A Comprehensive Primer on Florida State

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


First of all, I’m Gryfer and you can find me all over TomahawkNation (TN) or reddit’s /r/CFB. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the Florida State Seminoles, TN, and FSU in general.

As for the basics, we’re the Florida State Seminoles. We wear Garnet & Gold, we hate all things Orange, and we really can’t stand the Gators or UM(oF) (that’s so you don’t confuse them for the real, original Miami…the Redhawks) (see also: scUM). We do the Tomahawk Chop and we love the War Chant like Tennessee loves Rocky Top and like Oklahoma loves Boomer Sooner. We don’t have a ‘mascot,’ but the symbol of our university is Chief Osceola and Renegade (see also: UNCONQUERED statue). Our ladies' soccer team just won their first ever National Championship this past week and we're incredibly happy for them. Our volleyball team is currently in Seattle battling it out to try and pull home that NC as well.

At TN, we're generally a very cool bunch. We love jokes and puns and having a good time. We generally really like advanced stats, so bring ‘em on. Of course, we're going to do our best to cherry pick the ones that make us look good and twist the ones that don't. It wouldn't be fun if we didn't try. Like every fan base, we have our share of rotten eggs. It has gotten worse in the months following our championship run as the crazies come out of the woodworks. There will undoubtedly be some TN members that will come to troll you. They are a vocal minority. The other 99% of us apologize for them ahead of time. However, as the SB Nation site with the largest following, there are enough to be annoying to other sites.

I read through your thread the other day with lots of discussion about the impending matchup. As expected, a lot of the comments quickly veered away from football and devolved into discussion about off-the-field issues.

Yes, FSU has had them. Not all of us feel the same. There are some fans who will defend Winston 'til death. Others can't stand him whatsoever. Lots more [read: most] are in the middle: frustrated by some bad decision-making on his part, but acknowledging that most of the vitriol from the media and fans comes from viewing his subsequent acts through the lens of the sexual assault allegation. Ultimately, however, we're all on here because we like college football - so let's do our best to keep the conversation related to the sport we all know and love.

I'd like to address a few of the storylines FSU and Oregon have been faced with. I'm almost certainly not going to convince anybody from a firmly held position, but I do want to offer the other side in a civil, friendly manner so as to encourage more discussion on the topics.

First, something we've heard the past month or two is about how FSU isn't a top team and how our only argument to get in is based on "29 straight." I respectfully disagree. First, as almost any coach will say, going undefeated is incredibly difficult. Doing so in a P5 conference [even the "weak" ACC, B1G or Big XII] should nearly automatically merit a spot in the final four. Doing so for two seasons in a row is not FSU's argument for why they should make it this season, but it is a stat we like to point out to say "Look! If this was easy, anyone else could do it." The reason it keeps being brought up (primarily by the media, mind you) is because it is a rare feat.

Second, I think that the fact that we have "escaped" games isn't reason to keep us out, nor necessarily a reason to think we're going to be a cake walk. We have gotten every team's best shot this season as the "reigning national champions." Everyone has been rooting for whoever is playing FSU. People besides Florida fans actually rooted for Florida last week. THE FLORIDA GATORS. *shudder* Fans (including Georgia fans!) rooting for "America's team." We have a big bullseye and everyone has given us 120%.

As a result, I think we've been playing tight. The players admitted they had been, but also said that once they got over the hurdle of Florida, they loosened up and just played relaxed. It showed against Georgia Tech with our offense moving with really good efficiency. Our defense didn't play incredibly, but it's really hard to do so against an impressive, top 15 option attack. They stood in when they needed to and have gotten some incredibly, incredibly clutch stops when needed this season.

As for Oregon, I know you guys hear storylines that make you want to throw up. "Undersized." "Gimmicky." "Stanford/Arizona problem." I don't think there are any non-troll TN members who think that any of those three are valid.

That said, we do think we have a chance to upset you guys [line opened at Oregon -8.5]. Our defense is designed to match up against your style of offense. Our offense, when clicking, can't be stopped by many people [we beat the #1 defense in the country without Winston]. We have had a lot of injuries this season that, with a month off, helps us a lot to match up better with you guys because the injuries were at spots where we had almost no depth. Overall, I think the time off is more in our favor than y'all's. If we played this coming Saturday, I'd have far less faith in our ability to win.

We're excited to be playing you guys. I'm generally a fan of you guys [except until January 2nd]. I know TN's excited for the match up. Should we unfortunately lose to you guys, I'll be happy we made it to the playoffs and root for you guys to upend whoever comes out of the Sugar Bowl. I think Oregon has been too good of a team for too long to not have at least one national championship trophy. So if we don't advance, I'll be rooting for you guys come the 12th.

