The top 10 Florida State football players you need to know for 2016. These are the Seminole stars to watch out for.
1. RB Dalvin Cook, Jr.
In a different campaign, say, one in which the Seminoles were contending for a national title, Cook might have swept college football’s individual awards, including the Heisman Trophy. He was a monster on the ground and as a receiver, despite being banged up at times and getting intermittent support from the rest of the offense. A rare mix of power, elusiveness and breakaway speed, the 6-0, 203-pound Cook turned 229 carries into an FSU-record 1,691 yards and 19 scores in 2015.
2. S Derwin James, Soph.
Few schools consistently do a better job of producing elite DB talent than Florida State. James, for instance, who’s ready to become the program’s next Jalen Ramsey. James, like Ramsey, is long, athletic and instinctive, with the versatility to contribute all over. Sure, he’s a traditional safety, but also with the anticipation and closing speed to be a bear on blitzes. James, named to the All-ACC Third Team, ranked second on the team with 91 stops, to go along with 9.5 stops for loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
3. DE DeMarcus Walker, Sr.
Walker thought long and hard about turning pro early. Fortunately for the Seminoles, he’ll spend this season as an amateur. Despite a modest track record entering 2015, he erupted into a pass rushing hellion with 58 tackles, 15.5 stops for loss, 10.5 sacks and four forced fumbles to be named Second Team All-ACC. The 6-3, 277-pound Walker has a tremendous motor, with the rare ability to whip tackles with either his power or his speed around the edge.
4. OT Roderick Johnson, Jr.
Johnson is going to be someone’s high NFL Draft pick. For at least one more year, though, he’ll protect the backside of the Seminole quarterbacks. The 6-7, 312-pound Johnson continued his development in 2015 by not only being named to the All-ACC First Team but also winning the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for the league’s premier blocker. True, there were lapses, such as the BC and Louisville games, but Johnson has the frame and the feet to vie for All-American recognition in 2016.
5. NG Derrick Nnadi, Jr.
Nnadi was one of the unsung heroes of the Florida State defense a year ago, anchoring the interior of the D-line with his strength and stout makeup. His numbers were rather impressive for a 6-2, 304-pounder, 45 tackles and a couple of sacks, to attract Third Team All-ACC accolades. Nnadi is agile and light on his feet, allowing him to pressure the backfield and command the attention of more than one opposing blocker.
6. WR Travis Rudolph, Jr.
Rudolph took the next step in 2015, filling the shoes left by the graduation of Rashad Greene. A Second Team All-ACC performer, he caught 59 balls for 916 yards and seven touchdowns, and routinely flashed an ability to stretch the field. At 6-2 and 187 pounds, Rudolph exhibits the length to play above DBs and pluck balls with his outstretched arms. Now, he needs to raise his consistency by lowering his number of dropped balls.
7. CB Marquez White, Sr.
White didn’t garner a lot of attention outside of Tallahassee last year. That changes in 2016. In his first season as a starter, the Noles’ field cornerback was rarely targeted, resulting in just 25 tackles, two stops for loss, a pick and two pass breakups. And when quarterbacks looked to his side, completions were uncommon. White has good size, 6-0 and 179 pounds, with the evolving lockdown cover skills to begin attracting NFL eyes.
8. WR Kermit Whitfield, Sr.
Whitfield is the game-breaker of the Seminole passing game, using his jets to beat defenders whether he has the ball in his hands or not. Despite making only five starts, he caught 57 passes for 798 yards and six touchdowns, contributed as a kick returner and was named Second Team All-ACC. Whitfield is only 5-7 and 183 pounds, but his blazing speed ensures that he’ll never endure much physical punishment.
9. OG Kareem Are, Sr.
Are is an enormous run blocker at 6-6 and 334 pounds, with the strength to create the space Dalvin Cook needs to get to the second level. The one-time Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College transfer started eight games at left guard a year ago, earning Third Team All-ACC from the media. And Are’s top grade of 2015 came versus the defensive front of Clemson, so he’s able to rise to the occasion against the best that the schedule has to offer.
10, WR Jesus Wilson, Sr.
Wilson has been one of the most consistent receivers in Tallahassee the past two seasons, peaking with 58 receptions for 622 yards and three touchdowns in 2015. He’s a quick 5-9, 181-pound slot receiver who can be used in myriad different ways by the staff. Wilson gets in and out of his breaks quickly, and he possesses the open-field moves to make people miss in space.