Florida State’s spring game this weekend will provide the first bit of clarity as to what the Seminoles will look like during the 2019-20 season.
As usual, the squad has been split into two teams for the Garnet and Gold spring game. Starters will line up against backups and incoming freshmen will go up against proven stars.
While the spring game serves as only one piece of the puzzle, there will still be several things to watch for.
Who emerges as the No. 2 receiver?
Tamorrion Terry is entrenched as a starter in what could be his final season in Tallahassee. But apart from Terry, there is no set No. 2 receiver in Kendal Briles’ offense.
On paper, D.J. Matthews is the most proven option. The former four-star recruit was second on the team last year with 42 catches. But talented sophomore Keyshawn Helton was nipping at Matthews’ heels at the end of last season and will get every opportunity to earn playing time in the slot.
This is also Keith Gavin’s final year in Tallahassee. Can the 6-3, 212-pound receiver prove to be the matchup nightmare he was billed to be? If not, players like Tre’Shaun Harrison and Ontaria Wilson are waiting in the wings.
Keep an eye out for redshirt freshmen Warren Thompson, D’Marcus Adams and Jordan Young as well. All three were talented recruits coming out of high school.
The No. 2 receiver doesn’t have to be the guy playing opposite of Terry (it can even be someone in the slot), but James Blackman will need a reliable option to turn to when Terry is covered.
Can Dontae Lucas earn a starting job?
While you wouldn’t normally expect a true freshman lineman to contend for a starting job, Florida State is in desperate need of talent along the offensive front.
Lucas was a four-star recruit and one of the most talented players in FSU’s most recent recruiting class.
If he can earn a starting job at guard, that would allow Florida State the flexibility with the starting five.
Perhaps FSU rolls with Lucas and Cole Minshew at guard and kicks Landon Dickerson out to tackle. Or maybe Dickerson plays guard and incoming grad transfer Ryan Roberts plays tackle. The possibilities are exciting!
Playing Lucas also provides some stability for the future. Florida State is not contending for an ACC title this year, so giving Lucas playing time cements a building block for the future.
How will FSU replace Brian Burns?
Brian Burns leaves Florida State as one of the most accomplished pass rushers in school history and almost certainly a first-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
But now FSU will have to replace his production (10.0 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss last year).
The first two names (and the likely starters at defensive end) are Janarius Robinson and Joshua Kaindoh.
Robinson was a raw player coming out of high school and developed into a consistent contributor (27 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss last year).
On the flip side, Kaindoh was a Top-10 recruit from prestigious IMG Academy. But he has not lived up to the hype so far in his career (7.0 sacks through two years— four of which came in one game against Delaware State).
Monsters like Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden at defensive tackle will ease the burden of Robinson and Kaindoh, but Florida State will need to find a consistent edge rusher this season.
Can the linebackers take a step forward?
Last year was rough for FSU’s linebackers.
But a new year brings new faces and a fresh new attitude about the position.
Dontavious Jackson is back for his senior season and brings leadership and experience to the unit (111 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss through three seasons).
New to the group is Hamsah Nasirildeen, who played safety last year. But his size at 6-4, 215-pounds makes him an intriguing candidate for the STAR position.
Also new to the group is freshman Jaleel McRae, who has been the surprising star of spring practice per all reports. The four-star recruit is bouncing around and doing some things, and those things include intercepting passes in scrimmages.
With players like Emmett Rice, Leonard Warner and Amari Gainer also on the roster, this unit should be improved in 2019.
Can James Blackman handle the new weight he put on?
Per Florida State’s updated roster, Blackman has put on a substantial about of weight this offseason.
He has officially gone from 181 pounds to 182 pounds.
That’s a whole 16-ounces right there, folks.
My question is this: can Blackman handle this new weight?
Briles’ offense will require his quarterbacks to make decisions on the move. Blackman was a mobile quarterback before weight gain, but here’s hoping he can still move around.