The Florida State Seminoles finished the 2012 season with a decisive victory in the Discover Orange Bowl against a surprisingly strong Northern Illinois squad, locking up a 12-2 record for one of the best seasons in the program’s recent history.
This season holds a lot of questions, though.
The Seminoles fielded top-10 units on both sides of the ball in 2012, but they will be losing a bevy of starters to the NFL draft. Quarterback E.J. Manuel, offensive tackle Menelik Watson, defensive ends Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes are among those departing players—all of whom should be early-round selections in the draft.
With so much talent to replace, the annual Garnet and Gold Spring Game will be particularly intriguing, as several positions will be up for grabs this season. This will be the first opportunity to get an up-close look at how those position battles could play out.
We’ll break down the most important of those position battles to watch on Saturday, touch on an area in which Florida State needs to improve and give our outlook for the 2013 season.
Date: Saturday, April 13
Start Time: 2 p.m. ET
Full Season Schedule (Times TBD): ESPN.com
2012 at a Glance
Record: 12-2 (7-1 ACC)
Bowl Game: Discover Orange Bowl (Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 10)
Scoring Offense Rank: 10th (39.3 PPG)
Scoring Defense Rank: 6th (14.7 PPG)
USA Today Finish: No. 8
AP Finish: No. 10
Key Win: September 22 vs. Clemson (49-37)
Position Battle to Watch: Quarterback
Manuel’s departure opens up a starting quarterback battle that has stolen the show this offseason. His 3,392 yards and 23 touchdowns won’t be easy to replace, but there is plenty of talent waiting to give it a shot.
Redshirt junior Clint Trickett, redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston and redshirt freshman Sean Maguire will all be in the mix, vying for their chance to shine at the helm of an offense that scored points at a torrid pace in 2012.
Maguire still has a long way to go before he’ll be considered a viable option under center, but the other three signal-callers will make this a tight race. The spring game could make the difference between holding a clipboard and slinging touchdowns this season.
Trickett is the most seasoned of the trio (as the only quarterback on the roster with more than five career pass attempts), and he’ll be the front-runner when the quarterback battle heats up this weekend. With a completion percentage of 62.3 in 106 career attempts and a favorable touchdown-to-interception ratio (7:4), Trickett has shown flashes of potential that could make him Manuel’s successor this year.
However, Jimbo Fisher took advantage of Manuel’s mobility in recent years, and he may lean in a similar direction this year.
Both Coker and Winston are much more mobile than Trickett, and both quarterbacks would give Fisher the freedom of not straying too far from his offensive game plan of 2012. The biggest question will be how well each player has progressed after standing on the sidelines in his formative years.
There’s no question Winston is the most intriguing of Florida State’s potential quarterbacks. The No. 1 quarterback recruit in 2012 (No. 26 overall recruit, per 247Sports), Winston has the size (6’4”), mobility and poise that will make him a strong candidate to garner time under center this season, even if he doesn’t ultimately win the starting job out the gate.
Replacing a starting quarterback sometimes leads to a rough transition, but Florida State is in tremendous position to make it relatively seamless. While the spring game may not produce all the answers, it will certainly clear up a few big questions.
Area in Need of Most Improvement: Special Teams
It’s hard to analyze an area in which the Seminoles desperately need to improve this year. Florida State was a tremendously balanced team last season, and while it has lost a lot of talent this offseason, there aren’t many glaring weaknesses that need to be fixed.
Offensively, the Seminoles dominated competition to the tune of 39.3 points per game in 2012. They also held opponents to an average of 14.7 points per game, and those numbers aren’t skewed.
Florida State held opposing offenses to just 2.74 yards per carry and just 3.85 yards per play. Conversely, the Seminoles ripped off 5.62 yards per tote and seven yards per offensive play and dominated in the red zone with a 91.55 percent success rate.
The only area the Seminoles need to strengthen this season is special teams.
Florida State averaged just 37 yards per punt in 2012 and converted just 83.3 percent (25-for-30) of its field-goal attempts. While neither number is particularly bad, having a new quarterback under center this season will likely force the Seminoles to rely on their special teams play a little more regularly.
Paired with the departure of immensely productive kicker Dustin Hopkins to the NFL draft, special teams will be an area in which Florida State has to focus in order to have a successful 2013 season.
Few watch a spring game for the kickers and punters, but there is a legitimate reason to keep an eye on them Saturday.
So many questions remain unanswered.
Predicting Florida State’s 2013 outlook is a tall task, but it’s also hard to count out a team that looked absolutely dominant so many times last season. Fisher is a tremendous coach who continues to bring in a bevy of talented young recruits, and continuity shouldn’t be as much of a problem as some people anticipate.
Apart from Clemson, the ACC doesn’t present too many top challengers. Miami and North Carolina put together quality seasons last year, but neither are on par with the best teams in the conference.
Clemson will challenge for the ACC title again this season, but Florida State is still the class of the conference. With so much talent waiting in the wings, replacing its departing starters won’t be an impossible task.
The 2013 schedule isn’t all that foreboding, but there are a couple tough contests throughout. Clemson (October 19) and Florida (November 30) will undoubtedly be the Seminoles’ biggest tests, though.
There will be bumps along the way, but Florida State will again be the favorite to secure an ACC title this year. An 11-3 or 12-2 record won’t be out of the question.