Florida State

4 things Florida State must fix this season in order to reach College Football Playoff

Deondre Francois, Derwin James, Nyqwan Murray
PHOTOS BY USA TODAY SPORTS

Florida State had another successful season last fall in winning the Orange Bowl. But if the Seminoles want to take it a step further, they’re going to have to improve in some areas.

Though Florida State – which qualified for the inaugural College Football Playoff in 2014 –could be the preseason No. 1, that’s not to say the Seminoles are necessarily without issues.

Here are the four biggest things Florida State must if they want to better their chances of making the College Football Playoff in 2017.

1. Pass protection: The offensive line has been bad the last couple of years. But much of that has been overlooked because of the success of now former running back Dalvin Cook. Florida State allowed 36 sacks a year ago and looked no better during its recent Garnet and Gold spring game, even with some new faces and injuries this spring. Instead, the Seminoles appear to be better as a run blocking unit and will lean on a by-committee approach until true freshman Cam Akers presumably outright wins the job. Quarterback Deondre Francois has plenty of talent, but one can only do so much without decent protection.

RELATED: 2017 Florida State spring game takeaways

2. Linebacker coverage: Florida State may have the best secondary in the country, and it also has one of the best defensive lines. The linebackers do a nice job against the run, which includes senior Matthew Thomas who’s coming off a career game in the Orange Bowl against Michigan when he had 15 tackles. But they don’t do nearly as well against the pass, even in their base 4-2-5 defense. Both Thomas, as well as Ro’Derrick Hoskins, who like Thomas also is a starting linebacker, struggle in coverage. Emmett Rice, who albeit undersized, has put on some weight (now up to 203 pounds) and could be someone who helps out in such a role. Josh Brown, who’s listed at Buck, could drop back and help in coverage as well. Other potential options include Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane, Adonis Thomas and Dontavious Jackson.

3. Dual-threat QBs: Florida State has fantastic athletes, but sometimes it can backfire. Typically that’s the case against teams who run a lot of counters, misdirection or have a quarterback who can run and pass. For starters, Georgia Tech isn’t on the schedule, and that’s a great thing for the Seminoles. But can Florida State be disciplined enough to stay in their lanes against Alabama’s Jalen Hurts and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson? Gap integrity, reading your keys and staying at home have been a nightmare for the Seminoles under defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. Florida State’s defense could be its one best yet under Jimbo Fisher, but an unfavorable matchup could very well lead to a bad result if some things don’t change.

RELATED: Florida State’s 10 most indispensable players in 2017

4. Consistency under Deondre Francois: As a redshirt freshman, Francois was about as good as you could expect. He showed a lot of poise, incredible toughness and rare leadership skills that most freshman do not have. From his come-from-behind effort in the season opener against Ole Miss to the last-minute game-winning touchdown pass against Michigan, Francois got it done. This year, however, he must get better. He only completed 58.8 percent of his passes, for one. He missed plenty of open receivers, many of which were short routes. He’s also coming off a terrible Garnet and Gold game, where it looked like he regressed. Not helping the situation is the loss of his top three wide receivers from last season, his left side of the offensive line and Cook. The Seminoles should still have a strong running game even without Cook to help take the load off Francois, but he’ll need to step up and do his part too.

RELATED: A most intriguing position: Sizing up the 2017 Florida State wide receivers

(You can follow Rick Ballou on Twitter @Ballou1010XL)

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