FSU football: Ranking top 10 MVPs from the past decade
When picking the top 10 most valuable Florida State Seminoles of the past decade, there’s an easy place to look.
Try 2012 through 2016, when the Noles went 59-9.
The Noles went just 26-33 for the second half of the decade.
Florida State’s 3rd and most recent national championship season happened during this past decade, in 2013.
Eight of the top 10 players on this list played on that national championship team. Likewise, of the players who competed mostly during the latter half of the decade, only running back Cam Akers and defensive ends Brian Burns and Jermaine Johnson made our honorable mention.
Without further delay, here’s our list:
10. TE Nick O’Leary
Nick O’Leary started on FSU’s national championship team, making 33 catches for 557 yards and 7 TDs. The next year (2014), O’Leary won the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. That was in honor of his 48-catch, 618-yard and 6-TD season. During that senior year, O’Leary set FSU’s career receptions for a tight end (114) and was named a consensus first-team All-American.
9. K Roberto Aguayo
Roberto Aguayo, who ultimately became a 2nd-round pick, was named the nation’s top kicker in FSU’s championship season. His 157 points that year led the ACC.
Aguayo left FSU as the most-accurate kicker in NCAA history (69-for-78 on field goals, 198-for-198 on extra points). He was also No. 1 in the ACC in terms of accuracy.
8. WR Kelvin Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin, a 1st-round pick in 2014, caught the winning touchdown pass in the 2013 national championship game against Auburn. It was a 2-yard reception with just 13 seconds left in the game.
For the season, Benjamin had 54 catches for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was named third-team All-ACC, but Sports Illustrated rated him a first-team All-American.
7. DE DeMarcus Walker
DE DeMarcus Walker ranks third in FSU history with 28.5 career sacks. His 16 sacks as a senior in 2016 is tied for second on the FSU all-time chart. He also started three games as a freshman on FSU’s national championship team.
Walker, a second-round pick in 2017, also had a huge moment as a senior, blocking Miami’s attempted game-tying PAT try with 1:41 left. That preserved FSU’s 20-19 win.
6. QB EJ Manuel
QB EJ Manuel, a former Virginia prep star, became just the second quarterback in college football history to lead his team to four straight bowl wins, joining Pat White of West Virginia.
Manuel played just one year that fits into the scope of this past decade (2012). But in that season, he led FSU to a 12-2 record, an ACC title and an Orange Bowl victory. At the time, it was just the third 12-win season in FSU history.
In addition, Manuel went 5-1 against Florida and Miami, and his 3,392 passing yards as a senior ranked second behind Chris Weinke in school history. Manuel went 25-6 as an FSU starter, and he was a first-round pick in 2013.
5. CB Jalen Ramsey
CB Jalen Ramsey started all 14 games as a freshman in the national championship season. The last FSU true freshman to start at corner had been Mr. Prime Time, Deion Sanders.
Ramsey was durable during his college career, playing all 41 of FSU’s games. He was a consensus first-team All-American in 2015, and he was the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft.
In college, Ramsey had 22 passes defended, 15.5 tackles for losses, five sacks, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. A former Tennessee prep star, it was an upset that Ramsey ended up at FSU. He grew up a Miami Hurricanes fan in a family that rooted for the Florida Gators, and he initially committed to the Southern Cal Trojans.
4. S Lamarcus Joyner
S Lamarcus Joyner was a consensus first-team All-American when FSU won the national title in 2013. He was then a second-round pick in 2014.
Joyner played all 55 of FSU’s games during his brilliant four-year career. During that span, he posted 10.5 tackles for losses, eight interceptions, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
3. WR Rashad Greene
WR Rashad Greene is FSU’s career leader in receiving yards (3,830) and receptions (270). He led FSU in catches and receiving yards in all four of his collegiate seasons.
Greene played huge in big games, including nine catches for 147 yards in the national title win against Auburn. He was also a bowl-game MVP in a freshman-year victory over Notre Dame.
After winning the national title in 2013, Greene’s encore effort as a senior in 2014 included setting the school single-season record with 99 catches. He finished his career with two straight 1,000-yard seasons and 29 total touchdown grabs.
2. RB Dalvin Cook
RB Dalvin Cook finished his college career as FSU’s all-time leading rusher (4,464 yards). He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three collegiate seasons.
As a sophomore, Cook rushed for 1,691 yards, breaking Warrick Dunn’s single-season school record. The next year, Cook broke his own record with 1,765 yards, and he also smashed Dunn’s career mark.
He was named the MVP of the ACC title game, rushing for 177 yards as a freshman. As a sophomore, he rushed for 222 yards and two scores in a win against rival Miami. Later that year, he rushed for 183 yards and two scores against rival Florida. Cook finished his college career as a two-time first-time All-American and was a second-round NFL pick in 2017.
1. QB Jameis Winston
QB Jameis Winston, a former Alabama prep star, sat out 2012 as a true freshman and then had an incredible 2013 season, winning the Heisman Trophy and leading FSU to the national title.
On his 20th birthday, Winston led FSU to a 34-31 win against Auburn in the national championship game. Winston was the game’s Offensive MVP, throwing the winning 2-yard TD pass to Benjamin with just 13 seconds left.
As a redshirt sophomore, Winston led FSU to a 13-0 start before a 59-20 loss to Oregon. He finished his FSU career with a 26-1 record as the starting QB, and he was the first overall pick in 2015.
— RBs Devonta Freeman and Cam Akers are listed as a tag-team entrant.
Freeman, an eventual fourth-round pick, was FSU’s leading rusher during the national championship season (1,016 yards). He averaged 5.9 yards per rush and scored 15 touchdowns that year. He finished his three-year collegiate career with 2,255 rushing yards, a 5.6 average and 30 TDs.
Akers, a second-round pick in 2020, suffered behind some poor offensive lines but had two 1,000-yard seasons in his three years at FSU. For his college career, Akers rushed for 2,875 yards, a 4.9 average and 27 TDs.
— S Derwin James was a first-team All-American in 2017 and a first-round pick in 2018. In 26 collegiate games, he had 186 tackles, including 15 for losses. James also had 5.5 sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
— DT Timmy Jernigan was an All-American during FSU’s championship season, ranking first on the team with 11 tackles for losses. He played just three years for FSU before becoming a second-round pick in 2014.
— Pass rushers Jermaine Johnson, Brian Burns, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius “Tank” Carradine all had one double-digit-sack season for FSU.
Johnson had 11.5 sacks in 2021 and was a first-round pick in 2022. Burns had 10 sacks in 2018 and was a first-round pick in 2019. Werner had a 13-season in 2012 and was a first-rounder in 2013. Carradine had an 11-sack season in 2012, and he was a second-round pick in 2013.
— OL Bryan Stork and Cam Erving are two of the best blockers in FSU history.
Stork was named the nation’s top center in FSU’s championship season. He is the only Rimington Award winner in FSU history, and he was a fourth-round pick in 2014. He won a Super Bowl while with the New England Patriots.
Erving was FSU’s left tackle during the championship season, earning honors as a second-team All-American. He went on to start 42 consecutive games for FSU. As a pro, he was a first-round pick in 2015, and he won a Super Bowl title with the Chiefs.