Florida State has made strides to return to elite status in college football. These are the eight reasons Florida State will not win the ACC Title in 2009.
Christian Ponder's emergence as a starter was an improvement last year and soon we will know whether he is progressing as a quarterback or whether he is not up to the task. Last year, Ponder threw 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He struggled to stay in the pocket long enough to allow the deep receiver to get open which is why he rushed for over 400 yards.This year he must avoid scrambling because he won't be able to take another year of punishment as he did in 2008. He must step up in the pocket go through his progressions, without locking onto his primary receiver, and deliver the ball to the open man before taking off running. If he can get some protection and stop with the happy feet we will soon know if he possesses adequate arm strength to lead the Noles.
Lack of Using the Tight End As a Receiver
With the young offensive line, the Seminoles have not used the tight end as a receiver mainly because the priority was to protect the quarterback. Although there is talent at the tight end position in junior Caz Piurowski (6'7", 275) and freshman Bo Reliford (6'7", 235), the question for 2009 will be: "Is the offensive line able to block well enough to protect quarterback Christian Ponder until the Tight End gets open and if they do block well enough will Ponder find the open tight end?"
Too Many Chiefs
The coaching situation has to be confusing for the players. Essentially there are four head coaches for the Seminoles:Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher, Mickey Andrews, and Chuck Amato. How many cooks in the kitchen are too many? Julia Childs would say more than one is too many! How are the soldiers supposed to follow orders when there are four generals telling them what to do? The overlying problem is that when no one is clearly responsible then things tend to get overlooked. This also has to be confusing for a potential recruit trying to figure who is going to be coaching them in the future. Although it may be premature, look at the recruiting board and see that only three kids have committed so far to FSU verses Florida with 14, Texas with 19, and USC with 8. There needs to be a changing of the guard with a clear Head Coach and that should be Jimbo Fisher. With Jimbo in charge this would allow him to bring in his own Defensive Coordinator and reestablish a clear line of authority and responsibility.With the departure of Bowden ally President T.K. Wetherell it may be time for the "King of the Road" to make his exit plans.
Unproven running game
The team is very thin at fullback with the dismissal of Seddrick Holloway and the out of shape, uncommitted Marcus Sims who has not showed up for spring workouts. Add to that, a relatively inexperienced group of running backs with the graduation of Antone Smith and you have another reason that the Seminoles will not win the ACC. Jermaine Thomas has emerged as the go to running back during the spring scrimmages although turnovers plagued the offense in the Garnet and Gold Spring game. Carlton "Ty" Jones is 5'11" and 202 lbs. and had four fumbles in the spring game, although is was probably related to a ligament tear in his thumb. He and Jermaine Thomas averaged seven yards per carry in 2008. Throw in the Tavares Pressley (ACL tear spring practice) and youngster 2009 recruits Lonnie Pryor and Chris Thompson.The running back position shows promise as focal point for Jimbo Fisher's Prostyle offense.
Young and trouble filled Wide Receivers
Any college football fan has heard of the off the field issues with the wide receivers but lack of experience is the main concern. With Taiwan Easterling recovering from a torn Achilles tendon,the emerging leaders in the Wide Receiver corp are Bert Reed, 5'11", who is moving from slot to wide receiver, Jarmon Fortson (6'3" and 220) who is aggressive and ready to go over the middle, Louis Givens, a 5'8" burner, Rodney Smith, a 6'6" play-maker with special speed, Avis Commack, at 6'4", has athleticism enabling him to make the tough catches, as well as Cameron Wade at 6'6", and Willie Haulstead at 6'3", who is solid with good hands. These guys have great potential but are unproven.
Tough Game Schedule, Especially on the Road
Phil Steele, college prognosticator, has said that FSU's 2009 schedule is the No. 1 toughest in the nation. With that being said, the Noles away schedule includes BYU, UNC, Clemson, Wake Forest and the University of Florida.
Defensive Line Undersized
Without much upfront pressure coming up the middle the Defensive Ends have tended to overrun the play upfield allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket to complete critical third down conversions. Another reason this is important is that without much pressure the quarterback has all day to make plays, just how long is a defensive back supposed to keep a receiver covered. Another byproduct of lack of defensive line pressure is fewer interceptions. Last year, the Seminoles ranked eighth in run defense allowing 4.86 yards per carry in the ACC.With the secondary focused on stopping the run,the defensive backs are more vulnerable to big plays on play action. With Everette Brown gone to the NFL Carolina Panthers, the defense will look to Marcus White (6'4", 261), Moses McCray (6'2", 305), Justin Mincey (6'5", 272), and Bud Thacker (6'2", 276), along with 2009 heralded recruit Jaccobi McDaniel (6'0", 280), as well as some others. Although they are addressing their failed experiment of speed for size, slowly Defensive Line Coach Odell Haggins is adding bulk to clog up the middle while applying upfront pressure.
Lack of clutch kickers
The departure of Graham Gano to the Baltimore Ravens has introduced a new source of anxiety as FSU opens their season on September 7, 2009 without an experienced field goal kicker against,you guessed it, Miami.The punter Kevin Campbell had a rough spring and it appears that either Zach Hobby or James Esco will be handling the placekicking duties for the garnet and gold. Placekicking and punting should keep Seminole fans on the edge of their seat in 2009.
With all of these issues, questionable quarterback play, not using the tight end as a receiver,too many head coaches with unclear responsibilities, an unproven running game, inexperienced and immature wide receivers, a tough road schedule, an undersized defensive line, and the lack of a clutch kicking game point to a mediocre record for the Seminoles of seven and five. If recruiting turns as it may, the 'Noles could be ready for a National Title run in 2010.