Entering the 2015 football season, the Florida State fan base, along with the rest of the country, was curious about how the tenth ranked Seminoles would perform against Texas State.
With eleven players being selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, including the number one overall pick quarterback Jameis Winston, there were several questions that needed to be answered on both sides of the ball. After a one-hour rain delay, we all got our first look at the new look team, and despite some miscues, there were several positives in the Seminoles 59-16 victory over Texas State.
Newly dubbed starting quarterback Everett Golson had quite the debut, throwing for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Golson still has not mastered Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher’s intricate offense, but the transfer quarterback did show that he was capable of directing this young offense. Whether it was throwing on the run, threading passes between defenders, or using his legs to gain yardage, Golson seemed comfortable on the field.
In the first half FSU relied on their running game to set the tone. Star running back Dalvin Cook missed a large portion of the offseason due to off the field concerns, but he was not rusty at all as he rushed for 156 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 carries. Cook showcased the vision, strength, and speed that made him a freshmen all-american last season. Backup Mario Pender complimented Cook well, rushing for 92 yards on 14 carries. Together, Cook and Pender propelled the offense throughout the game. Look for the Seminoles to rely on the running game heavily this season to take pressure off of Golson and the young receiving core.
Without recent draftee Rashard Greene in the lineup at wide receiver, someone else had to replace his production. To accomplish this, the Seminoles used a committee of pass catchers. Ja’vonn “Pig” Harrison led the Noles in receiving yards with 77 yards and a touchdown. Jesus “Bobo” Wilson had 53 yards receiving with a score, Travis Rudolph had 44 yards receiving with a score, and George Campbell had 42 yards receiving. Kermit Whitfield and Ermon Lane also made several nice receptions. Even though they lack experience, there is depth in this receiving core.
The tight ends were more of a mixed bag. Ryan Izzo did catch a touchdown pass, but he was flagged for holding. The second tight end, Mavin Saunders had a bad drop on an easy five yard out route. Saunders could potentially end up being on of the best tight ends in the nation, but he has to master the little things before he can take that next step.
In their first start together, the offensive line jelled nicely. Left tackle Roderick Johnson is the only returning starter, but the whole line showed that they could maul the opposition in the run game and be adequate enough in pass protection. The left side of the line appears to be the strength in the run game as “Big Rod” Johnson and left guard Kareem Are anchor that side. Center Corey Martinez was announced as the starter during the last practice before the game and he did well and snapped the ball accurately. Right guard Wilson Bell had a few penalties and right tackle Brock Ruble performed well in place of Derrick Kelly, who had originally been penciled as the starter until he suffered an ankle injury.
Last season, Florida State’s defense only amassed 17 sacks on the season despite the fact that they blitzed heavily. This season, the defense is more focused on applying pressure with the front four. Defensive ends Josh Sweat and DeMarcus Walker forced Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones to scramble out of the pocket constantly and defensive tackles Niles Lawrence Stample, Derrick Nnadi, and Derrick Mitchell did a good job of pushing the pocket back and controlling the run game.
With the Seminoles lacking depth at linebacker, the Noles have implemented a 4-2-5 defense. This means that in FSU’s base defense there are four defensive linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. Starters at linebacker, Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith were productive by filling the running lanes and shadowing receivers in the passing game.
The secondary played well with Jalen Ramsey shutting down his side of the field at cornerback, Marquez White opposite of him, Lamarcus Brutus and Nate Andews at safety, and with Trey Marshall at the star position. With the backup unit there were a few mistakes as they gave up a late touchdown pass, but the true freshman Derwin James made a big impact on the game when he checked in. James laid a big hit on a receiver and then later forced and recovered a fumble. If he continues to play like this, he may warrant more time on the field.
The most disappointing unit had to be the special teams. Kicker Roberto Aguayo nailed a 22-yard field goal, but he also had two penalties by kicking the ball out of bounds on the kickoff. The punt return game was also atrocious as Marquez White muffed a punt and Travis Rudolph did as well. Punter Cason Beatty did not have a strong night punting either. However, Kermit Whitefield and Jalen Ramsey did both have good kickoff returns so the blocking has gotten better in that aspect.
Overall the Seminoles controlled the entire game against Texas State. The score was only 21-10 at halftime but once adjustments were made, FSU dominated throughout the second half. Look for Everett Golson to continue to throw the ball next week against USF as he tries to get in sync with the young receiving core. You may also see a switch up in the secondary on defense and at punt returner.
Florida States’ next game will be against the University of South Florida. Kickoff is at 11:30 AM eastern time at Doak Campbell Stadium.