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Examining FSU’s 2017 recruiting class: The offense

A nice pull for the ‘Noles.

Cam Akers

Florida State put the finishing touches on another top-tier recruiting class yesterday, signing the nation’s No. 6 group of new commitments, per composite rankings. And a big part of securing the ACC’s best class can be attributed to the success, on the offensive side of the ball, to procure a number of elite players.

That begins with Cam Akers, the country’s top running back recruit, who has a realistic shot at not just contributing substantially in 2017, but even starting against Alabama in the Seminoles’ opening game. The five-star Akers is the highest ranked recruit in this class, but he’s one of a staggering three top-ten running backs to sign with the ‘Noles. Virginia’s Khalan Laborn is the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back, and Zaquandre White, of North Fort Myers (Fla.), ranks seventh among RBs. No other program in the country — not Alabama, not Ohio State — can boast a running back crop even approaching FSU’s.

While that impressive trio will contend for carries in 2017, along with a slew of returning backs led by Jacques Patrick, they’ll do so behind last year’s best offensive line recruiting class in the land. Florida State’s astounding success up front in 2016 resulted in FSU taking just a lone offensive lineman in this cycle, Brady Scott of Kennesaw, Georgia. At 6’5, 285, Scott has a promising frame to which Seminole coaches can add weight as they see fit.

But as far as weight goes, Scott shouldn’t feel too much of it on his shoulders, as he won’t really be depended upon to contribute early on. That responsibility will fall primarily on the numerous ‘Nole returnees up front, many of whom must make significant strides if they’re to keep quarterback Deondre Francois from again getting pummeled.

If one of those hits were to see Francois miss time for a significant stretch, the QB2 role would instantly become one of the most discussed in Tallahassee— if it’s not already. Veteran backup J.J. Cosentino has done little to impress in the chances he’s been given, meaning that the pair of freshman signal-callers just added — Bailey Hockman and James Blackman — could have a legitimate shot at being one play away from the starting job.

Whoever is taking snaps will be without one of the most effective protections that position has had for three years at FSU: the running threat of Dalvin Cook. With Cook headed to the NFL, the ‘Nole quarterback will need to find a new security blanket, an outlet to which he can go on blitzes and when under pressure, someone with whom he shares chemistry and in whom he places trust. And that spot is, presently, up for grabs.

As far as returning receivers go, Auden Tate and Nyqwan Murray seem the most likely candidates, with Keith Gavin coming on late last season. George Campbell has struggled with injuries, and Da’Vante Phillips has had trouble finding the field consistently as well. It’s certainly very possible that either — or both — of them could step up and play to their potential in 2017.

But if not, the Seminoles may need a true freshman, like D.J. Matthews or Tamorrion Terry, to step up. Although the latter has tremendous upside, the former is a much more polished WR, who could see time early for the ‘Noles. Matthews is the best slot receiver in the 2017 class. His quick footwork and a range that exceeds his somewhat slight size could be a QB’s best friend as a hot read on a quick slant thrown under duress.

Of course, tight ends play a dual role in keeping QBs upright, blocking on the edge as well as fighting to create separation in often crowded environs. They also can be valuable dump-down options, often as second, third, or even fourth reads, and their effectiveness both at the line and running routes can be the difference between a quarterback on his back or celebrating a TD pass.

Make no mistake about it: Ryan Izzo and Mavin Saunders will be well ahead of the field here, but that doesn’t mean that newcomers Tre’ McKitty and Alexander Marshall won’t press for playing time as well. That said, don’t expect much of it for the frosh TEs. Tight end is one of the most nuanced, complex positions to grasp, and first-year players are rarely successful in doing so.

All in all, this was a very nice finish for the ‘Noles on offense— and all around, for that matter. For the rest of our content covering this year’s National Signing Day, click below: