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On the state of FSU football

Is the Seminoles’ stock on the rise?

Capitol One Orange Bowl - Florida State v Michigan Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

It’s May. Which means that, as crazy as it seems, Florida State is now about only four months away from opening its 2017 football season against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Atlanta. And while that game will surely dominate opening-weekend headlines, it’s really just the tip off the proverbial iceberg with regard to the state of the Seminole program and what the future may hold for FSU football.

There’s just so much more that requires examination as the ’Noles continue to distance themselves from their national championship season of 2013. To begin, and this may sound strange, but it’s important that FSU fans don’t make too much of that season-opening primetime matchup with the Crimson Tide. While a win may provide bragging rights and a boost on the national scene, for all intents and purposes, it’s not even one of the most important games on the Seminoles’ 2017 schedule. Simply put, if the goal of a program the caliber of FSU is to win national titles — and it most certainly is this year — division dominance is where it begins.

Specifically, that means beating the defending national champs, Clemson, on the road. Doing that, coupled with winning everything aside from a loss to ‘Bama, would mean two things. First, an appearance in the ACC title game. Win that, and you’re almost certainly playoff bound. Second, it would mean that you extended your winning streak over Miami to eight straight, along with five straight over Florida, which perpetuates an even longer run of dominating in-state recruiting in the talent-rich state of Florida.

And while landing stud recruits is where it all begins, they have to perform when they get to Tallahassee. And that has been an issue of late that will be worth keeping an eye on regarding the state of the program. Last year, FSU players had to sign a letter promising to give their best effort. Wanting to launch a preemptive strike against the same problem this spring, Head Coach Jimbo Fisher issued different colored jerseys to those offering varying levels of effort in practice.

The questions remain: why was that necessary? Was it strictly a precautionary measure, or is this once again a concern of Fisher? And more practically speaking, what happens if this team falls behind big to Alabama (not an unreasonable possibility)? Will they disintegrate, they way they did against Louisville in 2016? The answer to that question could reflect largely on the state of FSU football, and if Fisher’s era as an agent of change has worn thin.

Of course, Fisher’s recruiting does not suggest that at all, as another slew of talent is either destined for FSU in the fall or already on campus. The foremost, of course, with regard to Fisher’s expertise, is quarterback Deondre Francois. And as Fisher’s billing is largely that of a QB guru, the development of Francois will say a lot about the state of the FSU program. After all, since the departure of generational signal-caller Jameis Winston, Fisher had an unsuccessful stint with one-year grad-transfer Everett Golson prior to Francois.

So now the question becomes: does Fisher make QBs elite, or did Winston make Fisher look good? Francois’ 2017 season will say a lot about that.

Although maybe it won’t have to. Fisher has not been a fan of the “game manager” role ascribed to quarterbacks in the past, but that may just be the role of Seminole QBs in the near future, due to the wealth of exciting running backs in the ’Nole backfield, led by freshman phenom Cam Akers.

Akers looks better than Dalvin Cook did at this point in his career, which is a scary prospect for other teams on the FSU schedule. And the defense returns 9 of 11 starters, including Derwin James, who may just be the best player in college football. If Florida State can straighten some things out on its special teams — and spring results from punter/kicker Logan Tyler were very encouraging — the state of FSU football could very well prove quite promising, and heading in the right direction.