Gone are Kenny Shaw (graduated after 933-yard, 6-TD season) and redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin, the standout from Glades Central (1,011 yards, 15 TDs). If there’s one priority this spring, it’s for Florida State to find some receivers that can complement rising senior and playmaker Rashad Greene.
After Greene, who led the team with 76 catches and 1,128 receiving yards, there is plenty of talent. The question remains who will break out. Senior Scooter Haggins, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery, could fill Shaw’s slot receiver role if he can stay healthy. Florida State will also use Kermit Whitfield, who had a kickoff return for a touchdown in the national championship game, in the slot.
Coaches will also get a chance to look at Isaiah Jones, a 6-foot-4 receiver who was considered one of the nation’s top receivers in the class of 2013. Jones had two catches last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Even with all of Winston’s success through the air in 2013, Florida State still had 505 carries and 42 rushing touchdowns. Gone are leading rusher Devonta Freeman (1,045 yards, 14 TDs) and James Wilder (579 yards, eight TDs), juniors who have entered the NFL Draft a year early.
Coach Jimbo Fisher has an abundance of wealth at tailback. Converted safety Karlos Williams flourished after a move to offense, running for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns. He appears to be the No. 1 back, and coaches will spend the spring evaluating Mario Pender, Ryan Green and early enrollee Dalvin Cook.
Coaches are excited about Cook, who was the biggest star in a talented 2014 class. Although he will have shoulder surgery that will keep him out this spring but, he is expected to be ready for preseason camp.
Pender and Green are both fast, elusive runners and should earn plenty of carries this spring as they battle for the backup spot behind Williams.
While not nearly as significant as choosing a starter, Florida State needs to confirm who its No. 2 will be. With Jacob Coker leaving for Alabama, the likely winner is Sean Maguire.
At one point Maguire was the No. 4 quarterback last spring, behind Winston, Coker and Clint Trickett. But then Trickett transferred to West Virginia in May and Coker hurt his knee in November. Maguire has a strong, accurate arm and had two touchdowns and two interceptions late in games last season.
But coaches say John Franklin also did well in leading the scout team in 2013, including his impersonation of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall before the BCS title game. J.J. Cosentino, one of the top quarterbacks of the 2014 class, will arrive in the fall.
Florida State loses one of its top interior linemen in Timmy Jernigan, who had 63 tackles and 11 tackles for loss as a junior in 2013. He is projected as a top-15 pick in the draft.
Eddie Goldman will start at one defensive tackle spot after making 19 tackles and recording two sacks as a sophomore last season. The other position is up for grabs, but Nile Lawrence-Stample and Desmond Hollin are the top contenders with Justin Shanks and Derrick Mitchell trailing them.
With the graduation of Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, backups have plenty of chances to earn playing time. Florida State has a deep group of linebackers who have gained experience the past few years.
When Jones moved into more of a rush-end role at midseason, Terrance Smith earned more playing time and finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles, the highest total of any returning FSU player. Smith weighs just 215 pounds but has shown his ability to wrap up receivers and running backs in the open field.
Reggie Northrup (46 tackles), E.J. Levenberry (39 tackles) and Ukeme Eligwe (28 tackles) all are competing for starting jobs alongside Terrance Smith. And Matthew Thomas, a five-star linebacker from the 2013 class, returns after having midseason shoulder surgery.