The Gold team defeated the Garnet in the 2015 edition of Florida State's spring game. What can we actually learn from a rainy inter-squad scrimmage featuring a bunch of guys you've never heard of that capped off a spring of struggle? You're in luck because I'm going to tell you.
In case you weren't aware, the Seminoles have collectively been in poor health this spring. With more than 25 guys missing time, many of whom were out Saturday afternoon, the first and primary takeaway from the Garnet and Gold Game is that anything and everything observed should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, George Campbell's first quarter catch and run for a touchdown was certainly electrifying, but its genius is somewhat tempered by the realization that he was surrounded by three third-string defenders who should have tackled him upon reception. We can certainly observe that Campbell has electric speed, much like we can feel confident in Jacques Patrick's explosiveness after seeing his early long run that was called back. But can we infer from these performances that these guys will be breaking long plays all over ACC defenses this coming fall? Let's pump the brakes there.
Now, that said, there were plenty of reasons for optimism even through this cautious lens. The aforementioned freshmen and their classmates showed the attributes that led to their lofty recruiting rankings. Campbell is fantastic with the ball in his hands, Patrick is quick and powerful, Derwin James was excellent, and De'Andre Johnson looked quite good for a true freshman even against weak competition. J.J. Cosentino generally made good decisions and threw with accuracy and confidence. Sean Maguire and the offensive line shook off rough starts and rebounded to play fairly well. It's worth noting that the strong offensive performances from the Garnet players came against the first team defense, albeit a banged-up version. These are among the positives that will justifiably leave ‘Noles fans feeling optimistic heading into a long summer.
James, Derwin. The freshman took Sean Maguire's first pass of the spring to the endzone from 41 yards, and while the return was quite good, the credit for the play (or lack thereof) belongs mostly with Maguire for a dismal decision and throw. Even still, Derwin was absolutely everywhere Saturday afternoon. He looked every bit of the highest rated safety recruit in Rivals' history and seems to have taken quite well to the defense after being allowed to freelance a lot in high school. Our eyes in the press box were focused on Derwin for much of the game and came away about as impressed as they possibly could have been. Can James start right away, leaving Hunter and Andrews to fight for the other safety spot and potentially open the door to the latter returning to the dime role? That would be huge for the 2015 defense, and James certainly showed the ability to make it happen today.
Undeniable. I agree with Brendan Sonnone that there is one thing we can say unequivocally:
FSU's second-team WRs (Lane and Campbell) are clearly better than the walk-on DBs. That much is clear.— Brendan Sonnone (@osfsu) April 11, 2015
Ermon Lane and George Campbell dominated their Garnet team counterparts for the entire afternoon. This was expected, but it is still a welcome sight for ‘Noles fans looking for depth at the wide receiver position. These "second-team" guys will be added to a group featuring Bobo Wilson, Travis Rudolph, and Pig Harrison. Harrison looked solid today, seeing a significant amount of success against Marquez White. Jimbo has raved about Harrison's potential, and a five-deep rotation of these guys, plus the injured Da'Vante Phillips and Kermit Whitfield, among others, bodes well for the Seminoles this fall. They will need to continue to improve in their route-running and blocking, but there's a veritable sea of young talent out wide for the 2015 Seminoles.
Returning kicks is yet another area in which Jalen Ramsey seems to excel. Even with a one-touch-and-dead rule, Ramsey found his way far up field on several returns while stationed deep with George Campbell. This does beg a question that has divided even the TN staff: Do you want Jalen Ramsey returning kicks for the 2015 ‘Noles? I am of the opinion that he should not be doing so unless the gap in talent between him and the next best returner is incredibly wide. If Ramsey were to get injured, the cornerback situation would be concerning bordering on disastrous. Others believe that if he's clearly the best he needs to be back deep to help a much less talented 2015 team win as many games as possible. He clearly has the ability to be an effective return man, but what say you, TN faithful?
