Keith Gavin, Gabe Nabers, Dontavious Jackson, Kyle Meyers and Josh Brown, there is also a matter of pride at play.
When those players committed as part of the 2016 recruiting class, the departing class had set a record for wins over four years with a 49-6 mark, three ACC championships, four major bowl appearances and a national championship. Since 2016, FSU is 22-16. The Seminoles need eight wins in 2019 to avoid the fewest over a 4-year stretch since FSU won just 26 games from 1974-77.
Losing three games and failing to win the gold medal for the U.S. men’s basketball in 2004 seemed like rock bottom at the time. FSU football is coming off its worst year since before legendary Bobby Bowden became head coach in 1976 — something unimaginable just a couple years prior.
This isn’t to suggest that Florida State is likely to win a national championship or unseat Clemson in the ACC, but the 2019 squad has a chance to be the team that gets FSU as a program back on track with eight or more wins and a top-25 finish for the first time since 2016. With those in garnet and gold anxious to get the bad taste from last season out of their collective mouths, what’s the harm in a name?