Florida State Seminoles: E.J. Levenberry

The 2013 signing class has already made its mark on the ACC, from Tyler Boyd and Stacy Coley shining on offense to Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller starring on defense to Ryan Switzer racking up All-America honors on special teams. But for most players, the transition from high school to college takes a little time, and it’s not until Year 2 that they truly shine. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the best candidates for second-year stardom in the conference -- the players who didn’t quite hit the big time as true freshmen, but are poised for a breakthrough in 2014.

See our previous projections HERE.

[+] EnlargeP.J. Williams
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesFlorida State receiver Jesus Wilson (3) could start as a sophomore in 2014.
Next up: Florida State

Class recap: Jimbo Fisher’s lowest-rated class since taking over as head coach (No. 9) still had plenty of impact on the Seminoles’ national title. Ramsey, Nate Andrews and Kermit Whitfield all played significant roles and made some big plays as freshmen, while several others contributed regularly as reserves.

Second-year star: WR Jesus Wilson (5-foot-9, 177 pounds)

Recruiting stock: A four-star recruit out of Miami, Wilson was ranked as the 62nd-best receiver nationally, with his size the primary knock on his game.

2013 in review: Wilson was one of three true freshmen receivers to play for Florida State last season, but his role was minimal. Aside from work on special teams, he caught just three passes all season -- one against Wake Forest and two in an 80-14 blowout of Idaho.

2014 potential: Wilson might not have shown much on Saturdays, but from the time he arrived on campus last summer, teammates raved about his work on the practice field. The transition to game days was complicated by the fact that FSU already had three talented receivers, all of whom topped 900 yards for the season. But Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin are gone, and of the receivers who remain on the roster, only Rashad Greene looks like a sure thing. Florida State does have a trio of highly regarded recruits arriving for the fall, but few positions require more time to adjust than receiver. Only two true freshmen (Boyd and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell) tallied at least 54 receptions last season (the total both Shaw and Benjamin finished with). Wilson has now been with the program a full year, and his work this spring earned even more praise from coaches. He’s not guaranteed a starting job, but aside from Greene, he may already be the most refined of FSU’s receivers.

Also watch for: The Seminoles just keep reloading, and they have a ton of talented youngsters from the Class of 2013 worth keeping an eye on this season. Linebackers Matthew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry top the list, while Whitfield, defensive tackle Keith Bryant and tailback Ryan Green are among the others who figure to see an increase workload in 2014.

FSU spring spotlight: Reggie Northrup

February, 27, 2014
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Spring practice is just a few weeks away for Florida State, and while the defending national champs return plenty of talent to make another run at a title, there are still some big question marks looming as the Seminoles begin work on the 2014 season. With that in mind, we’re looking at the five most intriguing players to watch this spring and projecting how they might fit into Jimbo Fisher’s plans in the fall.

We’ve already discussed Nile Lawrence-Stample, Mario Pender and Christian Green.

Next up: LB Reggie Northrup

Credentials: Florida State’s other No. 5 didn’t make quite the same instant impact as Jameis Winston, but Northrup has still had a solid start to his career in Tallahassee. As a true freshman in 2012, he appeared in 13 games, impressed in occasional mop-up duty at middle linebacker and starred on special teams. Then in 2013, Northrup took another step forward, racking up 46 tackles (most among FSU’s nonstarters) and 2.5 TFLs in a brand new defensive scheme. Northrup still needs to refine some of his fundamentals, but he’s got a nose for the football and quick instincts on the field that have routinely impressed teammates.

How he fits: Northrup has never started a game for Florida State, but with two full seasons of experience under his belt and 56 tackles to his credit (second among FSU’s returning linebackers) he’s nevertheless a veteran in a position group that has little in the way of on-field credentials. With Telvin Smith leaving after three years at middle linebacker, the Seminoles are looking for someone to step in and attack the run, as Smith did so effectively in 2013, but also hold up in coverage when needed. Northrup isn’t their only option, but he might be their best.

