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You can read the entire Florida State preview in Athlon Sports' 2012 ACC magazine, available for purchase now at the Athlon Sports store.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TOP 25
#9 Florida State
ACC Atlantic PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Jimbo Fisher, 19-8 (2 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: James Coley | DEF. COORDINATOR: Mark Stoops
The return of senior EJ Manuel doesn’t have Florida State fans quite as excited as we might have suspected earlier in his career. A crowd favorite when he was backing up former Seminole and current Minnesota Viking Christian Ponder, Manuel had some of his flaws exposed during his first season as a starter. While his completion percentage is solid (65.3 percent as a junior), Manuel doesn’t always appear comfortable as a drop-back passer.
He should be helped by an extremely talented receiving corps. Rashad Greene led the team in receptions (38), receiving yards (596) and touchdown catches (seven) as a true freshman; senior Rodney Smith is a proven big-play threat; and junior Willie Haulstead, who was supposed to be the leading receiver in 2011 before going down with a concussion, is back in the fold.
FSU also has a quality group of running backs, led by senior Chris Thompson and sophomore Devonta Freeman. Thompson missed most of last season with a back injury, but if he is healthy as expected, he will give the Seminoles a major home run threat — the 5'8" speedster scored on rushes of 90, 83 and 70 yards as a sophomore. Freeman led the team in rushing yardage (579), touchdowns (eight) and yards per carry (4.8) as a freshman.
The big question mark is the offensive line. The group performed so poorly last season that line coach Rick Trickett started four true freshmen against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. The experiment got off to a rocky start, but the results were positive enough that those rising sophomores — guards Josue Matias and Tre’ Jackson, tackle Bobby Hart and center Austin Barron — could remain in the starting lineup this fall.
Is Florida State Back as an Annual National Title Contender?
Brandon Jenkins’ decision to return for his senior season could give FSU one of the nation’s top defensive lines. Jenkins and fellow end Bjoern Werner are exceptional pass-rushers, and the Seminoles are loaded at tackle. Sophomore Tim Jernigan could be the star of the group, but veterans Anthony “Amp” McCloud, Everett Dawkins, Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McAllister will make plenty of plays as well.
The most significant departure from FSU’s defense was weak-side linebacker Nigel Bradham, who led the Seminoles in tackles in each of his final three seasons. But FSU is replacing Bradham with junior Christian Jones, who started last season at the other outside linebacker spot and appears to be more of a playmaker. The Seminoles also should be very strong in the secondary with emerging star Lamarcus Joyner at safety and Xavier Rhodes returning at cornerback.
Zebrie Sanders, LT
Sanders was FSU’s best lineman last year. With the ongoing concerns about the offensive line, replacing Sanders will be one of the key question marks for the ‘Noles in 2012.
Brandon Jenkins, DE The Seminoles’ top pass-rusher is coming off of a monster spring.
Lamarcus Joyner, S His speed and instincts can erase teammates’ coverage mistakes.
EJ Manuel, QB Team leader on offense and explosive dual-threat option. Has to prove he can stay healthy.
|Sept. 1st||Murray State|
|Sept. 8th||Savannah State|
|Sept. 15th||Wake Forest|
|Sept. 29th||at South Florida|
|Oct. 6th||at NC State|
|Oct. 13th||Boston College|
|Oct. 20th||at Miami|
|Nov. 8th||at Virginia Tech|
|Nov. 17th||at Maryland|
Senior Dustin Hopkins, who was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award in 2011, will go down as one of the greatest kickers in school history. Greg Reid (who was dismissed from the team in August) had a good chance of breaking Deion Sanders’ record for career punt return yardage, but those duties will likely go to Rashad Greene. The Seminoles will have to answer questions at punter, however, as All-American Shawn Powell has graduated.
Fisher has placed much of the blame for Florida State’s disappointing 9–4 finish in 2011 on the slew of injuries that knocked out several offensive linemen and skill players for the season and even sidelined Manuel for parts of three games.
With a deeper and more talented roster, the Seminoles should be able to better deal with another streak of bad luck. And if the offensive line is merely serviceable, FSU’s defense should be good enough to carry the Seminoles back to the ACC Championship Game.
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