Florida State Football: 4 Players Who Will Be Stars in 2012

Stephen Fenech@Fenech2491Correspondent IApril 17, 2012

Florida State Football: 4 Players Who Will Be Stars in 2012

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    FSU is loaded with players ready to explode onto the national scene this fall. The experiences from last year will send the team into its first game with a ton of confidence. 

    Florida State have high expectations for the 2012 football season. In order to achieve its goals, the offense will need to be more productive than last season. The defense played great last season and should be even better this season. 

    It would be surprising if the FSU defense doesn't finish in the top-10 nationally.

    Here are four players that are ready to break out on the national scene as FSU fights for a BCS National Championship in 2012. 

Nick O'Leary

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    Nick O'Leary is set to have a huge year. O'Leary is a 6'4", 240-pound tight end whose athleticism causes matchup problems for the defense. 

    He was ranked by most as the top-ranked tight end in 2011. As a freshman, he showed glimpses of what FSU fans will see more of this season. 

    O'Leary had 12 catches for 164 yards last season. He also found the end zone once. 

    FSU's starting quarterback, E. J Manuel, should look for O' Leary when plays begin to break down due to FSU's shaky offensive line. 

    O'Leary will represent a big target, with solid hands. His size will also make bringing him down in the open field no easy task.

    Fans should expect O'Leary's receiving numbers to triple, as his role may be crucial to FSU's success this fall.  

    O'Leary will give FSU something they haven't had in a while, a reliable tight end that is a real threat to catch the ball down-field. 

    With a full spring behind him, O'Leary should become more familiar to Manuel. This will lead to an increase in O'Leary's involvement in the offense. 

Christian Jones

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    Christian Jones will take over for NFL-bound Nigel Bradham this season at Will outside linebacker. 

    Jones, who was the Sam-backer last season, will have an entirely new set of responsibilities this year. He will now be focusing on blitzing, playing the run and covering opposing running backs in pass coverage. 

    Jones is 6'4" and weighs 240 pounds; this is prototypical size for a Will-backer. He is also extremely athletic and should be able to handle covering opposing tailbacks when they slip out of the backfield. 

    Last season, Jones had 56 tackles and three sacks. Expect both numbers to improve in 2012.

    Jones should finish among the team's leaders in tackles. Last year's Will-backer, Nigel Bradham, led the team with 86 tackles. 

    FSU will need Jones to be active in the run game, which should lead to more tackles this season. 

    Jones has the ability to play Will-backer very well at this level, and FSU is expecting him to do just that. 

Kenny Shaw

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    Kenny Shaw had 34 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns last season.

    Shaw should line up in the slot a lot this season, with Rashad Green and Rodney Smith lining up on the outside. 

    Shaw is the perfect size for a slot receiver, 5'11" and 165 pounds. He is quick in and out of his cuts and should approach the 50-reception mark this season.

    In the spring game, Fisher forced Manuel to stay in the pocket and to work on his accuracy from there. Although Manuel didn't look great in the pocket, there are still many reasons to feel optimistic about his ability to become more accurate. 

    Shaw will be one of the biggest beneficiaries if Manuel is able to become a more competent quarterback from the pocket. 

    Green and Smith should draw a lot of attention from defenses, thus leaving Shaw in single coverage, a situation in which he will thrive. 

    FSU will depend upon Shaw for many crucial first-down receptions this season.

James Wilder Jr

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    James Wilder Jr. is a big physical back with tremendous athletic ability. At 6'2", 219 pounds, Wilder Jr. is a big running back who runs very hard. 

    FSU is deep at running-back but Wilder's size and running style will ensure that he gets his fair share of carries. 

    Wilder's success will be highly dependent upon his offensive line creating holes for him to run through. Wilder's size will make it very difficult for smaller players to bring him down. If the offensive line is able to create holes for Wilder to run through, then Wilder will be running over opposing linebackers and defensive backs. 

    Wilder is only a sophomore and should continue to develop through training camp this fall. 

    Of the four players on this list, Wilder is the biggest long-shot to become a star this season. This is due to the depth at the running back position and the uncertainty about how the offensive line will perform this season.