The Daily Nole

Sunday Centerpiece: 2019 FSU Football Predictions

Jeremy Esbrandt/D'Vel Photography/FSU athletics

Many things around The Daily Nole have changed in this last year, but we’re still just as excited to start the 2019 college football season as the next person.

It also probably stems from the fact that this offseason was one of the longest in program history — after Florida State, under first-year head coach Willie Taggart, missed a bowl game for the first time in over 35 years. Now, new assistant coaches, a whole new recruiting class, and multiple changes to the starting lineup will hope to put the Seminoles back on the right course.

We continue our yearly tradition of breaking down the upcoming season with some unique categories, mixed with the reliable crowd-pleasers. Lead writer Clint Eiland and editor Mike Ferguson bring back the season preview and prediction piece below:

Offensive MVP

Clint and Mike: Tamorrion Terry, WR
“Scary” Terry has a pretty good chance of being the first 1,000-yard receiver since Rashad Greene in 2014. He already amassed over 700 with a struggling quarterback, who was constantly under duress in 2018. With both those situations apparently improving in the offseason, Terry can show what he is fully capable of. If he does it well enough, he could also be the first FSU receiver drafted in the first round since Kelvin Benjamin the 2014 NFL Draft.

Defensive MVP

Clint and Mike: Marvin Wilson, DT
Fans should enjoy every snap Wilson takes this season — because it’s probably his last year in a Florida State uniform. Wilson is a future NFL draft pick (barring injury) who forces opposing offensive lines to account for him on every single play. That won’t change this year. Wilson and his health will be essential to the Seminoles rebounding from a rough 2018.

Offensive Breakout

Clint: Tre’Shaun Harrison, WR
Harrison was used sparingly last year, but when he actually got on the field, he displayed the same quickness and shiftiness that made him such a coveted recruiting victory. He now has a year of experience under his belt and is playing in a system that will almost certainly use his abilities as both a receiver and runner.

Tre’Shaun Harrison’s first career touchdown catch put the exclamation point on a 38-17 win over Wake Forest on Oct. 20, 2018. (Bill Pearce/FSU athletics)

Mike: Khalan Laborn, RB
Khalan Laborn was the pick last season, but a season-ending kneecap injury in Week 2 derailed the Virginia native’s campaign. Laborn is a versatile player and a home run hitter who could be used in a variety of ways under new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. If Laborn can stay healthy, he and Cam Akers have the chance to be the best 1-2 backfield punch in the entire ACC.

Defensive Breakout

Clint: Dennis Briggs, DE/DT
The defensive end position opposite Janarius Robinson is so wide open that betting on one of the current depth options is smart money. Joshua Kaindoh has been injured too much for me to be confident in picking him to break out. Instead, I’ll choose redshirt freshman Dennis Briggs, who has proven himself as a consistent option in practice. He also has a versatility that will fit well with the 3-4 looks that FSU recently implemented. It might take a bit for him to catch on, but I expect him to be rolling by the end of the season.

Mike: Joshua Kaindoh, DE
Once a 5-star prospect, defensive end Joshua Kaindoh has underwhelmed in first two seasons in Tallahassee. With just seven career sacks, Kaindoh hasn’t come close to reaching his potential. With Brian Burns off early to the NFL, the Seminoles will have to find a way to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Kaindoh has the potential to take a major leap in that respect.

Most Glaring Question

Clint and Mike: How much will the offensive line improve?
We believe that most Florida State fans will go the rest of their existence without seeing an FSU offensive line as bad as the 2018 group. The name of the game in 2019 is improvement. Even going from “historically awful” to “bad” should be considered a victory. The focus will be on new offensive line coach Randy Clements and witnessing how much he can get out of the group currently on campus, which is slowly getting better with each recruiting class. He will need underclassmen to take the next step and upperclassmen to prove that they aren’t lost causes. If the line beats expectations and becomes — dare we say — average, a 9-win record could be in the works.