Competition: With Terrance Smith appearing to be the only linebacker with a secure starting job, a lot is in flux at the position. Northrup brings some experience, but E.J. Levenberry wowed coaches last year and put up solid numbers, while freshman Kain Daub enrolled early and will push for playing time this spring, too.

Outlook: How new defensive coordinator Charles Kelly plans to approach both the scheme and the depth chart are open questions as FSU preps for spring, and as yet, Fisher hasn’t announced a new linebackers coach. That makes projecting the depth chart nearly impossible, but Northrup can go a long way toward clearing up the confusion with a strong spring. His raw skill set is obvious. Refining those skills is the question. If he takes a big leap forward, he could become a fixture in the middle of the defense. Even if he makes more mild progress, he could still split time with Levenberry, as Telvin Smith and Vince Williams did for two years under Mark Stoops.

FSU instant impacts: Kain Daub

February, 21, 2014
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Jimbo Fisher closed out his fifth straight top-10 recruiting class earlier this month, but as he’s shown in years past, that doesn’t necessarily mean a bevy of big contributions from the incoming freshmen.

Some seasons, like 2011, Florida State relied heavily on the new recruits. Others, like 2012, only a select few saw routine playing time.

This week, we dig into the Class of 2014 to project which of the newest group of Seminoles project to make an instant impact on the field this season.

We’ve already looked at DT Demarcus Christmas, RB Dalvin Cook, DB Trey Marshall and FSU’s wide receivers.

Last up: LB Kain Daub

[+] EnlargeKain Daub
Courtesy of IntersportKain Daub's ability to contribute in several areas means he'll see the field for Florida State.
The player: A four-star prospect out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood High, Daub arrives as one of the key members of FSU’s 2014 signing class. At 6-foot-4, 243 pounds, Daub excels as a pass rusher and run defender. While his skills in coverage still need some refinement, he’s got the versatility to work as either an inside backer or a pass rusher/OLB, depending on Florida State’s needs. During his final three years in high school, he racked up 22 sacks. As an early enrollee, he’ll be in the mix this spring with several jobs in the linebacking corps up for grabs.

The need: After three years of relative consistency at the position, Florida State’s linebacker corps is getting a nearly complete makeover in 2014. Gone are seniors Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, leaving only junior Terrance Smith with starting experience among the group. Last year’s position coach, Charles Kelly, is also moving to the secondary as he takes over as coordinator this year, and FSU has yet to officially announce his replacement. Fisher suggested Kelly will stick with a defensive scheme similar to the one Jeremy Pruitt ran in 2013, but that’s certainly not set in stone either -- meaning the amount of time FSU spends in a 3-4 vs. a 4-3 look isn’t entirely settled either.

The competition: There are a lot of job openings among the linebackers, but there’s also some stiff competition. It’s a deep group, despite being short on experience. Among the inside LBs, Reggie Northrup is the most experienced, having gained valuable reps in reserve duty in each of the past two seasons. E.J. Levenberry impressed as a true freshman in 2013, too. Among the outside linebackers/edge rushers, Ukeme Eligwe and Matthew Thomas both figure to push for playing time this spring. When fall camp opens, two more members of a talented signing class -- Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy -- join the mix as well.

The prediction: Daub has a lot going for him in the battle for playing time at linebacker. His versatility as either an inside or outside LB provides FSU’s coaches with options. His arrival in time for spring practice gives him a chance to settle into the scheme. But more than anything, his pure talent should make him a player worth watching. Attrition sapped a lot of veteran talent from the linebacking corps for several years, but Florida State’s past two recruiting classes have restocked the coffers, meaning the competition will be stiff for Daub. But his lack of experience won’t be held against him, and his ability to contribute in several areas -- including on special teams -- puts him in good position to see the field routinely, even if a starting job isn’t in the cards.

FSU room to improve: Linebacker

February, 11, 2014
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The celebration of a BCS championship victory is in the rearview mirror for Florida State, and Jimbo Fisher, Jameis Winston and Co. have already turned their attention toward adding another trophy in 2014. So as Florida State prepares for spring practice, we’re digging into the biggest questions, position battles and storylines facing the defending national champs.

This week, we’ll look at the five position groups with the biggest question marks looming in advance of spring practice.

