Few schools in the ACC had as rocky a 2017 season as the Seminoles who turned in one of their worst campaigns in the last 30 years, lost a coach to another Power 5 school, and had to find a new coach while finishing a season and salvaging respectable recruiting class. Considering this is as close to bottom as most FSU fans have seen in their lifetime, the only thing they can do is look up.
Here are five reasons for Florida State to be optimistic going into the 2018 season.
Many will discount the way that Willie Taggart has galvanized the FSU fan base during his spring booster tour, and many critics have looked at it as a waste of time. But when you look at sold out event after event which Taggart has headlined, he is showing that he is a fundraising machine. This greater off-season energy typically leads to greater ticket sales, which leads to sold out stadiums which in turn leads to a great home field advantage.
The spring game attendance is an indicator about how the first few games at Doak should be – raucous. Good energy leads to momentum. One of the complaints Jimbo Fisher voiced and critiques that I’d have for Seminole fans is the lack of attendance at games. Now, a good product on the field leads to more butts in seats and let’s hope the Taggart effect continues spurring that momentum.
Defensive Coordinator who knows how to effectively run a defense
Harlon Barnett is considered a great mind especially in terms of defensive coverages inside of the 4-2-5 alignment which features four down lineman, two linebackers and five defensive backs. He’s got the defensive players playing with more technique and is recreating the swagger that old Seminole defensive units have been known for.
The reality is that FSU’s defense last year wasn’t bad until they really needed a play. One stop against Miami, Louisville and N.C. State and FSU’s season is completely different. From reports and what I’ve seen during the spring, the defense is having more fun playing fast and making plays.
Barnett knows the defense as opposed to previous coordinator Charles Kelly just running a defense he was asked to run.
Creative ways to get skill players the ball in space
The Gulf Coast Offense is about creating one-on-one match-ups and getting play-makers the ball in space. What makes this a fun offense, and one that is difficult to stop when it’s in full go, primarily lies in the fact you can run one play with multiple ways to score or gain yards. You’ve got players who can receive the ball on a motion, a traditional hand off, a pass or just a QB keep. This requires defenders to be extremely disciplined because if defenders over-pursue, they could leave a wide open gap to be exploited.
RELATED: D.J. Matthews poised for breakout season on offense and special teams.
Defense may be better by attrition
FSU’s defense lost players with valuable experience and from the outside looking in, one could question whether or not the team can recover? The losses could be addition by subtraction as FSU played numerous talented – arguably more talented – young players.
Demarcus Christmas and Marvin Wilson can provide disruptive force inside on the line of scrimmage and many observers are excited about what can be done with Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh on the edge.
FSU has always had a surplus at defensive back. This year should be a breakout season for Levonta Taylor and Stanford Samuels III; mix them with who is already on the roster and talented incoming freshmen lead by Asante Samuels and you’ve got a high potential group.
The only part of the defense to really be worried about due to depth and lack of experience is linebacker, but Josh Brown, Dontavious Jackson and early-enrollee Amari Gainer should be fine this season.
The first person a recruit meets when stepping foot on campus after signing is the strength and conditioning coach. He’s supposed to be the muscle of the coaching staff, administering discipline, and also like a life coach for these players. They need to be tough, but fair, intimidating, but approachable.
Irele Oderinde, Coach O, is pretty much all of that. He cares about the guys while his job is to kick their asses and have them prepared for what is required on the field from Taggart and staff. Since January, all I’ve heard about is how tough the workouts are and the gains that have been made.
During the chase – essentially mat drills – a lot of guys made gains in size and explosiveness during a time they probably shouldn’t have. This speaks to how they might not have been challenged previously in the weight room.
The strength and conditioning coach is the secret weapon to every coaching staff in collegiate athletics, regardless of the sport.
Truth be told, it’s all smiles and Hallmark cards in Tallahassee currently. Taggart has hit on all the check marks that FSU fans have had in their minds, in particular, being as Bowden-like as possible. Bowden crushed the booster tours, had a defense and defensive coordinator that was iconic in Mickey Andrews, had a fun and creative offense in his prime, and had Dave Van Halanger as a strength and conditioning coach who was innovative, well-liked and delivered results.
These a five reasons why FSU should have a better season than last year. However, there is another side to this coin, reasons why you might not see improvement next season. I’ll share those with you shortly.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/five-reasons-why-florida-state-seminoles-will-be-better-in-2018