The Florida State Seminoles are the final BCS National Champions, and they have to be the early front-runners for next year's title as well.
It's tough to repeat in any sport. It's probably even harder in the realm of collegiate athletics, but with 2013 Heisman Trophy candidate, Jameis Winston, head coach Jimbo Fisher and a talented core returning, the 'Noles are looking pretty good for the 2014 season.
Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports isn't ready to call them the favorites, but he thinks they will at least be very tough to beat. He writes:
With four spots available for a playoff spot next season, Florida State should start high enough in the rankings to put themselves in a good position to grab one of the spots. Can they be as dominant as they were on a weekly basis in 2014? The odds would suggest not, but they will still be a darn tough team for most teams to beat.
Here's a look at the 'Noles on both sides of the ball next season.
Turnovers on the offensive side of the ball could be an issue for the Seminoles in 2014. Junior offensive lineman Cameron Erving, one of three junior running backs (James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams) and junior tight end Nick O'Leary could leave the team for the NFL.
Senior receiver Kenny Shaw and center Bryan Stork are surely gone, but the Seminoles will still have protection and weapons to boost Winston.
Junior wide receiver Rashad Greene should be back. He and sophomore Kelvin Benjamin will be the leaders of a fierce and experienced receiving corps. Freshman Levonte Whitfield is very dynamic, and he proved that with his 100-yard kickoff return in the BCS title game.
It seems only a matter of time before he becomes a consistent playmaker from the line of scrimmage, as well as on special teams.
Perhaps not all three junior running backs will bolt. Whomever stays will likely be the feature back for Florida State in 2014.
The offensive line is one of the biggest concerns. The Seminoles allowed more than two sacks per game this season. In the first half against Auburn, Winston was under durress.
If Erving joins Stork in the NFL, it will make the job of protecting Winston harder.
That being said, Florida State has players who are seemingly capable of stepping in for Stork and Erving—should he leave.
Juniors Tre' Jackson and Austin Barron are likely to return. That duo combined with sophomore Ruben Carter will help to maintain the chemistry of the unit.
The Seminoles' defense was nasty in 2013. They had the third-ranked defense in the nation this season.
An already stellar unit could be even better next season. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and third-year linebacker, Christian Jones are probably going to the next level, but Florida State is deep, athletic and well coached.
Underclassmen like Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards Jr., Terrance Smith and Ukeme Eligwe are superstars waiting to explode. That group combined for 8.5 sacks heading into the title game. Based on pure potential, they have the talent to make Florida State even tougher to beat in 2014.
Jimbo is Back
The Seminoles were able to accomplish everything they did this season in large part due to the direction of Fisher. With the 48-year-old signing an extension to remain the Seminoles head coach for at least three more years, the future looks especially bright for Florida State.
Fisher has built this program to withstand the attrition. He told Bob Ferrante of Fox Sports:
We had 11 guys drafted last year, 14 guys signed pro contracts. We're able to come back with the senior leadership and some young guys that incorporate the program and our assistant coaches. And that's what we want. We want to be a program, not a team.
Per 247 Sports, the 'Noles have the fourth-best recruiting class this year. Expect to see the program stay in the top five or higher for the next three to five years—at least.
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