NCAA Football Florida State Seminoles

10 Questions Florida State Football Must Answer This Offseason

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10 Questions for Florida State this Offseason

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Melina Vastola - USA TODAY Sports

The Florida State Seminoles capped a dominant 2013 season with a perfect ending thanks to Jameis Winston and a game-winning touchdown pass in the BCS National Championship Game against the Auburn Tigers. Jimbo Fisher has returned the Noles to the top of the college football world with a stingy defense and explosive offense that created the perfect formula for a title run. There was no question that FSU was the best team in the country in 2013, but will they stay on top in 2014?

While the elation of another national title is still fresh in the minds of fans, the coaches and players have to be preparing themselves this offseason to try and defend their crown in 2014. Programs all over the country have targeted the Seminoles at the top of the mountain and will be giving them their best shot next fall to knock them off. The Seminoles have to continue to get better this offseason and will have to overcome some huge losses to the NFL.

So while they should be very happy with all that they accomplished in 2013, Florida State can only pat themselves on the back for so long before getting back to work this offseason. There are some pressing questions facing this program this spring and summer that will be critical to how prepared they are to defend their crown in 2014. As they say, if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.

To avoid the Seminoles getting worse in 2014, here are 10 questions that Florida State has to find answers to this offseason.

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10. Can they stay hungry?

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Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

After finishing off a perfect season in 2013 with a BCS National Championship, it’s understandable to think that maybe FSU will take a sigh of relief after reaching the top of the mountain. But Jimbo Fisher has to keep his team hungry this offseason so they can defend their crown in 2014. Relaxing for even a second will open the door for challengers to swoop in and knock them off their perch. Can the Noles avoid complacency after winning it all?

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9. Can Karlos Williams carry the running game?

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Robert Hanashiro - USA TODAY Sports

FSU used a three-headed attack out of the backfield in 2013 to put together one of the more explosive running games in college football. Led by Devonta Freeman, who became the first Nole to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season in 17 years, the trio provided excellent balance to the Seminole offense on their way to a national title. But two of those three have declared early for the NFL with Freeman and James Wilder, Jr., leaving school for the pros. That leaves just Karlos Williams, a converted defensive back, to shoulder the load. He showed he was capable in a rotation in 2013, carrying the ball 91 times for 730 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns, but is he capable of being THE guy in 2014?

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8. How will loss of Jeremy Pruitt affect defense?

jeremy pruitt
Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

After just one season in which he helped lead the team to the national title, Jeremy Pruitt has left his post as defensive coordinator with the Noles to take the same job (for more money) with the Georgia Bulldogs. Pruitt was instrumental in revamping the scheme when he came on board last season, so his absence leaves some questions about what the defense will look like in 2014. While Pruitt’s work was good, leading the Noles to the No. 3 ranked total defense and No. 1 ranked scoring defense in 2013, his loss won’t sink the defense. This was a top-5 defense before Pruitt arrived and will have the talent to be a top-5 defense again. The biggest concern may be what losing Pruitt’s recruiting ability will do in the short term.

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7. Who will replace Lamarcus Joyner?

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea - USA TODAY Sports

Lamarcus Joyner did a little bit of everything for the FSU defense in 2013 from his spot in the secondary. He finished second on the team in tackles, sixth in tackles for loss, first in sacks, and had a pair of interceptions and three forced fumbles as well. His ability to line up anywhere and make plays was a huge piece of the dynamic defensive attack that made FSU so successful in 2013. The Noles have a duo of DBs who stepped up in the passing game this season with freshman Nate Andrews and sophomore P.J. Williams combining for seven interceptions and two touchdowns. Can they add some pass-rushing ability to their games and fill Joyner’s role in 2014?

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6. Who will replace Kelvin Benjamin?

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Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

The 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin finally started to put his game together in 2013 and developed into a huge vertical threat for Winston in the passing game. He finished the year second on the team with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, including the game-winner in the BCS National Championship. With his stock soaring, the redshirt sophomore will leave for the NFL this offseason, leaving a very tall void in the FSU passing attack this offseason. Leading receiver Rashad Greene will be back, which helps, but Benjamin provided a different dynamic to the passing game with his ability to go up and make plays. Can Fisher find another big-time threat like Benjamin?

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5. Who will replace Timmy Jernigan?

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Another big reason for the team’s success on defense this season was the play of Timmy Jernigan in the middle of the defensive line. The massive defensive tackle finished the year third on the team in tackles, first in tackles for loss, second in sacks, and was the centerpiece of the team’s run defense in the middle. With him leaving for the NFL, the burden now falls to Eddie Goldman, who recorded 19 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks in limited action during his sophomore season. Can he become the type of game-changer that Jernigan was next fall?

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4. Can Mario Edwards, Jr., become a leader on defense?

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With FSU losing so many impact players, particularly from their front seven on defense, it will fall to some of the younger contributors to step up as leaders next season. Mario Edwards, Jr, is a strong candidate to be a defensive leader in 2014 after a strong sophomore season where recorded 28 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. With the team losing so much defensive talent, can Edwards be the key to keeping them elite in 2014?

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3. Can the defense repeat their 2013 dominance?

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Robert Hanashiro - USA TODAY Sports

Sure, they’re losing a lot of talent and their defensive coordinator, but Florida State has built a foundation of excellence on their defense. They have ranked no lower than No. 4 in the nation in total defense in the last three years and No. 6 in total defense during that span. The biggest difference for the Noles in 2013 was their ability to create turnovers. After ranking No. 49 and No. 58 in 2011 and 2012, respectively, in takeaways, the Noles finished No. 2 in 2013 with 35 forced turnovers. Finding playmakers to create those turnovers next season will be the determining factor in whether or not the defense takes a step back next season.

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2. Will anyone challenge FSU in the ACC?

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Florida State proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were in a class unto themselves in the ACC this season. They rolled through the competition with an average margin of victory of over 40 points in 2013. And looking at their top competition in the conference, all of them will be going through some major turnover. That puts serious questions marks over pretty much every other contender in the ACC, leaving FSU alone at the top to reign for another year. Can anybody challenge the Noles for ACC supremacy or will FSU roll to another conference title?

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1. What else can Jameis Winston do in 2014?

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Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports

When Jameis Winston took over the starting quarterback job in Tallahassee, he was burdened with unreal expectations. Yet somehow, he found a way to surpass those expectations and deliver arguably the best season of any freshman in history. Not only did he take his team to the ACC title in dominant fashion, he also won the Heisman Trophy (along with several other individual awards) and then led a game-winning drive of the final minute of the BCS National Championship to bring another national title to Florida State. What can he do for an encore in 2014?