OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE
Given he was a true freshman, quarterback James Blackman did a good job last year after the knee injury to Deondre Francois [in Week 1]. You don't see true freshmen who weren't the No. 1 guy in camp just pop in there and play. They'll have Francois back but health will be a big question early on—I'm not so sure he's recovered from his injury. [New coach] Willie Taggart ran the QB a lot when he was at South Florida, so it will be interesting to see if he still will: Neither Blackman nor Francois are natural runners.... It's no secret that their best players are their running backs, Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. The top priorty of Taggart's offense is to make space through formation and motion for the backs to operate.... At Michigan State [new Florida State defensive coordinator] Harlon Barnett ran press quarters [Cover 4] coverage that keeps two safeties in the box. That puts pressure on your corners to cover one-on-one on the outside. But if you have good corners, that defense can make you miserable, and LEVONTA TAYLOR is a great corner. If they have one more—and they might have one in Stanford Samuels III—then they could really be a problem for teams.
BY THE NUMBERS
Average margin of victory during FSU's four-game win streak to finish last season.
Passing yards per game by Deondre Francois in 2016, most among FBS freshmen.
After a hard luck 2017, the Seminoles will be better but they don't have the elite talent to challenge Clemson in the ACC.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
* SI PROJECTION
The scheme Willie Taggart is bringing from Oregon to Florida State—he calls it "lethal simplicity"—will be a huge boon to running back CAM AKERS, who broke Dalvin Cook's school mark for rushing yards by a freshman last season (1,025 yards) despite playing in the most dysfunctional offense of Jimbo Fisher's tenure. When Taggart was hired, the 5'11", 213-pound Akers watched video of the Ducks' Royce Freeman, a second-round pick of the Broncos, and got excited. "A lot more open field to work with," says Akers, who is smaller than Freeman but the same size as former South Florida RB Marlon Mack. In Mack's final year under Taggart, he ran for 1,187 yards.
MON., SEPT. 3
@ MIAMI (15) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]
CLEMSON (1) [BIGGEST GAME][SI RANKINGS]
@ N.C. STATE
@ NOTRE DAME (16) [KEY MATCHUP][SI RANKINGS]