Matthew Thomas
Courtesy of Florida StateMatthew Thomas, who showed promise in 2013 before an injury, could be in line for a big role in 2014.
Previously, we reviewed the running backs.

Next up: Linebackers

Projected starters: Terrance Smith (RS Jr.), Reggie Northrup (Jr.), Matthew Thomas (RS Fr.)

After years of stability at linebacker, Florida State undergoes a massive transition in 2014, with Smith the lone holdover among the starters. Smith started in nine of the final 10 games of the season in 2013 and finished fourth on the team with 59 tackles. He has a similar body type and playing style to Telvin Smith, but he lacks the experience. Meanwhile, Thomas projects as perhaps the best option to replace Jones in the hybrid rusher/backer role, and Northrup is the most experienced of an incredibly green group filling out the starting lineup.

Strength in numbers: E.J. Levenberry (So.), Ro’Derrick Hoskins (RS Fr.), Nigel Terrell (RS Sr.), Ukeme Eligwe (RS So.)

There’s ample talent here, but these players haven't accrued serious playing time. Levenberry figures to push Northrup after turning in some impressive late-game performances in 2013. Meanwhile, Eligwe has a ton of upside and could fit in several roles for Charles Kelly’s new defense. The problem is, all that talent is still somewhat of a mystery. FSU's linebackers have a combined 176 career tackles, with 12.5 for a loss -- numbers rivaled by Telvin Smith's past two seasons alone.

New on the scene: Kain Daub (Fr.), Jacob Pugh (Fr.), Delvin Purifoy (Fr.)

Daub is an early enrollee and an ESPN 300 member. The extra experience this spring could put him in the mix for regular reps or, perhaps, a starting job at inside linebacker. Purifoy could push for playing time on the outside, too, after racking up 102 tackles as a senior at Pensacola Catholic. Pugh starred locally at Godby High in Tallahassee, and even he can’t be written off as an immediate contributor.

What to watch: With two longtime starters departed and a host of young talent on the roster for the spring, few position groups will warrant as much close attention for FSU as the linebackers. Terrance Smith projects as the only sure thing in the group -- and even that is far from set in stone -- and to add some extra intrigue to the depth-chart shuffling, FSU has yet to hire a linebackers coach after shifting Charles Kelly to the secondary when he was promoted to defensive coordinator. There’s virtually nothing settled here, but there’s so much potential among the young players that it ought to be plenty of fun for FSU to see how it all shakes out.

FSU depth chart breakdown: Defense

January, 31, 2014
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Last week, we previewed Florida State’s offensive depth chart for the spring. This week, we’ll dig into the defense.

The biggest question might be how similar the 2014 defensive scheme will look to 2013. Yes, promoting Charles Kelly certainly offers stability, but he’s also likely to want to put his own stamp on the unit rather than offering a shot-for-shot remake of Jeremy Pruitt’s system. With some significant transition in personnel and some major losses of talent, there’s room to tinker this spring. Here’s what we’ll be watching:

Defensive line

[+] EnlargeNick Marshall
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsExpect Mario Edwards to have a bigger hand in things this fall on the Florida State defensive line.
Projected starters: Mario Edwards Jr. (Jr.), Nile Lawrence-Stample (RSJr.), Eddie Goldman (Jr.)
Backups: Desmond Hollin (Sr.), Chris Casher (RSSo.), DeMarcus Walker (So.), Derrick Mitchell (RSJr.), Keith Bryant (RSFr.), Justin Shanks (RSSo.)

Storylines: Replacing Timmy Jernigan is an impossible task, but expect plenty of hype for Lawrence-Stample this spring. He was one of Jimbo Fisher’s favorites last spring, and he’ll be counted on to step up even more this time around. The loss of Christian Jones as a hybrid rusher impacts the D line, too, and how Kelly plans to handle that role now should be interesting to watch. Edwards and Goldman are both five-star players with two years of experience under their belt, but now they’ll be looked to as leaders -- both on and off the field.

