Florida State University

Grading the Florida State Seminoles ahead of the 2019 college football season


Returning starter Deondre Francois was dismissed from the team due to off-field issues, and redshirt sophomore James Blackman is back at the helm. He started 12 games as a true freshman in 2017, and he has so far fought off Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook in a camp competition. Louisville transfer Jordan Travis is also making a push.


Junior Cam Akers, an NFL prospect, struggled as a sophomore but a lot of that had to do with his weak offensive line. Running back depth could be an issue after Amir Rasul and Jacques Patrick transferred out. Sophomore Khalan Laborn, coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss the final 10 games last season, and lightly tested sophomore Anthony Grant provide the scholarship depth.


Redshirt sophomore Tamorrion Terry, who is on the ACC’s preseason second team, started 11 games as a freshman, catching 35 passes for 744 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. After Terry, the rest of the targets are not as accomplished: senior Keith Gavin, sophomore Keyshawn Helton and junior D.J. Matthews.


Junior Tre’ McKitty, who started 10 games last season, made 26 receptions for 256 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-5, 245-pounder is not a star but is the best all-around player at the position. Senior Gabe Nabers (6-3,245) is the best blocking tight end, and sophomore Cam McDonald might be team’s best receiving tight end but was used only on special teams as a freshman.


The Seminoles could have five new starters this season, including freshman phenom Dontae Lucas, formerly of Miami High. Junior Jauan Williams is the left tackle, sophomore Brady Scott is at left guard, junior Baveon Johnson is at center, Lucas is at right guard, and Northern Illinois graduate transfer Ryan Roberts is the right tackle.


Junior Marvin Wilson, a 6-5, 310-pounder and a former five-star recruit, is ranked the fourth-best defensive tackle in the nation, but he is slated to play end in FSU’s new 3-4 defense. Wilson started five games last year and had 3.5 sacks. At nose tackle, 6-1, 345-pound sophomore Robert Cooper could be a load, demanding double-teams. However, there are concerns about the pass rush from the edges, where Brian Burns (10 sacks) bolted for the NFL.


The starters on the inside are senior Dontavious Jackson and sophomore Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, a converted safety. Jackson (13 career starts) is the vocal leader of the defense and a key run-stuffer. Lars-Woodbey, a playmaker at 6-4, 225 pounds, started 12 games as an ESPN Freshman All-American, breaking up eight passes and making 4.5 tackles for losses. Undersized sophomore DeCalon Brooks (seven starts) provides depth. On the outside, watch for juniors Joshua Kaindoh (6-7, 260 pounds) and Janarius Robinson (6-5, 260 pounds), who are both converted defensive ends. They combined for just four sacks last year.


The Seminoles have some stellar athletes in the secondary, including junior cornerback Stanford Samuels III, a former Pembroke Pines Flanagan star who had a team-high four interceptions last year. Another former Broward County star, sophomore Asante Samuel Jr. of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, emerged this fall as a starter, also at cornerback. Samuels’ father played defensive back at FSU, and Samuel’s dad played cornerback in the NFL as a four-time Pro Bowl star. Senior Levonta Taylor, who has 21 career starts, has moved to free safety from cornerback. Hamsah Nasirildeen, a 6-4, 215-pound junior who led the team in tackles with 91 last year, was tried at linebacker but is now back at safety. He’s a big-time hitter.


Senior Ricky Aguayo, who missed 6 of 17 field goals last year, is getting pushed by Ryan Fitzgerald. Senior punter Logan Tyler is solid, and junior D.J. Matthews is back after averaging 13.5 yards per punt return last season, which ranked fifth in the nation.