Bold Prediction

Clint: Five true freshmen are starters by the end of the season
Usually this would be a bad thing. That would stay true if Florida State was expecting to compete for a national championship. But for a team that is pegged around 7-5 to 9-3, it’s a good development that young players will be taking over for the next few years. All reports out of practice suggest that Akeem Dent and Travis Jay are already playing like veterans and will be too talented to keep off the field. A similar deal occurs with Dontae Lucas, who figures to take over as a starter on the offensive line by midseason. The next two are more surprising, but I actually do think Jaleel McRae and Kalen DeLoach will earn starting spots in the linebacking corps in due time. Both are immediate talent upgrades from the backups, and if FSU is using more of the 3-4 defense, they will get enough reps to show what they can do. I also would not rule out players like Brendan Gant or Raymond Woodie III potentially snatching a starting spot in the secondary.

James Blackman is 7-6 in his career as the Florida State starter. (FSU athletics)

Mike: James Blackman will have the best season for an FSU quarterback since 2013
Since Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, quarterback play for the Seminoles has taken a noticeable decline. Winston did enough in 2014 to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, but quarterback play has been largely inconsistent since. Not since Winston in 2014 has FSU had an All-ACC quarterback. Although he struggled as a true freshman in 2017, James Blackman has a plethora of potential as a passer. Teammates have rallied around Blackman’s leadership and there is no shortage of talent at the skill positions. If Blackman can eliminate mistakes and get some protection, he could enjoy the best season for an FSU signal-caller since 2013.

Season Prediction

Clint: 7-5 (Losses to Virginia, NC State, Clemson, Syracuse, Florida)
I have the beginning of the season starting out well enough for the Seminoles. They go 3-1 in their first four games and look greatly improved over last year’s squad. But the next four are much more difficult, and I think NC State and Clemson will prove superior. They will get a nice revenge victory over Miami however. The only surprising loss I have on here is Syracuse, who has a legitimately imposing defensive line for 2019. The Orange will take a step back from last year, but they can hit FSU in all the wrong places. Finally, I do have the the Seminoles dropping the final game of the season to the Florida Gators.

Mike: 8-4 (Losses to Virginia, Clemson, Miami, Florida)
Picking Florida State to beat either Clemson or Florida seems like a stretch at this point, but outside of those two, every game appears winnable. The neutral-site opener against Boise State in Jacksonville, contests with NC State, Syracuse, Miami and at Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College are not slam dunks, but FSU should have a realistic chance at winning those. Expecting FSU to go 5-2 in those games isn’t too big of a stretch. If the Seminoles can get to nine wins with a bowl victory, it would be the largest increase in win total since going from seven wins in 1986 to 11 in 1987.

Playoff Prediction

Clint: Georgia, Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma
Ready for the same four teams to compete for the national championship once again? This time however, I have things going quite differently. I think Georgia gets the No. 1 seed, and Clemson suffers a surprising loss, forcing it to the No. 3 seed. I think Alabama disposes of Oklahoma somewhat easily and advances to the title game. Georgia and Clemson duke it out, but a hungry Bulldog team actually pulls off the stunner and sends the Tigers home. From there, I think Kirby Smart finally breaks through and defeats the master, Alabama’s Nick Saban, at his own game. Georgia wins its first title since 1980.

Mike: Clemson, Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma
The College Football Playoff looks largely the same this year with Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and the winner of the Michigan-Notre Dame game. Unlike 2018, the winner of that game this year will be Michigan. The Wolverines will also get the proverbial monkey off their back and beat Ohio State for the first time since 2011. Alabama and Clemson will each feel little resistance in their conferences. Clemson holds on to its No. 1 ranking and beats No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. Out west in the Fiesta Bowl, Alabama takes care of Michigan. For the fourth time since 2015, the Tigers and Crimson Tide meet for the national championship and for the third time, Clemson emerges victorious.

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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