Who can replace QB EJ Manuel next year?
Once the fireworks from the Orange Bowl faded away, reality started to set in for Jimbo Fisher. He was going to lose quite a few seniors to graduation and quite a few to the NFL draft.
EJ Manuel, the most accurate passer in ACC history, will go to the NFL. So will Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and a slew of others. Who will replace them?
Trickett seems to be the heir apparent, but is that such a useful idea?
Clint Trickett regressed this season late in decided games. He seems to be in a sort of slump, as he was not the competitive freshmen who kept FSU alive in road games last year.
Jameis Winston, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback of the 2012 recruiting class, should get a chance to start. Maybe the less-heralded Jacob Coker, who has not really seen action at all as a third-string QB, can outcompete Clint and Jameis to earn the starting job.
Given the conflict of interest with Trickett's father as the offensive line coach, odds are Jimbo plays it safe and lets the slightly more experienced Trickett start next year with Winston as his backup QB.
Devonta Freeman continued to stand out in his second year at RB.
If James Wilder Jr. could keep out of legal troubles, there would be a legitimate debate as to who would be FSU's better back in 2013. With Wilder still in legal limbo, it would be safe to project Freeman as the go-to back next year. If Wilder returns, the workhorses will share the load.
Keep an eye out, though, for Mario Pender. The heralded recruit missed last year with a pulled groin. He could easily take Freeman out of the equation, but Wilder's brute force could be hard to replicate.
During this part of the season, it's just way too early to know who will start at such a pivotal skill position for the Seminoles. Jimbo will likely play Wilder because of his awesome skill, with Freeman likely taking a backseat role. Pender will round things out, perhaps at RB or at tailback to replace Lonnie Pryor.
Rashad Greene will be Trickett/Coker/Winston's favorite target.
Rashad Greene continues to impress, giving purpose to an (at-times) lifeless FSU passing game. Expect the star junior ready to go next year.
Willie Haulstead, a junior that hasn't caught more than three passes since 2010, might be used more often. Haulstead has proven he can be relevant before, but is it enough to overcome inconsistent Kelvin Benjamin? Or maybe Christian Greene, who had a very quiet 2012 after being a force in 2011. If Kelvin Benjamin could catch the football more consistently, he'd be as productive as Greene.
All of these guys should have starting positions, but only having Greene as a go-to receiver will continue to cripple the vertical game.
Nick O'Leary continues to astound critics and fans alike.
Nick O'Leary has no reason to lose his starting position after a productive 2012. Expect Kevin Haplea, the unheralded senior, to be his backup.
Who will back up Cameron Erving?
The cupboard for offensive tackle is pretty bare. The struggles the FSU offense saw in 2011 and, to a lesser extent, 2012 will likely hinder the 'Noles yet again.
Junior Cameron Erving is the only returning starter. The controversy for who else will play should be clearer by the end of spring practice.
Josue Matias should anchor the offensive guard position.
Josue Matias and Tre' Jackson leave the offensive guard position with the least drama. Both juniors should keep their positions given the steady improvement of the offensive line last year.
But who might substitute in for one of them?
Chongo Kondolo hails from Africa, and this JUCO prospect has received an offer from FSU. Coming in at 6'4'' and 240 pounds, Kondolo also is considering offers from big-time schools Tennessee and Brigham Young. Getting a player with experience at the position would be excellent for FSU, and anytime someone gets in a knife fight for a JUCO player, he is probably worth the hassle (see Cam Newton).
Bryan Stork should continue his position as starting center.
No reason for starting senior Bryan Stork to lose his starting position. Junior Austin Barron should back him up.
Giorgio Newberry, a rising sophomore, should get more starring time this season with stars Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins gone. As a freshman, Newberry had 12 total tackles with three of those being unassisted.
The heralded Mario Edwards Jr., who sat out most of this offseason, has the skills to definitely back Newberry. Edwards' three solo tackles and seven total tackles staved off a rally by Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. Edwards was a top five recruit in the 2012 class, and with effort to match it, there seems to be no reason why Edwards won't start next year.
DT Demonte McAllister celebrates with former DC Mark Stoops as FSU wins the ACC Championship.
Demonte McAllister was a monster last year.
Check out the stats: 32 total tackles, 11 of them unassisted! He also had three sacks, showing that McAllister can get to the quarterback.
But I would be remiss to not mention a player who did better than McAllister (statistically speaking): Timmy Jernigan had 43 total tackles and 20 solo tackles. Jernigan, who was dependable throughout the year, really succeeded at making contact late in the season. Against Maryland and Florida, he had 10 tackles. Against Georgia Tech, he had nine (he almost single-handedly won the game). Each of those games mattered—even Maryland. A loss to the Terrapins and Clemson would have made the ACC title game.
Sophomore Eddie Goldman also experienced a bit of play during the 2012 season. Goldman played in five games (the only major one being the ACC Championship Game), finishing with eight tackles for the year. Goldman shows a bunch of promise, but until he plays in a really huge game (like Clemson or Florida), his true talent has yet to be gauged. He should be a backup.
Nile Lawrence-Stample also has the keys to success, but only played Duke last year for one assisted tackle. That's it. Until he has a chance to prove himself on the field, he (like Goldman) should stay in rotation, but not get starting time.
All in all, the defensive tackle position is stable at the starting slot for 2012. Expect great things as these kids become men on the gridiron.
Christian Jones starred in the Discover Orange Bowl.
Well, there's no need to keep the presses cold: Christian Jones is coming back for his senior year.
Jones had at least 10 tackles in three games and recorded eight or more tackles in eight games. In other words, he was always a factor every weekend. FSU keeping him means that there can be some experience in the secondary.
Reggie Northrup, a sophomore, will likely be his backup. Telvin and Terrance Smith should each start at the other linebacker positions.
Nick Waisome had a productive year at cornerback.
Nick Waisome, a returning starter, will obviously get the nod to return at cornerback. One of his comrades should be Ronald Darby, a sophomore Seminole fans should know by now, considering he played 11 games in 2012. Expect Keelin Smith, a fellow sophomore, to get more attention as he will likely start this year.
Lamarcus Joyner does not give up on plays, no matter how hopeless it seems.
Lamarcus Joyner, also known as the punt returner, will again be a strong safety for the 'Noles. Both he and free safety Terrence Brooks are starting again, so the Seminoles should be able to counteract Clemson QB Tajh Boyd's deep ball quite well.
Food for thought: Joyner had 51 tackles last year, but is also quite versatile. He blocked five passes. Brooks had 20 tackles from just the UF and Clemson games alone! These two are big-time NFL players and will keep the secondary safe for FSU in 2013.
Who can replace the lovable oddball, highly successful kicker Dustin Hopkins?
Things get a bit fuzzy for FSU when one talks about special teams.
Roberto Aguayo and Drew Zloch, Dustin Hopkins' two backups, haven't attempted a single kick in college. Zloch is a sophomore, so he could get the nod due to waiting in line, or the staff might go with Aguayo because he's made kicks more recently in high school. As of now, it's the luck of the draw. Flip of the coin. You choose the metaphor.
Cason Beatty, the rising sophomore, will return at punter but will really need to work on improving his distance with kicks. Beatty can become great in time; he's a part of the growing process. Hopefully with Lamarcus Joyner's returns and a strong offense, Beatty won't have to punt too often. But guys, have fun next year.
Go 3-and-out for Beatty. Even just once.