Florida State Football: What to Expect from 'Noles Freshmen in 2014

Bob Ferrante@@bobferranteContributor IAugust 27, 2014

Travis Rudolph has quickly grasped the playbook and could see significant playing time for the Seminoles.
Travis Rudolph has quickly grasped the playbook and could see significant playing time for the Seminoles.247Sports

This is the time of year when all the time spent recruiting student-athletes pays off. Coaches are only as good as the recruits they bring to campus.

Then they must develop that talent and put players in game situations to see how they will fare (and possibly succeed).

Florida State University coach Jimbo Fisher has the luxury of utilizing a 2014 signing class that was ranked No. 4 by 247Sports. It's a group that included eight true freshmen on FSU's depth chart, which was released on Monday in advance of the Oklahoma State game.

"I don't think we had a bad area of camp as far as development of our younger players," Fisher said. "I've been pleased with all of those freshmen. They made a lot of developments."

Here's a look at the eight true freshmen on the depth chart and what they could contribute in 2014:


RB Dalvin Cook

Analysis: Florida's Mr. Football in 2013, Cook has been praised by Fisher in August for his physical running style and also his pass-blocking skills. The latter comment is a strong indicator of playing time; Fisher expects FSU's running backs to be proficient blockers, so the fact that he is able to stay on the field in passing situations will translate to plenty of opportunities. 

Cook and sophomore Mario Pender are vying for the No. 2 tailback job. Fisher likes to go with the "hot hand," so who gets more carries could be a game-by-game situation.

Prediction: Fisher loves to spread the carries among two backs. In 2013, Devonta Freeman (173), Williams (91) and James Wilder Jr. (81) shared the carries. So expect Williams to get a Freeman-like share of the rushes and for Cook and Pender to have 80-90 carries apiece. 


WR Ja'Vonn Harrison 

Analysis: Harrison is often the forgotten receiver, overlooked at times because of 5-star prospects Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. But Harrison is 6'2'', 200 pounds and has distinguished himself as someone who can contribute.

"Nobody really talks about him much," senior receiver Scooter Haggins said. "He has the ability. You can see it in practice. He's smart. The way he's learning and how fast he is learning jumped out at me."

Prediction: Harrison will find playing time on special teams and at wide receiver late in games. With receiver Isaiah Jones declared academically ineligible, it opens up another spot for another wideout to contribute. Jones' misfortune could lead to more playing time for Harrison.


LT Roderick Johnson

Analysis: At 6'7'' and 330 pounds, Johnson is a massive yet athletic left tackle. He will apprentice under Cameron Erving, who is considered one of the nation's top left tackles. It's a perfect situation for FSU and Johnson. There's no reason to play Erving late in blowouts, and Johnson is an ideal option for the Seminoles to use with the second-team offense.

Prediction: Johnson will play often in the fourth quarter of games. It's great preparation for 2015, when he will likely start.


WR Ermon Lane

Analysis: Lane is 6'3'', 205 pounds and is technically the tallest receiver who will suit up for FSU in 2014 (Jones is 6'4'', and a large group of receivers are 6'2''). He's fast, physical and a good route-runner. Travis Rudolph and Lane are co-backups to Christian Green. Lane isn't as far along as Rudolph in terms of his grasp of the offense, but Lane's playing time will gradually increase as the year goes on.

Prediction: Lane will earn playing time in the second half of games. The experience will help him as he looks to develop into a starter in 2015 (Rashad Greene and Green will have graduated).


S Trey Marshall

Analysis: Fisher has consistently praised the versatile Marshall, who enrolled early and has quickly absorbed the defense. Marshall is a fast, physical safety in a secondary that is very deep. "That guy is going to be a heck of a football player," Fisher said. "We will find ways to get Marshall on the field."

Prediction: Marshall will likely see playing time as the dime (sixth) defensive back, similar to how Nate Andrews was used as a freshman in 2013.


LB Jacob Pugh 

Analysis: Pugh is just 235 pounds but is athletic and strong. "Jacob Pugh is doing a heck of a job," Fisher said. "I've been really pleased." 

Pugh will find that one-on-one matchups against ACC right tackles will be challenging, but will be experience for the future. He will need to learn to keep running backs contained and not let them bounce off tackles and find the open field.

Prediction: FSU likes to rotate its pass-rushers. It's fair to expect that he will be productive, accumulating some tackles and making a few sacks.


WR Travis Rudolph

Analysis: Fisher hasn't been able to contain his enthusiasm about the 6'2'', 190-pound Rudolph. He's a well-rounded receiver with no weakness and just needs more practice and playing time to refine his skills. 

"You talk about a guy who is very mature way beyond his years," Fisher said. "He has a little setback with the foot, but he’s back to full speed. He knows three or four positions. He can play the slot on both sides, he can play outside at X and Z. That is extremely rare for a guy that young."

Prediction: Rudolph may not start but will see plenty of playing time. His versatility means he could be used in three- and four-receiver sets, so there will be plenty of opportunities to make catches. For comparison, Rashad Greene had 38 catches in nine games as a freshman in 2011. Rudolph should enjoy similar success, especially over the course of a season that could be between 12 and 15 games.


FB Johnathan Vickers

Analysis: While Vickers is listed as the No. 2 fullback behind sophomore Freddie Stevenson, he likely won't play much until late in games. Stevenson will earn the majority of the playing time, and Fisher also likes to use defensive tackles as fullbacks to provide extra muscle on 3rd-and-1 or goal-line situations.

Prediction: Vickers will pick up some fourth-quarter carries and also a couple touchdowns.


Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats and bio information from FSU media guide or game notes. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


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