The Daily Nole

FSU Football: Five Bold Post-Spring Predictions for 2016

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

Spring football is over for Florida State and the 2016 Labor Day opener against Ole Miss is less than five months away. Fall practice is still to come and there is a lot that can happen throughout the course of an offseason. Based on what took place during the spring however, here are five bold predictions for the upcoming season:

1. Deondre Francois Will Start at QB Against Ole Miss
The quarterback competition was the headline story of the spring and with redshirt senior Sean Maguire out, redshirt freshman Deondre Francois seems to have emerged as the guy for the Seminoles. Francois has won the respect of his teammates and passed for 246 yards in the spring game and two touchdowns. Francois did have a pair of ill-advised interceptions, but showed great poise, good accuracy and a strong arm. Francois also brings an added dimension with his legs. The quarterback competition could still go either way, but momentum seems to be on the side of Francois.

2. Auden Tate Will Rank in the Top 3 for FSU in TD Receptions
There was much to feel good about across the board during last weekend’s FSU spring game, but among FSU’s corps of young, big receivers, sophomore Auden Tate shone brightest. Tate finished the spring game with six catches for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns — all game-highs. Junior Travis Rudolph will still likely be Florida State’s No. 1 receiver and Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson will still be key pieces, but at 6-5 and nearly 220 pounds, Tate will become the red zone target that FSU sorely lacked a season ago. George Campbell, Ermon Lane and Ja’Vonn Harrison are all big targets themselves, but it was Tate who stood out most during the spring.

3. Production from Tight Ends Will Double
Most are aware that FSU has a lot of scholarship wide receivers, but the other pass-catching position is deep, also. Last season, FSU tight ends combined for 21 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders each played well in Saturday’s spring game as the two combined for eight receptions and 91 yards. Chris Casher added a catch for 11 yards in his debut after moving from defensive end. The line of tight ends however, doesn’t stop there. Incoming freshman Naseir Upshur and redshirt freshman Jalen Wilkerson were each highly-recruited targets out of high school and could be in the mix. Jeremy Kerr is the veteran of the group.

4. FSU Will Have One of the Best Secondaries in the Country
Few programs could lose a top 5 pick early to the NFL Draft and actually improve in coverage, but that’s what the Seminoles can do in 2016. Sophomore safety Derwin James made a huge impact as a freshman a season ago, but the young talent around him is off the charts. Sophomores A.J. Westbrook, Marcus Lewis, Tarvarus McFadden and Calvin Brewton are all extremely talented while incoming cornerback Levonta Taylor was one of the best high school players in the country last season. As talented as the young players are in the secondary, FSU has a nice mix of veterans as well. Marquez White, a senior, shined in his first season as a starter at cornerback in 2015 while Nate Andrews and Trey Marshall bring big game experience.

5. FSU Will Have More Sacks, but DeMarcus Walker’s Numbers Will Decrease
The area Florida State improved most last season was clearly when it came to pressuring the quarterback. After just 17 sacks in 2014, the Seminoles got to the opposing passer nearly twice as often a season ago, finishing with 32 sacks. A big reason for the turnaround was junior defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Walker led FSU with 10.5 sacks after recording just one the season before. Walker could have an even better season as a senior in 2016, but don’t rubber stamp his numbers increasing. With Demarcus Christmas, Josh Sweat and Derrick Nnadi all bigger, stronger and more experienced, the sack numbers should increase across the board. Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly also seemed compelled to use Derwin James more as a pass-rusher and there aren’t many who will beat him to the quarterback.

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