Florida State Seminoles: Kain Daub
Coach Jimbo Fisher announced on Tuesday that freshman running back Dalvin Cook, No. 21 in the 2014 ESPN 300 and an early enrollee, tore the labrum in one of his shoulders and will miss spring practice, which begins on Wednesday. Cook had surgery to repair the shoulder and should be ready for fall practices.
“It’s a labrum. He went up the steps, tripped in the weight room and put his hand down to catch himself at an angle,” Fisher said.
The injury occurred right before the Noles broke for spring break on March 8.
During the offseason, Fisher has raved about Cook, who was expected to compete for the Noles’ backup running back position. Cook, No. 3 among running backs in the 2014 recruiting class, looked like a player in his third season instead of his first, Fisher said multiple times in the last few weeks.
Cook will still benefit from being a part of the team this spring, though.
“Dalvin will be in all the meetings,” Fisher said. “He had a great offseason; he’ll be fine.”
The backup running back position figures to come down to redshirt sophomore Mario Pender and true sophomore Ryan Green. Pender missed the last two seasons, and Green played sparingly as a freshman.
Two of the top 32 prospects in the 2014 ESPN 300 enrolled in January classes at Florida State, but neither will take a single snap during spring practice. Inside linebacker Kain Daub has an NCAA Clearinghouse issue that will keep him from participating in spring drills. Fisher also expects Daub, who is in Tallahassee, to be cleared in time for fall practices.
While many of the Seminoles’ top players will return to Doak Campbell Stadium this fall, graduation, early departures and transfers have left coach Jimbo Fisher searching for answers at a handful of positions. There is talent and depth across the board, but the FSU staff is hoping key replacements emerge this spring before being thrust into pivotal roles in the fall.
Replacing: Telvin Smith
Candidates: E.J. Levenberry, Reggie Northrup, Kain Daub
Gone for the NFL is Smith, who registered 15 tackles against Auburn in the VIZIO BCS National Championship. The good news for Florida State is there is a strong crop linebackers who have patiently waited to crack the starting lineup.
Terrance Smith could slide from middle linebacker to the weakside, Telvin’s old position. Terrance (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) is physically similar to Telvin (6-3, 218) and would likely adjust well to the outside. Regardless, Telvin’s departure leaves one spot open at linebacker for the Noles whether it is on the inside or the weakside of the offense’s formation. The strongside position could go to a hybrid DE/LB, similar to graduated linebacker Christian Jones.
Northrup, a junior out of Jacksonville, Fla., was listed on the depth chart as Telvin’s backup during the 2013 season. Northrup played as a reserve in all 14 games and totaled 46 tackles last season. If Terrance Smith remains at inside linebacker, Northrup could slide right into the starting position on the weak side.
What could work against Northrup’s chances to land in the starting lineup is the hype surrounding sophomore Levenberry. A meteoric rise throughout fall camp last season had the 6-3, 236-pound already in the two-deep at middle linebacker as a freshman. He played in 13 games and even posted a start in the win against Boston College. Late in the season, Levenberry announced himself to FSU fans with an athletic showcase that resulted in a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown. Levenberry tipped a pass to himself and raced down the sideline outrunning the Idaho offense. Now with a full season and another spring practice under his belt, it is going to be tough to keep Levenberry out of the starting lineup.
Daub is a member of Florida State’s 2014 recruiting class who enrolled in January. He will be able to participate in spring practice, although it seems unlikely he will find a place in the starting lineup when the Noles travel to Dallas for the season opener. Daub certainly has the credentials to make an impact as a freshman, however. He was ranked third among inside linebackers nationally and was No. 32 in the ESPN 300.
One key component of this positional battle will be how much of an emphasis Fisher and linebackers coach Charles Kelly put on leadership to replace Telvin Smith. Few voices were stronger than his in the locker room last season, and linebacker is the type of position that calls for a leader who will not only direct his teammates at linebacker but the entire defense.
Along with defensive tackle, this could be the most intriguing position battle of the spring.
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.
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
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.
