Florida State Football: 5 Players Who Surprised Us, 5 Who Need to Step Up

Sanjay Kirpalani@@SanjayKirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystDecember 7, 2011

Florida State Football: 5 Players Who Surprised Us, 5 Who Need to Step Up

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    Jimbo Fisher has assembled a deep and talented roster since he formally took over as FSU’s head coach in January 2010. 

    His recruiting prowess has never been in question, and judging by the play of several underclassmen that were pressed into service (mainly due to a laundry list of injuries suffered by the Seminoles this season), the future looks bright in Tallahassee. 

    On the flip side, there were some players who were passed up on the depth chart or failed to improve on the promise they had displayed since arriving on campus.

    Competition breeds excellence, and there are clearly some upperclassmen that have talented newcomers on their heels chomping at the bit to take over a starting role. 

    Here are five players who surprised us, and five who need to step up for FSU next season.  

Surprise: Bobby Hart, OL

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    The Seminoles offensive line has taken its share of heat from fans, and rightfully so. 

    However, a reason for hope for the future has to be the play of the 17-year-old Hart, who assumed the right tackle job after the team’s bye week and went on to start the last eight games of the season. 

    Hart had his ups and downs, but considering his raw talent and the fact that he was able to gain some valuable experience this season, it is only a matter of time before the 6-foot-5, 303-pounder will be a force up front for the ‘Noles.  

Step Up: Jacob Fahrenkrug, OL

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    Rated as the nation’s top JUCO offensive lineman last season, Fahrenkrug claimed a starting role the minute he stepped on campus. 

    At the beginning of the season, FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett plugged him in at center. 

    The results were not pretty, so eventually Fahrenkrug moved back to his more natural guard position.

    Although he played well in spurts, 2011 was a season filled with growing pains for him and the entire offensive line unit. 

    If the ‘Noles expect to break through and win the ACC for the first time since 2005, Fahrenkrug and the rest of the big uglies up front have to improve by leaps and bounds in order for FSU to reach their goals in 2012.  

Surprise: Cornellius "Tank" Carradine

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    After leading the nation in sacks last season and having three of its four starters returning for 2011, the Florida State defensive line figured to be stout this season.

    Depth clearly didn’t deter the nation’s top JUCO pass-rusher last season, Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, from signing up to join a loaded front four. 

    Despite backing up fellow stud Bjoern Werner, Carradine registered 34 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four and a half sacks in limited action. 

    With teammate Brandon Jenkins possibly heading to the NFL next season, Carradine has proven that he can provide the ‘Noles pass-rush with a dependable and potentially dominant replacement for him.  

Step Up: Nick Moody, S

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    After having a strong sophomore season in which he recorded 79 tackles and an interception, Moody’s productivity drastically decreased as a result of injuries and the rise of sophomore safety Lamarcus Joyner. 

    Moody missed four games this season due to injury and finished with just 22 tackles on the season. 

    Although senior Terrance Parks will be moving on, Joyner is entrenched at one safety spot while hot shot freshman Karlos Williams will assuredly make a strong push to claim the other. 

    Moody will need to stay healthy and regain his 2010 form in order to fend off Williams next season.  

Surprise: Rashad Greene, WR

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    Another member of FSU’s talented 2011 recruiting class, it was Greene who surprisingly emerged as the team’s biggest playmaker this season. 

    Although the ‘Noles were loaded at wide receiver, Greene turned his first career reception into a touchdown, and went on to find pay dirt in his first five games as a Seminole. 

    Despite missing four games in the middle of the season due to injury, Greene finished 2011 as the team’s second-leading receiver and his six touchdowns were second only to running back Devonta Freeman.

    Assuming he stays healthy, the dynamic Greene will have a huge role in Fisher’s offense next year and beyond.  

Step Up: Rodney Smith, WR

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    This may be on the side of nit picking, being that Smith finished the 2011 season as the Seminoles' leading receiver. 

    However, with youngsters like Greene, Christian Green, Greg Dent and Scooter Haggins, amongst others waiting in the wings, Smith will need to raise his level of play going into his final season as a Seminole. 

    Smith made some big plays in 2011, as evidenced by averaging more than 16 yards per catch.

    But for his size (6-foot-6, 216 pounds), he has to emerge as a bigger threat in the red zone (only four touchdowns) for a team that has had issues deep in scoring territory.  

Surprise: Telvin Smith, LB

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    At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Smith does not possess the size of a prototypical middle linebacker. 

    What he lacks in size, the sophomore makes up for with a motor that never stops and an infectious enthusiasm for the game that is on constant display when he is on the field. 

    Splitting time with junior Vince Williams in the middle, Smith had a strong season registering 37 tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception.

    He fills another important role as the ‘Noles chief headhunter on the special teams coverage units.  

Step Up: Xavier Rhodes, CB

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    Once again, putting Rhodes in this category should not be viewed as an indictment of poor play. 

    Think of it more as raising the bar for a player who has displayed immense talent thus far in his career. 

    After the 2010 season when he was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year, Rhodes battled through injuries and still managed to have a respectable 2011 season. 

    However, if Rhodes and Greg Reid (who had his own struggles at corner this season) can become consistent lockdown corners next season, the ‘Noles secondary will avoid the breakdowns they suffered in critical moments this season.  

Surprise: Timmy Jernigan, DT

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    Talent-wise, there are not many players on the Seminoles roster that Jernigan would take a backseat to.

    For that reason, it should not come as a surprise to see him on this list. 

    However, when you consider that FSU brought back both starting defensive tackles and their backups from last season, it explains Jernigan’s freakish abilities and how he was simply too good to leave on the sidelines. 

    Jernigan finished as the runner-up for the ACC’s defensive rookie of the year after compiling 27 tackles, two and a half sacks, six tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.  

Step Up: Jeff Luc, LB

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    Luc was one of the most heralded signees of the Fisher’s first recruiting class in 2010. 

    To be fair, injuries have held him back, but guys like Smith and Christian Jones have ascended into larger roles while Luc has been on the mend. 

    In two seasons, Luc has only registered 23 tackles and two tackles for loss. 

    With Nigel Bradham graduating, the time is now for Luc to make a run for a starting job in 2012.