By: Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
The Seminole football team will begin fall camp on its brand new practice fields next week and every player will be auditioning for a starting spot or playing time in front of a slew of new coaches. The offense was not as affected by the NFL draft and graduation as the defense and returns seven starters. While there will be fewer battles for these coveted starting spots, the competition to see the field should be fierce. Here are some of the offensive position battles to keep an eye on in fall camp.
I feel pressured to mention this position as one that is “up for grabs”, but is this even a battle? If you listen to the rehearsed “coach talk” that Jimbo Fisher is so fluent in, then you will hear that it is an open competition and that Jameis Winston will have to fend off Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire. Although Coker is more experienced, Winston took all of his reps with the first team offense in the spring game. Winston looked phenomenal in the spring game, only throwing three incompletions without a turnover. His leadership skills are noticeable to even the most casual fan.
Prediction: All of the players already refer to “Jaboo” as the starter. To call this a competition is just a technicality. Winston has already been named a darkhorse candidate to win the Heisman trophy despite being a redshirt freshman, thanks to Johnny Manziel accomplishing that feat last season. I fully expect “Famous Jameis” to be the starting quarterback week 1 in Pittsburgh.
Playing Time at Wide Receiver
Although Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw will hold down two starting spots, the playing time that will be available behind them is abundant, as Fisher often likes to play 3 to 4 receivers at one time. Many expect ultra talented sophomore Kelvin Benjamin to take the third spot, leaving the fourth spot up for grabs. Playing time at the wide out position got a lot more interesting with senior Greg Dent facing felony charges and his future with the team in serious limbo. Luckily for the Noles is that there is no shortage of talented athletes at the wide receiver position. Christian Green should be the man to step up in place of Dent, with three full seasons of experience in the offense. He has been solid in his few opportunities but has been buried on the depth chart in the past by the stable of athletes. Jarrod Haggins and Willie Haulstead should also be heavily in the mix for playing time, as both have been very good when they are healthy, but are constantly sidelined by injuries.
Prediction: My prediction is very vague as I think Christian Green will see the majority of these reps, but I also think all of the receivers previously mentioned will see the field and have a chance to prove their worth. Green has the speed, knowledge of the playbook, and the impressive spring practices to give him the edge for repetitions. As the year progresses don’t be surprised to see freshman speedsters, Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield and Jesus “Bobo” Wilson, get a fair share of touches from the slot receiver position. As a coach, you just cannot keep this kind of elite speed and elusiveness off of the field. (Jesus Wilson has reportedly been one of the most impressive freshmen in 7-on-7 drills.)
Had I written this earlier in the off-season, tight end would not have been mentioned as a position battle. However, since the offseason progressed, attrition has been in full force to this segment. The snowball of erosion started when senior Kevin Haplea tore his ACL, followed by the news of California native Christo Kortzidis announcing that he would be transferring in order to be closer to home. This leaves Nick O’Leary as the only returning scholarship tight end on the Seminoles roster. Both Haplea and Kortzidis excelled in blocking, while O’Leary is a talented athlete in the receiving game. Jimbo will have to find an answer to their lack of depth and find someone who can step up immediately to help in the running game.
Prediction: I believe Jimbo will go into a lot more one tight end sets because of the lack of depth here. Incoming freshman Jeremy Kerr will immediately be thrown into the fire as the second tight end. As luck would have it, Kerr is an excellent blocker and the topic of switching him to offensive tackle has even come up in the past. Obviously Kerr will be staying put for this season, but if he does not pick up the offense don’t be surprised to see walk-on Jonathan Wallace get some reps in 2 tight end sets. Another thing we are likely to see from Fisher is putting an extra lineman in at tight end in obvious running or short-yardage situations.
With a young quarterback at the reins, whomever it may be, the most important thing for him to succeed is to protect him and give him time in the pocket. Bobby Hart comes into fall camp as the leader to win this position. Hart started as a freshman before being benched his sophomore season for lack of hustle and poor play. But he came in the spring with new motivation, as he knew the lack of offensive linemen would be his chance to recapture a starting role on this team. Though Hart had a solid spring, he will have to prove to the coaches that he can be a consistent force on the line and hold off ultra talented freshman Ira Denson and diamond in the rough Wilson Bell. Denson has not played a down for the Noles yet, but might already be the best run blocker on the team. As a guard in high school, Denson was a pancaking machine; demolishing opponents snap after snap, including in the Under Armor All-American game against coveted lineman recruits. Bell on the other hand was not as coveted, however Trickett is in love with his quick feet at the tackle position, and he should be a very good Seminole in the future.
Prediction: Bobby Hart should hold on to this one barring a surprise, or a freakish fall camp from one of these freshman. I believe Denson is better suited at the guard position where he can go downhill and crush people as he has done throughout his career. Bell might end up being the guy that gives Hart the hardest time, as he has the quickness to block faster defensive ends. In the end I think the competition in fall camp will only make the depth on the line better.
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