Florida State Football: Top 6 Storylines for the Seminoles Entering Fall Camp
Jimbo Fisher enters his third season as head coach at Florida State, still in search of an elusive ACC title.
He has led the Seminoles to a respectable 19-8 record in the last two seasons, including a pair of impressive bowl victories.
However, for a fanbase that expects its team to annually compete for national championships, the 2012 season appears to be a vital one for the future of the Seminoles' program.
Fisher's club brings back 17 starters, including fifth-year senior quarterback EJ Manuel and a defense expected to be one of the nation’s best.
With fall camp beginning in less than 24 hours, the Seminoles will begin their quest to challenge for their first conference title since 2005—and perhaps make a run toward the national title for the first time in more than a decade.
So what areas will fans be monitoring closely when FSU opens fall practices?
Here are the top six storylines for the Seminoles as they enter fall camp.
6. First Glimpse of Freshmen
One place Fisher has been getting it done is on the recruiting trail—with 16 highly touted recruits from a class rated as high as No. 2 (per 247 Sports) set to make their debuts on the Al Dunlap practice fields next week.
While the Seminoles' roster is loaded with upperclassmen across the board, last season’s rash of injuries showed the value in having talented freshmen capable of stepping into the fire and performing when their numbers are called.
Defensive line signees Mario Edwards, Jr.—rated as the nation’s top prospect for the 2012 class by ESPN and 247 Sports—Chris Casher and Eddie Goldman will add to the ‘Noles' embarrassment of riches in the trenches.
Meanwhile, linebackers Markuss Eligwe and may be called upon to play early considering FSU’s lack of depth at that position.
5. Can the Offense Take the Next Step?
While most of the nation’s experts are still skeptical of FSU as potential national title candidates, the defense is not a reason to doubt the Seminoles.
On the flip side, Fisher’s offenses have been maddeningly inconsistent—with injuries robbing them of any chance to improve on the flashes of brilliance they were able to show in 2011.
Manuel will have a more seasoned offensive line and a plethora of talented playmakers at running back, tight end and wide receiver.
The onus is on Fisher’s unit—which finished eighth in the ACC in total offense last year—to at least become one of the top attacks in the league.
4. Players Switching Positions
In an effort to cover up the perceived weaknesses on the roster, a few players switched positions in the spring who could play a prominent role as starters at their new spots in the fall.
Sophomore Cam Erving made the switch from defensive line to left tackle on the offensive line—with positive returns thus far from Fisher and his teammates.
Another veteran defensive lineman—junior defensive end Dan Hicks—will now line up at tight end.
Meanwhile, senior Nick Moody moved from safety to outside linebacker and appears to be in line to grab a starting spot.
It will be interesting to monitor these changes and how the veterans adapt to their new positions when fall camp begins.
3. Backup Quarterback Race
Manuel is firmly entrenched as FSU’s starter going into his final year of eligibility, but considering that Florida State’s starting quarterback has not played a full season in the last three seasons, the fight for the job to back up Manuel will be worth keeping an eye on for Seminoles fans.
Sophomore Clint Trickett—who filled in for Manuel admirably last year, including two starts—threw for 675 yards and seven touchdowns in five appearances as a redshirt freshman.
However, Jacob Coker is a 6’5”, 230-pound redshirt freshman that has all of the physical tools that Manuel has (and the 6’2”, 180-pound Trickett doesn’t), and he put on an impressive display in FSU’s spring game.
Add incoming 5-star recruit and 2011 Elite 11 MVP Jameis Winston and fellow quarterback signee Sean Maguire to the mix, and the competition will be one of the more intriguing subplots in the race to eventually become Manuel’s successor in 2013.
2. Offensive Line
Fans of the Garnet and Gold have an instant reaction when posed with the task of identifying the Seminoles’ biggest question mark heading into the 2012 season—the offensive line.
After four true freshmen started in the 18-14 bowl victory over Notre Dame, and appeared to come of age in the second-half rally from a 14-0 deficit, Fisher is optimistic that his team can be strong in the trenches this season.
While the starting lineup is yet to be determined, Florida State is deeper and more experienced in the trenches this season—which should help the offense run smoother in 2012.
If they can stay healthy, everything around them appears to be in place for the offense to operate at a high level this season.
1. Replacing Greg Reid
Perhaps the biggest question entering fall camp has to be how the Seminoles will deal with the recent dismissal of star corner and electric return man Greg Reid.
The good news for Seminole nation is that there are plenty of candidates that are available to fill his roles on defense and special teams.
Sophomore corners Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter—a former teammate of Reid in high school—will try to fend off hotshot incoming freshmen Ronald Darby and Colin Blake.
Receiver Rashad Greene is the main candidate to return kicks and punts, but with an unexpected opportunity arising, there could be any number of players who could step up to seize the opportunity.