Status: B
If you want to include Jones as a defensive lineman, FSU is set to lose seven DLs to the NFL in a two-year span -- including two first-rounders in Bjoern Werner and, likely, Jernigan. That’s sapped some depth from the position, but Goldman and Edwards are as good as any D-linemen in the ACC and there’s plenty of talent behind them, too.

Linebacker

Projected starters: Reggie Northrup (Jr.), Terrance Smith (RSJr.), Matthew Thomas (So.)
Backups: E.J. Levenberry (So.), Ro'Derrick Hoskins (RSFr.), Nigel Terrell (RSSr.), Ukeme Eligwe (RSSo.), Kain Daub (Fr.)

Storylines: Smith is the only lock for a starting job here -- and even that might depend on your definition of “lock.” But while the unit is short on experience, it’s high on talent. The battle to replace Jones in the hybrid LB/DE position should be an interesting one, with Thomas offering perhaps the most upside, but Casher and Eligwe certainly in the mix, too. Northrup is the most experienced option to replace Telvin Smith, and he’s certainly capable of blossoming into a disruptive force, but Fisher raved about Levenberry throughout 2013, and that figures to be one of the more intriguing battles of spring camp. Add Daub to the mix as an early enrollee, and Kelly’s biggest problem here might be figuring out how to get enough snaps for all his talented linebackers.

Status: B
There’s plenty of talent here, but it’s impossible to replace the veteran savvy of Smith and Jones. By year’s end, this should be a terrific group, but there’s lots to be learned this spring.

Safety

[+] EnlargeJalen Ramsey
Jeremy McKnight/Icon SMISafety Jalen Ramsey will play a big role in the Seminoles secondary, which will be among the best in the nation.
Projected starters: Jalen Ramsey (So.), Nate Andrews (So.), Tyler Hunter (RSJr.)
Backups: Lamarcus Brutus (RSJr.), Keelin Smith (RSJr.), Tyrell Lyons (RSFr.)

Storylines: Ramsey and Andrews were exceptional as true freshmen, but the job now is to build on that progress under a new position coach. There’s little reason to believe that won’t happen. The bigger question mark at the moment is the health of Hunter, who is recovering from a neck injury that nearly ended his career. He was the leader of the secondary last spring and summer, and his impact on a young group could be huge again in 2014.

Status: A
Terrence Brooks was always undervalued, and he’ll be missed, but Hunter, Ramsey and Andrews projects as potentially the best trio of safeties in the nation.

Cornerback

Projected starters: P.J. Williams (Jr.), Ronald Darby (Jr.)
Backups: Marquez White (So.), Nick Waisome (Sr.), Colin Blake (RSSo.)

Storylines: Losing Lamarcus Joyner is a big blow, but there’s little to be concerned with here. Williams and Darby are both exceptional and figure to get even better in 2014. Darby was limited all season with a groin injury, so some downtime may be the priority for him. Waisome saw a ton of action in 2012 but largely disappeared in 2013. How he responds this spring might tell a lot about his future.

Status: A
It says a lot about the work Fisher, Pruitt and Mark Stoops have done over the past few years that FSU can lose a player of Joyner’s caliber and still likely have the best secondary -- and best pair of starting corners -- in the country.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Telvin Smith is as enthusiastic a player as Florida State has on defense, but the man has priorities.

On the field, Smith had been a bundle of energy on an afternoon highlighted by his 79-yard interception return for a touchdown. By the second half, however, he was stuck on the sideline in a uniform still caked with sweat, and it was cold.

[+] EnlargeLevenberry
AP Photo/Steve CannonLinebacker E.J. Levenberry has 38 tackles for the Seminoles this season.
So when freshman E.J. Levenberry copied Smith’s first-quarter pick-six with one of his own midway through the fourth quarter, Smith wanted to celebrate. It’s just that those sideline heaters provided too much comfort to abandon.

“I stayed by the heater,” Smith said, “but I was ecstatic.”

This has become commonplace for Florida State of late. Veterans on the sideline, huddling for warmth, while the youngsters rack up valuable playing experience throughout the entirety of the second half.

In four of the Seminoles’ last five games, the starters haven’t played more than a series in the second half. Meanwhile, Levenberry and the rest of Florida State’s young defenders are getting a nearly even split with the starters when it comes to game-day reps.

