With the departure of seven all-conference performers and six new assistant coaches, Florida State’s spring practice is all about getting everyone on the same page and acclimated with all of the new faces. Despite the turnover on the roster and coaching staff, the Seminoles are still one of the top-15 teams in the nation and will be Clemson’s biggest threat to an ACC title. The battle to replace EJ Manuel at quarterback will get most of the attention this spring, but Florida State must replace a handful of key contributors on defense, including defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. With all of the changes, there will be an adjustment period in Tallahassee. However, there’s still plenty of talent returning, which could keep Florida State in contention for 10 wins in 2013.
Florida State Seminoles 2013 Spring Preview
2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Spring practice dates: March 20-April 13
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4
Passing: Clint Trickett, 22 of 34, 272 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Devonta Freeman, 111 car., 660 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Rashad Greene, 57 rec., 741 yards, 6 TDs
Tackles: Christian Jones, 95
Sacks: Demonte McAllister, 3.5
Interceptions: Tyler Hunter, 3
Redshirts to watch:QB Jameis Winston, WR Marvin Bracy, DE Chris Casher, DB Colin Blake, DT Justin Shanks, LB Ukeme Eligwe
Early Enrollees to Watch: LB Freddie Stevenson, DE Demarcus Walker
JUCO Transfers to Watch: DE Desmond Hollin
Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 14 Nevada
Sept. 21 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 28 at Boston College
Oct. 5 Maryland
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Oct. 26 NC State
Nov. 2 Miami
Nov. 9 at Wake Forest
Nov. 16 Syracuse
Nov. 23 Idaho
Nov. 30 at Florida
Offensive Strength: Outside of quarterback, the Seminoles are set on offense. Running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. could be the ACC’s best one-two punch in 2013. Also, five players that caught 20 or more passes are back, and the offensive line returns four starters.
Offensive Weakness: It’s only one area, but it’s a big one: Quarterback. EJ Manuel expired his eligibility after the Orange Bowl, which leaves Jacob Coker, Clint Trickett, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire to battle for the starting job.
Defensive Strength: The strength of Florida State’s defense last year was clearly the defensive line. With Bjoern Werner leaving early for the NFL and Everett Dawkins and Cornellius Carradine expiring their eligibility, the strength of the defense has shifted to the back seven. The Seminoles should have one of the ACC’s top linebacker and secondary units in 2013.
Defensive Weakness: It’s hard to call Florida State’s defensive line a weakness considering the talent this group possesses. However, the Seminoles will have a drop off in performance at this position with the departure of four key players from last season.
Spring Storylines Facing the Seminoles
1. Who starts at quarterback? The biggest question facing the Seminoles in spring practice is the battle to replace EJ Manuel under center. Although he had his moments of inconsistency, Manuel finished his career with 7,741 yards and 47 touchdowns. Four quarterbacks are vying to replace Manuel, but the battle is most likely between junior Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. Trickett has two starts under his belt and has 947 passing yards in his career. Winston was regarded as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the 2012 signing class and spent last season learning the ropes as a redshirt. Winston is playing baseball this spring but is not expected to miss any practice time. Considering the talent at the skill positions, Florida State doesn’t need Trickett or Winston to be an All-ACC quarterback. If Winston is ready, he should be the Seminoles’ No. 1 quarterback for the season opener against Pittsburgh.
2. Shuffling on the offensive line? With four starters back, Florida State should have one of the ACC’s best offensive lines in 2013. However, there’s some uncertainty surrounding this group, as Menelik Watson departed early for the NFL and Daniel Glauser expired his eligibility, which completely vacated the depth at right tackle. So who steps into Watson’s starting spot? Junior Bobby Hart is expected to get a chance to claim the right tackle job, and he has 19 games of experience under his belt. If Hart is unable to claim that spot, center Bryan Stork could slide to right tackle. If Stork does slide to the outside, junior Austin Barron would claim the top spot at center. Other options to watch at right tackle will be sophomore Ruben Carter or junior Sterling Lovelady, along with incoming freshman Wilson Bell. The best scenario for Florida State is for Hart to claim the right tackle position, which would keep Stork at center. Depth could be an issue for the Seminoles on this unit, so keeping the five starting linemen healthy will be a priority.
3. Rebuilding the defensive line. Although Florida State must replace ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine and tackles Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud, this unit could still rank among the best in the ACC. Sophomore Mario Edwards is a future star, and sophomore Giorgio Newberry and redshirt freshman Chris Casher were touted recruits coming out of high school. Incoming freshman Demarcus Walker and junior college recruit Desmond Hollin are expected to play a significant role in the rotation in 2013. The tackle position should be set with Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister sliding into the starting lineup, along with the return of Jacobbi McDaniel from a redshirt year. Even with the talent stepping into the lineup, this unit will take a step back. However, if there’s little adjustment from Mark Stoops to Jeremy Pruitt as the coordinator, Florida State’s rush defense should once again rank in the top-10 nationally.
4. Shuffling in the secondary. The Seminoles only have one departure in the secondary, but it’s a big one. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes left early for the NFL after earning first-team All-ACC honors in 2013, and he is expected to be a first-round selection in April. Replacing Rhodes is no easy task, but Florida State has depth in the secondary. Lamarcus Joyner is expected to slide from safety to cornerback in spring practice, and he was a first-team All-ACC pick last year. With Joyner moving to corner, the Seminoles shouldn’t miss a beat in pass defense. The other corner spot has a handful of players competing for time, including Tyler Hunter, Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome, incoming freshman Jalen Ramsey and redshirt freshman Colin Blake. With Hunter, Darby and Waisome out for spring practice, Blake will have a head start on claiming the other corner spot. Regardless of who starts at the other corner spot, Florida State has plenty of options and should be stingy against the pass once again. Expect Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams to get the starting nod at safety.
5. Replacing Dustin Hopkins at kicker. The departures on offense and defense will get most of the attention in the spring, but Florida State has a huge void to fill on special teams. Kicker Dustin Hopkins set the NCAA career scoring record for kickers and was a Groza Award finalist in 2012. Junior Drew Zloch and redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo are the only kickers on the spring roster, with Aguayo the likely frontrunner. Hopkins was one of college football’s top kickers during his career at Florida State and will be missed. Will Aguayo ease concerns about Hopkins’ departure this spring? Or will the kicking battle continue into the fall?
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