2018 Florida State Projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
If you’re a fan of Florida State, last season probably seemed a bit odd. There was plenty of warranted hype entering the season, but it soon was silenced. Promising quarterback, and 2016 ACC Rookie of the Year, Deondre Francois went down with a season-ending injury in the first half of the opener against Alabama. Things got away from the Seminoles and by season’s end they were fighting to keep their 35-year bowl streak alive. They claimed their sixth win against ULM in the final game of the season (a makeup game from the opening weekend), and they even got win number seven in a blowout bowl victory over Southern Miss.
This offseason Florida State did something even rarer than losing, they hired a new coach. Willie Taggart has plenty of ties to the program and the area, making him the perfect fit to become just the third different head coach at FSU since 1976. Taggart has been a head coach since 2010, with stops at Western Kentucky (2010-12), South Florida (2013-16) and most recently Oregon (2017). His 47-50 overall record during that time has earned him an Hour Glass stamp of 5.5(more than a point above the national average of 4), which ranks fifth in the ACC.
Taggart had to be thrilled to inherit the ACC’s most talented roster, according to the Hour Glass 3-year recruiting analytics. FSU’s 3-year recruiting stamp of 92.56 is the best in the league by nearly three points. But not just that, he also walked into quite possibly the best QB situation in America as no other FBS program can boast having two signal callers that have started at least 10 games. After Francois went down last season, James Blackman took over and made enough improvements to have a real shot of winning the battle this offseason.
Whichever QB win the job is going to hand it off to Cam Akers a good bit next season. The former 5-star reset the FSU freshman rushing mark last season with 1,024 yards, breaking Dalvin Cook’s freshman mark in the final game of the season. Akers is a converted QB from high school, and obviously just tapping into what he can do as a running back. Last season Jacques Patrick aided him in the backfield with over 700 yards of his own. The two combined for 14 scoring runs last season, and figure to be one of the nation’s most feared backfield tandems in 2018. The offensive line will lose only right tackle Rick Leonard from a season go, but does return six players with starting experience.
Receiver is a group where young, talented players will have to step up soon. Leading pass catcher Nyqwan Murray is back, but he needs the likes of Keith Gavin, George Campbell, DJ Matthews and others to emerge.
Flip to the defensive side of the ball, and similar concerns hover over the defensive secondary and linebackers, as well. Each starter at linebacker is gone from last season, so Dontavious Jackson, Adonis Thomas and others must steady that area. Meanwhile, one starter at corner, Levonta Taylor, and one at safety, AJ Westbrook, returns to defensive backfield. Taylor is a lockdown guy on the edge, and Westbrook is versatile enough to make plays inside or outside the box. Talented youngsters Hamsah Nasirildeen and Kyle Meyers both have bright futures at safety and cornerback, respectively and the Noles will need them to be special this season.
The defensive line is usually a scary group in Tallahassee and this year’s group is no different. Brian Burns is a sack artist on the edge, and Joshua Kaindoh is getting there. Demarcus Christmas and Marvin Wilson should be destructive in the middle as well.
A key here is the schedule, as the Noles will be at Louisville, Miami and Notre Dame this season. According to the Hour Glass FSU will have to navigate the toughest schedule in the ACC in 2018.
HG analytics pick: 9-3, 2nd in ACC Atlantic
My pick: 13-0, ACC champion (over Miami)
Last Year’s Analytics Pick 11-1; Actual Record 6-6 (50 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 5th – Inside our Realistic College Football National Championship Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Willie Taggart on HG Scale: 26th (Taggart Stamp at 5.5) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Florida State quarterback play rated 26th in the country out of 130 teams. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Florida State has a stamp of 10.7.