Florida State Seminoles' 10 Best Players for 2012
The Florida State Seminoles will once again be highly regarded when the August rankings come out, although Tallahassee would prefer to see a better start to the season.
FSU lost three games after starting 2-0, and the hope is that this squad can avoid the injury bug early on. Some are already beginning to argue that the 2012 Seminoles will be the most talented one in the past decade.
So, let us kick-off the offseason by debating which 10 players on the squad will be the best in 2012.
Note: No specific order, just 10 stars that could be the keys to putting FSU back on the map.
Bjoern Werner, DE
Bjoern Werner became the beast from Germany in 2011, but 2012 could be his national coming out party. We saw what he was made of against Oklahoma in front of a hostile Doak stadium.
However, he led the team with seven sacks and was second in tackle for losses (11). Werner is a beast off the edge, but has shown a ton of athleticism on a defensive line that has a few stars.
Florida State had no First Team All-ACC defenders, which has to be bulletin board material, and Werner should be one of several that makes the list in 2012.
Dustin Hopkins, PK
One of the three final invitees for the Lou Groza, Hopkins connected on 22-of-27 kicks in 2011.
His longest kick of the season was from 53 yards out, but the return of the golden foot should give the Seminoles an edge over arguably every team in college football.
Rashad Greene, WR
Rashad Greene was hampered by an ankle injury throughout the season, but when he played there was nobody that could stop the freshman.
Next season he will avoid a sophomore slump by his amazing hands and tremendous breakaway speed.
Greene led the team with seven touchdowns, 38 receptions and in 596 yards, but he can play like an All-American next season if he builds the rapport many are expecting with E.J. Manuel.
Timmy Jernigan, DT
Timmy Jernigan flashed some brilliance (six tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks) up front for a defensive line that needs help at the interior of the line.
Mark Stoops has been shown screaming at Jernigan to control his emotions a bit better, but this youngster has all the talent in the world to become the next stud defensive tackle.
Christian Jones, OLB
Christian Jones will be looked upon as the leader of the linebackers with Nigel Bradham graduating, but the talent drop-off is not much, if any at all.
In fact, Jones has proven to many that he is ready to become an All-ACC performer. He ranks third in tackles with 56 and fourth in sacks with three and he wreaks of breakout potential in 2012.
But, Jones just wants to make everyone around him better.
Guys like Vince Williams, Telvin Smith and Jeff Luc will likely feed off Jones' leadership. So, look for the linebacker to only get better since Williams' instincts and Smith's heat-sinking missile approach have improved.
E.J. Manuel, QB
E.J. Manuel actually had four rushing TDs on the season, but that number could go down with the amount of battering rams they will have in the backfield.
James Wilder looks like the goal-line vulture with Lonnie Pryor as the lead-fullback, but after the shoulder injury to E.J., it is highly unlikely for him to be risking his body as much.
Now, he will likely improve upon his 2,666 yards and 18 TDs.
His receivers were nicked up in nearly every September game starting against Oklahoma, but that luck should change next season.
There are a boatload of speedsters who can stretch the field, but they need a few that can come up with the big catch on third downs.
Nick O'Leary, who is returning at tight end, could be the main guy in that department, but Rodney Smith, Kenny Shaw and Christian Green could all make major strides.
If he makes the right reads and puts the ball on the money more often, Manuel should be in store for a fantastic season. Look for 30 total TDs and over 3,000 yards.
Greg Reid, CB/PR
Greg Reid is one of the most electrifying players in all of college football, and teams are usually wary of throwing it in his direction.
The same can be said for punters even allowing him to return it, but this upcoming senior has the glitz, glamour and the swagger to make Florida State a serious national title contender.
He brings a vibe to the field that many players may never even have in them, but No. 5 also puts the crowd in a frenzy when he does the spectacular.
Mark Stoops and Jimbo Fisher would love nothing more than to see him go bonkers in 2012, but they also want him to stay within himself by making the simple things look easy.
Xavier Rhodes, CB
Xavier Rhodes (6'2", 215 pounds), is one of the most athletic defensive backs that can stay toe-to-toe with any wide receiver in America. He gave Michael Floyd all he could handle when they were both healthy in the first half, but Rhodes ability to disrupt the passing game is vital.
Not only is he a ball-hawk, but he is only going to be a junior in 2012. ACC teams may actually throw at him more since they may struggle to run the ball. But, those teams may as well pick their poison (or losses), with a defense that may rank as the best in college football.
LaMarcus Joyner, DB
LaMarcus Joyner played arguably his best game of the season against Notre Dame (Champs Sports Bowl), as he came away with an interception and a huge kickoff return that put a ton of momentum on FSU's side.
However, Joyner has great talent because he can play some corner and safety at any point during a game. If West Virginia keeps their non-conference game at Florida State, Joyner will have a chance to shine on the brightest of stages, (via Rivals).
Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Sammy Watkins of Clemson will both be covered by Xavier Rhodes, but don't doubt for a second that Joyner will pick up a few key interceptions or knockout hits across the middle.
Brandon Jenkins, DE
Brandon Jenkins may come in as a preseason All-American defensive end this coming August, thanks to the production he has shown for the past two seasons (21.5 sacks).
Plus, everybody on the FSU defensive line returns, which will only mean that Jenkins will have even more opportunities to put together a dozen-plus sack season like he did back in 2010.
Timmy Jernigan, Everette Dawkins, Cameron Erving, Anthony McCloud, Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner should rank among the three best defensive lines in America next season.
If Mark Stoops can really improve his schemes in his third season as the defensive coordinator, then Florida State may get back to national prominence and familiar territory (14 straight Top Four finishes from 1987-2001).