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.
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.
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