The Daily Nole

Hot Take Tuesday: Signs Point to 2020, Not 2019, Being the Breakout Year for FSU Football

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

Most Florida State fans are anxious heading into 2019, and for good reason.

Coming off the first bowl-less season in over three decades, right after expectations came crashing down, in the middle of a tumultuous time for the athletic administration, tends to have that effect on a fan base. They want something to indicate they’re moving in the right direction.

For what it’s worth, we do think Florida State will be improved in 2019. But as we sat down to go over the team’s strengths and weaknesses, along with the recruiting classes they’ve brought in, we came to the conclusion that the big improvement for the team will not be in 2019.

In fact, 2019 will probably be a bit tougher than most expect. Instead, the 2020 season looks like it will be when the stars will align and Florida State will begin to display the signs of a successful rebuild.

Before the accusation comes in of “You’re doing apologetics for Willie Taggart”, keep in mind that Taggart is getting three years no matter what. The finances involved in firing a coach after two seasons are not any that FSU wants to test out. Whether you like him or not, and whether he is the coach for the future, you’re going to watch him for three years barring an unforeseen off-the-field scandal. There is no way around it.

Here’s how we came to the conclusion that 2020 will be the year that things start to look up for FSU:

Right now, the biggest problem for Florida State is the offensive line. It’s so far above the other problems that it should honestly be split into different groups — problems that need to be addressed, and problems that will down the coaching staff if they are not fixed. The offensive line is decidedly the latter. Every other issue with the team has a Plan B or fairly positive best case scenario.

Take quarterback for example. Florida State’s quarterback room should be good to go in 2019 with James Blackman as the starter, one of Jordan Travis/Alex Hornibrook/Wyatt Rector as the primary backup (hopefully Travis, pending waiver), and one of the others being the tertiary option. The Seminoles also have a very solid commit with Jeff Sims in the 2020 class. That’s how a threatening lack of depth turned into a known quantity.

With the offensive line, it is extremely hard to flip it around in a short period of time. Player development typically takes at least one year before you can put them on the field, and a lot of times, it’s actually two years.

Right now, Florida State is woefully thin at tackle. Transfer Ryan Roberts figures to take up a starting spot, and beyond him it’s a rough outlook. Either Jauan Williams, Jalen Goss, Chaz Neal, Jay Williams, Christian Armstrong or Brady Scott could start. That’s not a ringing endorsement.

In 2020, the team will finally have its developmental prospects to a point where they can truly compete for the starting job. That includes Neal, Goss, Armstrong, and Darius Washington. That’s a massive addition to tackle depth which FSU simply will not have in 2019. Neal is already around 300 pounds and showing progress in practice. Goss needs to put on more weight, but he has good athleticism and was holding his own throughout the spring.

The interior figures to be the same. Players like Dontae Lucas, Baveon Johnson, Brady Scott, and Christian Meadows will have experience which they did not have entering 2019. That is not an elite lineup up front, but it is far better than the outlook was in 2018 after Landon Dickerson and Cole Minshew went down.

So in 2020, the offensive line will finally have a mix of depth, experience, and talent that will allow a coordinator more freedom with his scheme. That impact cannot be understated. It will radically change both the game plans and even the individual calls that Kendal Briles and Taggart can make.

Linebacker and safety are not as pressing needs. Still, Florida State has done a great job of turning them around as well. The Seminoles have brought in three blue-chip linebackers in the past two classes and currently have two more committed in the 2020 class.

Along with added depth from guys like Kevon Glenn and commit Jayion McCluster, the linebacker corps is already on its way to vast improvement. 2019 will be a step forward with Jaleel McRae and Kalen Deloach infusing some talent into the group. Much like the offensive line however, 2020 will likely be the year where the depth of the group reaches the next level.

It’s virtually the same deal with the safeties. Florida State signed four blue-chip defensive backs in 2019, with two pure safeties (Raymond Woodie III and Brendan Gant) along with two players that can contribute there seamlessly (Akeem Dent and Travis Jay). Dent is almost a starter after one offseason and chances are at least one of the other three becomes a major contributor immediately.

This all culminates in 2020 being the year where Florida State is able to manage its original goals. You’ll notice that this is not based on one year, one recruiting cycle, one coach. This is the result of how the roster was managed prior to Taggart’s arrival, as well as decisions he made in terms of priority. On the flip side, much of it was also determined by the failures of both the previous and the current staff.

Initially, this author had Florida State pegged as a team with an equal chance of 8-4 and 7-5. After looking at the offensive line situation, one simply can’t put that much trust in them after one year — especially not with the depth the Seminoles currently have that won’t be ready until next season.

So 2019 will again be rough. 7-5 is more likely, but 6-6 is not out of the question. Unsurprisingly, this would draw the ire of many fans, and likely increase the chance that they call for Taggart’s firing as soon as possible.

Then the pressure will really start to mount. Taggart and staff would need a 9-win season to keep their jobs after 2020. If the current trajectory stays true, they will have a good chance at achieving that.

Clint Eiland is the lead writer for The Daily Nole. Follow Clint on Twitter @ClintEiland. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at Mike@TheDailyNole.com.

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