5 Bold Predictions for Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles in 2012
Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Seminoles will have to play with passion and urgency if they hope to meet the lofty expectations that have been placed upon them.
The fanbase is expecting this to be the year that FSU finally re-emerges as a national title contender.
They have a senior quarterback with a ton of experience in EJ Manuel and have a bevvy of offensive weapons to support him.
They return the majority of their defensive starters from last season, and the sky is the limit for the unit in 2012.
Fisher and his staff have done a superb job recruiting over the past two seasons, as they have finished in the top five in recruiting rankings in both years.
The time is now for FSU, but they will need some bold play from their key players.
The Defense Will Be Ranked Inside the Top 5 Nationally
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Last season, FSU's defense ranked fourth nationally in points allowed, surrendering an average of 15.1 points per contest.
FSU has a few potential first round picks on their defense, including defensive end Brandon Jenkins and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
The job that Mark Stoops has done with the FSU defense cannot be understated. When Stoops came to Tallahassee, the defense was coming off an absolutely terrible season.
In that season, FSU allowed over 30 points a game and barely qualified for a bowl game.
Entering his third season as defensive coordinator, Stoops has transformed FSU's defense into one of the nation's elite units.
Nigel Bradham, who led FSU in tackles in each of the previous three seasons, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the third round and will have to be replaced.
Christian Jones should be able to take Bradham's spot on the weak side, so Bradham's departure shouldn't hurt the defense that much.
FSU has two NFL quality cornerbacks in Rhodes and Greg Reid who will be locking down opposing wideouts all season.
Defensive ends Jenkins and Bjorn Werner have the ability to record 30 sacks between the two of them and will make things difficult for opposing offenses to get into a rhythm.
FSU's rush defense should be exceptional again this season, with defensive tackles Tim Jernigan, Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud clogging the middle.
The Seminoles allowed only 2.35 yards per carry last season, which led the nation. There is no reason that this year's defense shouldn't be even better this season.
FSU has the talent and experience to shut down every offense they face this season. Expect them to finish next season ranked inside the top five teams in the country in overall defense.
EJ Manuel Will Be a Heisman Finalist
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Want a bold prediction?
How does EJ Manuel getting invited to New York as a Heisman trophy finalist sound?
Some may scoff at the idea, but if FSU has success as a team, then Manuel will be viewed as one of the reasons for that success.
The quarterback receives more credit than other positions, but also faces more scrutiny.
Senior quarterback EJ Manuel has a chance to claim his spot in Seminole legend.
He will lead a team that has the potential to win the national championship. His play and leadership will be crucial to achieving that goal.
Manuel has seen playing time for the past three seasons and has the experience to get the job done.
Last season, Manuel threw for 18 touchdowns, 2,666 yards and completed 65 percent of his passes. All of those numbers must significantly improve if he hopes to be in the Heisman trophy conversation.
He has the weapons to accumulate a massive stat-line. Wide receivers Rashad Green, Kenny Shaw and Rodney Smith should overwhelm opposing defenses.
Sophomore tight end Nick O'Leary will create matchup problems for those who try to cover him. He is too fast for most linebackers but too big for the majority of safeties.
O' Leary has the ability to play in the NFL one day and should dominate the ACC this season.
Manuel's ability to create with his feet will help add to his stat-line as well. His ability to scramble will get him out of trouble and save busted plays.
With Manuel at the helm, the offense has the potential to be great in 2012. Manuel has the chance to score over 30 touchdowns, both through the air and on the ground, this season.
FSU Will Play in a BCS Bowl Game
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This prediction isn't as bold as the last one, but reaching a BCS bowl is not an easy task.
Florida State has not appeared in a BCS bowl since they fell to Penn State in the Orange Bowl in 2005, but they will play in one this season.
Jimbo Fisher is entering his third season, and he has had the time to shape the program the way he wanted to.
The Seminoles have the talent to win the ACC, which would automatically qualify the Seminoles for a BCS bowl.
Anything less than playing in a BCS bowl would be a major disappointment. If Fisher cannot lead the Seminoles to a BCS sponsored bowl game in 2012, then his seat will start to get slightly warm.
Fisher has done an excellent job on the recruiting trails, but if that talent isn't producing on field then it is all for nothing.
It is BCS bowl appearance or bust for the Noles in 2012.
Rashad Greene Will Be One of the Best Wideouts in the Country
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Rashad Greene is going to have a break out season in 2012, it is that simple.
Greene led the team in all the major receiving categories last year and will do the same thing this season.
His combination of speed, route-running and sure hands makes him a threat to dominate the ACC this season. He also has a knack for finding the opening in the defense, which is a trait all great wide receivers have.
Greene will also benefit from going through another season's worth of practice with starting quarterback EJ Manuel.
If Manuel has a big season then Greene will follow suit. Greene will be Manuel's top option, so he will get his fair share of balls thrown his way. I fully expect him to make the most of his opportunity and gain national recognition in his sophomore season.
Greene will also be the beneficiary of having talent around him that will also demand the attention of the defense. FSU is very deep at receiver, and players like Kenny Shaw, Rodney Smith and Kelvin Benjamin will stop defenses from keying in on just Greene.
Fisher really likes Greene as both a person and a player. He said the following to seminoles.com.
"That guy affects you as a leader. He's a 3.9 (grade-point average) student. He works as hard as anybody out there in the offseason. He can pick up and move and play multiple positions. Phenomenally talented. I could sit here and go on and on about him."The guy is just an exceptional, exceptional young man and we're going to use him in a lot of different ways."
Greene has gained Fisher's trust, which means Fisher will be sure to call plays that get the ball to Greene in key spots.
If Greene can avoid the injury bug then he will have a special season.
Dustin Hopkins Will Make Multiple Kicks with the Game on the Line
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Dustin Hopkins is one of the better kickers in the country and Florida State is lucky to have him.
Hopkins has converted on 63 of his 82 attempts, which is good for a conversion rate of 76.8 percent.
Unfortunately for Hopkins, he has missed a few kicks with the game on the line. Last season, Hopkins missed a kick that would have given FSU the lead late in the fourth quarter against Virginia, a game that they went on to lose.
In 2010, after an improbable string of events, Hopkins missed a kick that would have lifted the Seminoles past North Carolina.
Hopkins has made his fair share of big kicks at FSU though, and he will have to make some more this season.
In 2010, a week after Hopkins missed the kick against UNC, he came back the next week and converted on a 51-yard field goal as time expired to beat Clemson.
FSU will play a few close games this season, and they will need Hopkins to step up and make big kicks when called upon.
Luckily for FSU, Hopkins will draw upon his past experience and come up in the clutch this season.