When the Florida State Seminoles pop up on 2018 Notre Dame football schedule in November, an early verdict should be in on whether or not the Seminoles made the right call in hiring new head coach Willie Taggart. The move came in the wake of Jimbo Fisher’s move to Texas A&M, with former South Florida coach Taggart coming across the country after being in charge for just one year at Oregon.[Related: Catch up on all of Note Dame’s 2018 opponents with our ongoing series on opponent profiles]
Florida State had an uncharacteristic down year, finishing at 7-6 on the year. When these two teams take the field, the Irish will be hoping for better luck after having dropped six of the eight meetings in their history. This year’s matchup marks the first time since 2003 that the Seminoles have come to South Bend.
Florida State Offense: Crossing Fingers
A question mark that likely won’t be settled until training camp is at quarterback. Coming back from a knee injury, Deondre Francis is hoping to get back to his 2016 form, when he was a mainstay at this position. The man that replaced him last year, James Blackman, isn’t quite as talented athletically and also needs to sharpen his touch.
One of the bright spots from last year’s struggles was the performance of then-freshman running back Cam Akers, who broke the 1,000-yard threshold with 1,024 yards. He’ll be working with senior Jacques Patrick, who’s been dependable over the course his career in Tallahassee. Each players found the end zone seven times in 2017.
At wide receiver, there’s not much experience among the options in this unit, with the key player being Nyqwan Murray, who hauled down 40 receptions and scored four touchdowns. Keith Gavin snagged 27 passes last year, but after that, there’s limited experience remaining.
That’s not the case when it comes to the offensive line, though one issue that needs to improve here is the lack of pass protection being offered. Over the past two years, Seminole quarterbacks have been sacked a total of 68 times, which is going to keep the team either struggling or being over-reliant on the running game.
Florida State Defense: Strong Up Front
The starters at end, Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh, are both standouts who know how to quickly get to the ball. Burns finished with 48 tackles, including 13.4 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks, While Kaindoh made the most of his 17 tackles, trapping 6.5 runners behind line and finishing with four sacks. Inside, Demarcus Christmas is likely to be joined by Marvin Wilson, who’s yet to live up to his billing.
The linebacking corps will have a completely new look with all three starters gone. Two possibilities to replace those dpearted players are Dontavious Jackson, who’s been inconcsistent during his Seminole career and Emmett Rice, who’s battled injuries. A pair of interesting options are Leonard Warner, who looked good in limited time, and Amari Garner, a true freshman with the talent to immediately step into the starting lineup
As always, Florida State has talent in secondary, but must once again fill two holes. At one of the corner slots, Levonta Taylor is looking to build on his 18 tackles, two picks and three pass deflections.
Florida State Special Teams: A Wide Spectrum
Ricky Aguayo has been a consistent presence at kicker for the Seminoles and returns for his third season, with Logan Tyler also back for his third campaign. In contrast to Aguayo, Tyler’s punts have not always been delivered as hoped, which has caused some havoc on coverage for the special teams.
The Last Time Notre Dame Played Florida State
As part of the 2014 Notre Dame football schedule, the fifth-ranked Irish traveled to Tallahassee to face the second-ranked Seminoles and came within a questionable pass interference call of winning. Trailing 31-27 and at the Florida State two, Everett Golston connected with Corey Robinson for the apparent game-winner with 13 seconds left.
Unfortunately, that interference call negated the score and on fourth down, Golston threw an interception in the end zone. That wrecked a solid night for the signal caller, who threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. On the ground, Tarean Folston ran for 120 yards for the Irish.