Realistic Expectations for FSU in 2015

With the recent news of former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson transferring to Florida State, it’s time to gauge the expectations for this 2015 squad. First and foremost is talent — the basic threshold of any team looking to win a national championship is recruiting more blue chip (4 and 5 star) players than not.

FSU does meet this benchmark at the sixth-best rate in the country and has seen a noticeable bump in recruiting since winning a national title in 2013. At the same time, FSU just set a modern era (7 Round NFL Draft and 85 scholarship limit in college) record for most players drafted in a three-year span with 29, including 11 off of last year’s team, eclipsing Miami’s old mark of 28 set between 2002 and 2004.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher and his coaching staff are clearly developing the talent they get at a superior, maybe an even unsustainable rate. So where does this leave FSU for 2015? Can they just reload?

The short answer is no, not this year. While the roster is full of raw athletic talent, arguably more so than the Seminole teams of the last three years, most of that talent is freshmen and sophomores. The more talented upperclassmen left early for the draft: Mario Edwards Jr., Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams and of course Jameis Winston — talent that is difficult or impossible to replace. With the upperclassmen left on the roster, there is an obvious step down in starting talent.

If there is any legitimate criticism of Fisher, it’s that he lets players who don’t develop, either from lack of work ethic or other issues, hang around a tad longer than maybe he should. That includes blue chip upperclassmen that have been in the program for four or five years and haven’t contributed much or only gotten marginally better since high school.

Other coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer oversign recruits; if a player doesn’t perform, he is convinced to transfer to another program and is quickly replaced by a younger player and so on. That sounds cold but is the nature of winning in college football, and many of those under-performing players also choose to leave a buried depth chart for playing time at less talented programs on their own.

But with Fisher being less forceful about players transferring, that leaves the 2015 Seminoles with a certain small group of juniors and seniors that aren’t FSU starting quality. They have been allowed to stick around juxtaposed with a bunch of extremely talented but young players that will probably win those jobs.

And with youth comes inexperience and a high variance in play — inconsistency, with flashes of dominance and freshman mistakes. As we saw with 2013 FSU and 2014 Ohio State, sometimes teams do arrive a year early but expecting FSU to do the same in 2015 is unrealistic. So what is realistic?

Sean Maguire is not nearly as bad as many fans believe and it remains to be seen if Everett Golson can be consistently better and protect the football, but the takeaway here is that if anyone can max out Golson’s ability, it’s Jimbo Fisher. Golson probably has a higher ceiling than Maguire but certainly has more starting experience.

Fans must understand that they have been spoiled by watching the quarterback play of Jameis Winston the last two years and there’s simply no replacing a player of his quality. Generational talent is just that. Fans must also remember that whoever wins the job will be a significant step down from Winston but both Golson and Maguire would start at most other Power 5 schools.

The offensive line will be bigger and more athletic but younger and weaker in pass protection. Dalvin Cook is a stud and future NFL running back and the receivers and tight ends are all more athletically talented than in the last few years save Kelvin Benjamin. The defense will rely on future top 10 NFL Draft pick Jalen Ramsey along with young studs like Derrick Nnadi and unproven talent like Marquez White to replace the historical exodus seen in the last few years.

The ceiling for this team is not a national championship or even a playoff berth, but an ACC championship remains in the realm of possibility. And if it falls short of that goal, no one should complain.

There are not and should not be any crushing expectations this year which should be an honest and welcome relief to fans after last season. Anyone who expects more is being unrealistic and homerish and you should tell them so.

This 2015 squad is a young team that will take their lumps and their growing pains but those pains will pay dividends in the future, hopefully spring-boarding playoff runs in 2016 and 2017. Their time will come but it’s not this upcoming season.

This year will be about the journey and not the destination; watching this team grow up over the course of the season as they find their way and identity should be exciting and hopefully, fans can enjoy the ride with them.

With all of that said, FSU will still be more talented than most if not all of the teams they play this year and will be favored in a majority of its games. Expect the ‘Noles to go 9-3 in the regular season this year with 10-2 being more likely than 8-4, but neither are out of the question.

Boston College, Georgia Tech and Clemson are all extremely well-coached and are real threats to beat FSU this year as the Seminoles will travel to face each. Miami and Florida each have their own issues but are rivalry games where anything can and does happen and Brad Kaaya is a very good young quarterback for the Hurricanes. Anything 10-2 or better should leave FSU fans ecstatic and an ACC championship would be a cherry on top of a wonderful season.

About Jon Marchant

Jon Marchant is a writer for Noled Out and a rational die-hard FSU fanatic. He believes in cheesecake and Jimbo Fisher. Jon graduated from Florida State in 2010 with a double major in Political Science Social Science and a minor in International Affairs. Jon currently resides in West Palm Beach, Florida with his wife Laura and their lazy dog Mack. Jon can be followed on Twitter @MrWarchant.