• With a Heisman Trophy candidate in Dalvin Cook and one of the nation's most exciting defenders in Derwin James, Florida State checks in at No. 3 in SI's 2016 college football preseason Top 25 rankings.
By The SI Staff
August 09, 2016

Team breakdown


Key returning starters: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Travis Rudolph, G Roderick Johnson

QB Sean Maguire started five games last season, but he’ll compete with redshirt freshman Deondre Francois in camp for the starting job. Cook will be the focal point of the offense, but if the Seminoles can get more out of the passing game than last year, they’ll take pressure off their star and place it squarely on the opposing defense. 


Key returning starters: DE Demarcus Walker, DE Josh Sweat, LB Ro’Derrick Hoskins, S Derwin James

James will play in the secondary, on the line of scrimmage and everywhere in between. Meanwhile, linebacker might finally be a position of strength for the Seminoles. Former five-star recruit Matthew Thomas, who was ineligible last season, will join the steady Hoskins, and freshman Josh Brown could find the field early.


Leader in rushing: Cook. He averaged 7.4 yards a carry as a sophomore and scored 17 touchdowns.  

Leader in receiving: Rudolph. The junior averaged 15.5 yards a catch while leading the Seminoles in receptions last year with 59.

Leader in sacks: Walker. He led Florida State with 10.5 last year, but sophomore Josh Sweat may catch up in ’16.

Leader in interceptions: CB Marquez White, unless opponents are scared to throw his way.

Opposing coach's take

“With [5' 11", 213-pound running back] Dalvin Cook, you try to slow him down. You can’t stop him. You’ve got to limit him to singles and doubles, because if he gets going, he’s going to get home runs. He’s great at finding the crease and exploding through the hole. And on those mid-zone or wide-zone toss plays, he has a lot of freedom to find that crease. Because of the unsettled quarterback situation—it’s between senior Sean Maguire and redshirt freshman Deondre Francois this year—they’ve had to run the ball a little bit more. They didn’t have anybody that scared us last year at wideout—they were just good college receivers. But the Cook effect can help that. Teams have to worry about him so much that they may not worry about those receivers.

They’re getting back to having the speed on the edge, like the old Florida State defenses used to have. They’ve got some of those bodies now on their team. Having [sophomore defensive back] Derwin James means there’s another guy that the offensive coordinator and the quarterback have to be aware of on every play. He’s one of those dynamic playmakers who can completely disrupt a play. They’re going to miss [cornerback] Jalen Ramsey [first round, Jaguars]. He made a bunch of big plays on the boundary.

They’re sound and they’re physical up front. They’ll make it a fistfight even if you want to play basketball on grass.”

Stacy Revere/Getty Images


The 6' 3", 227-pound junior outside linebacker Matthew Thomas, who missed last season after left shoulder surgery, runs like a defensive back and hits like a truck. He and sophomore safety Derwin James, who moves all over the formation, will leave opposing quarterbacks guessing about who will drop into coverage and who will come screaming into the backfield.

Numbers to know

7.4: Yards per carry last year for now junior RB Dalvin Cook, second best in the nation.

17.5: Points per game given up by the Seminoles last season, ninth best in the nation.

2: Sophomore safety Derwin James’s position ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

10.5: Sacks for DeMarcus Walker last year as a junior; he may draw enough attention for sophomore Josh Sweat to outdo him in 2016.

2: Kickers named Aguayo to play in Tallahassee: Freshman Ricky follows in the footsteps of brother Roberto (now with the Bucs.


Date Opponent
Sept. 5 Ole Miss (in Orlando)
Sept. 10 Charleston Southern
Sept. 17 at Louisville
Sept. 24 at South Florida
Oct. 1 North Carolina
Oct. 8 at Miami
Oct. 15 Wake Forest
Oct. 29 Clemson
Nov. 5 at NC State
Nov. 11 Boston College
Nov. 19 at Syracuse
Nov. 26 Florida

Top 25 rankings

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