FSU setting up for an encore title run in 2014

Tight end Nick O'Leary was one of several 'Noles to announce his return to college for one more season. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Tight end Nick O’Leary was one of several ‘Noles to announce his return to college for one more season. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

In the days that follow a national championship celebration, I’ve learned that there’s plenty of jubilation and talking with friends who went to the game or watched from home, recounting their thoughts on the big game.

But there’s also a look ahead to next season and a fear that a team so talented will be gutted by graduation and players who depart early in hopes of earning millions in the NFL.

Florida State got some good news Thursday when several key players from the 2013 Season of Perfection announced they’ll be in Tallahassee for another season, wishing to earn their degree instead of leaving college early. So far, the players in question who will be back in 2014 are wide receiver Rashad Greene, tight end Nick O’Leary and offensive linemen Tre’ Jackson and Cameron Erving.

“We have something really special going on here at Florida State,” Erving said in a Tomahawk Nation report. “Of course, I want to be a part of that. I want to mature and grow as a player before I make that big step to the NFL.”

While a few more youngsters are left to make a tough decision, this makes nearly half of a historic offense that will return for the ‘Noles in 2014. Quarterback Jameis Winston will have experienced blockers and talented targets to catch his passes, raising the odds of FSU qualifying for the four-team tournament at the end of the season.

(Also read: FSU finally did it – they’re back)

Looking at FSU’s 2014 schedule, the slate may be slightly tougher, but not insurmountable. They open the season at Cowboys Stadium against an Oklahoma State squad that may be ranked in the top 10. If they can take that winnable nonconference game, they’ll only have four games on the road the rest of the season: at Miami, NC State, North Carolina and Louisville.

The Seminoles will host Florida, Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, The Citadel and Notre Dame to round out the schedule. Several of those teams should be improved from their 2013 squads, with Clemson possibly taking the biggest hit from several departing stars. But their defense will be solid, and they have the talent to reload.

Still, Florida State should expect to win nearly all of those games and get back in position to win the Atlantic Coast Conference for the third consecutive season. Even a loss to Oklahoma State at the beginning of the year may be possible to overcome, and would have no effect on their ACC record.

We’ll wait on a few more Seminoles to decide whether they’ll go pro or stay in Tallahassee, but even if there’s nothing but bad news the rest of the way, Florida State is in really good shape to keep the nation’s longest winning streak rolling deep into the 2014 season.

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