The Daily Nole

Future Musings: How Many Current FSU Starters Will Get Replaced in 2019?

Jeremy Esbrandt/D'Vel Photography/FSU athletics

Suffice to say, an influx of talent will not fix every problem with Florida State football. But it is still the No. 1 reason that positions like offensive line and linebacker continue to struggle — so much so that they drag the other groups down with them.

The team that steps on to the field in 2019 will look radically different than the one currently out there. In addition to the recruiting class, there are some players redshirting this year who will be in the thick of position battles come next season. Add in seniors and early NFL departures, and the Seminoles will be ready to move on from the 2018 squad.

How many of the current starters will be included in that list of changes? Using what we have heard from various sources, our own observations, and other criteria, we broke it down by position group below.

An obvious complication with this exercise is the definition of a “starter”. Various starters for FSU have gotten injured or already replaced. Add in some intentional snap reductions, and a few positions are in a state of flux. We have attempted to be consistent with our assessments and elaborate wherever we could. There is naturally going to be some grey area.

Offensive Line: 3

Rejoice (or revolt), Seminole fans. Florida State is guaranteed to lose two starters in center Alec Eberle and guard/tackle Derrick Kelly, and it is unclear if Landon Dickerson will return for another season. Even assuming he comes back, Florida State needs a different answer at the opposing guard spot. Cole Minshew will almost certainly return for 2019 (but he is currently injured and may miss even more time). Right now it is a rotating door of Arthur Williams, Mike Arnold, and Baveon Johnson, with none inspiring confidence.

The most likely options are incoming guard Dontae Lucas or offensive linemen Christian Armstrong and Christian Meadows. Armstrong and Meadows needed redshirt years in 2018, but the staff likes the raw power in each player. Armstrong could also shift out to tackle if needed.

Speaking of offensive tackle, that is another position on the line which will see a legitimate camp battle. Brady Scott is a fine depth option, but he should not be the best offensive tackle on the field for FSU. A mix of incoming recruit Charles Cross, a potential JUCO player, the aforementioned Armstrong, and 2018 signees Jalen Goss and Chaz Neal will all get their shot.

Quarterback: 0

The situation with James Blackman and Deondre Francois renders this section moot. There is a decent chance that 2019 recruit Sam Howell comes in and wins the job outright, but not enough to predict it at this moment.

Running Back: 0

Cam Akers returning means that this spot is still his to lose. We have heard nothing indicating that he is transferring.

Wide Receiver: 1

Tamorrion Terry has transformed into one of the best wide receivers in the nation — not just the team or ACC. His spot is very secure. Opposite him though, it is unclear. Keith Gavin has put together some fine performances, but he’s still a bit inconsistent and prone to losing confidence. D.J. Matthews will likely remain a major contributor from the slot.

The biggest development has been Nyqwan Murray falling out of favor with both the fan base and the coaches. He is gone after 2018, so his starting spot is up for grabs regardless. Tre’Shaun Harrison, Keyshawn Helton, and perhaps Jordan Young will be competing for it.

It is also not out of the realm of possibility that Gavin does get overtaken for a starting spot. Depending on how the situation works out, any of the above players could slide over to fill Gavin’s spot. Someone like Warren Thompson is also an option.

Defensive Line: 3

Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas will leave for the NFL, while Fred Jones will graduate (and might get a shot at the professional level). Despite that loss of experience, Florida State’s defensive line is one of the most talented in the country and should remain a strong point of the team.

Marvin Wilson is already getting some starting reps and is fully expected to become the anchor of the line by 2019 — if not the end of 2018. Strongside defensive end will return Janarius Robinson, who has shown promise at various points. Those two should provide a semblance of veteran leadership.

The possibilities for new starters is intriguing. At Burns’ spot, former 5-star recruit Josh Kaindoh and 4-star recruit Xavier Peters are the likely candidates. Other names to know include Dennis Briggs and Malcolm Lamar.

Defensive tackle will be even more competitive, and the “starter” here might get nearly as many reps as the second string. Right now it is a battle between Robert Cooper and Cory Durden — both of whom have excelled in 2018. Cooper needs to drop weight and Durden needs more experience, but both should be strong options in 2019.

Linebacker: 1

Depending on how you want to define the STAR position that Jaiden Woodbey plays, there are either two players to examine or three. Since Woodbey will start either way, we will include him in the linebacker group.

The story of 2018’s corps has been Dontavious Jackson and the complete lack of talent with him. DeCalon Brooks gives 100 percent effort but he is not built to be a starter. Leonard Warner shows flashes but is a true liability in pass defense. Adonis Thomas is a merely a reserve and not a peep has been heard about Emmett Rice or Josh Brown. The result? The second worst position group on the team.

Jackson is almost certainly coming back, so that means just a single spot is open. If one had to guess, 2018 signee Amari Gainer might be the favorite for next year. A broken foot in the preseason meant that Gainer had to be sidelined for six weeks and miss crucial development time. While that is a considerable set back, he has returned to practice and will get another offseason of training. Gainer is an athletic player who could provide the coverage ability that the team sorely needs.

Defensive Backs: 2

Cornerbacks: 1

There is so much variation here that putting one is a bit of a placeholder. The starting cornerback for the 2018 team began as Levonta Taylor and Kyle Meyers. Then it changed to Asante Samuel Jr. and Stanford Samuels III. Now it is looking like Stanford Samuels III and Levonta Taylor. Point being, this position group is very unpredictable.

That being said, given what we have seen from Meyers and Taylor, it is fair to say that changes at cornerback will be coming. Samuel Jr. has already demonstrated what he can do in just one offseason, so he is likely to start in 2019. After him it is a mix. A.J. Lytton has seen more work recently and is going through the ups and downs of being a young corner. Meanwhile, the situation at safety demands that Samuels III put his talents to use over there. Were the situation to change (more on that below) Samuels III could return to cornerback.

There are also a couple of players who could emerge like Samuel did. Isaiah Bolden was getting a surprising amount of reps before an injury prematurely ended his season. Akeem Dent is a 5-star in the 2019 class who could come in and compete from day 1 as well.

Safety: 1

Perhaps the most shocking decline has been the safeties. Once a strong part of the defensive backfield, Florida State’s safeties are a complete liability when Samuels III is not playing the position. The only positive from this group has been leading tackler Hamsah Nasirildeen, who strikes fear into the hearts of ball carriers with his physical play. It’s enough that he should get an honest look at linebacker in the future. Unfortunately, he also inspires confidence into receivers with his pass coverage.

A.J. Westbrook and Cyrus Fagan have been less than serviceable. Injury troubles to Carlos Becker and Bolden also meant that those options were out.

Florida State seems to have addressed the issue with the 2019 class. Assuming that everyone sticks, Florida State will be bringing in highly-ranked safeties Nick Cross and Brendan Gant, as well as cornerback Travis Jay, who has the build for safety if the staff likes him there.

We would wager that the staff prefers to keep Samuels III at free safety and input true cornerbacks elsewhere. That would leave the strong safety spot open if Nasirildeen does not improve or moves to linebacker.

One Comment

  1. finance85

    November 7, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Special Teams were left out. After the Clemson game, Logan Tyler was added to the depth chart at kicker behind Aguayo. I think there’s a decent change Aguayo doesn’t come back, or if he does, becomes a bench warmer.

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