After such a rough season and not playing in a bowl game, it is tough to look back and see some of the bright spots. The team may not have had much success, but there were some players who stood out during the 2018 Florida State Seminoles season.
During Willie Taggart’s first season as the head coach of the Seminoles, there were struggles on all sides of the ball. His offense struggled to score, the defense wasn’t great, and special teams struggled at times as well. But there is no reason to always dwell on the negatives. What about the players who had good seasons?
Most of the ‘Noles who stood out came on the defensive side of the ball because the offense was a bit of a disappointment, but there are still some players who had a good season regardless of the entire offensive struggle.
This isn’t a list of who the best players are on the team, but who had the best seasons. For example, I do believe Cam Akers is a great talent and will bounce back with a stellar 2019 season, but 700 yards for a back of his caliber is not even close to what is expected at Florida State.
7. Dontavious Jackson, Linebacker
As one of the leaders of the defense, junior linebacker Dontavious Jackson had a pretty good season. He finished second on the team in tackles (75) and tackles for loss (7.5) and also had an interception and forced fumble. Jackson took a big step forward this season after losing quite a few players from the 2017 team. In his sophomore season, he only had 17 tackles and one of those for a loss.
Even though it probably would have been a mistake to declare for the NFL Draft in the first place, Jackson announced he will be returning for his senior season. With a season as a full-time linebacker under his belt, next year could be even better for him.
6. Stanford Samuels III, Cornerback
The pass defense was not very good this season — ranking 118th in the country in passing yards allowed per game at 268.7 — but Stanford Samuels III was still a playmaker on the back end of the defense. He finished the season fifth on the team in tackles and led the team with four interceptions.
With the four interceptions this season along with the two he had last year as a freshman, he has already matched the six interceptions his father had in his career as a Seminole in the early 2000s.
5. Marvin Wilson, Defensive Tackle
They may not have been a top run-stopping defense, but they definitely were much better on the ground than against the pass as a unit. Marvin Wilson played a big role in that and was named as an All-ACC Honorable Mention. He finished eighth on the team with 41 tackles and also had four tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks. He also forced a fumble against Samford.
Wilson was much more productive this season than last, so hopefully he can continue to grow heading into his junior season in 2019.
4. Tamorrion Terry, Wide Receiver
Maybe the biggest breakout star of the season for Florida State was Tamorrion Terry. He was also named an honorable mention by the ACC for his huge redshirt freshman campaign. Terry made big play after big play this season, finishing tied with Nyqwan Murray for a team-high in receiving yards at 744. He led the team with eight receiving touchdowns and was third with 35 receptions. His 21.26 yards per catch was fourth best in the country, showing just how dangerous he was to make big plays.
His biggest play was a 74-yard touchdown from Deondre Francois that would give the Seminoles a lead with just under two minutes remaining against Boston College. At the time, it was huge because they had to have the win against the 20th-ranked Eagles to have a chance at bowl eligibility. That was Terry’s second game of the season with 100 receiving yards, finishing with 112 yards and a touchdown on three catches. His best game came against Louisville when he had 142 yards and two touchdowns on five catches.
If the offensive line was more stable, Terry possibly could have hit over 1,000 yards on the season, but because the line couldn’t block long enough, it would be tough to hit Terry on many long-developing routes down the field.
3. Demarcus Christmas, Defensive Tackle
He may not put many big numbers in the stat sheet, but Christmas causes problems for the offenses he faces and allows for others to make the big plays. He finished the season with 28 tackles, three of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. His best game of the season came against Miami when he had five tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.
He was named to the All-ACC Third Team as a redshirt senior.
2. Nyqwan Murray, Wide Receiver
When a quarterback is sitting behind a struggling offensive line, he needs a receiver he can count on. Nyqwan Murray is about as trustworthy a receiver a signal caller could ask for. He finished the season with a team-high 54 catches and tied for the lead with 744 yards. He also finished second on the team with three receiving touchdowns.
Murray and Terry were a perfect complement to one another as Terry was the deep threat and Murray played underneath, averaging 13.8 yards per catch. In his two best games against Louisville and Wake Forest, he had a combined 14 catches for 245 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest play of the season came against the Cardinals when he took a three-yard crossing route and turned it into a 58-yard game-winning touchdown.
Murray will be missed since he has led the team in receptions over the last two seasons, but at least the Seminoles have a receiver they can count on in Terry moving forward.
1. Brian Burns, Defensive End
It was no secret that Brian Burns was the best player for Florida State all season. He led the team and was second in the ACC in sacks with 10 on the season. He finished his college career with 23 sacks, which is tied for seventh all-time in school history. If he had decided to return for his senior season, he would have needed 13 sacks to become the Seminoles all-time leader in the category, overtaking Reinard Wilson’s 35.5 career sacks.
Burns was dominant in ACC play especially since all 10 of his sacks came against conference opponents as well as his team-high 15.5 tackles for loss. That explains why he was named to the All-ACC Second Team at the end of the season and is seen as a first-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.