TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State’s 2014 football roster is littered with household names and national-awards candidates. But who are the ‘Noles the nation doesn’t yet know about who could soon make a mark on the college football world?
Jameis Winston, Roberto Aguayo and Jalen Ramsey were just unproven players a year ago before becoming stars and helping lead FSU to its third national championship.
If the Seminoles want to go wire to wire and win a fourth crown, DeMarcus Walker, Dalvin Cook and Nate Andrews could each soon generate their own star power and play integral roles in a title quest that starts Saturday in Arlington against Oklahoma State.
Even though Walker isn’t listed as a starter on the 3-4 defense two-deep depth chart released Monday afternoon by the Florida State Sports Information Office, the sophomore defensive end is technically viewed as a starter in a pass-rushing rotation that also features Mario Edwards, Jr. and Chris Casher.
“[Walker] had one of the best camps out of any player,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Monday in his first weekly press conference of the season. “[He’s] extremely quick, [his] weight was down just a hair, but his lean muscle mass went up quick, agility, power, consistency, I thought he had a tremendous [camp]. He’ll have a huge role for us. He’s like a starter right now—could start in two seconds.”
As a true freshman last year, Walker started in the opener at Pittsburgh before starting two more games and playing in 12 contests. He finished the season with 18 tackles and a sack.
Across the line of scrimmage, senior Karlos Williams is Florida State’s first-string tailback and considered by some to be a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate. But that doesn’t mean the true-freshman Cook can’t make a big impact in his first year.
A 5-star prospect and the No. 1 player in Florida in the 2014 class according to 247Sports, Cook enrolled early at Florida State but missed nearly all of spring practices after having shoulder surgery. Throughout fall camp, though, the 6'0", 200-pound rusher has shown no ill signs of the setback, instead looking every bit the elite, game-changing prospect FSU’s coaches expected him to be coming out of Miami Central High School.
Cook’s speed, balance, vision and strength have been on display throughout FSU’s practices. He entered camp No. 4 on the tailback depth chart but passed sophomore Ryan Green after the latter sustained a minor hamstring injury and has readily pushed redshirt sophomore Mario Pender for the No. 2 role. Entering the opener, both Cook and Pender are listed as co-No. 2 on the depth chart.
In the Seminoles’ final scrimmage before Oklahoma State game preparations began, Cook impressed the coaching staff.
“He looked really good,” Fisher said. “He made a lot of good plays and caught the ball…ran inside and outside. Very disciplined in his running. He read his cuts, understood the blocking schemes—where he wanted to be and how he wanted to be there and really took care of the football.”
No matter where Cook is positioned on the depth chart, he’s going to play and should make his mark; Fisher’s offenses traditionally feature multiple tailback at-bats, and the Seminoles’ could utilize a two-back formation that sees Cook in the game at the same time with Williams or Pender.
Cook is also in the mix for kick-return duties behind incumbents Williams and Kermit Whitfield.
As for Andrews, the true sophomore safety was often overlooked in 2013 while his classmate Ramsey drew national praise for his early value and importance to the defense. But the Fairhope, Ala. native was also a solid contributor as a rookie, playing in all 14 games and starting one.
Andrews actually led the ‘Noles with four interceptions despite playing in a secondary with Ramsey, future NFL draft picks Terrence Brooks and Lamarcus Joyner and perhaps college football’s best cornerback duo in P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.
Andrews’ quick grasp of FSU’s defensive responsibilities made him a key part FSU's effectiveness on that side of the ball and helped him grab hold of Brooks’ vacated starting safety spot entering the 2014 season—despite the fact he missed spring practices with an injury.
“Nate is a really smart player,” redshirt junior linebacker linebacker Terrance Smith said at FSU’s medic day earlier this month. “He knows where he needs to be on each play to make an impact.”
On a team full of big names with big-play ability, Andrews—like Cook and Walker—could become one of the reigning champs’ best players in 2014.
Brandon Mellor is a Florida State writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics courtesy of Seminoles.com. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
Follow @BrandonMellor on Twitter.