Tuesday, August 9, 2011

season preview: Florida State

Florida State Seminoles


9/3: Louisiana-Monroe
9/10: Charleston Southern
9/17: Oklahoma
9/24: @ Clemson
10/1: BYE
10/8: @ Wake Forest
10/15: @ Duke
10/22: Maryland
10/29: NC State
11/3: @ Boston College (Thu.)
11/12: Miami
11/19: Virginia
11/26: @ Florida

Skip: Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Projected starters:

QB: E.J. Manuel (rJr.)
RB: Chris Thompson (Jr.)
FB: Lonnie Pryor (Jr.)
WR: Bert Reed (Sr.)
WR: Willie Haulstead (Jr.)
TE: Beau Reliford (Sr.)
LT: Andrew Datko (Sr.)
LG: David Spurlock (Sr.)
C: Jacob Fahrenkrug (Jr.)
RG: Bryan Stork (rSo.)
RT: Zebrie Sanders (Sr.)

DE: Bjoern Werner (So.)
NT: Anthony McCloud (Jr.)
DT: Jacobbi McDaniel (Jr.)
DE: Brandon Jenkins (Jr.)
SLB: Christian Jones (So.)
MLB: Vince Williams (rJr.)
WLB: Nigel Bradham (Sr.)
CB: Xavier Rhodes (rSo.)
CB: Greg Reid (Jr.)
SS: Lamarcus Joyner (So.)
FS: Terrance Parks (Sr.)

K: Dustin Hopkins (Jr.)
P: Shawn Powell (Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (2nd season)

Media prediction: 1st, Atlantic Divison, ACC champion


2010 1st team: G Rodney Hudson, DE Brandon Jenkins
2010 2nd team: C Ryan McMahon, CB Xavier Rhodes
2010 HM: CB Greg Reid
2011 preseason: QB E.J. Manuel, OT Andrew Datko, DE Brandon Jenkins, KR Greg Reid

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Bobby Bowden didn't go quietly last year after being forced out as head coach at FSU, but one year under Jimbo Fisher was all the necessary proof that it was the right call.  The Noles went 10-4 in 2010 and made the ACC title game; it was their first appearance there since 2005 and their first double-digit win season since 2003 - even if you count the vacated ones.  Fisher's threatening to put this team back into the position they occupied in the 1990s as the undisputed kings of the ACC.


Except for the quarterback and a couple offensive line positions, FSU returns almost their whole starting offense.  Eight of 11 starters return, and E.J. Manuel earned votes as preseason ACC player of the year, so nobody's too concerned about him struggling.  Manuel was a 2008 super-recruit, and now that Christian Ponder has graduated, the reins are finally being handed over.  Manuel started twice last year and finished the ex-Peach Bowl against South Carolina in relief of Ponder; he completed almost 70% of his passes on the season.

The other replacements on the offense come on the line.  Jacob Fahrenkrug is a JUCO transfer penciled in at center, and Bryan Stork steps in at right guard - though he did get some starts there last season in relief of the concussed David Spurlock.  Stork is also the backup center.  Spurlock shifts to the left side, and along with tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders, represents the veteran presence.  This will be a very, very solid line if it's healthy: all the returning vets are coming off of health issues that required surgery, except for Spurlock whose concussion effects lingered past spring practice.

All the skill positions have familiar names in them.  FSU has a good stable of running backs.  Chris Thompson is listed as the starter since he led the team in carries last year (and averaged over six yards a carry), but Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones will also be in on the action.  None averaged fewer than 5.7 yards a carry, each scored at least five touchdowns, and each had a TD run of 50 yards or more - Thompson is the true home run threat with a run of 90.

There's also a great trio of receivers.  Bert Reed is the big name as a senior, but Willie Haulstead is bigger, maybe faster, and could surpass him this year.  Rodney Smith is a quality third option.  As long as the offensive line stays healthy this year, there's very little limit to what this offense can achieve.


You have to start the defensive discussion with defensive end Brandon Jenkins.  As a freshman he led the team in quarterback hurries despite never starting a game; this presaged a sophomore season in which he tore off 13.5 sacks, part of a whopping 21.5 TFL.  Now in his junior year, Jenkins is on every trophy watch list ever and will be the focus of every game plan against the Noles.  FSU was one of the top 15 run-stuffing defenses in the country last year, allowing just 3.41 yards per attempt, and that's thanks in large part to a very solid rotation of defensive tackles.  Nose tackle Anthony McCloud and three-techs Everett Dawkins and Jacobbi McDaniel are as stout as it gets.

The secondary is a tough nut to crack as well; the cornerbacks are especially dangerous.  Greg Reid is the big-name player and was credited with 14 break-ups last year, but it was Xavier Rhodes who was named ahead of him to the ACC 2nd team; Rhodes had four picks and 12 PDs of his own.  This might be the best pair of cornerbacks in the league, maybe the country if they continue their upward development.

Safety was a bit of a concern, so former cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was moved there and earned himself the starting job at strong safety.  Last year's starters Terrance Parks and Nick Moody will battle it out at free safety.  This isn't really a shaky group, but it's not an amazing one either, which is why all-world recruit Karlos Williams could find his way into the rotation as the season goes on.

With two new starters, the linebacking corps is probably the team's biggest wild card.  Nigel Bradham on the weak side is as solid as they come and could play a starring role this year; the other two have a world of potential but must adjust to a starting position.  This defense has a few positions that aren't manned by all-world players, but it has plenty of stars and no true weaknesses.


It's almost not fair, but FSU also has two of the best specialists in the conference.  Placekicker Dustin Hopkins has a ton of range, kicking a game-winning 55-yard field goal against Clemson; he needs to improve a bit on his consistency.  Punter Shawn Powell averaged a whopping 44 yards per punt, which would be a good average even in the pros.  And of course, Greg Reid is the all-star kick and punt returner, one of the most dangerous in the country.


It's practically Orange Bowl or bust for the Seminoles.  They are the class of their division, and it'd be a shocker and a half if they failed to make the ACCCG.  And with the news that Oklahoma's leading tackler is out for enough time to miss the FSU game, the path just got a touch easier.  FSU has two huge OOC games - they host Oklahoma and, of course, visit Gainesville.  The Noles should be pretty heavily favored in the rest of their games and could certainly go 8-0 in the conference; if they beat both Oklahoma and Florida it should get them a chance to play for the national championship.


I almost forgot.  The video library is now way cooler than it used to be.  Why?  Because highlights of the UC-Irvine series are now posted, including the RALLY TO OMAHA.  You should only visit if you like thrilling conclusions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hasn't been noted here yet, but Mario Nixon switched to us (well, the Hokies claim to have rescinded his offer first, whatever).

Going to be interesting what happens with Nixon here. Physically, he looks like he could add another 10-20 pounds. That would get him near TE weight, and he could be a dynamic pass-catching TE weapon.

That said, a big, physical WR always makes sense for WCO schemes akin to what Lazor runs.

There aren't that many spots left for this class, and I don't see any reason to expend any of it on sleepers. I'd hope that, whatever spots are left, are saved for any elite chips (like Severin, Jones, Mathers, Diggs, Brown), and if no one falls our way, then to save the chips for next year.