Fact or Fiction: Florida State Seminoles What To Watch For
It's the beginning of May and message boards galore are choc-full of fans pleading their case for a shot at winning a National Championship, a Conference Championship, a Division Crown, or simply a winning season.
Well for FSU fans, 2002-2009 have all been seasons with a loosely tied ribbon that promised the gift of "redemption."
Unfortunately, shy of the glimpse of a 10 win season in 2008, FSU has not been able to find its rhythm to make it back into the league of "National Elite" alongside storybook programs like the Florida Gators to the East, and/or the Alabama Crimson Tide to the West.
No, right now, FSU is still in search of a season that can compete with the likes of the Bulldogs or the Hurricanes.
What's so remarkable about this particular year for FSU fans is the sense of newness, and a refreshing glance at a revamped style of play taking shape in Tallahassee.
For the first time in nearly 35 years, everything is new in Tallahassee.
In order for the newness to be regarded fairly, I find it only fair to point out some of the myths that have somehow managed to clutter the blogosphere, and create a lot of unnecessary question marks for a squad trying to determine it's identity so early on.
Let's take a look at some of the Seminole myths that are being spread in the College Football Universe.
Myth #1—Jimbo Fisher Is FSU's Ron Zook.
Well, aside from being the guy to replace a living legend—the parallels stop there.
FACT: Ron Zook has always been more of a secondary coach, and more defensive minded in his strategy. Jimbo Fisher has historically been an offensive coordinator.
FACT: Zook had historical ties to the University of Florida where he served as a Secondaries Coach and a Special Teams Coach. Fisher spent zero time at FSU prior to his Head Coach-in-waiting position.
FACT: Ron Zook was an average coach who had average numbers in his tenure at Florida.
In his three seasons, his Gators slid from seventh in the country to 42nd in the nation in total defense, not to mention 46th against the pass—his specialty.
Jimbo Fisher, as offensive coordinator, improved the FSU offense each of his first three seasons improving from 80th in his first season to 51st in his second, and 28th in his third.
FACT: Ron Zook inherited a National Contender. Jimbo Fisher did not. The expectations are not one and the same.
While it may seem it, a nine win season in Jimbo's first year, would be cause for celebration, especially considering the schedule in 2010. By all accounts, Fisher seems poised to take a crack at a possible 10 wins in his first year as the HC in Tallahassee.
With a new defensive staff in place taking over for the Seminoles in 2010, it's safe to say, there won't be any parallels to Ron Zook, at least not immediately.
Myth #2—FSU Doesn't Recruit The Best Talent Anymore
FACT: FSU brought in the No. 10 recruiting class in 2010, the No. 18 class in 2009, and the No. 8 class in 2008, in Jimbo's first season as Offensive Coordinator.
Uniquely, the 2009 class was primarily his, with a skeleton crew of coaches willing to put in the man-hours to recruit with him.
In 2010, Fisher put together a top ten class at a torrid pace, signing a majority of his recruits in a matter of weeks after Bobby Bowden (and staff's) departure.
FACT: Players like Greg Reid, E.J. Manuel, Jarmon Fortson, and Jacobbi McDaniel are already showing that FSU hasn't lost the top talent entirely to the rest of the country.
Myth #3—FSU Will Struggle To Finish .500 In 2010
FACT: FSU has a tough schedule in 2010, with games on the road against Miami, Oklahoma and up-and-comer NC State.
FACT: That's all they have on the road. They face BYU, Florida, Boston College, North Carolina, Clemson, and Wake in the comfort of their own back yard.
FSU does travel to Virginia (and Maryland) but these contests should fare much easier than the cross divisional games in 2009.
FACT: FSU finished at or near the bottom in 2009 in every defensive category under Mickey Andrews and Chuck Amato.
With the addition of DC Mark Stoops and LB Coach Greg Hudson, as well as a team nutritionist, and a battery of new defensive schemes designed with a goal of limiting the "big play" by switching to zone rather than playing man coverage, FSU should limit it's points against.
FACT: Reducing FSU's opponents' output by just 10 points in each of FSU's contests in 2009, FSU's record would have been 11-2, with losses only to Clemson, and Florida.
Myth #4—FSU Lacks Leadership On The Field
FACT: Christian Ponder leads his team both on and off the field, and has done so in his last two seasons as the primary signal caller.
He is easily regarded as one of the most talented pure-passers heading into 2010, and unlike other QB's from around the state, Ponder has made his stats on the backs of everyday athletes who go out and do what it takes to be successful with his offense.
An MBA grad this spring, Ponder has proven he has the brains to go with the arm, that has healed quite nicely following surgery this offseason.
The question in 2010 isn't whether Ponder will be a candidate for the Heisman, but whether he'll win it or not. A test for a true leader will be to put up the same gaudy numbers he had through his first eight games in 2009.
With everyone save Rod Owens back on offense, and a plethora of receivers and RB's to go to, Ponder's success is paramount on his leadership abilities.
Oh yeah, did I mention he's also a Student Booster, and leads off-field charitable efforts with teammates through the United Way?
Yeah, this guy's a leader. He doesn't even have to scream on the sidelines to do it either—like some other Florida QB's out there.
Myth #5—FSU Cannot Beat Florida In 2010
FACT: FSU was without it's head signal caller in 2009 in Gainesville, but still managed it's closest loss since 2006.
This does not take into account an FSU interception at the UF goal line with less than 30 seconds to play.
FACT: According to Rivals.com, Florida has not recruited a class more than nine spots higher than FSU in the last three years. FSU also had a higher recruiting class than Florida in two of those three years.
FACT: FSU returns all but one starter on offense, and all but three starters on defense.
FACT: Florida lost more players from it's 2009 squad than any other in the last four seasons—including Tim Tebow.
FACT: Questions still loom as to whether Urban Meyer will lead the Gators football team this fall.
Will FSU beat Florida in November? Experts would say, "not likely."
Then again, experts predicted the 1997 Seminoles to handily defeat the 10th ranked Gators in Gainesville, so anything is possible.
Conclusion—FSU Should Surprise In 2010
There are plenty of reasons to buy high and sell low on the Seminoles in 2010.
Hopefully some of the myths that are being portrayed by the media and the fans alike have been rebuked to some degree and offered a glimpse into the average fan's heart at how good FSU should be in 2010.
FSU fans all know what to expect in the upcoming campaign, and those who perhaps have not been watching closely enough—you'll get your chance at some point this season, on National Television.
Until then, you'll have to continue to read the small by-lines underneath the big story about the next great product in Gainesville, to learn more about what's going on in T-town.