Exactly one month now separates us from the start of Florida State football. The Seminoles will get fall camp started on Friday.
Following a 5-7 season, the big story line of the preseason will be the offense. Head coach Willie Taggart made three staff changes on that side of the ball this offseason with additions of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans and offensive line coach Randy Clements.
The quarterback job is expected to be redshirt sophomore James Blackman’s to lose, but the staff is high on Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook. Whoever the starter is will have a slew of talented skill players around them, including running backs Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn and wide receiver Tamorrion Terry.
There will be a number of wide receivers looking for reps alongside and opposite of Terry. Senior Keith Gavin and junior D.J. Matthews will bring experience to the unit. A number of youngsters including Tre’Shaun Harrison, Jordan Young, Keyshawn Helton, Warren Thompson and D’Marcus Adams will look to make an impact this season. The Seminoles also seem in pretty good shape at the tight end position with Tre’ McKitty and Camren McDonald expected to be the top two players.
The biggest question mark for the Seminoles will be the offensive line. Mike Arnold, Abdul Bello, Cole Minshew, Brady Scott and Jauan Williams all return after starting multiple games last season for one of the worst position groups in the nation.
Redshirt junior Baveon Johnson is expected to be the starting center. Also thought to be in the mix for reps this season are redshirt freshmen Christian Armstrong and Christian Meadows, Northern Illinois transfer Ryan Roberts, junior college transfer Jay Williams and true freshman Dontae Lucas.
Defensively, FSU will have to find a way to replace Brian Burns up front. A first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, Burns led the Seminoles last season with 10 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
On the edge, Janarius Robinson and Joshua Kaindoh, both juniors, will try to live up their billings as prospects. The Seminoles brought in four freshmen at the position and will likely move junior Leonard Warner over from linebacker to help generate a pass rush. At defensive tackle, FSU looks to be in pretty good shape with Marvin Wilson headlining the group along with Robert Cooper and Cory Durden.
At linebacker, it will be a “show me” year for a number of veterans. Dontavious Jackson is the leader of the group with DeCalon Brooks, a redshirt sophomore, having gained valuable experience last season. Fourth-year players Josh Brown, Adonis Thomas and Emmett Rice are hoping to finally make meaningful contributions while youngsters like Amari Gainer and true freshmen Kalen DeLoach and Jaleel McRae hope to crack the lineup.
Despite allowing more points per game than any FSU team in history, the Seminoles have a secondary that could be one of the deepest in the country. At cornerback Levonta Taylor hopes to return to form after batting a stress fracture as a junior last season. Aside from the senior from Virginia Beach, FSU has a nice mix of veterans and talented youth at corner to include Kyle Meyers, Carlos Becker, Stanford Samuels III, Asante Samuel, Jr., A.J. Lytton, Isaiah Bolden and incoming freshmen Akeem Dent and Travis Jay.
Jay, Becker, Taylor, Bolden and Samuels could be safety-hybrids at a position where the Seminoles already have a couple hybrids in 2018 Freshman All-American Jaiden Lars-Woodbey and leading tackler Hamsah Nasirildeen. Cyrus Fagan, a junior, and true freshman Brendan Gant could also make an impact deep in the defensive backfield in 2019.
In an effort to bolster a porous special teams, last season’s defensive ends coach Mark Snyder was tabbed to replace Alonzo Hampton as the unit’s coordinator. Kicker Ricky Aguayo and punter Logan Tyler are each 4-year starters, but Aguayo did have an extremely disappointing junior year. He could find himself battling freshman Ryan Fitzgerald. In the return game, Matthews is one to watch.
Fresh off its worst season in more than four decades, the Seminoles will open the 2019 campaign on Aug. 31 in Jacksonville against a Boise State team that won 10 games a season ago. The Seminoles play their home opener against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 7 and open ACC play at Virginia a week later. Other notable contests for 2019 include trips to Clemson on Oct. 12 and Florida on Nov. 30. FSU hosts Syracuse on Oct. 26 and Miami one week later on Nov. 2.