That’s not ideal for stars like Smith, Lamarcus Joyner and Timmy Jernigan, who’ve lost out on valuable opportunities to pad their stats. But when it comes to building a foundation for the future, it’s been a perfect scenario for Florida State.

“The young guys are growing and making big contributions, so we’re adding depth and creating competition in practice,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.

Florida State lost seven defensive starters to the NFL draft from last season, but the talent Fisher had recruited in years past allowed coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to plug in a new batch of defenders with little drop-off. Where concerns persisted, at least initially, was the depth.

FSU’s two-deep to open the season included 12 first- or second-year players on defense, including a handful of players who few outside the program expected to see significant action this year.

As it turns out, Levenberry, Nate Andrews, DeMarcus Walker and others have been second-half stalwarts, and they’ve got the numbers to prove it. Andrews leads the team with four interceptions. Levenberry, Reggie Northrup and Jalen Ramsey all rank among FSU’s top 10 in tackles. Four of the nine fumbles forced by FSU’s defense this year are by freshmen.

“Just to see them grow from when they first got here to now -- and to know what they're going to become -- that's just tremendous,” Smith said.

Of course, the progress for FSU’s young defenders hasn’t been without a few growing pains.

The Seminoles’ starters smothered NC State in the first half of a blowout win, then took a seat on the bench for the entirety of the second half. Those latter 30 minutes looked ugly. The Wolfpack rushed for just 39 yards on 21 carries against the starters in the first half. In the second half, they tallied 149 yards on 21 carries against the second-string defense. In the first half, NC State averaged 2.3 yards per play. In the second, 6.1. In the first half, FSU pitched a shutout. In the second, the Seminoles were outscored 17-7.

In practice the following week, the starters were angry.

"You've got to look at it like it's your only shot, you're a starter when you get on that field,” Smith said. “Don't take plays off, don't slack off just because you're not on the field at the first snap of the game. Because that snap means just as much as this snap. And I think they really bought into it and now obviously you're seeing they're playing harder."

In the past three games, FSU’s backups have allowed just 13 points total and accounted for five takeaways, five sacks and two touchdowns, playing nearly all of the second half in each game.

The playing time for the backups has paid dividends. FSU has 23 interceptions this year, tops in the nation. But more impressive is that they’ve been made by 16 different players. Twenty-five players have recorded at least 10 tackles, 16 have recorded a sack and 26 have a tackle for loss.

Sure, the starters would love to stay warm by staying on the field, but when the season is finally over, as many as eight more of FSU’s veteran defenders could be headed to the NFL, and the reps their understudies are getting now could mean another smooth transition for the defense in 2014.

What we learned: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
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Florida State wrapped up a perfect 7-0 home slate for the year with an 80-14 win over Idaho on Saturday that once again only provided a brief glimpse of the Seminoles’ starters. Still, we learned a few items worth noting in Week 13.

Shaw can break 100: It certainly seemed like it might never happen after Kenny Shaw finished last week with 99 yards -- his sixth game with at least 89 but none topping 100. But when he hauled in a 20-yard touchdown throw from Jameis Winston to end the first half Saturday, Shaw finally cracked that elusive century mark, finishing the game with five grabs for 107 yards and two scores. Shaw needs to average just 57 yards per game the rest of the way to break 1,000 for the season.

The defense is deep: Another game, another four interceptions for Florida State’s defense. Saturday saw Telvin Smith and E.J. Levenberry record picks and return them for scores, while Jacobbi McDaniel and Keelin Smith added interceptions of their own. For the year, 16 different FSU players have recorded at least one interception, and the Seminoles have a nation-leading 23 INTs for the year. The two TDs give Florida State a school-record eight defensive touchdowns this season, too.

Winston still rolling: The legal battle surrounding Florida State’s star quarterback rages on, but Winston seems no worse for the wear. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 225 yards and four touchdowns against Idaho, giving him 32 passing TDs for the year -- one shy of Chris Weinke’s school record. And if the off-field issues don’t derail his on-field success, Winston has all but locked up the Heisman.

