For the first time in nearly 10 years, Florida State will enter the season confident about their quarterback. The last great QB in Tallahassee came in 2000 in the form of Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.
Since then, Noles fans have seen the likes of Chris Rix, Adrian McPherson, Wyatt Sexton, Xavier Lee, D'Vontrey Richardson, and Drew Weatherford. Rix achieved the most success of the group due to his gutsy performance against Florida, but was too incosistent for fans to rally behind.
Enter Christian Ponder.
The new leader of the Seminoles appears to have the strength, speed, and intelligence needed to be successful at this level. Last year, Ponder led the team to the most wins—nine—in four years while completing 55.7 percent of his passes for 2,006 yards, 14 TDs, and 13 Interceptions.
His turnover rate is high, but keep in mind that this was his first full year lining up under center as the team's starter.
Ponder is also very capable of making game changing plays on his feet if necessary. This is extremely rare for a school used to pocket passers with cement feet. In 2008, Ponder was second on the team with 597 rushing yards and 4 TDs, behind only Antone Smith.
There are plenty of question marks concerning the Noles offense which Ponder will need to overcome. Just take a look at the Nole receiving corp which has been hampered by issues and injuries.
After losing leading receiver Greg Carr to graduation, the Noles figured that they would have the majority of their younger players to return for an improved 2009. Then Murphy's Law seemed to take over.
Preston Parker, who was considered the best athlete on the team, was dismissed after being arrested for a third time. Corey Surrencey was screwed out of another year of eligibility by the NCAA since he played with a Semi-professional team in South Florida prior to enrolling in junior college.
Don't worry, there's more.
Taiwan Easterling ruptured his ACL during winter conditioning, which forced him to miss Spring. Rod Owens was the latest casualty after being suspended indefinitely for being arrested for a DUI the night after the Spring game.
This leaves Bert Reed, Jarmon Fortson, and Rod Owens as the lone returning receivers.
Ponder had a solid Spring, but when the offensive line struggled in the Spring game, so did Ponder. In the end, Ponder was named the Spring MVP
Critics still question whether Ponder can be an elite player who can take over a game or whether his performance will solely depend on the players around him. Luckily for Ponder, the offensive line is considered to be a strength for the team this year, which is one thing many of the QB's from the past have not benefited from.
Entering his junior year, this is the time that the Noles expect Ponder to be at his best and not make the mistakes that haunted him last season.
Many of these questions will be quickly answered when FSU takes the field against rival Miami at Doak Campbell Field on September 7. Hopefully, Ponder will take control of this team and lead them back to the Promised Land.