Also, congratulations on your Heisman, Mariota. Makes for a fun storyline, doesn't it?

All of that out of the way, the rest of this is designed to be a guide to the team. I break it down into each separate unit and give you a little bit about each of our starters, about the unit as a whole, and about the season so far. I spent a lot of time on it, so I hope you guys find it helpful! I know I always enjoy watching the game more when I know who's who and what's going on.

Looking forward to bantering with you lot for the next month!

Go Noles!


Offensive Line

LT: Roderick Johnson (Fr. 6'7" 330 lbs)

LG: Josue Matias (Sr. 6'6" 325 lbs) (pronounced "Ho-sway Ma-tee-us")

C: Cameron Erving (RSr. 6'6" 308 lbs)

RG: Tre' Jackson (Sr. 6'4" 330 lbs)

RT: Bobby Hart (Sr. 6'4" 320 lbs)

Coming into the season, our OL was supposed to be one of the best in the country. We returned 4 out of 5 starters from last season's dominant line and all 5 starters were seniors. The new starter was Austin Barron at C (replacing Bryan Stork - the 2013 Rimington Trophy winner who's now snapping balls to Tom Brady). Barron had lots of practice time in 2013 and we felt he was a solid backup. Sadly, he fractured his arm in the game against Wake Forest and our backup, Ryan Hoefeld had to step in. Hoefeld didn't play extremely well and was taken advantage through blitzes, stunts, and the like. Although our starting LT, Cameron Erving (see note 1 below), was cross-trained as a center, we had no solid secondary LT option at the time. Eventually, true freshman Roderick Johnson impressed the coaches enough at LT, so they replaced Hoefeld with Erving, sliding RoJo in to protect Winston's blind side. Over the past few weeks, the line has been looking better and better each week, finally giving Winston the time he needs to pass and opening up some time running lanes. Winston had all day to pass against GT and it showed. Hart, despite being a senior, is still extremely young (he turned 20 years old in August). He has been a bit prone to false starts in this season. Matias, Erving, and Jackson are all certain draft picks and Hart is likely to be one, too. RoJo is playing lights out as a true freshman and has already garnered some (admittedly premature) "GOAT" discussion, some going so far as to make comparisons to former FSU great Walter Jones, who many of you may be very familiar with (Jones was a 9-time Pro Bowl LT who played for the Seahawks).

Running Backs

1st: Karlos Williams (Sr. 6'1" 225 lbs)

2nd: Dalvin Cook (Fr. 6'0" 200 lbs)

3rd: Mario Pender (RSo. 5'10" 193 lbs)

4th: Ryan Green (So. 5'10" 195 lbs)

Williams is officially our starting running back but I don't know if that's still the case after Cook showed up and showed out during the ACC Championship Game. Entering the season, Williams (TN commenters commonly refer to him as "Los" - short for Karlos) was projected to have an outstanding season. Williams converted from safety to running back last year and the results were pretty incredible. His first ever carry was a 65-yard touchdown run and results never seemed to slow up. However, Williams was 3rd-string behind Devonta Freeman (Falcons) and James Wilder, Jr. (Bengals) (collectively referred to as ‘Wild & Free') so we didn't know what to expect from him in a starting role. We learned fairly quickly this year that a lot of Los' success came from being a second-half back, hitting tired defenses with a burst of speed and fresh legs after being pounded by Wild & Free. As we watched him run the ball this season, we noticed that he was not a natural runner. His vision leaves a lot to be desired and he has this weird habit of trying to jump with the ball (seriously, go watch some of our early season game below for those interested). Nonetheless, his strength has definitely become solid pass protection/blitz pick-up and earning consistent short-yardage (see note 2). He somehow always falls forward to gain a yard or two.

Los was out for the ACCCG due to concussion-like symptoms. Cook took over his starting role and did so impressively. Cook is the bright, shining future for the Noles and he showed everyone why against Georgia Tech. Given his performance, there's a chance he may start over Los, but I don't expect that to be the case. Cook was a 5-star recruit who was committed to the Gators for a long, long time (along with Ermon Lane) before flipping away from the lizards to join the good guys late last season. His timing particularly lit a fire under the 4-&-8ers because he was an early enrollee, but that's a story for another day. Throughout the season, Cook has shown to be everything Los was not. He's a natural, fluid runner with incredible vision, quick cuts, and acceleration that has literally made my jaw drop. He has set the FSU record for yards by a freshman at 905 and has potential to have a 1,000 yard season - something done only once in the last 18 years at FSU (last year by Freeman) - despite having 5 games with less than 10 carries and 1 more where he didn't get on the field. Also, his official picture is crazy.