Week 13 helmet stickers

November, 24, 2013
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For the fourth time in five weeks, Florida State’s starters weren’t needed much in the second half. The 80-14 win over Idaho marked a school-record for points, and there were certainly plenty of performances worth celebrating.

WR Kenny Shaw: The senior wide receiver has waited all season for his first 100-yard game, six times eclipsing the 89-yard mark without ever joining the century club. In his final home game, however, he finally cracked the code, connecting with Jameis Winston on five catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Shaw now has 828 yards and is on pace to join Rashad Greene as FSU’s first 1,000-yard receivers since 2002.

RB Devonta Freeman: After getting just 10 total carries in the last two blowout wins, Freeman made the most of his limited workload Saturday. He rushed 11 times for 129 yards and a touchdown, reigniting his quest to become FSU’s first 1,000-yard back since 1996. Freeman now has 808 yards on the year and needs just 64 yards per game the rest of the way to snap college football’s longest 1,000-yard drought.

DT Timmy Jernigan: Sixteen Florida State players have picked off a pass this year, and Jernigan isn’t one of them. That’s a bit frustrating, he admits, but he’s done so much of the work to make those others possible. On Saturday, Jernigan simply dominated Idaho’s overmatched offensive line, recording six tackles -- including 4.5 for a loss -- in the first half before taking a seat on the bench the rest of the way.

Hat tips to: Jameis Winston threw for four more touchdowns, giving him 32 for the year. Karlos Williams topped 100 yards for the second time this season. Telvin Smith and E.J. Levenberry both returned interceptions for TDs.

What we learned: Week 4

September, 22, 2013
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It's tough to take too much from a 54-6 win over an FCS foe, but there were a few lessons to be gleaned from Florida State's dominance of Bethune-Cookman.

The receivers aren't perfect: Against Bethune-Cookman, Jameis Winston threw nine incomplete passes, nearly doubling his season total from the first two games of the season. Indeed, Winston wasn't nearly as crisp as he'd looked down the stretch just a week ago, when he completed his final 13 throws, but a good bit of the blame goes to the receivers. FSU's receivers hadn't dropped a pass all season, but Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw all allowed potentially easy touchdown throws slip through their fingers. None of it ended up mattering all that much -- aside from Winston's completion percentage plummeting 10 points -- but it was a reminder that, as good as the group had been in the early going, there's still room to get better.

FSU's young defenders are going to be good: There won't be many games this year when Terrance Smith, Matthew Thomas, Ukeme Eligwe and Co. get as many snaps as they did Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, but the blowout win for Florida State -- coupled with the absence of Christian Jones, Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. -- offered a glimpse into what the talented cast of youngsters might one day become. In his first career start, Smith finished with a game-high 12 tackles. Thomas was a beast coming off the edge, recording a sack and two TFLs. Eligwe had six stops, Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry each had five, and Chris Casher made 10 tackles, including two for a loss. For all the defensive success, however, Bethune-Cookman still mustered 18 first downs -- far too many by Jimbo Fisher's estimation. The group has talent, but it's a work in progress.

The biggest lessons are yet to come: What could FSU learn, really, from a game against a clearly overmatched FCS opponent? Three of the Seminoles' starting defenders sat out. Winston was on the bench midway through the third quarter. The tempo of the game never quite clicked, and the score was still out of hand by the half. These first three games have offered a glimpse at what FSU could be, but the Seminoles have yet to be truly tested. That should change moving forward, with an Oct. 5 date against undefeated Maryland looming, and a trip to Clemson awaiting on Oct. 19.

Week 4 helmet stickers

September, 22, 2013
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Florida State's blowout win over Bethune-Cookman was far more of a showcase for the reserves than the starters, but more than a few of those backups turned in exceptional performances, and a couple of them earned helmet stickers.

RB Devonta Freeman: Florida State has rushed for 643 yards in the past two games, so there's been plenty of accolades to go around for the ground game. Still, no one has looked better than Freeman, who has topped 100 yards in each game -- all of which came while the starters were still in. Freeman is averaging 9.8 yards per carry this season, has scored twice and, perhaps most notably, none of his 28 rushing attempts have lost yardage.

