It’s the time of year again, the height of the college football preseason. We are a month away from the start of fall camps across the country. Florida State’s in-state rivals, Miami and Florida, will be two of the first four FBS programs to report to camp in late July. Predictions, conjecture, opinions and polls of all kinds can be found in publications and websites from coast to coast. That being the case, the Osceola felt an obligation to throw our hat in the ring with our Florida State All-Opponent Offensive Team.
Quarterback-Trevor Lawrence, Sophomore (6-6, 215 pounds), Clemson
This one was an easy one. The kid was a natural as a true-freshman and lived up to and beyond the hype after signing with Clemson as the nation’s highest ranked recruit in 2018. All he did was beat out incumbent starter Kelly Bryant, who had won 12 games as the Tigers starter in 2017 and lead Clemson to a perfect 15-0 record and its second national title under head coach Dabo Swinney. Along the way he completed over 65 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
He can make all the throws and certainly has the confidence of his teammates. Lawrence is already projected to be a top-5 NFL draft pick when he is draft-eligible. ESPN’s NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper has compared the super sophomore to past “can’t miss” NFL prospects John Elway, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Colts QB Andrew Luck, who will most likely have his own bust in Canton one day.
Against FSU last year Lawrence completed just 54 percent of his passes, his second lowest completion percentage of the season.
Running Back-Travis Etienne, Junior (5-10, 210 pounds), Clemson
It’s hard to believe but Etienne beat out his aforementioned teammate for 2018 ACC Player of the Year honors. The junior is compact, powerful, fast and productive. His stats from a season ago are gaudy to say the least. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt while rushing for 1,658 yards and 24 touchdowns last year. He also showed up big against good competition. He rushed for 86 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries against Alabama in the National Championship game. The week before that in the CFP Semifinal against Notre Dame he rushed for 109 yards on 14 carries. If you are looking for a glimmer of good news, he only rushed for 45 yards last year against FSU. His play was limited against the Seminoles in part because of the sizable lead Clemson had established by halftime in the Tiger’s victory in Tallahassee.
Running Back-AJ Dillon, Junior (6-0, 245 pounds), Boston College
Dillon is a powerful between-the-tackles runner. As a sophomore he was the focal point of the BC offense. Everyone in the stadium knew that if Dillon was in the game the chances were greater than not that he would get the ball. Despite that fact he still averaged almost 5 yards per carry while gaining 1,018 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns in 10 games. Dillon was a workhorse in the Eagles’ biggest games last year, including against the Seminoles. In a 22-21 loss to FSU, Dillon rushed a season-high 37 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Against Miami, Dillon rushed for 149 yards on 32 carries. His 69 combined carries against those two opponents accounted for 30 percent of his a for attempts for the entire season. Dillon is also tough, having played most of the year with a nagging ankle injury that accounted for his reduction in carries from 300 attempts in 2017 to 227 attempts in 2018.
Wide Receiver-Justyn Ross, Sophomore (6-4, 205), Clemson
Ross is a quarterback’s dream, a big target who can take the top off the defense with his size and speed. He is a mismatch from a size standpoint against most corners, which makes it hard to line up in man-to-man coverage against him. He is also super productive. Despite catching just 46 balls in 2018, Ross averaged 21.7 yards per catch while totaling exactly 1,000 yards. Ross also showed as a freshman that he could perform in the biggest games. He had six receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown in the CFP National Championship game against Alabama. Against Notre Dame in the CFP Semifinal, Ross caught six passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The good news for FSU, if there is any concerning another Clemson super-sophomore, he was limited to one catch for 41 yards against the Seminoles.
Wide Receiver-Tee Higgins, Junior (6-4, 205), Clemson
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has to wake up each game day pinching himself because of the talented skill position players he is surrounded by. Higgins, like his teammate Ross, is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses because of his size and athleticism. Last season, Higgins was Lawrence’s favorite target, totaling 59 catches for just 936 yards. He is also the Tigers’ biggest threat in the red zone, having accounted for 12 touchdown receptions. Higgins also has a knack for being a playmaker on big stages. Against Alabama he caught three passes for 81 yards and one score. Against South Carolina he hauled in six passes for 142 yards and one touchdown. He had a 123-yard performance against Texas A&M early in the 2018 campaign. Against FSU he was held to a rather ordinary six catches for 62 yards, but he did score two touchdowns.
Tight End-Brevin Jordan, Sophomore (6-3, 245 pounds), Miami
Jordan earned second-team All-ACC honors as a true freshman. While Jordan is still developing as a run blocker, he was the second leading receiver for the Hurricanes last season catching 32 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Last year against FSU, Jordan caught two passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive Tackle-Ezra Cleveland, Junior (6-6, 311 pounds), Boise State
Cleveland is the leader of a Boise State offensive line that returns all five starters from a season ago. He earned first-team All-MWC honors while starting all 13 games for an offense that averaged 459.5 yards per game, which ranked 21st nationally in total offense. He also started all 14 games as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Cleveland is projected by some NFL draft experts to be a 3rd or 4th round pick if he chooses to enter the 2020 draft. At this point in his career he is more effective as a pass blocker. He was responsible for protecting the blindside for former Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien the last two seasons, who graduated as the all-time leading passer in MWC history.
Offensive Tackle-Mekhi Becton, Junior (6-7, 360 pounds), Louisville
The mammoth tackle started all 13 games last year as a sophomore after starting 10 games as a freshman. Becton is freakishly athletic for a player of his size. He has good feet, shows good lateral movement in pass protection and his long arms make him particularly effective as a pass blocker. Becton has lined up at both right and left offensive tackle in his career and is expected by some NFL draft experts to go as high as the second round in the 2020 NFL draft if he leaves school early.
Offensive Guard-Joshua Fedd-Jackson, Junior (6-3, 332 pounds), NC State
Jackson started every game last season at right guard for an offense that averaged 456.1 yards per game which ranked 3rd in the ACC and 26th nationally in total offense. He did not allow a sack in 2018 and registered 34 knockdown blocks. Jackson has good feet and is a physical run blocker who does a good job of getting his hands inside defenders. He is considered by some to be one of the top ten offensive guard prospects in the 2020 NFL and has been projected to be drafted as high as the third round by some NFL draft experts.
Offensive Guard-John Molchon, Senior (6-6, 322 pounds), Boise State
There will be guards that FSU will face in 2019 that have more recognizable names and more accolades but Molchon can compete with any of them based on comparisons from 2018 tape. He is athletic, plays with good leverage, gets to the second level well and has good balance. He started all 13 games last season and was named first-team All-MWC. Molchon has started 29 games over the last three seasons and has helped pave the way for a 1,000-yard rusher in each of those seasons.
Center-Nick Buchanan, Senior (6-2, 291 pounds), Florida
This position, like offensive guard, was hard to decide on but for totally different reasons. There was a surplus of guards to choose from but there are only four teams on FSU’s schedule that return their starting center from a year ago: Florida, Boise State, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisville. Several preseason magazines have Clemson’s Sean Pollard as an All-ACC preseason selection at center, but the Clemson lineman made all seven of his starts at guard in 2018 and played tackle on occasion.
Buchanan earned 12 starts last season on an offensive line that only allowed 18 sacks. The selection here could have been Boise State center Garrett Larson, but the deciding factor was the level of competition that Buchanan played against was significantly greater than Larson’s. There was not a clear-cut favorite among the returning starters at this spot.
Please check-in with the Osceola next week when we will reveal our 2019 All-Opponent Defensive Team.