Division rival Clemson has the potential to have one of the best defensive lines in school history, thanks to returning all of its starters -- including sack master Vic Beasley. So that leads us to this question: Which team will have the best defensive front in the ACC this upcoming season? Andrea Adelson and David Hale let the debate begin.
The moment Beasley decided to return to Clemson was the moment the Tigers became the favorite to field the best defensive line in the ACC next season.
Now, this is not to slight Florida State, which has dominated up front over the last two seasons. But the Seminoles have key players to replace again. Clemson, on the other hand, returns every starter on the defensive line, plus its top four backups. All told, eight linemen return who played at least 292 snaps a year ago.
Those top eight combined for 65 tackles for loss -- more than half the single-season school-record 122 tackles for loss Clemson had in 2013. They also combined for 26 of the team’s 38 sacks.
Beasley, of course, leads the returning group after making 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss a season ago, one of the top performances of any defensive end in the country. Had he decided to leave for the NFL, Clemson would have still had plenty of talent returning.
But with him, the Tigers could potentially have the deepest, most talented group of defensive linemen at the school since the 1981 national championship team featured future NFL players Jeff Bryant, William Perry, Andy Headen and Dan Benish in the starting lineup.
Clemson could potentially go 10 deep along the defensive line, especially when you consider the return of Carlos Watkins, expected to be healthy after missing most of last season following a car accident. That means the Tigers have the ability to rotate frequently and keep players fresh, perhaps more than they did last season.
Fresh players mean fresh legs, and fresh legs mean getting into the backfield at a much better clip. Last season, Beasley, starting tackle Grady Jarrett (11), starting end Corey Crawford (10.5) and backup end Shaq Lawson each finished with 10 or more tackles for loss. Now think about some of the best defensive fronts in college football. Florida State has zero defensive linemen returning with double-digit tackles for loss. Alabama? Zero. LSU? Zero. Stanford? Zero. Virginia Tech? One. Michigan State? One. Ohio State? Two.
Clemson leads them all.
Such an experienced group, with the ability to get into the backfield and get after the quarterback, should only get better with another year under Brent Venables, who is entering his third season as defensive coordinator. As Beasley told colleague Heather Dinich after he announced his decision to return, “I feel like we can be the best in the country.”
And, yes, that means the defense could emerge as the strength of this team.
David says Florida State
The track record for Florida State’s defensive front speaks for itself. During the past three seasons, only Alabama has had more success defending the run than Florida State, which has allowed just 2.8 yards per carry since the start of the 2011 season. Those Seminoles teams sent eight players from the front seven to the NFL -- and that number figures to increase by at least four this year -- yet the unit has seen little decline in production. With new personnel, a new scheme and new coaches last season, FSU’s first-team defense didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the national championship game.
Of course, that’s all in the past, and 2014 comes with some significant questions for Florida State.
Throughout the three-year run of success for the FSU front seven, Christian Jones, Telvin Smith and Timmy Jernigan have been anchors. All are gone now, and that means some significant vacancies on the defensive front, both in terms of on-field talent and off-field leadership. It means there will be questions surrounding the unit for the next few months, but it doesn’t mean the Seminoles don’t have answers.
Of the projected two-deep in the front seven, FSU projects to feature as many as 12 former ESPN 300 recruits. The talent is exceptional.
Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman were both top-10 recruits in 2012, and both have two years of experience under their belts. Edwards, in particular, took big steps forward throughout 2013, turning in perhaps his best game against Auburn’s up-tempo ground attack in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.
The linebacker group lacks significant experience, but Terrance Smith is a physical clone of Telvin Smith, and he performed admirably after stepping into a starting role last season. Matthew Thomas and Ukeme Eligwe are both former elite recruits who project nicely in the hybrid role Jones handled so successfully in 2013.
Kain Daub, Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi lead a stellar 2014 recruiting class that could make an instant impact.
That’s not to say Florida State is prepared to move forward without Jernigan’s presence up front or Telvin Smith’s leadership in the middle of the field without missing a beat. There will be hiccups as the new group gets its feet wet and Edwards and Goldman learn to be leaders. But similar concerns existed a year ago when Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine bolted for the NFL, and after some early missteps, Florida State again proved to be one of the fiercest defensive fronts in the country.