Pender is another stellar back. He's a little smaller, but a little quicker. We've had a lot of high hopes for Pender, but he started out injured (redshirted) and then had some academic issues. After getting his academic issues sorted out (he made academic Honor Roll), he was good to go this season. He was playing pretty well until he injured his ankle in the game against Syracuse in October. Since then, he's had 7 total carries.

Ryan Green hasn't really seen the field outside of garbage time because of the other talent we've had come up through the ranks. I don't expect to see him in the Rose Bowl unless something unspeakable happens.


1st: Jameis Winston (RSo. 6'4" 230 lbs)

2nd: Sean Maguire (RSo. 6'3" 220 lbs)

3rd: John Franklin III (RFr. 6'0" 180 lbs)

This section hardly needs any introduction. Everyone in the country knows Jameis Winston. He is the 2013 Heisman trophy winner, amongst a slew of other awards. He has been the target of constant media scrutiny and discussion - merited or not - ever since his coming out party against an unsuspecting Pitt on Labor Day last September. In that game, he went 25-for-27 for 300+ yards, multiple TDs and no INTs. One of his two incompletions, upon review, was actually a completion to the sideline that never got reviewed in game. I remember seeing a tweet from some ex-QB (Marino, maybe?) that said he knew QBs who couldn't go 25-for-27 against AIR. Always makes me laugh and I feel like sharing. This season, he has had significantly worse stats than last year, sitting at 24 TDs and 17 INTs (see note 3). While no sane FSU fan would ever say he's having a better season, a lot of the dropoff is due to the loss of talent around him. He lost two receivers to the NFL and his replacements have not been doing him well. Several times, inexperienced receivers have given up on routes thinking they were covered and Winston tried to throw it to them anyhow. A prime example of this is against Louisville. Down 14-0 with 5:06 to go in the 2nd quarter, Winston gets picked on a throw to a Travis Rudolph, who is "triple covered." However, watching the film shows that, despite the coverage, the pass was pinpoint perfect - but Rudolph had given up on the route. If you want to see Winston at his best, look no further than the Boston College game back in November. He played an otherworldly game. In a downpour, Winston threw balls that were so crazily accurate that I can't even really describe them. Problem is, whether due to inexperience or weather, the receivers dropped something like 6 of his passes.

Sean Maguire is Winston's back up. He's a good, serviceable QB. He started against Clemson with roughly 24 hours notice and did enough to beat them. That Clemson defense is the highest-rated defense in the country (adjusted for opponents) by a sizeable margin over Alabama. He wasn't perfect (so many double clutch passes), but he's competent and can get the job done.

John Franklin III is a great kid, but will probably never get the chance to play QB at FSU unless some catastrophic stuff happens. He's currently a scout team QB who helps us prepare for mobile QBs and the option, but he's spent a fair amount of time this season switching over to work with the wide outs. Given the QB talent coming to FSU these next two years, I think everyone would be shocked if he ever started for a reason other than injuries.


Rashad Greene (Sr. 6'0" 180 lbs)

Nick O'Leary (Sr. 6'3" 247 lbs) (Tight End)

Jesus "Bobo" Wilson (So. 5'9" 177 lbs)

Travis Rudolph (Fr. 6'2" 184 lbs)

Ermon Lane (Fr. 6'3" 206 lbs)

Kermit Whitfield (So. 5'7" 183 lbs)

We have a few other receivers (Christian Greene (see note 4), Scooter Haggins, etc.) but I'd be surprised if you heard a name called that was not one of the 6 above. You're most likely to see Whitfield returning kicks (he had the KO return for TD against Auburn last year), but given that Fisher has nearly a month to prepare, he very well might try to get Kermit on the field in some unique packages.

Rudolph and Lane are both true freshmen who, along with Cook, have seen significant playing time this year. Rudolph has been described as the most college-ready receiver of the 2014 signing class and has lived up to that description to a fair extent. Lane has done really well blocking downfield and that alone has earned him a fair share of playing time. Bobo Wilson was initially thought to be our 3rd guy, but he has been really inconsistent this past month with a lot of critical drops.

Nick O'Leary is the tight end everyone has heard about. Probably the top TE on draft boards across the country, but there may be one or two out there that I'm not familiar with. He blocks excellently, he catches even better, and he likes to truck people. Oh, and did you know he's Jack Nicklaus' grandson and he doesn't play with gloves on?