LB Terrance Smith: Making the first start of his career, Smith was all over the field in the early going. He finished with a team-high 12 tackles and recorded one of Florida State's three sacks. Playing for suspended senior Christian Jones, Smith looked perfectly comfortable in the role. The 12 tackles were two more than his career total from his first two seasons at Florida State.

The freshmen defenders: They didn't look perfect, but Florida State's freshmen defenders provided some quality performances with four starters out for the majority of the game. Chris Casher racked up 10 tackles, including two for a loss. Ukeme Eligwe had six tackles. E.J. Levenberry had five. Matthew Thomas finished with three tackles -- two for a loss -- and a sack. Jalen Ramsey recorded a sack, too, and forced a fumble. In all, freshmen accounted for 33 of FSU's 85 team tackles.

Hat tips to: Telvin Smith returned an interception for a touchdown, FSU's first defensive score of the year. Karlos Williams followed up on his stellar debut at tailback with another impressive performance, rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Kenny Shaw had 89 receiving yards and would've topped 100 if he could've hung onto a throw along the sideline that would've gone for an easy score.

Redshirt watch for FSU's freshmen

August, 28, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State lost 11 starters to the NFL draft this spring, but that didn't necessarily turn the depth chart into a gold mine for the Seminoles' incoming freshmen. Of Jimbo Fisher's biggest accomplishments during his first four years on the job, none loom larger that the immense influx of talent on the roster -- meaning depth isn't a concern in most areas.

Of the 14 non-specialists Florida State added in 2012, only six saw action last year. Mario Edwards Jr. was the only freshman to start a game, and Ronald Darby and Eddie Goldman were the only others to see regular playing time.

The situation may not be dramatically different this year. Twenty-one freshmen were added to the roster, but aside from a small minority, there doesn't appear to be regular reps awaiting the bulk of the group. FSU's initial depth chart lists nine freshmen on the two-deep, though the playing time for each may be limited, and the roles for a few others may yet develop. As it stands though, here's our projections for early playing time for the Class of 2013.

The likely redshirts (4): QB John Franklin, OT Ira Denson, C Ryan Hoefeld, TE Jeremy Kerr

Fisher is never shy with praise for his players -- even those with virtually no shot at seeing a moment of playing time. That's been the case for Franklin, whom Fisher said has looked very good in practice throughout fall camp. Chalk it up to Fisher's desire to talk about any quarterback other than Jameis Winston, but it's nevertheless encouraging given that so many college coaches wanted Franklin as a receiver, not a QB.

Denson arrived overweight, and Hoefeld is still a touch lighter than line coach Rick Trickett would like, which means both are likely to spend the year prepping for the future. Kerr might have been a lock for early playing time given FSU's utter lack of depth at tight end, but a knee injury has kept him off the practice field for weeks.

The victims of numbers (4): DT Keith Bryant, OG Wilson Bell, DB Marquez White, S Nate Andrews

The reports on these four have been generally positive -- particularly Bell, who was well ahead of the other young linemen, according to Trickett -- but barring injuries, there's probably not much playing time to be had. It's possible one or two will find a role -- Andrews and White could make a special-teams impact -- but none are guaranteed to see action at all.

Matthew Thomas
Courtesy of Florida StateAfter considering transferring to USC before ever playing a snap for FSU, LB Matthew Thomas has settled into the Seminoles' defense.
The linebackers (5): Ro'Derrick Hoskins, Tyrell Lyons, E.J. Levenberry, Matthew Thomas, Freddie Stevenson

Levenberry and Thomas headline the current depth chart, where both are listed as the primary backups at the Mike and Will linebacker spots, respectively. Both offer immense promise. Thomas is the star of the group, and after an on-again, off-again spring in which he considered transferring to USC, the five-star recruit seems to be happy and comfortable in FSU's defense. Levenberry has also been a big hit with his coaches, and his size -- 6-3, 240 pounds -- has had Fisher drooling.

Both Thomas and Levenberry figure to play, but they may not be alone. Freddie Stevenson was an early enrollee and has drawn praise from teammates. Lyons and Hoskins could figure in the special-teams mix, too.

