Florida State Football: Coach Fisher's Biggest Challenges for Seminoles in 2014

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Florida State Football: Coach Fisher's Biggest Challenges for Seminoles in 2014
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Jesus Wilson is part of a trio of FSU sophomores that could emerge as a No. 2 receiver in 2014.

Florida State lost 10 starters from the national championship team, five on each side of the ball. It's a lot of talent to replace but certainly not insurmountable considering coach Jimbo Fisher's recruiting success the past few seasons.

So where is the biggest concern moving forward? It's the need for a No. 2 receiver to emerge and more consistency from punter Cason Beatty.

What made FSU's offense so dynamic in 2013 was not just that Jameis Winston had one of the best seasons ever by a freshman quarterback. It's that he had so many playmakers, from receivers Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to tight end Nick O'Leary to running backs Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams. And an offensive line that had five veterans.

Winston and Fisher are thankful that Greene opted to return for his senior season. Greene led FSU in receptions (76), receiving yards (1,128) and was second in touchdowns (nine). Only Benjamin, a first-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, had more with 15 TDs.

After Greene, who is FSU's No. 2 receiver? That's where things get interesting. A good argument can be made for O'Leary to be Winston's No. 2 option. O'Leary is coming off the finest season of any FSU tight end, grabbing 33 passes for 557 yards and seven TDs. His ability to block well and catch passes makes Winston's job easier.

But FSU needs a receiver to emerge. Rising senior Scooter Haggins could be an effective slot receiver but has battled shoulder, wrist and knee injuries. Another senior, Christian Green, has struggled in his transition from high school quarterback to college receiver.

It's more likely that FSU will see a few of the sophomores emerge. Kermit Whitfield has sprinter speed and had a 100-yard punt return for a touchdown in the BCS championship game. Jesus Wilson had four receptions for 101 yards, including a 12-yard TD grab from Winston, in the spring game. And Isaiah Jones, who missed most of 2013 with a shoulder injury, had five receptions for 81 yards in the spring game.

FSU could also get contributions from the class of 2014 receivers—Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Javon Harrison. But Fisher's playbook is extensive, and it's hard to imagine a true freshman making an impact in September. It's more realistic that they will need time to learn the plays and contribute later in the year.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Now, here's the thing about FSU and punting. The Seminoles averaged 51.6 points per game last year. Few games were close, with the exception of the Sept. 28 wake-up call at Boston College (FSU pulled away in the second half to win 48-34) and the comeback in the BCS championship game against Auburn for a 34-31 win.

Because FSU's offense was so prolific, Beatty was asked to punt just 42 times (an average of three per game). And Beatty averaged a respectable 41.1 yards per punt.

The issue is Beatty's consistency. Take for example Nov. 9 at Wake. FSU won comfortably 59-3. But Beatty's punts were 32 yards (downed at the Wake 20), 32 yards, 49 yards, 50 yards, 39 yards (downed at Wake 5) and 31 yards (fair catch at Wake 17). So the first two punts did little to help FSU's defense. The next three are excellent. The final one is inside the 20, but not by much.

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Beatty is heading into his junior season and it's realistic to expect him to improve. But he had a lackluster spring game, opening with an 18-yard punt and then following with a 51-yard punt (inside the 20), a 33-yard punt and a 46-yard punt (inside the 20).

''I think we need to get more consistent in our punting,'' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said this spring. ''We have to get better in that area. … I want to see consistency. I'd rather see a 4.0 hang time and a 40-yard kick and you can keep all the 48s and 50s.''

If Beatty struggles, Fisher has options. Walk-on Jonathan Hernandez averaged 45.2 yards on his eight punts in the spring game.

Then there's quarterback J.J.Cosentino, a quarterback from the class of 2014. Cosentino is also a punter, and Fisher said on National Signing Day, “Wasn't there another pretty good quarterback here that punted before he played? He wasn't bad.''

Fisher was talking about Charlie Ward, who was a punter early in his FSU career before winning the Heisman Trophy and a national title in 1993 as a quarterback.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand. Follow Bob on Twitter

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