Florida State Football: Position-by-Position Spring Practice Preview

Alex SimsCorrespondent IIIMarch 6, 2014

Florida State Football: Position-by-Position Spring Practice Preview

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    After winning the 2013 national championship, the Florida State Seminoles will come back in 2014 with eyes on defending their title.

    The 'Noles will have to cope with several major losses, including departures of defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. 

    However, even with heavy losses, FSU will be among the best teams in college football. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will obviously be leading the way, but he won't be alone.

    Up ahead we'll break down the departures, returners and newcomers on each position unit, from Winston at quarterback to Roberto Aguayo at kicker.

    Spring Practice Opening: March 19

    Spring Game: April 12


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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Key Losses: Jacob Coker

    Key Returners: Jameis Winston, Sean Maguire

    Newcomers: JJ Cosentino*

    It's going to be a busy spring for Jameis Winston as he looks to help the Florida State baseball team on its road to the College World Series.

    That shouldn't matter too much, as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner won't be fighting for a starting job like he was last spring. There's no question who will be leading the FSU offense.

    With Jacob Coker transferring to Alabama, Sean Maguire will step up into the No. 2 role at quarterback.

    The Seminoles will also add 4-star signal-caller JJ Cosentino, but he won't be in Tallahassee for spring practice.

    Either way, with Winston at the helm, the 'Noles are all good at QB.

Running Back

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    Key Losses: Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr., Chad Abram

    Key Returners: Karlos Williams, Ryan Green, Mario Pender

    Newcomers: Dalvin Cook

    The strength of Florida State's running game last year was its depth. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams made up one of the most feared three-way rushing attacks in the country. The trio combined for 2,309 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns.

    That depth will take a major hit with the departures of Freeman and Wilder, but the Seminoles will still have plenty of talent at the position.

    Williams will return, as will speedster Ryan Green. He managed 179 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns as a freshman.

    They have already been joined by one of the top running back prospects in the nation, 5-star Dalvin Cook. An early enrollee, he was the top player from the state of Florida, the No. 2 running back and No. 13 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings. 

    Cook has the skills to contribute immediately in Tallahassee.

Receiver/Tight End

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    Phil Sears/Associated Press

    Key Losses: Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw

    Key Returners: Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary, Christian Green, Levonte "Kermit" Whitfield, Jesus Wilson

    Newcomers: Ermon Lane*, Travis Rudolph*

    Not many teams could survive the loss of two of their best receivers and hope to be just fine at the position.

    However, even with the departures of Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw (a combined 1,944 yards and 21 touchdowns), the Seminoles will have plenty of skill on the outside.

    Leading receiver Rashad Greene will be back, as will tight end Nick O'Leary, who will be one of the best players in the nation at his position. Several other contributors will look to take on bigger roles during the spring, including Christian Green, star returner Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson.

    The spring will be very important for those returners, as two talented recruits are joining for fall camp.

    Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph, both 5-stars, were two of FSU's top recruits from the 2014 class.

Offensive Line

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Key Losses: C Bryan Stork

    Key Returners: Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Tre' Jackson, Bobby Hart, Austin Barron

    Newcomers: Kareem Are, Roderick Johnson*, Chad Mavety*, Corey Martinez*

    Often times, one of the biggest turnover positions from national title-winning teams is the offensive line. That won't be the case for Florida State.

    Cameron Erving and Tre' Jackson will lead the offensive front once again after earning All-ACC honors. Erving was one of the team's surprise returners after being named first-team All-American.

    FSU will return four starters in all, including Josue Matias and Bobby Hart. The only departing starter is center Bryan Stork.

    His expected replacement is Austin Barron, who was No. 2 on the FSU depth chart at the position. He will be a senior next year and already has some starting experience.

    The Seminoles did an excellent job of adding depth to the offensive front as well, recruiting a new wave of talent. Junior college transfer Kareem Are is already enrolled and could contribute immediately.

Defensive Line

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Key Losses: Timmy Jernigan, Jacobbi McDaniel

    Key Returners: Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman, Chris Casher, Desmond Hollin, Nile Lawrence-Stample

    Newcomers: Derrick Nnadi*, Demarcus Christmas*, Lorenzo Featherston*

    Florida State's vaunted defensive line was one of the best position units on any team in the country last year. It could be just as feared next year, but it'll be on several players to make that happen.

    Depth isn't much of an issue, even with the losses of Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel.

    FSU will return a load of experience after rotating through several players in 2013.

    Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher are expected to lead the way, but it'll be a committee of defenders putting in work once again.

    The starting front should be hammered out in the spring, but several talented newcomers will join in the fall, including defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas and rush specialist Lorenzo Featherston. 


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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Key Losses: Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Dan Hicks

    Key Returners: Terrance Smith, Reggie Northrup, E.J. Levenberry, Ukeme Eligwe, Matthew Thomas

    Newcomers: Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh*, Delvin Purifoy*

    Florida State was loaded with experience and talent at the linebacker position last year, but it'll be left as the biggest position in question going into 2014.

    Leading tackler Telvin Smith will be the biggest loss. He amassed 90 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss and two sacks. He also pulled down three interceptions and recovered two fumbles.

    Redshirt junior Terrance Smith will likely have to fill his role in leading the linebacker corps, as Christian Jones and Dan Hicks are out.

    E.J. Levenberry, Reggie Northrup and Ukeme Eligwe were solid contributors last year, and they will have to take on even more responsibilities this season. Also, keep an eye on Matthew Thomas. He was highly touted out of the 2013 class and showed some good signs before suffering a season-ending injury last year.

    Of the newcomers, early enrollee Kain Daub is most likely to contribute right away.

Defensive Back

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Key Losses: Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks

    Key Returners: Jalen Ramsey, Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams, Nate Andrews, Tyler Hunter

    Newcomers: Trey Marshall

    Two very talented defensive backs, Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, will be gone from the Florida State secondary this year. 

    Joyner was one of the prime vocal leaders of the defense, and his presence will be missed as much as any player on the roster, while Brooks was one of the unit's best playmakers.

    Even with those two departing, FSU will have one of the more talented defensive backfields in the nation. Jalen Ramsey and Ronald Darby will be All-ACC (and perhaps even All-American) candidates.

    P.J. Williams should also return to his starting role. Nate Andrews will contribute as well, but also keep an eye on Tyler Hunter. He is one of the Seminoles' most promising young defensive backs, but his career has thus far been marred by injury, as ESPN's David Hale detailed. If he can stay healthy, he can have an enormous impact.

    Another player to watch in the spring is early enrollee 4-star safety Trey Marshall.

Special Teams

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Key Losses: PR Kenny Shaw

    Key Returners: K Roberto Aguayo, P Cason Beatty, KR Kermit Whitfield

    Newcomers: None

    It's always nice to have the best kicker in college football. As a redshirt freshman, Roberto Aguayo was 21-of-22 on field goals and a perfect 94-of-94 on extra points—enough to win the Lou Groza Award.

    Punter Cason Beatty will be back as well after averaging 41.1 yards per punt. If all goes well, he won't have to punt too often, but he's there and reliable if needed.

    While Kenny Shaw is gone, the speedy Kermit Whitfield will lead the return game after bringing two kicks back for touchdowns in 2013.

    Jesus Wilson and Dalvin Cook are possible contributors in the return game as well. Either way, FSU won't be at a shortage of speed in that department.

    Notes: All recruit ratings via 247Sports Composite Rankings. All newcomers marked with "*" will not be present for spring practice. All stats via Seminoles.com.