Alex Krutchik, Correspondent (@ on Twitter)
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – Florida State football is back in full swing this week. The Seminoles started spring practice this Monday, with lots of new and returning faces.
Sophomore defensive back Derwin James is back after missing 11 games last season with a torn meniscus, and five-star running back Cam Akers donned the garnet and gold for the first time.
With seven early enrollees, a few players coming back from injury, and some guys who were up-and-coming toward the end of last year, there are several people to be watching this spring.
Derwin James- Defensive Back (RS So.)
In his freshman year, James recorded 91 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 9.5 tackles for a loss. Going into last season, Florida State fans were excited to see what he could do in his sophomore year. However, after tearing his meniscus in game two against Charleston Southern, he missed the entire season. On Monday, we were reassured on good news that the Seminoles have been longing to hear.
“He’s been wide open,” said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. “Derwin is a full go.”
It was clear after practice that James feels as good as new. In fact, James said he’s been ready to go for months.
“After the bowl game, towards January, February, I felt like I was really 100 percent,” James told reporters.
Something new to look for will be James’ use in special teams. James was used to return kicks in high school, and Fisher said he wants to “put the ball in the best guy’s hands.”
Nyqwan Murray- Wide Receiver (Jr.)
Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray came into last season as an option behind Bobo Wilson, Travis Rudolph, and Kermit Whitfield. After an injury to Wilson in week 7, Murray moved his way up the depth chart and immediately made an impact.
In the next week against Clemson, he caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Against North Carolina State the following week, he caught a season-high nine passes for 152 yards.
In the last six games of the season, he racked up 22 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns. His season culminated with the game winning touchdown to put the Noles up 33-30 against No. 6 Michigan with just over a minute remaining in the Orange Bowl.
As the season progressed, Fisher commended his growth into someone the Seminoles could rely on consistently. After practice on Monday, he pointed to his improvement again.
“Much better offseason this year than he did last year,” Fisher said. “Even today, seemed to be doing good things.”
Cam Akers- Running Back (Fr.)
FSU lost Dalvin Cook, one of its best running backs in school history, to the draft this offseason. Also over the offseason, Jimbo Fisher recruited five-star running back Cam Akers.
Akers was the No. 1 recruit out of Mississippi, and the hype has been building since the day he signed with the ‘Noles.
On his game tape from high school, he mostly lined up as a ‘wildcat’ quarterback, taking snaps directly from the shotgun. It will be interesting to see how he does when he lines up behind Francois.
Akers is one of seven freshmen who enrolled this past January in order to get a head start on practice. Coach Fisher said it’s already made a difference in all of them.
“Those guys, they don’t look like freshmen anymore,” Fisher said. They’re all mature.”
Dameyune Craig- Off-field Analyst
Not technically a player, but an important piece that the Seminoles are happy to have back. Craig was a quarterback at Auburn from 1994-97 while Fisher was a quarterbacks coach there. Then, when Fisher got the head coaching position at FSU, Craig followed and became the quarterbacks coach.
Craig was a big part in getting former quarterback Jameis Winston to come to FSU. After 2012, however, he went back to his alma mater at Auburn as a co-offensive coordinator. After practice, Fisher said he likes that Craig is a familiar face to the program.
“He knows the system, knows what I like, knows what I like in recruiting,” said Fisher. “Growing up in the system his whole life, it’s huge getting him back.”