florida state seminoles

FSU Upperclassmen Must Make Most of Early Opportunity

Top-ranked Florida State will look to tie a school-record on Saturday night as the Seminoles seek their 17th straight victory dating back to 2012, as they arrive in North Texas to take on Oklahoma State. While Jimbo Fisher and Florida State brought in another top 10 recruiting class in the offseason, Saturday’s opener will provide an opportunity for a handful of upperclassmen to finally make their marks as Seminoles.

The biggest surprise when the FSU depth chart was released earlier this week, came at defensive end. While Chris Casher was expected by most to start opposite Mario Edwards Jr., Casher was moved to a starting linebacker spot which made way for redshirt junior Derrick Mitchell Jr. to fill the void.

Listed as a defensive tackle prior to the year, Mitchell had not seen much of the field for the Seminoles. After a redshirt in 2011 and missing the 2012 season with a back injury, Mitchell finished with seven tackles and one sack as a sophomore with most of that coming in mop-up duty.

While Mitchell is listed at over 300 pounds and as a starting defensive end, the former high school standout from Jacksonville could also see time at defensive tackle. Florida State brought in plenty of talent along the defensive front this offseason, but it is still FSU’s thinnest position. For Mitchell to be a mainstay in the lineup for the next two seasons, he must make the most of this opportunity on Saturday.

With Casher grabbing one of the starting linebacker positions alongside returning starter Terrance Smith, the other starting spot went to another Jacksonville product, Reggie Northrup. The linebacking corps for Florida State is laden with talented freshmen and sophomores, but the true junior Northrup was given the starting nod as the second-most seasoned scholarship player at that position.

As primarily a special-teamer last season, Northrup recorded 46 tackles which ranked eighth on the team. Although Northrup will be well aware that the many #5 Florida State jerseys that fill the stands on Saturday are not his honor, the season-opener will be Northrup’s first real opportunity to contribute to a defense that yielded the fewest points-per-contest in the entire country last season.

Northrup did receive some national attention last season after being spotted doing the robot by ABC cameras at the conclusion of a 51-14 victory over then third-ranked Clemson. On Saturday, Northrup will get his chance to earn some more attention. This time, for what he can do for Charles Kelly’s defense.

On the offensive side of the ball for Florida State, the starting lineup has been largely set in stone since spring. The one question mark however, was which receiver would start opposite preseason All-American Rashad Greene.

On the recruiting trail, the Seminoles loaded up at the position with the signings of Ermon Lane, Travis Rudolph and Ja’Vonn Harrison. The starting spot for Saturday’s opener against Oklahoma State however, will go to a returning player.

With Isaiah Jones academically ineligible, Jesus “Bobo” Wilson suspended and Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield the quintessential slot receiver, senior Christian Green will see the field first for Florida State in Dallas.

A highly-touted recruit out of Tampa, Green’s FSU career got off to a splendid start. As a freshman in 2011, Green averaged over 17 yards-per-catch reeling in 26 passes for 450 yards. Green would not combine to reach those totals in the two years to follow, totaling just 16 receptions for 190 yards. With a number of younger players looking to get on the field, the time for Green to produce is now.

As defending national champions and the #1 team in America, talent is hardly an issue for Florida State. Like most other teams however, the Seminoles do have question marks at some very key positions. Expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for the Seminoles and Saturday will provide an early opportunity for a number of seldom-used veterans to make their presence felt for a school potentially on the verge of beginning another dynasty.

Mike Ferguson

About Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is a Bloguin contributor, the editor of Noled Out and a lifetime Florida State sports enthusiast. Mike vividly remembers watching Warrick Dunn run down the sideline in Gainesville in 1993, the "Choke at Doak" in 1994 and Monte Cummings' driving layup to beat #1 Duke in 2002. Mike has worked as a sports reporter in both print and online. For isportsweb in 2013, Mike gave press coverage of Florida State football's run to the 2013 national championship. Mike has been featured on SI.com, FoxSports.com and Yahoo Sports while interviewing major sports stars such as 2013 National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 with a major in Religion and a minor in Communications. Mike currently resides in Haines City, Florida with his wife Jennifer and daughters Trinity and Greenly. Mike is a full-time reporter at Polk County's newspaper, The Ledger, in Lakeland, Florida. Mike can be followed on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.