Quarterback | B
The question everyone wants answered is who will replace Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. That wasn’t answered until Monday, when Everett Golson was named the starter over Sean Maguire. Golson has the most potential, but his habit of making costly mistakes cost him the starting job at Notre Dame and could cost him the job at FSU. Maguire’s work in defeating Clemson last season was no small feat. He was one of only two quarterbacks to top 300 yards passing against the Tigers, who statistically had the No. 1 defense in the country. The recent success of FSU quarterbacks has set the bar extremely high. Fans will have to tolerate growing pains from either quarterback.
Running Back | B+
Miami Central product Dalvin Cook’s misdemeanor battery charge during the summer cast doubt on the running game, but with him in the lineup, the Seminoles might have the best backfield in the ACC. Cook had 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman. Without him, the Noles will look for answers from junior Mario Pender, freshman Jacques Patrick and sophomore Jonathon Vickers. Pender is the only back of the bunch with game experience and even that was limited. In 2014, he carried the ball 41 times for 206 yards. Keep an eye on Patrick. If he learns quickly, he could be this year’s version of Cook.
Wide Receiver | B
The receiving corps might be young and inexperienced, but there is talent and enough athleticism to make big plays. Fisher holds his receivers to high standards and hasn’t been pleased with their output thus far. Sophomore Travis Rudolf had 38 catches for 555 yards and scored four touchdowns in 2014 and will be the No. 1 option in 2015. Juniors Jesus Wilson and Kermit Whitfield have experience and blistering speed. Hometead’s Ermon Lane came with high expectations in 2014, but caught just 13 passes and hasn’t shown that he can be a dependable weapon. Freshman George Campbell is a candidate to jump into the rotation early in the season.
Tight Ends | B-
A pair of redshirt freshmen will be called on to replace John Mackey award winner Nick O’Leary, who accounted for 618 yards and six touchdowns last season. Ryan Izzo is listed on the first team and will be a dependable option, but Mavin Saunders is another name Noles fans will soon become familiar with. Saunders, 6-5 248 pounds, grew up playing basketball and had a hoops scholarship offer from Connecticut, but decided to play football. He has only played three years of football, but watch for him to make big contributions by midseason.
Offensive line | B-
Florida State had four linemen taken in the 2015 NFL Draft and lost a combined 155 career starts. Size will not be an issue, but experience will be. Sophomore Roderick Johnson is a lock at left tackle, and the rest of the pieces seem to be falling in place. Redshirt freshman Alec Elerbee will start at center with sophomore Wilson Bell at right tackle (physical). Former junior college transfer Kareem Are didn’t play much his first year, but has the size (6-6, 334 pounds) to throw some weight around. Right tackle has been a question mark, but it looks like Derrick Kelly has carved out a role for himself.
Defensive Line | C+
The defensive line had just 17 sacks in 2014 compared to 35 sacks in 2013. The loss of second-round draft picks Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman leave an even bigger hole here. Defensive ends Lorenzo Featherston and Chris Casher both had arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this fall and aren’t expected back until a few weeks into the season. Junior DeMarcus Walker and sophomore Rick Leonard were named co-defensive MVPs in spring and will have to shoulder the load for the time being. The interior line could be a strong point with senior Niles Lawrence-Staple and sophomore Derrick Nnadi coming off an impressive spring.
Linebackers | C
Expect defensive coordinator Charles Kelly to utilize a lot of nickel and dime packages to supplement the thin linebacker corps. Senior Reggie Northup is still recovering from an ACL tear, and sophomore Matthew Thomas was ruled ineligible for the 2015 season, which leaves senior Terrence Smith as the only experienced linebacker. Junior college transfer Lorenzo Phillips will need to make an impact sooner than expected.
Defensive backs | A
The Noles’ strength this year will be its secondary, despite the loss of Ronald Darby and PJ Williams, to the NFL. Second-team All-American Jalen Ramsey will switch from safety to corner. Junior cornerback Marquez White walked on to the FSU basketball team his freshman year and could be a playmaker in football, too. Junior safety Nate Andrews’ has a total of seven interceptions the past two seasons and should be on the verge of a breakout season. Freshman safety Derwin James is expected to be a game-changer at some point this season. He had an impressive spring game in which he had a pick six.
Special Teams | B+
Roberto Aguayo is the best kicker in the country. The 2013 Lou Groza award winner made 27 of 30 field-goals attempts last season. Cason Beatty has to improve as punter. He averaged only 41 yards per attempt in 2014. The kick return unit led the nation in average return yards in 2013 (28.2 yards per return), but took a major step back last season coming in at 87th in the nation and just 19.8 yards per return. Ramsey has been inserted in the return game and won’t shy away from contact in opening holes for Whitfield, but he also has big-play potential himself.