Florida State has just two established veteran linebackers, and both will be gone at year's end. The Seminoles need to start developing some depth there, which is good news for the entire group.

The special-teams stalwarts (4): DE Davarez Bryant, DE Desmond Hollin, RB Ryan Green, WR Levonte Whitfield

Fisher's history suggests skill-position players who can contribute on special teams will get a chance as freshmen, even if there isn't much of a role beyond that. FSU allowed P.J. Williams, Reggie Northrup and Christo Kourtzidis to do it last year, which means Green, Bryant and others could do the same in 2013, even if a wealth of scrimmage snaps aren't there. Hollin, a juco transfer, probably stands the best shot at a bigger role, and Bryant has actually worked in some at tight end, too. Whitfield figures to be in the mix as a kick returner early, but he is a potential weapon as a slot receiver on offense, too.

The best bets to play (4): CB Jalen Ramsey, DE DeMarcus Walker, WR Jesus Wilson, WR Isaiah Jones

Fisher was impressed with his freshman wideouts from the outset, but now it's a necessity that at least one or two contributes heavily. FSU lost three senior receivers for the season, which means there should be ample playing time to go around. Wilson has wowed teammates since the summer, and he figures to be first up, Jones also turns up on FSU's two-deep, backing up Rashad Greene at the X position.

Walker's progression was hindered a bit during the spring when NCAA compliance issues kept him off the practice field. Still, he spent long hours in the film room and coach's office, and his teammates have raved about his football IQ. Given the relative depth issues at defensive end combined with a depth chart with little or no game experience, Walker has as good a shot as anyone at getting playing time early.

Unlike the rest of this group, the numbers don't exactly favor Ramsey. The FSU secondary is stacked with talent, but that's only more of a testament to how good Ramsey has looked during fall camp. He spent the first few weeks working with the No. 1 defense while Darby nursed an injury, and he appears to have established himself as a legitimate threat to contribute. He opens the season No. 2 on the depth chart behind Lamarcus Joyner, and that's a role that could expand as the season progresses.

Weekend recruiting rewind 

April, 15, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring games are a chance for coaches and players to test what they've got in a more game-like situation. Practice is one thing, but putting on uniforms and taking to the stadium in front of fans is another.

It's also a chance to have prospects on campus in numbers.

As far as recruiting events go, it wasn't furiously busy. What happened instead was a lot of marketing and road-paving for the future.

2013 Spring Preview: Linebackers

February, 22, 2013
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Christian JonesKim Klement/US PresswireChristian Jones stepped up in 2012 after moving to Will linebacker, compiling 95 tackles, seven for loss. He'll be a key part of the FSU linebacker corps in 2013.
From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

Previous entires can be found HERE.

Next up: Linebacker

(Read full post)

Noles 2013 snapshot: E.J. Levenberry 

February, 20, 2013
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With national signing day behind us, NoleNation takes a closer look at the next crop of Seminoles.

E.J. Levenberry Jr.
Courtesy of Eric LevenberryWhile he might redshirt in 2013, incoming linebacker E.J. Levenberry could get into games late.
Vitals: Linebacker E.J. Levenberry (Woodbridge, Va./C.D. Hylton), 6-foot- 3, 230 pounds.

Committed: April 24, 2012.


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State of the Noles: Linebackers 

February, 19, 2013
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NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, a position where the scheme might be as much in question as the personnel: Linebacker.

Current scholarship linebackers (11): Reggie Northrup (So.), Terrance Smith (RSSo.), Nigel Terrell (RSJr.), Christian Jones (Sr.), Markus Uligwe (RFr.), Telvin Smith (Sr.), Matthew Thomas (Fr.), Freddie Stevenson (Fr.), Tyrell Lyons (Fr.), E.J. Levenberry (Fr.), Ro'Derrick Hoskins (Fr.)

Potential early departures: FSU brings a talented group of five freshmen into the fold this season, and several -- Thomas in particular -- have NFL potential, but at this point, none of the younger players have enough experience to appear likely to leave early.


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