By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jalen Ramsey didn’t hesitate.
The Florida State football team had moments earlier ended its season in a 59-20 defeat to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, but Ramsey was already fielding questions about next year.
Chief among them: Can Florida State return to the College Football Playoff?
“Oh, we’ll definitely make another push again,” Ramsey quickly answered. “I’m not worried about it.
“With all the talent we’ve got on this team, all the heart we’ve got on this team – we’re definitely going to make another push for it. You can believe that.”
Ramsey has good reason to feel so confident.
Yes, the Seminoles must replace key components from 2014. Receiver Rashad Greene, tight end Nick O’Leary and four starters on the offensive line are all part of a senior class that’s moving on.
And FSU is still awaiting decisions from a few draft-eligible juniors and third-year sophomores. Cornerback P.J. Williams announced Tuesday via his Twitter account that he’d be going pro, and ESPN reported later in the day that defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is leaving as well.
But cornerback Ronald Darby, defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and quarterback Jameis Winston have yet to reveal their plans.
Regardless, the Seminoles have no shortage of talent lined up for 2015.
“I’m so excited about the future,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ve got a lot of great young players coming back.”
That includes Ramsey, who after two seasons is well on his way toward continuing the legacy of fine defensive backs at FSU.
And also rising sophomores like Derrick Nnadi and Trey Marshall, each of whom were thrust into key roles as freshmen.
The offense, meanwhile, will boast the return of star-in-the-making Dalvin Cook, the running back who recently became FSU's first freshman to run for 1,000 yards.
He and Mario Pender are back to help fill the void left by departed senior Karlos Williams.
“I’m definitely going to have a bigger role,” Cook said before the Rose Bowl. “I won’t say it’s my team because it’s always a team effort, but I’m going to have to take on a bigger role.”
So, too, will receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane. The pair showed flashes of promise as freshmen, combining for more than 800 receiving yards. Each, along with rising junior Bobo Wilson, will play a part in replacing Greene's production.
“These freshmen, they’re going to be the old guys,” FSU receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey said. “As (last) season went on and (Rudolph) started making plays and then Lane started making plays like that, they both just got more confident.
“They’re going to be a big part of it.”
That’s not to say the youngsters don’t have room to improve. Each made a few freshman mistakes over the course of the season, but Greene believes that those setbacks can actually advance a young player’s development.
“The guys that will return and be a part of this organization for more years, they’ll learn from this experience and learn from the mistakes they made,” Greene said. “I definitely see this organization still winning games and being in position like we were (at the Rose Bowl).”
Before last Thursday, it had been more than two years since Fisher had addressed his team after a loss.
After the game, Fisher thanked the departing seniors for all they had done and reminded the whole team that the disappointing last chapter won't define their seasons or their careers.
FSU has been on the other side of the lopsided score lines far more often than not in recent years.
But he also addressed the players who will be coming back. Players like Ramsey and Cook and Rudolph and defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell.
The conversation took a quick turn toward the future.
“He just told us to come back, get back in school, get our feet back wet and we’ll transition in to spring football,” Mitchell said.
Spring football is only a few months away. In the meantime, FSU will welcome another promising recruiting class – a group that features seven top prospects who have already enrolled in the spring semester -– in February.
The Seminoles later that month will embark on the physical and mental grind of "Fourth Quarter" conditioning drills.
Then, it’s back to the practice fields, where the Seminoles will take their first true steps into the 2015. And maybe their first steps toward another winning streak.
“Why can’t you do another (streak?)” Fisher said. “Who says you can’t do another one? You’ve got to go play.
“And if you don’t worry about the outcome or worry about trying to get streaks and just go play well, good things can happen to you.”