One ‘Nole at each position to watch in preseason camp

Take away the obvious names – the established starters – who are you watching when Florida State opens preseason practice on Friday?

This is a big preseason camp for a large group of younger players and newcomers. We take a look at a few graduate transfers as well, a player on the way back from injury and some younger Seminoles at each position group.

Quarterback – Alex Hornibrook

Preseason camp is a few days away and there is still uncertainty over whether Jordan Travis will be eligible to play in 2019. And Wyatt Rector, who just arrived in May, remains in the same situation. So it goes without saying that the Seminoles will be very curious how Hornibrook, a drop-back passer with years of starting experience at Wisconsin, will fit into a spread offense that looks to utilize a passer’s legs. It doesn’t feel like a scheme fit, but Hornibrook will be expected to learn the Kendal Briles offense quickly.

Running back – Khalan Laborn

Who doesn’t want to see Laborn running with the ball in his hands? Purely from a fun-to-watch standpoint, Laborn brings a different dimension when he’s on the field. Will FSU try to use two running backs on the field at the same time? It’s not something Baylor typically did when Briles was there, but Laborn offers an intriguing wrinkle as a tailback or slot receiver. How about Laborn as a receiver on a jet sweep?

Wide receiver – Warren Thompson

Thompson admitted this spring that he was frustrated not being on the field much in 2018, a season in which he played in four games but didn’t have a catch. But the 6-foot-3, 201-pound Thompson has spent time working on his routes and promises “I’m going to go deep, too.” FSU can use another big body who can make plays.

Tight end – Camren McDonald

Don’t expect a No. 2 tight end to play a lot. It’s especially tough when McDonald is behind a veteran like Tre’ McKitty. But McDonald is 6-4, 231 pounds and offers up athleticism that allows him to split out wide. This may be a long shot pick – FSU hasn’t historically used a No. 2 tight end much regardless of who was the head coach – but McDonald offers up plenty of upside.

Offensive line – Ryan Roberts

There are other choices who are younger and offer promise for the future. But Roberts is perhaps the best building block on the offensive line, a two-year starter at Northern Illinois who graduated and transferred to FSU. He has 10 starts under his belt and is the Seminoles’ best option at left tackle or right tackle. There are uncertainties all over the line this preseason but the odds are good that Roberts will start at one tackle spot.

Ryan Roberts started 10 games at Northern Illinois the last two years. (Photo via NIU athletics)

Defensive end – Joshua Kaindoh

A five-star who has had a rather quiet first two seasons at FSU, Kaindoh has a clear path to playing time with Brian Burns off to the NFL. Kaindoh is a prototype defensive end at 6-7 and 261 pounds, and he’s capable of bringing speed off the edge or ranging toward the sideline to chase down running backs. Perhaps a spring working with Odell Haggins, who is now coaching the entire defensive front, will help Kaindoh’s development.

Defensive tackle – Cory Durden

Marvin Wilson will see plenty of double-teams and that means someone should have chances in one-on-one situations to make plays. Durden may be the direct beneficiary in year 2 as a starter. He had 22 tackles and two sacks, including five tackles in a win over Wake Forest.

Linebacker – Emmett Rice

A brutal knee injury suffered in the December 2017 Independence Bowl game limited Rice to just four games last fall. Rice made just five tackles last season but due to the new redshirt rule he’s considered a junior in 2019. Coach Willie Taggart noted that Rice’s confidence in his knee was evident later in the year and this spring. There are a lot of moving parts at linebacker – as well as the usage of 4-3 and 3-4 fronts – but expect Rice to be in the mix.

Defensive back – Asante Samuel

There are some crazy stats out there but how about this one: Samuel had the second-highest forced incompletion percentage among FBS returning corners in 2018 at 36.7 percent, according to Pro Football Focus. Samuel was even a few points ahead of Virginia’s all-conference corner, Bryce Hall. Samuel is “just” 5-10 but he has instincts and fight. He started three of FSU’s final four games and finished with nine pass break-ups.

Special teams – Ryan Fitzgerald

Ricky Aguayo’s inconsistency opened the door for one of the nation’s top kicking prospects, Fitzgerald, to sign with FSU. There have been times where the Seminoles have had two scholarship kickers on the roster at the same time and Fitzgerald could prove worthy of the one-year overlap. Fitzgerald made a Georgia high school record 51 field-goal attempts, including eight from 50-plus yards. As a junior at Moultrie (Ga.) Colquitt County, he hit a 60-yarder. Expect Taggart and the FSU staff to evaluate who has the most consistent leg in camp between Aguayo and Fitzgerald.

If you like this story, consider a subscription to the Osceola for yourself, family member or friend by clicking here: https://theosceola.com/register/


  1. Jerry Kutz

    It is a great idea to stop and think who you want to watch in fall camp. Here’s mine:
    Hornibrook would be the top guy to watch regardless. Veteran winner. Wouldn’t have come here unless he was willing and able to compete for starting job. Good offseason with team.

    Laborn, Thompson, McDonald: Take your pick of skill players. It will come down to how Briles adapts his offense to these skills. You have to believe Laborn is in the mix. As we’ve written about the Briles offense, to go fast – Warp speed as Wally Burnham put it — they like to put 11 guys on the field who have the ability to do it all, whether short yardage or long, and not substitute. The next series may include different people but also with diverse skill sets. I’ll be watching to see if these guys have those diverse skills, which I think they do.

    Roberts is one to watch on the line. My first two picks are Boselli and Lucas. Hear very good things about their attitudes; tough hombres. You can always use that on the OL.

    Kaindoh and Durden are key. How about Cooper who lost 35 or more pounds? I’ll be watching that trench monster.

    Linebacker is my favorite position and it was a mess from 2013 until last year where we began to get a glimmer of hope. Rice is one to watch. Jackson’s leadership is another I’ll be looking for.

    Asante Samuels is fun to watch. He likes football, even drills. He has something Buckley and Deion had in the regard. I’m going to try not to watch him as much so I can watch other folks. Preseason magazines went to sleep on some guys in this secondary who may break out.

    Fitzgerald. If he is anything like what has been billed, you won’t have to watch… you’ll hear. I remember the first time we heard a Janikowski kick. It sounded like nothing we had ever heard.

    Fun to think about.

  2. Dan Owens

    Janikowski was Conan the Barbarian! I’m curious about how Hornibrook will play out too! Gonna be exciting to see how it all plays out.


    I want to see what Dontae Lucas can do on the OL, or a new and improved Chaz Neal! I seem to constantly hear how he looks the part and has bought in.

    I’m curious what role Akeem Dent can carve out, if any, in the secondary.

    I think Dennis Briggs at end might surprise some folks.

    As far as the offensive skill positions go, we have all the speed and talent we need. We know RB is going to be Akers and Laborn getting the majority of the touches. Leading into last season, we heard about how deep the WR rotation was going to be, but with the way things played out, that wasn’t really the case. Aside from the veterans like Terry, Mathews, and Gavin, I hope we see more of Helton, Harrison, and another underclassmen like Jordan Young or Warren Thompson.

    Can’t wait for the season.

Leave a Reply