Fisher thinks Florida State's best ahead after 10-3 season
After two seasons as one of the nation's top teams, Florida State was largely out of the spotlight in 2015. The 10-3 record was what most expected but the ninth-ranked Seminoles did surprise many by making a New Year's Six bowl game.
Despite Thursday's 38-24 loss to No. 13 Houston in the Peach Bowl, Fisher felt like his team was able to make progress in each game.
''I'm very happy for what they've been able to accomplish and the underclassmen what they were able to do. Each week we try to get better and I thought we competed very hard,'' Fisher said.
Fisher's only disappointment was that his seniors fell one win shy of 50 for their careers. It would have been the final milestone for a group that reached a major bowl all four years and won the 2013 national championship.
The Seminoles were 10th in the preseason rankings and got as high as ninth tree times. With the loss to Houston, this will mark the first time in four seasons they will be outside the top 10 in the final poll.
The offense dealt with bouts of inconsistency due to the struggles at quarterback and the offensive line. Everett Golson, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, started eight games but lacked the arm to throw the ball downfield. Sean Maguire started five and was solid until the bowl game. He threw for 392 yards against Houston on a severely sprained ankle but was intercepted four times.
In a rarity for the program, a running back ended up being the top offensive playmaker. Dalvin Cook set a school single-season rushing record with 1,691 yards and had six games of 150 yards or more. He finished seventh in Heisman balloting and should be in the mix as one of the top contenders next season.
The entire offense will return next season but finding a solid five on the line will be a focal point in the spring. Left tackle Rod Johnson and right guard Winston Bell were the only ones to start all 13 games as there were nine different starters.
Maguire, who has a 5-2 career record, will be back for his senior season but the starting job is not assured. Deondre Francois was redshirted but did a good job running the scout team in practices while Malik Henry is enrolling early and should be able to practice in the spring.
''It was nice to see young guys mature. It is crazy to think we have 11 returning starters on offense next season,'' Maguire said.
The defense could lose as many as seven starters. There are the five seniors, including linebacker and leading tackler Reggie Northrup, but defensive back Jalen Ramsey is expected to declare early for the NFL Draft and defensive end DeMarcus Walker is weighing his options.
Even if only four starters return, there shouldn't be that much of a dropoff. Due to injuries plenty of underclassmen got playing time and made an impact, including freshman defensive lineman Josh Sweat and safety Derwin James.
''I feel like we're going to go hard this offseason. I feel like we're going to have a good chance, we should have a pretty good year next year,'' James said. ''And I feel like the talent we have we'll be pretty solid.''
Next season's schedule will be challenging. Florida State will open against Mississippi at Orlando and also has road games against Miami and South Florida. The Seminoles will host Clemson, North Carolina and Florida at home.
''I think the best is still ahead for this program. Almost everybody is back and we have an opportunity to have a very special team again,'' Fisher said.
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