With three weeks left before the college season officially kicks off, it's time for some last minute predictions as to how the season is going to shape up for the Seminoles of Florida State.
The 'Noles will have their hands full this season with the departure of two legendary coaches, Bobby Bowden and Mickey Andrews, and the introduction of a young head coach with plenty of potential.
Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has been the offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting for the past three years. This year he finally gets to prove why Bobby Bowden hand-picked him for the job. Fisher is an offensive genius and has molded some great college quarterbacks. He is responsible for the resurgence of the Seminole offense and for the Heisman hype of now starting quarterback Christian Ponder.
Fisher brought in some new coaches including former Arizona defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and former ECU defensive coordinator Greg Hudson to overhaul the young defense. He also brought in Eddie Gran to be the running backs coach.
With a completely new face of the team and some new young and enthusiastic coaches, the main question is: How good can this team be in 2010?
The answer starts with the star. This team will only go as far as Christian Ponder can take them. He is the unquestioned leader, a spot he rightfully deserves. Ponder's season was cut short last year due to a dislocated shoulder, but the hype surrounding his senior year has started since day one of the offseason. He has the potential to take this team the distance and to make some noise in the Heisman polls.
Ponder will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Running backs Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson, and Ty Jones provide plenty of depth and big play ability. With the dismissal of wide receiver Jarmon Forston, the receiving corps will have to find a new go-to-guy. Bert Reed looks to fill that void while Willie Haulstead, Taiwan Easterling, Rodney Smith, and Cameron Wade will look to provide reliable targets for Ponder. True freshman Christian Green, Kenny Shaw and Greg Dent will also look to be immediate playmakers.
The offensive line is the strength of the team, returning every single starter from a year ago. Left tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Rodney Hudson, and center Ryan McMahon are arguably the best left side in the country. Right guard David Spurlock and right tackle Zebrie Sanders provide experience. Tight end Beau Reliford emerged at the end of last season as a solid blocker and receiver.
The defense is the big question mark. Last season the defense was horrid, and that's putting it lightly. New defensive coordinator Mark Stoops brings with him a zone defense, something completely different from the man to man scheme Mickey Andrews ran for nearly thirty years.
There are some bright spots on the defense though. Greg Reid provided a spark last season as a nickel and he will be starting opposite Ochuku Jenjie for the other cornerback spot. Nick Moody appears to be a lock at free safety and Terrance Parks and Gerald Demps will battle for the starting strong safety spot. True freshman LaMarcus Joyner is too good to keep off the field. He was the number one corner coming out of high school last year and has star power written all over him.
The linebackers took a hit with Nigel Carr being suspended indefinitely, but Nigel Bradham is the best out of the bunch and a monster at the weak side position. True freshman middle linebacker Jeff Luc will battle with Vince Williams and Kendall Smith for playing time while true freshman Christian Jones and Mister Alexander will battle to replace Carr.
The defense suffers with the loss of Moses McCray to a torn ACL this past week, but there is still talent on the line. Jacobi McDaniel and Everrette Dawkins will start at the tackles and Anthony McCloud and Demonte McAllister will provide depth. Markus White and Brandon Jenkins fill the end positions.
So what can this team accomplish? The schedule is tough, but do-able. Away games at Oklahoma and Miami are must wins along with home games against North Carolina, Boston College and Clemson. The season finale against Florida could be a top 25 match or it could end up being another blowout in Florida's favorite.
This team has the potential to win a lot of games, but it all depends on how quickly these young players on the defensive side of the ball can pick up on the new schemes. The fate of the team rests on the shoulders of Christian Ponder, but he can't do it alone. Young receivers and running backs will have to share the load while an unproven defense will have to show their worth.
I predict a 10-2 regular season with losses to Oklahoma and Florida, but finally a trip back to the ACC Championship where they will win and get back to a BCS bowl.