Rashad Greene. Man. I don't think there's a single FSU fan who doesn't love Rashad Greene. Not only is he an absolute class act, he's probably the most consistent player on this team - dating all the way back to his freshman year in 2011. He's a soft-spoken leader who has been vocal at a few crucial points this season. He is now the ACC's all-time leading receiver with 3,771 yards and holds nearly every single FSU receiving record there is. That's really incredible when you consider the talent that has played that position at FSU, including Peter Warrick, Ron Sellers, and Fred Biletnikoff (the guy whom the top WR receiver trophy is named after). Until this season, he was probably the most underrated wide receiver in the country. The only receiver I would take above Greene (purely on a skill basis) is Amari Cooper. Personally, Greene is my favorite Seminole to ever wear the Garnet & Gold (admittedly, I'm only 24) and some dust might land in my eyes during Greene's last few plays as a Seminole (whether those be in the Rose Bowl or the NCG).


FSU is built to run a Nickel package (5 DBs) and thus designed to match up most favorably with spread teams. When matched up against the spread, we tend to run a sort of hybrid 4-2. We have two linebackers, two ends that are standing up, and two tackles. We'll have two CBs, a "star," and two safeties.

Defensive Line

LE: Mario Edwards, Jr. (Jr. 6'3" 294 lbs)

NT: Eddie Goldman (Jr. 6'3" 320 lbs)

NT: Derrick Mitchell, Jr. (RJr. 6'4" 303 lbs)

RE: DeMarcus Walker (So. 6'3" 277 lbs)

This has been FSU's biggest concern all season - not because our starters give us any room for concern, but because we have no depth. Mario Edwards, Jr., (referred to as ‘MEJ') has been an absolute stud all season (see note [5]). He is an absolutely guaranteed NFL draft pick. He doesn't have the sack numbers of someone like Clowney or Vic Beasley (Clemson), but it's because of how he's used in our system. He keeps contain, destroys blockers, and gets people on the ground. I'm willing to bet you've never seen someone 6'3" almost 300 pounds run as fast as MEJ can. It's insane.

Goldman is another recruit who has lived up to his potential and will be playing on Sundays soon. He's great and he really clogs up the inside runs. He has been an absolute gamer and balled out when we needed him to this season. He got injured during the ACCCG (damn you, cut blocks!) and we recently got news that he was just dinged up and would be back to practice soon. Without Goldman, FSU's chances to win the Rose Bowl take a HUGE hit, so us hooligans over at TN are extremely relieved he'll be playing.

Derrick Mitchell replaced our original starter Nile Lawrence-Stample (NLS). NLS suffered a torn pectoral muscle against Clemson and we lost him for the season. Mitchell was also highly recruited, but has never been able to put it together on the field (primarily because he has spent several consecutive seasons injured in different ways). He's been doing solid recently, but is probably one of the weakest points on the defense.

Walker has an insane burst of speed, but he doesn't really know how to control it. Walker explodes off the edge a lot, but will frequently lose contain. Against someone as talented as Mariota, that's a recipe for disaster. Watch for Mariota to scramble to the right after Walker blows by him. You will probably see Chris Casher step in at one point or another if Walker gets gassed.


Terrance Smith (RJr. 6'4" 224 lbs)

Matthew Thomas (RFr. 6'3" 233 lbs)

Reggie Northrup (Jr. 6'1" 220 lbs)

E.J. Levenberry (So. 6'3" 246 lbs)

What a story this season has been for our LB corps. We started the season with 9 on scholarship (see note [6]). Thomas was suspended by the NCAA for the season (we think he partook in some activities that are more legal out west than they are back east). After an appeal, the NCAA shortened his full-season suspension to a half-season suspension. On a just straight matchup, Thomas might be the best athlete on the team. The dude's just a freak of nature.

Smith is the veteran in the lineup. He's a solid linebacker who had a little injury/soreness against GT that should be cleared up by the time the Noles get to Cali. He'll almost certainly be playing for an NFL team next year.

Northrup and Levenberry are our backups. Northrup is really stout but makes some misreads from time to time. He's also TN's favorite dancer on the team (exhibit 1, 2, and 3). Levenberry hasn't seen much action this year. You may also see Jacob Pugh.


