Florida State Football: Predicting the Depth Chart Heading into Fall Camp
Florida State's depth is the envy of college football coaches from coast to coast.
The Seminoles will return to the practice field on Aug. 4 and must replace five starters on each side of the ball. But four straight years of top-10 recruiting classes in the 247Sports rankings have given FSU plenty of options.
FSU's depth chart reads like a who's who of former 4-star and 5-star prospects. It's possible that the Seminoles will start eight players who were 5-stars: quarterback Jameis Winston, tailback Karlos Williams (who was a 5-star safety), tight end Nick O'Leary, defensive ends Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, safety Jalen Ramsey and cornerback Ronald Darby.
Where FSU lost a player from 2013, in most areas there is an experienced backup. The exception is wide receiver, but seven players could contribute and support star receiver Rashad Greene.
Let's take a look at how FSU's depth chart looks heading into the start of fall camp.
Starter: Jameis Winston
Backups: Sean Maguire, John Franklin III, J.J. Cosentino
Winston's numbers from his Heisman season in 2013 were impressive: 4,057 passing yards and a school-record 40 touchdown passes. While many fans will wonder if he can match those numbers or improve on them, the rising sophomore said he is more interested in being a "two-time national championship quarterback" than repeating as Heisman Trophy winner, per Tim Linafelt of 247Sports.
Winston's numbers might be similar to his 2013 stats, but he's clearly focused on one-upping what he and the Seminoles (14-0) did a year ago—going perfect in the regular season, winning the ACC title and then taking two games in the new playoff to finish 15-0.
Maguire will likely see plenty of playing time in the second half of games. He took over as the No. 2 quarterback when Jacob Coker was injured in a November win over Wake Forest (Coker has graduated and transferred to Alabama). Maguire completed 15 of 28 passes for a touchdown and an interception in the spring game and has benefited from a full spring as the backup.
Franklin is still learning but showcased his speed and arm by completing five of 10 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Cosentino will likely redshirt and lead the scout team, but Fisher could also opt to use the quarterback as a punter if Cason Beatty falters.
Starter: Karlos Williams
Williams was reluctant to make the move from safety to tailback, but the move has paid off for him and the Seminoles. After playing defensive back in Week 1 at Pittsburgh, FSU had a bye week, and Williams switched to offense.
He showed raw talent from the start, using his sprinter speed to run off tackle and break off long touchdown runs (his first college carry was a 65-yard touchdown run against Nevada). Williams finished with 91 carries for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was also effective in the red zone, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.
Williams is the clear-cut No. 1, but Fisher will again use a running-back-by-committee game plan that wears out defenses in the second half. Cook, the state's Mr. Football in 2013, is a physical and fast tailback who could see significant playing time as a true freshman.
Ryan Green brings some experience with 33 carries in 2013, and while Pender hasn't played in two seasons in Tallahassee after an injury in 2012 and academic issues in 2013, he played the role of Auburn's Tre Mason on the scout team last December and gave FSU's defense an accurate representation of what the Seminoles would be facing in the national championship game.
Freddie Stevenson, who was recruited as a linebacker, converted to fullback and has already shown that he can be an effective runner and blocker.
Vickers will likely redshirt in 2014.
Starter: Rashad Greene
Greene is the only receiver that FSU coaches know for certain is a starter. He caught 76 passes for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013.
After Greene, there is plenty of depth but little experience. Green has 42 career catches, and Haggins has 20 career catches, but neither has found the end zone. Ideally, one of the seniors will be ready to step into a starting role in the slot; expect Haggins to get the edge over Green.
Jones (five catches, 81 yards) and Whitfield (four catches, 79 yards) both had strong spring games. Jones is 6'4'', 200 pounds and has the ability to go up and grab passes. While Whitfield is just 5'7'', he has already made a name for himself with his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the BCS Championship Game against Auburn. Picture that kind of speedy and ability to maneuver through defenses, and he could be a good option in the slot.
It remains to be seen if Wilson will be able to play after being charged with grand theft auto of a motor vehicle earlier in July.
Rudolph and Lane were two of the nation's top receiving prospects, and along with Harrison, they could make an impact if they learn the playbook quickly. While Haggins and the sophomores will earn playing time early, the freshmen will catch up as they gain experience.
Starter: Nick O'Leary
O'Leary was a Mackey Award finalist in 2013, grabbing 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns. He has steadily improved as a blocker and already has 11 touchdowns, more than any tight end in school history.
Haplea missed the 2013 season with a knee injury, but his return means that Fisher can use two-tight end sets with O'Leary and Haplea. Expect the senior to see significant playing time, and while he's known more as a blocker, Haplea could also be a threat in the red zone.
