The Daily Nole

FSU Football: 2016 Season Awards athletics

With all three of the major sports wrapping up for Florida State, fans now enter the summer doldrums of sports. The only teams left playing are professional ones in Major League Baseball (or the Canadian Football League, if you’re into that).

This is not an ideal situation for those whose teams are stuck in a constant state of “bad”. All that remains for fans of FSU athletics is speculation and looking back on the success of the 2016-17 teams.

That isn’t hard to do. Florida State’s list of recent accomplishments in sports is astounding. From a major bowl game, to the College World Series, to the NCAA Tournament, both men’s and women’s teams were competitive at the national level. Some will be disappointed by the lack of national titles in sports like football and baseball, but those simply don’t come around often.

Here’s the good news: there’s only about two months until football kicks off again on Sept. 2. The 2016 season didn’t pan out like most thought it would, but going 10-3 with an Orange Bowl victory and wins over Florida and Miami means that FSU has a very high floor. That’s probably why 2017 expectations are still set pretty high.

For now, let’s look back at that 2016 season. Even amidst the losses and frustration, there were clear bright spots and performances that brought Seminole fans to their feet. We here at The Daily Nole got together again and decided to give out 2016 season awards.

We had a similar piece last year, which can be read here. For all FSU team sports, our writers will be getting together and nominating who we think deserve recognition among seven categories that we’ve agreed upon.

The seven are: Overall Team MVP, Biggest Surprise, Play of the Year, Best Performance, Freshman of the Year, Senior of the Year, and Most Left to Prove. After each designation, we’ll have a short paragraph explaining our choices.

The first sport up: football. Participating in this installment will be lead staff writer Clint Eiland, editor Mike Ferguson, and contributor Brandon Eisenman.

Team MVP

Clint, Mike, Brandon: Dalvin Cook leaves Tallahassee as the greatest FSU running back of all-time. A large part of that is rooted in his 2016 season, when he unleashed a string of dominating performances that left crowds with their jaws on the floor. His explosive running style led to nine games with at least 100 yards rushing, five of 150-plus yards, and two of 200-plus yards. It all added up to a 1,765-yard rushing season, along with 19 rushing touchdowns, 488 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown. It was an absolute blast to watch.

Biggest Surprise

Clint, Mike: Nyqwan Murray didn’t emerge until Jesus Wilson went down with a midseason foot injury, but boy, did he make fans forget about any wide receiver depth issues. Murray proved to be a very quick and very reliable slot receiver that could burn even the best of cornerbacks. He finished the year with 27 receptions for 441 yards and five touchdowns.

Brandon: Deondre Francois was a true wild card heading into 2016. No one could definitively say if he would pick up head coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense in time to have a successful redshirt freshman season. He quickly put those concerns aside en route to a 3,548-total yard, 25-total touchdown season. He showed a ton of poise and grit that is unusual for players as young as him. Fans are hoping he can improve even more heading into next year.

Play of the Year

Clint: Dalvin Cook’s 3rd-and-22 run against Michigan encapsulates everything that made Cook a legend at Florida State. The quickness, the top end speed, the vision, everything about it just highlights his talent. This run came at a pivotal moment for the Seminoles and allowed them to score another touchdown against the vaunted Wolverines’ defense. Later plays may have overshadowed it, but this incredible 71-yard run helped FSU immensely in the Orange Bowl thriller.

Mike: The “Block at the Rock” against Miami was yet another edition of special teams plays deciding who would win. Thankfully for FSU, luck was on its side that night. After FSU had given up the potential game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter, many Seminole fans were expecting an overtime edition of the storied rivalry. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker disagreed. He pushed through the left side of the line and got his arm up in time to block the point after. The result? A 20-19 FSU victory in the newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium.

Brandon: Francois’ game winning touchdown to Murray against Michigan preserved one of the hardest fought wins of the Fisher era. With the Seminoles down 30-27 and threatening inside Michigan’s 15-yard-line, Fisher drew up a play that matched Murray with one of the best cornerbacks in the nation in Jourdan Lewis. Winner: Murray. Francois placed the ball almost perfectly and allowed his receiver to make a play.

Best Performance

Clint: Dalvin Cook vs. Clemson happened to be a loss for FSU. But it wasn’t because of Cook. He singlehandedly took over the game and had the Clemson defense rethinking what type of angles are required to tackle him. It was an absolutely masterful performance at the running back position. Cook had 19 rush attempts for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

Mike: Deondre Francois vs. Ole Miss was about the best you could ask for from a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first career start. Francois lit up the Rebels defense for 419 passing yards, 59 rushing yards, and two passing touchdowns. On a night where the Seminoles struggled to keep up in the first half, Francois was a constant that ultimately helped lead FSU to a thrilling 45-34 comeback victory.

Brandon: Dalvin Cook vs. Syracuse saw Florida State’s greatest running back assume the top spot in the record books. With 225 rushing yards and four touchdowns, Cook became the Seminoles’ all-time leading rusher and tied for career rushing touchdowns. After years of dominating the conference, it was nice to see Cook have such a monumental performance in the final ACC game of his career.

Freshman of the Year

Clint, Mike, Brandon: Deondre Francois certainly has some areas of his game to work on, but starting as a redshirt freshman and helping propel the offense to a top 5 finish is incredible. Throwing for over 3,300 yards and 20 touchdowns is no small feat, and if he stays the course into next season, Francois is going to be a legitimate All-American candidate.

Senior of the Year

Clint, Mike, Brandon: DeMarcus Walker returning for his senior year happened to be one of the best decisions he ever made. Not only did Walker cement his place in FSU history with a ridiculous 16.5-sack season, but he also helped his draft stock and transformed to a second round selection. The 2016 ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and Consensus All-American honors were well-deserved. Few could ask for a better end to his Seminole career.

Most Left to Prove

Clint: Josh Sweat is on the cusp of taking the next step. He still made a considerable impact last year and was a good defensive end all things considered. But his quickness off the line and his finishing ability were still works in progress. 2017 is now his “money year” as Sweat looks to finally live up to the billing he once had as a recruit. If any of the reports that came out of practice were true, Sweat is going to be a force next season.

Mike: Deondre Francois had a great 2016. But his weaknesses from this past year will now be under a microscope. His completion percentage dropped under 50 percent three different times, and his general accuracy left much to be desired. He also held on to the ball for too long in the pocket, leading to a number of hard hits and sacks. Now he loses his leading rusher and leading receiver, and will also see a reshuffled offensive line. Francois needs to set out to prove that his first season was no fluke and that he can develop into an even better quarterback.

Brandon: Running back Jacques Patrick has now been with the team for two years. No one should have expected him to surpass Dalvin Cook on the depth chart, but he needs to become a reliable 10-plus carry per game back for the upcoming 2017 season. He is one of the most veteran players at the position who showed great promise in limited reps. With Cook gone and Cam Akers presumably right with him on the depth chart, Patrick will need to give it his all in 2017.

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