We are but mere days away from the opening kickoff. Florida State will face off against Oklahoma State in Dallas, Texas. While Florida State refuses to acknowledge that it is defending a championship, it most certainly is defending a championship. The ChantRant.com team sat down for a two-part series to discuss the upcoming season.
1) The task of replacing Lamarcus Joyner at the "Star" position won't be easy. What do we expect to happen next from the "Honey Badger-esque" position?
- Teddy Hayduk: I cant imagine a scenario where LMJ’s numbers from last year will be re-created again in 2014-15. Accounting for 69 tackles in the open field and 12.5 behind the LOS (including 5.5 sacks) is a tall order, especially for a non-upper classmen. While Jalen Ramsey does indeed have greatness written in his DNA, I think he will spend this season honing his craft and perfecting the position at game speed. Inevitably, we’ll see some growing pains as this process ensues, but I expect them to be very limited. On the season I’d look for anywhere in the neighborhood of 55-60 tackles, a small handful of sacks, and 3-4 interceptions.
- WallStreetNole: Most people think that this will be Jalen Ramsey's roll but I think that assumption is because of his athletic ability. To not have him in the secondary full time is a huge loss. I see Tyler Hunter rotating as the star doing everything from blitzing, to nickel to safety.
- Duke: Secondary is quite possibly the most exciting group on this team... maybe moreso than running back. The options are almost endless. I don't fully know what to expect, however, from this group. I take that back... the only thing I do expect is something unexpected. I don't think Jimbo is going to roll out the same looks from last year. I think we're in for a treat, given the unique combination of coaching and players that we have.
2) Does Jimbo Fisher give Jameis Winston more freedom to audible in and out of plays at the line?
- Teddy Hayduk: The process of developing a quarterback is a one of gradual advancements over an extended period of time. Therefore, I can’t see Jimbo taking the reigns off completely. As a teacher, though, Jimbo will understand when it is a right time to relinquish control in minimal increments. As the season wears on and if Jameis shows marked improvements, we will begin to take notice of Jameis’ increased play-customizations at the line. I can even see a scenario where, in a two minute type scenario before halftime, he’d go as far as letting Jameis call a series. After all, NFL scouts will be on high alert and this season will act as Jameis’ extended interview. Every aspect of his playmaking abilities should be on display.
- WallStreetNole: I can't imagine too much of an increase from last year. I thought the efficiency was great and the audibles when called were typically check outs as oppose to a true changes and hot routes.
- Duke: I don't see a change from last year.
3) Will we see any 2 tight end sets?
- Teddy Hayduk: In short, yes. Last season FSU got fortunate insomuch as Nick O’Leary was able to stay 100% healthy, or close to it, the entire season. With multiple healthy non-R.Fr TEs at his disposal in Kevin Haepla, Ryan Izzo, and Mavin Saunders, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where two of the 4 aren’t on the field at once. All of these options compliment each other in spectacular fashion, with O’Leary capable of blocking as well as acting as a vertical threat. When not assigned to blitz pickup Izzo and Saunders can be a significant help across the flats or in other short yardage situations, especially when defenses are already devoting ample resources to defending a speedy slot receiver like Kermit Whitfield. Multiple TE sets are a hallmark of Jimbo’s pro-style offense, one that he will finally be able to feature this season.
- WallStreetNole: No. I know it's a hot topic but Hapela is unproven and coming off a huge injury. Despite the two losses at WR from last year I still expect us to be in our base shotgun formations the majority of the time with 3WR and 1 TE. This allows Jameis to be Jameis with better spacing for one on match ups. It also utilizes Karlos better for the stretch running plays.
- Duke: I don't see it happening. Maybe Haplea and Kerr can push the issue, but I personally don't see it. In my mind, Jimbo is going to put as much speed as possible; the offensive line doesn't need any help.
4) How many injuries can FSU sustain and still win a championship and to whom? What are FSU's revised expectations if Winston gets hurt?
- Teddy Hayduk: I think that if FSU can avoid injury to Jameis and the OL, which is a unit many regard as the best in the country, FSU will still contend for a title. In fact, I would argue that the OL is more essential to a title run than Jameis. Sean McGuire and JJ Cosentino are both a formidable threat at QB with plenty of talent and playmaking ability. In regards to the rest of the team’s ability to cope with injury, it is largely a question of thier mental state. The skill position units are all stacked deep with talent, and Jimbo has done well to instill the “next man up” mentality in the underclassmen.
- WallStreetNole: That's a loaded bake potato and I just prefer butter on the side. Injuries to Karlos, Green or Winston would really put a title run in jeopardy in my opinion. Stellar individual play is important for these three.
- Duke: An injury to Jameis would clearly be the worst. Everyone knows that. I'd argue that we are deep enough, finally, at the offensive line position that we could sustain an injury or two. I'm more worried about receiver and pass catchers.
5) Does FSU have a legitimate red zone threat?
- Teddy Hayduk: I hesitate to call him fully legitimate because he has yet to play a down, but it’s hard not to be VERY confident in Fr. WR Ermon Lane. He’s the tallest receiver on roster and I would love to see him pick up where Kelvin Benjamin left off. While Lane is two inches shorter, his vertical exceeds KB’s by over 4 inches. Essentially, this creates a wash and means that the deep corner routes and “The Catch” type of receptions are exclusively limited to Lane just as they were to Benjamin. He has the physical tools and athletic gifts—the question is can he continually rise to the occasion when he’s needed? I believe he can and will.
- WallStreetNole: In the traditional sense, no. But I'm OK with being nontraditional. If I'm an opposing defense, I'm putting a nickel back on O'Leary every time the Noles get in the red zone. O'leary is so solid with great hands and is a perfect route runner. Sure he's not 6'5 but he is exactly what we need. You can also add Ermon Lane who of course as a freshman is unproven but has all the physical tools to be a jump ball end zone threat.
- Duke: I guess I'm the skeptic of the group, but I think this is a major weakness. Jimbo's playcalling will be the factor, here. How does he adjust his playcalling with the new, and while equally good or better, talent?
Photo Credit: Melina Vastola