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ACC Preview: Florida State

To no one is surprised Florida State had another solid season last year. After finishing the regular season with only three losses, it took on Michigan in the Orange Bowl which ended up being not only a historic win for the Seminoles but also one of the best games of the season.

Coach Jimbo Fisher has done a good job at the helm, and this team for next year should even be better than last season’s.

FSU has lost talent, losing four players to the draft and a total of seven starters overall. Of the players they are losing superstar running back Dalvin Cook.

“Well, Dalvin is Dalvin just like Dion was Dion, just like Buckley was Buckley, just like Warrick Dunn was Warrick Dunn, Charlie Ward was Charlie Ward,” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’ll never replace those guys. Jameis Winston was Jameis Winston. You know, I mean, you go in the history — I mean, KB was KB. I mean, you know, Joiner was Joiner. You never replace those guys, but you know, we also have other great players and things come from other areas.

“Sometimes they can come from the same areas. Not saying I think the guys we have at running back can be very productive, but Dalvin was a very special, unique guy and had his own talents. We have to let those guys grow and see and see where our team and our personality and those yards and scores come. They could come from the back or they could come from receivers, tight ends, throwing the ball. But hopefully the same production will be there as an offense.”

Cook was an all-purpose back for the Seminoles who truly did it all for them. Last season Cook ran for 1,765 yards with 19 touchdowns. It was back-to-back 19 touchdown seasons on the ground for Cook. He also had a career high 488 receiving yards averaging 14.8 yards a catch.

Cook was their primary offensive option last season and he will be missed. Also gone is offensive tackle Roderick Johnson to the draft who was one of the better tackles in the ACC last season. The loss offensively of wide receiver Travis Rudolph is also major for them.

Rudolph had nearly doubled the second most receiving yards on the team. Defensively they lost First-Team All-American Demarcus Walker. He had a total of 67 tackles last year with a tremendous 16 sacks. They are losing some special talent.

With the loss of talent, they also return a ton as well. Starting quarterback Deondre Francois will be back this season after a stellar freshman season. He threw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 141. He was all over the field last year.

Wide receiver Auden Tate will also be back after a solid freshman season of 409 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Defensively the Seminoles also return some big names. Defensive end Josh Sweat will be back after a 7.5 sack campaign. Along with him the two big men inside, defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas, will be back on the defensive line.

The returning talent is good, but what makes this team so dangerous is the recruiting class coming in. FSU Ranked sixth best by 24/7 sports and is arguably the best of the best. This is a class with seven top 100 talents.

These talents are led by early enrollees in running back Cam Akers and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh.

“It ended up a good recruiting cycle, and now we’re going to start into the next recruiting cycle,” Fisher said. “Very good with where we’re at. Have a great off-season. Still have a lot of work to do as a team. We have a chance to have a good team, but we’re far from perfect and have a lot of things to work on this summer and fall camp.”

Akers looks to step into the starting running back position after being ranked the No. 1 running back coming in and No. 2 player in the country.

“Well, he’s done what he’s asked to do,” Fisher said. “But there’s a lot of other guys in that mix. Jacques Patrick did a tremendous job, Ryann Green had a great spring, so we’re counting on him very heavy, Amir Rasul, and then Cam had his times, too, along with Jonathan Vickers at fullback and Nabers. There was a lot of other scenarios in there. I mean, Cam come in, was very — just went to work, never said anything, had good workouts, and still was productive, but so were some of the other guys. To say Cam is our guy is not necessarily — we have a lot of guys in that group, and right now Jacques and those guys’ experience are playing right there with him.”

Kaindoh, ranked as the ninth best player in the country, will look to bolster an already solid defensive front.

Not enrolled yet are players such as defensive tackle, and sixth-ranked, Marvin Williams and all-purpose back, 28th ranked, Khalan Laborn.

Spring training had a lot for the Seminoles to fill in and prove. With the quarterback situation clear with Francois returning, the next position turned to is the running back position. The battle seems to be between veterans Jacques Patrick, Amir Rasul and Akers for the position. All of which have had strong springs.

The offensive line with three starters returning, have seemed to adopt in senior tackle Rick Leonard and redshirt freshman guard Cole Minshew into the mix. The receiving group has been led by Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray with some familiar faces behind them.

On the defensive side of the ball they have a large number of 10 returning starters. After missing nearly all of last season, safety Derwin James will be back in action. With the secondary continually proving themselves to be a force, one of the best surprises for the Noles is the strength of their linebacking core.

Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskens have made incredible progress over the year and the spring.

Florida State will open the season vs. Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta.

“Our culture is to stay true to the process. We’re not worried about results or our opponents,” Fisher said. “We have to worry about ourselves, control what we can control, and that’s what we preach here every day. That’s what we live here every day. And you know, we play in big games at Florida State all the time. We’ve had big openers.”

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