Ronald Darby (Jr. 5'11" 195 lbs)

P.J. Williams (Jr. 6'0" 196 lbs)

Jalen Ramsey (So. 6'1" 204 lbs)

Tyler Hunter (RJr. 5'11" 200 lbs)

Nate Andrews (So. 5'11" 210 lbs)

Our secondary is loaded. Ramsey is the vocal leader of the defensive backs. He's an outstanding player who plays the "jack-of-all-trades" Star position. He's an excellent coverage corner, he has hitstick highlights, and is a rocket off the edge on blitzes. He has really long arms and has batted down dozens of passes and a kick or two this season. He also likes to clap. He'll be on an NFL roster in a few years.

Williams and Darby are also NFL-caliber cornerbacks, although they've definitely looked worse this season than they did last. Hunter and Andrews are extremely solid safeties.

The five of them have all the talent in the world and the potential to be the best secondary in the entire country. Nonetheless, they've given up a lot over the top this season. Not much more to say than that. I'm not one to rely on soft factors, but part of the reason seems to be every opposing QB trying to win the Heisman when they play us.


K: Roberto Aguayo

I don't think much needs to be said about Aguayo. I'm sure you've heard of him. He's the 2013 Lou Groza award winner and there's a good chance he wins it again to become the second-ever repeat Groza winner (see note [7]). We'll find out on December 11th. He's only missed 3 FGs in his career, 2 from this season. Those two misses were by probably a combined 3'. It's mindblowing how consistent and accurate he is. He has certainly earned the nicknames (e.g. Roboto Aguayo and Mr. Automatic).

P: Cason Beatty

Beatty's a hoot. If you asked anyone on TN last season what FSU's greatest weakness was, 90% would have said "punting" and it was a valid complaint. It got to the point that #FSUTwitter got most excited this off-season when they found out an FAU punter was possibly transferring. However, in the Clemson game, something clicked in Beatty and he boomed ‘em. (He later said it was just getting actual game reps that helped him the most, haha). Since then, he's had some really, really clutch punts and generally averaged much better than he did last year. He still has some shaky punts from time to time, but he's vastly improved over last season. Plus, he's an excellent holder for Aguayo's kicks and has snagged an errant snap or two for him.

KR: Kermit Whitfield

KR: Karlos Williams

Whitfield has potential to take every KO to the house, but hasn't yet this year. As mentioned earlier, he had the KO return for TD during last year's National Championship game.


[1] An interesting side note is that Cameron Erving (our starting center that began the season as a LT) was actually recruited as a DT and played his first season as one. Similarly, Karlos Williams was recruited as a 5-star safety, but he never flashed as bright as many expected and after Jimbo gave him the option of switching to RB, he took it.

[2] I very easily could be wrong on this, but I believe that at one point in our season - something like 3 or 4 games in - we didn't have a single rush go for less than 1 yard or something. I can't remember what the stat was, but it was in one of TomahawkNation's podcasts and I can't do ctrl+F on a podcast, so just relying on memory here. Maybe a TN poster can correct me on this?

[3] Remember what I said about media scrutiny? I Googled "Jameis Winston" to get to his ESPN stats page and the first hit was a FOX Sports story with the headline: "WATCH: Jimbo Fisher screams at Jameis Winston, puts him in his place" and the subline of "But, gosh, the Florida State coach must find it infuriating at times to keep his QB in line." Really? Really, FOX Sports? You don't think that Jameis probably wanted to go for it on 4th-and-short like almost any other QB in football and Jimbo just said, "No"? Instead, Jimbo had to scream at him and put him in his place. Right. Got it.

[4] If you listen to interviews or press conferences with Jimbo Fisher, a lot of times you'll hear him refer to "80" when listing off names. He is referencing Rashad Greene. He refers to him as "80" because another receiver is named Christian Green, so Fisher uses their jersey number to overcome the homonym problem.

[5] MEJ can do a standing backflip in his pads.

[6] 7 of FSU's 9 scholarship LBs were unavailable against Louisville. Since then, one of the 9 was dismissed from the team (Ukeme "Markus" Eligwe) for an always vague "violation of team rules." We think there could be any of 420 reasons why. *ba dum tiss*

[7] Can you name the only other kicker to win two Groza awards? ANSWER: Sebastian Janikowski (the famous FSU kicker picked in the 1st round by the Raiders and is still there) won it in '98 and '99.

[8] Last season was Florida State's first ever chance to play in the Rose Bowl stadium. This matchup will be our first ever Rose Bowl proper.

[9] If you want, click this link to find in-depth breakdowns of every single play Florida State has played this season. Each "article" has an embedded video of the full game cut down to roughly an hour (removing commercials, dead time, etc).

Hope you found this informative! Looking forward to the matchup, everyone!

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