Kerr also missed 2013 with a knee injury. He will compete with Saunders and Izzo for some playing time late in blowout games, although it's fair to expect one of them to redshirt.
Starter: LT Cameron Erving, LG Josue Matias, C Austin Barron, RG Tre Jackson, RT Bobby Hart
Backups: Wilson Bell, Ruben Carter, Ryan Hoefeld, Kareem Are, Alec Eberle, Derrick Kelly, Roderick Johnson, Corey Martinez, Chad Mavety, Brock Ruble
FSU moved up and down the field with ease last season. While Winston and the playmakers earned most of the credit, the offensive line helped FSU score 723 points and rack up 7,267 yards.
While FSU loses an All-American in center Bryan Stork, four senior starters return. And Austin Barron, who will replace Stork, has five starts under his belt.
The line is anchored by Cameron Erving, who won the ACC's Jacobs Award as the conference's top offensive lineman of 2013. Jackson was an All-ACC first-team pick last year, and Matias was a second-team pick.
FSU is looking to piece together a No. 2 offensive line that can play in the second half of games and also figure out who will earn the five starting jobs that come open in 2015.
Starters: Mario Edwards Jr., Chris Casher
Backups: DeMarcus Walker, Lorenzo Featherston, Rick Leonard
Edwards is poised for a breakout season as a junior. He had just 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2013, but the 6'3'', 295-pounder is athletic, powerful and very difficult to block one-on-one. While often playing end, he also slides inside to tackle—making it a challenge to figure out how to block him.
Casher has had limited chances to produce, but he had 10 of his 25 tackles in a win over Bethune-Cookman in September 2013. He's fast and capable of producing either as a defensive end or standing up as a linebacker.
Walker, who made three starts and had 18 tackles as a true freshman in 2013, could back up Edwards Jr. and Casher. Featherston and Leonard likely won't redshirt, as both will be needed right away to fill a rotation that keeps everyone rested.
Starters: Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample
What is known is that Goldman will start at one tackle spot. Who will line up next to him is one of the better position battles of August.
But look for Lawrence-Stample to hold off Bryant, Mitchell and Shanks—for the moment—until the true freshmen can be evaluated and gain enough experience to challenge for a starting job.
Goldman is a physical presence; he's 6'4'', 320 pounds and won't be pushed around easily. He had just 19 tackles last season, but he's able to stuff the run and collapse the pocket on the quarterback.
Starters: Terrance Smith, Ukeme Eligwe, Reggie Northrup
FSU lost two starting linebackers in Telvin Smith (team-leading 90 tackles) and Christian Jones (56 tackles), who played a linebacker/rush-end role. But the group includes players who were backups in 2013 and are ready to assume starting roles.
Terrance Smith is the team's returning leader in tackles (59). When Jones moved into a hybrid role in the middle of 2013, Smith immediately saw playing time and produced for FSU.
Thomas is the front-runner to take over Jones' hybrid role.
The Seminoles often use a nickel defense, so expect to see Smith stay in at linebacker alongside Eligwe, Northrup or Thomas in those situations. Since the linebackers cross train at the weak-side, middle and strong-side positions, which two remain in the game in the sets with five defensive backs will change.
Starters: Safeties—Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews. Cornerbacks—Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams.
Backups: Tyler Hunter, Lamarcus Brutus, Trey Marshall, Colin Blake, Keelin Smith, Marquez White, Nick Waisome, Malique Jackson.
Williams told 247Sports' Anthony Gallina (subscription required) that he feels FSU has the best group of defensive backs in the nation. It's hard to argue with that statement, especially after the Seminoles allowed just 156 passing yards per game in 2013 (the lowest of any FBS program).
Ramsey started every game as a freshman, the first three at corner and then the final 11 at safety. He finished with 49 tackles. Andrews led the team with four interceptions.
Not a bad start for a pair of true freshmen who should only get better over the next few years.
Darby and Williams are both capable of quieting a team's No. 1 receiver, and they can take chances with Ramsey and Andrews behind them at safety.
FSU likes to use the nickel formation frequently, and defensive coordinator Charles Kelly has a wealth of talent to utilize as he rotates personnel.
Starters: Kicker Roberto Aguayo, Punter Cason Beatty
Backups: Punter Jonathan Hernandez
Aguayo is coming off one of the best seasons that any kicker in college football has had. The Lou Groza Award winner made 21 of 22 field-goal attempts, missing a 43-yarder in the second half at Wake Forest. His 157 points broke the national record for points by a kicker.
Beatty averaged 41.1 yards per punt in 2013, which was nearly three yards better than his 2012 average. Fisher said he would like Beatty to improve his hang time and consistency. If he doesn't, Fisher could turn to Hernandez (a walk-on) or possibly J.J. Cosentino, who had success as a punter in high school.
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Bob on Twitter.