And, of course, the Seminoles have another weapon in this debate, too. No position group succeeds in a vacuum, and FSU’s front seven gets a major boost from a secondary that projects to again be the best in the nation. If the Seminoles’ defensive backs continue to make teams one-dimensional and continue to provide time for the pass rush to get to the quarterback, the odds of FSU’s front seven making a smooth transition into 2014 get even better.
With national signing day in the books, RecruitingNation is looking at the top position classes. For the full series, click here.
Nationally (and SEC)
The Alabama Crimson Tide’s 2014 class fill just about every need on the board, and that includes linebacker. With designs on addressing pass rushing and the ability to play in space on the edge at outside 'backer in Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme, Alabama signed the Nos. 1 and No. 2 outside linebackers in the country in No. 48 overall Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) and No. 52 overall Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), who is pound for pound of the best pure athletes in the 2014 cycle. The Crimson Tide added two more talented linebackers in ESPN 300’s No. 102 Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) and No. 281 Keith Holcombe (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Hillcrest). Hamilton is an MLB.
The Crimson Tide had the nation’s best linebacker class; here’s which schools had the best in each of the remaining power conferences:
This week, we’ll look at the five position groups with the biggest question marks looming in advance of spring practice.
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.
Here is a look at five of the biggest flips in the ACC in the 2014 recruiting class.
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, they beat Auburn for the final BCS title. The Noles will go for a second straight title in 2014 and they bring back several key pieces next season, most notably quarterback Jameis Winston. They will suffer some departures from central players, but a loaded recruiting class ranked in the top five should add depth throughout the roster.
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1. Will Deshaun Watson follow the footsteps of Jameis Winston and Christian Hackenberg? Both Winston and Hackenberg were the No. 1 quarterbacks in their respective classes and played in the Under Armour Game. Both then went on to have great freshman seasons (Winston after a redshirt year) and have their teams in position to make waves on a national level the next few seasons. Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) is the No. 1 quarterback for 2014 and will enter a similar situation to Hackenberg’s. Clemson will have an opening at quarterback in 2014, and Watson will enroll at Clemson following the game. He will have to beat out 2012 Under Armour All-American Chad Kelly, but there is a legitimate chance Watson could be the starter from Day 1 for the Tigers. He is that good.
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.
The best head coaches are often called the closer when it comes to sealing the deal with recruits. Whether on a visit or a trip to a prospect’s home, the head coach is called upon to secure the signature.
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“I would like to thank my teammates and my family for coming and all the support I’ve ever had,” Daub said. “And this is an honor and I never thought I would be here.”
Sandalwood head coach Adam Geis says it’s Daub's versatility and athleticism that makes him a potentially special prospect.
“He’ll do well against anybody he goes up against. He plays ‘Mike’ for us, but I think when Kain goes to the next level ... the way he can run and cover, he can do a lot of different things ... he’s probably going to be an outside guy, but I think he likes that too. Trust me, they hit on the outside, too, at the next level. He’s such a good athlete, there is a lot of different things he can end up doing at the next level.”
The fact that 2013 participant and former Sandalwood teammate DeMarcus Walker spoke so highly of the event made the decision to accept the invite a simple one for Daub.
“I decided to play in this game because my whole family goes to the game, and my teammate from last year played in the game last year and told me about the experience ... and I thought I had to be a part of it," Daub said. "It’s going to be great to play on ESPN. I played on it [ESPN] once, and it’s pretty hype. I’m looking forward to playing against the other guys that are going to big time D-I schools.”
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Daub is the No. 35 prospect overall in the ESPN 300 and the No. 2 inside linebacker in the class. He committed to Florida State over LSU, Florida, Alabama and a host of others.
Florida State has the top class among ACC schools right now, but that is taking the Seminoles’ entire 23-recruit class into account. The Noles don’t have the best class at every position, as some of Florida State’s top rivals are looking stronger at certain positions. Here’s a look at which ACC school has the best class by position:
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Florida State Preparing For Rose Bowl
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State