You know that expectations are high when the team reaches the College Football Playoff undefeated and still fell short of their goals. Florida State won the Atlantic Coast Conference for the third straight season in 2014 but fell short in the post season. Either way, it’s hard to ignore what last year’s team accomplished as they had to come from behind to win seemingly week-in and week-out on their way to a school record 29-straight wins. This year Head Coach Jimbo Fisher will have a mostly new cast of characters but as always, the team’s goals haven’t slid far from where they were last year before sending 11 players to the NFL Draft.
Offensively, the Seminoles will be almost all new with the exception of the running backs and wide receivers. Sophomores Travis Rudolph & Ermon Lane will lead the way for a wide receiving corps full of guys who were role players last year and in 2013 but will have to step up and be bigger parts of the offense in 2015. Rudolph had 38 receptions for 555 yards and 4 touchdowns last year and will look to fill the massive shoes left behind by Rashad Greene, who now hold almost every receiving record at Florida State. The Seminoles are in limbo a bit with the running back position as the star of the group, sophomore Dalvin Cook, is currently battling a misdemeanor battery charge but all indications point to a return before the season begins. Whether Cook returns for the Seminoles or not, Florida State is still loaded at tailback with junior Mario Pender who looked good when healthy in 2014 and 6-foot-2 240-lb true freshman human wrecking ball Jacquez Patrick who enrolled in January. Florida State will be replacing four starting offensive linemen from 2014. Not only will four starters need to be replaced but four starters who started for four years. Needless to say Florida State fans will need to learn some new names, faces and numbers on the offensive line in 2015. The young group whose projected starters average 316 pounds will be led by sophomore left tackle Roderick ‘Big Rod’ Johnson who started the final five games for the Seminoles in 2014. But the big question everyone wants to know is who will the young offensive line be protecting at quarterback? Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson will be given every opportunity to take the starting position but there will be a pretty significant quarterback competition in Tallahassee leading up to the season between Golson and junior Sean Maguire.
The defense at Florida State took a big step backwards in 2014 after the departure of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. A small step back was expected but going from giving up only 12.1 points per game to over 25 points per game was a big difference. The Seminoles return seven starters from last year’s squad and will be more familiar with the new schemes implemented by new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. The name everyone knows, Jalen Ramsey, returns but not as a safety but as a corner back and will lead a talented secondary including senior Tyler Hunter, junior Nate Andrews, sophomore Trey Marshall and true freshman Derwin James, who will definitely turn some heads with his play making ability. Even though last year’s group sent two players into the NFL, I believe this year’s group will be as talented and play better as a unit that the 2014 version. Up front the Noles will be led by junior defensive end DeMarcus Walker and senior Derrick Mitchell to provide the pass rush that was non-existent in 2014. The Seminoles went from 36 and 35 sacks in 2012 and 2013 to only 17 sacks in 2014. The linebackers is where the Seminoles have the most leadership but is also where they are the thinnest. Seniors Reggie Northrup & Terrance Smith are the unquestioned leaders of the group but don’t have many bodies to lead as they are extra thin after graduation, transfers and injuries. JUCO transfer by way of LSU Lorenzo Phillips will add much needed depth to a unit that as of today is only seven scholarship players.
The 2015 schedule is not a difficult one at all but does have a couple tricky back-to-back weeks of games. The season begins with the Texas State Bobcats of the Sun Belt Conference in Tallahassee followed by the USF Bulls in Doak Campbell Stadium the following week. The Noles will then turn around on a short week and take on the Boston College Eagles in Boston on a Friday night. The Eagles have given Florida State trouble the last two years and I don’t expect that to change in 2015. Florida State finishes the month of September with a bye week before October begins with Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. It’s back home for back-to-back home games against a now or never Miami team and an on-the-rise Louisville Cardinals team who surprised everyone with a 9-4 inaugural season in the ACC. It’s back on the road for the Noles on October 24th when they make their shortest conference road trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech for a rematch of two of the last three ACC Championship Games. Florida State will finish up the month of October with Syracuse in Tallahassee on Halloween. November begins with a bang when the Noles travel to Clemson, South Carolina, and take on the Tigers in Death Valley. Florida State heads back home to take on NC State and FCS opponent UT-Chattanooga on the 21st & 28th followed by their annual meeting with the Florida Gators, this time in Gainesville.
There are some big questions that Florida State needs to answer in 2015 but Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has stocked the shelves with star recruits over the last couple years which means that the Seminoles will be reloading rather than rebuilding. Don’t be surprised if Florida State is comfortably in the driver’s seat of the ACC Atlantic division when they visit Death Valley the first Saturday in November, but it all comes down to whether or not they answer the quarterback, defense and offensive line questions early in the season.
2015 Florida State Seminoles Schedule
Sept 5th Texas State
Sept 12th USF
Sept 18th at Boston College (Fri)
Sept 26th BYE WEEK
Oct 3rd at Wake Forest
Oct 10th Miami
Oct 17th Louisville
Oct 24th at Georgia Tech
Oct 31st Syracuse
Nov 7th at Clemson
Nov 14th NC State
Nov 21st UT-Chattanooga
Nov 28th at Florida