Improved, as in the offensive line play as the day progressed for the Garnet team, generally speaking. It's probably wise to focus more on individual performances at this point rather than the line as a collective whole, as these guys have only played together for a few weeks and have faced a bunch of injuries and cross-training. Roderick Johnson and Kareem Are looked solid, and the group as a whole was very effective towards the end of the second quarter, leading to a Dalvin Cook touchdown. While this was encouraging, it also shouldn't be particularly surprising. These guys are physically talented and mature, and run blocking will be easier for them at this stage than cohesive pass blocking. And their opposition was always going to struggle in run defense given a complete lack of linebackers. So, there are positives to take away here, although they again must be tempered due to context.
Eberle, Alec. We've now reached the "points of concern" section. The snaps in this game were shambolic. Eberle was the perpetrator for the Garnet squad, and while some had hoped for competition for the injured Ryan Hoefeld, who was pressed into action before he was likely ready a year ago, Eberle's play made that seem questionable. While his technical play outside of the snaps was decent, a team that operates out of the shotgun as much as FSU does needs a reliable snapper at center. This leads FSU fans to wonder about the recruitment of graduate transfer Matt Hegarty, who has been making visits of late. Center will likely remain a position of concern heading into the fall, and FSU fans will hope that Hoefeld can come back from injury and improve on his play from 2014, or that Hegarty is signed and ready to play at a high level.
Second corner is another issue that the Seminoles will have to deal with into the fall. Marquez White had a few nice plays, including a pass breakup following a yielded completion, but overall his play did not inspire much confidence. Maguire picked on him in throwing to Harrison frequently rather than test Ramsey, which is something whoever is playing the second corner position had better get used to. White's coverage today left much to be desired, and he'll face a battle to hold onto his spot over the summer and into the fall, when highly touted Tarvarus McFadden arrives in Tallahassee. Though relying on true freshmen is rarely a wise practice, McFadden certainly has the ability to push for playing time.
Sean Maguire had an up and down kind of day. He started with a bad interception that Fisher blamed on a receiver, but the fact remains that it was not a good throw or decision, route bust notwithstanding. The second interception came late in the game and was no thing of beauty either. But Maguire also had his moments, showing some beautiful feel and change of arm slot on several throws, as well as some nice balls over the middle and down the sideline. He was also playing against the first-team defense, while Cosentino and Johnson enjoyed their days against backups and a whole bunch of walk-ons. Still, it wasn't a resounding performance from Maguire, who was seeking to solidify his position as heir apparent among the fanbase, as our sources have made it abundantly clear that the competition was not at all close in practice. That said, Cosentino did make solid decisions and threw with confidence and accuracy to the sidelines, and Johnson's ball placement was very good, although Fisher was berating him for detail-related issues for much of the afternoon. We'll see if their respective performances crank up a quarterback competition that never really was one this spring as we move towards the season.
Usefulness is the ultimate virtue, and that's what Florida State fans hope that they have in a couple of unheralded players who played well on Saturday. Jonathan Vickers played well as a second back and fullback, a ripped fumble caused by Jalen Ramsey notwithstanding. He had some nice runs and was consistently in the right spot. I'm not sure we'll ever see a back like Lonnie Pryor again at FSU, but we can certainly hope that Vickers provides a similar skill set during his time in Tallahassee. Fred Jones was also a pleasant surprise for the Garnet team defense, as he proved to be difficult to move at a listed 312 pounds in the middle. Any snaps that he can give the ‘Noles on the interior would be greatly appreciated, and he seemed to have the capability this afternoon.
Closer. That's what the Seminoles hope Jacques Patrick can be as a short-yardage back in 2015, and he showed the ability to be that and much more on Saturday afternoon. His aforementioned long run was great, but Patrick also consistently ran hard with power and acceleration, finally finding the endzone. Two-back sets featuring him and Dalvin Cook (who, for some reason, the FSU coaches felt would help the spring game experience in a non-contact jersey early) are the stuff of giddy daydreams, and it looks more likely than ever that they're about to become a reality. He showed the ability to have a storied career at FSU, and it's likely to start early this fall.
Kicking remains the strongest facet of the Florida State football program to date. I have not relinquished my belief that Roberto Aguayo is a deity, and you can't convince me to. The Lord of the Leg belted 47 and 56-yarders in the rain, and missed a 62-yarder before half in a clear ploy not to intimidate new kicker Kevin Robledo who was watching from the sideline. He is a powerful, yet merciful deity, and I pledge my allegiance to him.