By: Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Quarterback competition, depth on the offensive line, new coaches, new scheme, and replacing 11 NFL draft picks were all questions that loomed over the Florida State fan base and practice fields this time last season. The petrified fan base flocked to last year’s spring game to see first-hand if these questions could be answered. I was one of these fearful fans that viewed the amount of question marks as a blockade to reaching Pasadena in January. These uncertainties created an exceptional amount of buzz and excitement surrounding the team and that excitement continued to ignite the fan base throughout the entire season from Heinz Field to the Rose Bowl.
This spring has been nothing of the sort. The buzz has dissipated with the lack of questions and fears. The satisfaction of reaching the standard that coaches and fans alike have set for the team has led to a feeling of complacency this spring. So with a spring game that lacks pizzazz, and a team with no glaring holes to fill, what should we be looking for this Saturday?
First, I want to see the young core of wide receivers make big time plays from start to finish. Coach Fisher is still trying to hammer out who will be lining up out wide next to senior-to-be Rashad Greene. With an unbelievable recruiting haul at the wide receiver position, the current players won’t have a better stage to show that they can contribute next season than the Garnet and Gold game against the best secondary in college football. One guy I’ve been patiently waiting to emerge is Christian Green. Green has showed promise in the past and should know the playbook as well as anyone since he is entering his fourth year, but struggled to get reps last year behind the three NFL talents nicknamed “The Trio.” Isaiah Jones and Jesus “Bobo” Wilson should be the other two receivers to make the biggest contribution this weekend. Both Wilson and Jones have taken the majority of the reps with the first team offense and their talent should translate into success with a leap in playing time. I think that group of guys, rounded out with speedy Kermit Whitfield and Jarred Haggins, can make this cluster of unfamiliar nobody’s, very productive come fall.
I also want to see how Telvin Smith and Christian Jones are replaced at linebacker. These were two very talented players that should hear their names called within the first three rounds of May’s NFL draft. Luckily for new defensive coordinator, Charles Kelly, the cupboard is loaded with high profile recruits that are waiting in the wings. Ukeme Eligwe and E.J. Levenberry will take over for Telvin Smith in the middle and with little to separate the two, this weekend will be huge to get an idea of who will be manning the middle of this prestigious defense. Former 5-star linebacker, Matthew Thomas, is expected to take over the hybrid/pass rushing spot that was vacated by Jones. Before a season ending shoulder injury, Thomas exerted his dominance every chance he got, including a sack against Bethune Cookman. Another guy to keep your eye on should be Ro’Derrick Hoskins, who has drawn praise over spring for his ability to rush the passer. Even without the senior leadership of Jones and Smith, I am extremely confident in the line-backing core that will be following in their footsteps.
When the defending National Champs step foot onto Bobby Bowden field for the first time since last November, the question will be, “can they do it again,” not “can they do it.” This means that there will be a lot more pressure this season and in order to deal with that hype they must pick up where they left off. I’m going to look for Jameis to develop a connection with one the wide receivers not named Rashad Greene. I think with this veteran offensive line, that returns 4 of their 5 starters, Winston will have plenty of time to allow the routes to develop. With the Noles banged up at running back, the ball should be zipping through the air all afternoon. This glorified practice may not go down on a stat sheet, but there is no better way to get a taste for the upcoming season than the annual Garnet and Gold game.
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