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ACC Atlantic PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Jimbo Fisher, 31-10 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Jimbo Fisher | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jeremy Pruitt
Is redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston college football's next breakout star?
After EJ Manuel led FSU to a victory over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, everyone knew the Seminoles would have to search for a new quarterback this season. What we couldn’t have predicted was what a wild ride that would be. For the first time in five years, Florida State conducted a truly open competition at quarterback during spring drills, and the winner appears to be redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. Coach Jimbo Fisher won’t confirm that just yet, but there is a growing belief that Winston will get the starting job.
But Winston was so impressive during spring drills that junior Clint Trickett, who entered the spring atop the depth chart, announced he was transferring just four days after the Seminoles’ spring game. Winston, who was rated by many the nation’s No. 1 quarterback coming out of Hueytown (Ala.) High School near Birmingham, continued to separate himself from sophomore Jacob Coker and redshirt freshman Sean Maguire this fall.
FSU returns two junior tailbacks with starting experience. Devonta Freeman finished with 660 yards and eight touchdowns last season, while James Wilder Jr. had 635 yards and 11 scores. And the wide receiver group is deep and talented, led by junior Rashad Greene. Greene, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent and Kelvin Benjamin all caught at least 27 passes last season. Dent is suspended indefinitely due to an arrest in early June.
The Seminoles are solid up front, with four starters returning and the lone new starter being a veteran with plenty of experience (junior Bobby Hart, who started the final nine games of the 2011 season as a freshman). FSU is not particularly deep on the line, however, so overcoming injuries would be a problem.
When Fisher lured Jeremy Pruitt away from Alabama to be his new defensive coordinator, he did so with the hopes of reshaping his defense in the mold of the Crimson Tide. He wants more turnovers and big plays, and the Seminoles should have the talent to make that happen.
Seniors Christian Jones and Telvin Smith lead a deep and talented linebacker corps, and the Seminoles might have even more talent in the defensive backfield. Senior Lamarcus Joyner is coming off of an All-ACC season at safety but worked primarily at cornerback in spring drills. Senior Terrence Brooks led FSU’s defensive backs in tackles last season, and juniors Tyler Hunter and Karlos Williams emerged as potential stars late in 2012.
The biggest challenges will be replacing four starters on the defensive line, but new tackles Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister each put up better numbers in 2012 than the starters they are replacing.
There very likely will be a drop-off at defensive end, where the Seminoles lost high NFL Draft picks Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine. Sophomore Mario Edwards Jr. and senior Dan Hicks likely will fill those roles.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB - Can cover in space, is a big hitter despite a small frame, and will be used in blitz packages.
Rashad Greene, WR - Isn’t a big body, but has great toughness and breakaway speed. Led the Noles in receptions (57) and yards (741).
Timmy Jernigan, DT - Uses his strength and quickness to be a major disruptive force on the interior of the Seminoles’ defensive front.
Fisher believes redshirt freshman placekicker Roberto Aguayo could be even better than departing All-American Dustin Hopkins. Punter Cason Beatty returns from a solid freshman campaign, but the Seminoles will need to make improvements in the return game, where they struggled with fumbles last fall.
This hasn’t been the easiest offseason for Fisher. Not only is he replacing a slew of starters on both sides of the ball, but he also lost six of nine assistant coaches to other schools.
Despite that turnover, the Seminoles again will be among the most talented teams in the country. If Winston can handle the starting quarterback job as a redshirt freshman and FSU avoids injuries on the offensive line, the Seminoles will have a chance to win at least 10 games for the third time in Fisher’s first four seasons.
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