Florida State may not have won the 2013 national title without a pair of true freshmen.
Jalen Ramsey and Nate Andrews both started at defensive back and were key to a defense that was No. 1 in the nation against the pass. Ramsey started first at corner and then moved to safety, recording 49 tackles and an interception. Andrews added 35 tackles and ended up leading the team with four interceptions.
Which true freshman will have an impact for the Florida State football team in 2014? The roster is deep and experienced, but the most likely position where a newcomer could start would be at wide receiver.
FSU returns just one consistent, established receiver in senior Rashad Greene (76 catches, 1,128 yards, nine touchdowns). Senior tight end Nick O'Leary (33 catches, 557 yards, seven touchdowns) is the No. 2 returning pass-catcher, and he's improved each year at finding holes in defenses. But FSU needs more receivers to establish themselves, players who can be counted on to complement Greene and O'Leary.
The Seminoles have two seniors in Scooter Haggins and Christian Green. A trio of sophomores—Jesus Wilson, Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield—are also options.
But three true freshmen have arrived on campus in the past few weeks: Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Javon Harrison. All of them have begun learning the playbook and working with teammates during the summer, including seven-on-seven workouts.
Rudolph, considered by Rivals.com the top receiver in the nation, is 6'1'' and 185 pounds. The 5-star prospect not the tallest, but he is fast (4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash). Rudolph set the school records at West Palm Beach (Florida) Cardinal Newman with 1,237 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior. He's tough and physical, runs good routes and is able to turn short catches into big gains. He also has a 34-inch vertical.
"Rudolph is a player capable of making an instant impact," 247Sports analyst Chris Nee said.
Lane is 6'2'' and 180 pounds. The 4-star prospect is an instinctual receiver who uses his body to get an inside position on a corner and also goes up for the ball well (as indicated by a 36-inch vertical). Lane caught 31 passes for 605 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013 at Homestead (Florida) Senior.
Harrison is 6'1'' and 190 pounds. The 4-star prospect runs the 40 in 4.68 seconds (not elite speed) but makes up for it with a 33-inch vertical. He had 43 catches for 678 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior at Lakeland (Florida) Kathleen.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said all are taller, physical receivers but have the versatility to line up outside or inside.
"When you get three of them to be able to spread the field, inside guys, outside guys," Fisher said. "These guys are all big body guys. But big body guys that are outside guys that have the capabilities to go inside, which is very rare."
FSU fans can only hope that a few of the freshmen make an impact in 2014. And they will be mentored by Greene, who had one of the best seasons of any FSU freshman receiver when he had 38 catches for 596 yards and seven touchdowns in 2011.
"I've definitely been taking those guys under my wing," Greene said. "Teaching them the right things, how to run different routes and concepts. Giving them a head start on the playbook. We're definitely going to need those guys right away. I don't want anyone on this receiving corps to miss any steps going in to fall camp. I'm doing a great job at coaching those guys and those guys are doing a great job at wanting to be coached and wanting to learn."
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Stats are courtesy of seminoles.com and NCAA.com. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.