It’s that time again when sports that are normally overlooked step back into the limelight and the whole world stops what they’re doing to watch in amazement. We’re only a week and a half into the 2016 Rio Olympics and there have already been multiple record-breaking performances, many of which have come from the USA women’s gymnastics team, who have dubbed themselves the ‘Final Five.’
While these 16 to 22-year-old girls are impressing the likes of athletes everywhere, there are also some preparations occurring in Tallahassee. This season, FSU football hopes to break some records of their own and make another run at a National Championship, which is highly possible with the return of many star players and even some new standouts. So why not compare the hopeful National Champs to the already golden USA women’s gymnastics team? Here’s my take on which FSU stars match up to each member of the Final Five.
Dalvin Cook —> Simone Biles
There is no doubt in any single person’s mind that Dalvin Cook is Florida State’s guy, and the same goes for Simone Biles when it comes to gymnastics. Simone has shattered records in international competition and has lived up to the expectations in Rio. She is the current three-time world champion in the all-around and the newly-crowned Olympic gold medalist. Not only that, but she has also secured gold on vault and the floor exercise in Rio, and the bronze on balance beam (during which, by the way, she fell and still managed to earn a medal). This brings her total medal count to five in these games and secures her place as the greatest gymnast of all time. At 19, she’s already made history in Rio and there is no doubt in my mind that she’ll return for 2020 to defend her titles.
Similarly, Dalvin has a record-breaking ‘gene’ of his own, destroying FSU records left and right. Last season he passed the single-season rushing record, previously held by the great Warrick Dunn, running for a total of 1,691 yards. As only a sophomore, he was a Heisman contender and won the Jim Brown award for best running back in the nation. The best part about it is that he’s just getting started and is likely to make another Heisman run this season. Just as Simone was an integral reason as to why USA gymnastics was able to bring home it’s third team gold, Dalvin will play a large role in FSU’s upcoming National Championship run.
DeMarcus Walker —> Aly Raisman
Both of them are the seasoned veterans who set the tone for each of their respective teams. Raisman first captured team gold in 2012, where she was the captain of the “Fierce Five,” and returned to Rio in 2016. Why go back and train for another four years if you’ve already accomplished so much? In the London Olympics, Aly was just left out of a medal in the women’s all-around, even though she tied for third, due to the long-standing tiebreaker rule. So after those games, she decided to train again for another four years, and her hard work paid off when she won the all-around silver medal just behind her teammate Biles. She hasn’t shied away from telling her story about why it was important for her to come back, captain another Olympic team, and earn the silver all-around title she’d been previously denied.
DeMarcus has a similar story in that he chose to return to Florida State for his senior year rather than entering the NFL draft, saying that he wants to “finish the way I started.” The rising senior standout recorded 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season and is expected to play even better this upcoming season. Just like Raisman, who has had to lead a less experienced Olympic team, Walker will have to do the same with his five new defensive starters.
Derwin James —> Laurie Hernandez
These are the newcomers who are making themselves well-known right from the start. Laurie is just 16 years old, making her the youngest member of team USA, but you wouldn’t recognize that by the way she’s attacked her first senior season. She debuted as a senior just five months before the Olympic Trials and has since beat out fellow national team members Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglass in multiple international competitions. In the Rio team finals, Hernandez was in the lineup for three events, showing the confidence that long-time national team coordinator Martha Karolyi has in her. Being the youngest on this team, she is also an automatic 2020 Tokyo hopeful.
When you’re talking about newcomers who enter the scene with a bang, you’ve got to talk about Derwin James. Just like Laurie is for team USA, he is one of the younger defensive backs on this Florida State team, but that hasn’t stopped him from making his presence known. In his first season, he finished second on the team in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and fumbles recovered. Oh, and if you haven’t already checked out what he did to NC State’s Jacoby Brissett, you probably should. It’s obvious that he is going to be the immediate game changer on defense now that Jalen Ramsey is off to the NFL. If James is able to fulfill the expectations of him like Laurie did for team USA, then all FSU fans are in for a real treat.
Nate Andrews —> Gabby Douglass
These are experienced vets who have had some struggles on their roads to success. Gabby Douglass first shocked the world back in 2012 when she came out of nowhere to beat out the then-world champion Jordyn Wieber to win her first Olympic title. After her success in London, she naturally took time off from the sport, but it was never clear when or if she was going to attempt to make the 2016 team. That road back to the Olympics proved difficult for Gabby, especially because she had grown 3 inches since she last trained (which is a lot for a gymnast). This meant re-learning many skills and techniques that she had previously mastered. With the added pressure of defending her title and distractions from the media, 2016 was not an easy year for Gabby, and yet she was able to make the Olympic team and help Team USA achieve gold.
Nate Andrews has had a similar path with FSU football, in which he started off strong with a huge freshman season but was been plagued by injuries and unrealistic expectations throughout his years with the Seminoles. Andrews played a huge role during the National Championship season coming off the bench but has not been able to produce as much since. While recovering from injuries last season he recorded just 25 tackles and 3 tackles for loss. This upcoming season will be critical for Andrews as he hopes to get healthy and get the job done for the Seminoles just like Gabby did for team USA.
Ricky Aguayo —> Madison Kocian
The ones with big roles to fill. It’s no secret that the uneven bars is the weakest of the events for USA gymnastics, so this year's Olympic team needed an ace on that event and without a doubt that is Madison Kocian. As a specialist, her one and only job was to compete in that event in order to increase USA’s lead over the other countries, and she did just that. As the three-time world champ and now Olympic silver medalist on bars, Kocian did exactly what team USA needed her to do, which was nail her bar routine.
When it comes to FSU football, there are also some big shoes to fill (quite literally) when it comes to the next kicker. With Roberto Aguayo off to the NFL, the attention now turns to his little brother, Ricky. Roberto’s status as arguably the best college football kicker of all-time leaves some big expectations for his little brother, especially since there very well may be games this season that will be decided by extra points or field goals. In a new era of football where kickers are much more highly touted than they once were, his job is to go in and assure Jimbo Fisher that any and all extra points/field goals are a sure thing if inside the 40. Madison as the chosen specialist for team USA turned out quite well, so let’s hope the same happens with Ricky and the Seminoles.
With the conclusion of the artistic gymnastics competition in Rio, we saw team USA make history with a total of 9 medals. If FSU football can put together the same type of success throughout this regular season, there is a significant chance that we’ll be looking at the next FBS Champs. It all begins September 5th in Orlando, so don’t miss out on what is sure to be another gold-winning performance.