FSU Beat: The Things We Know, and What We’re Looking to Learn

With Fall Camp officially underway, pre-season hype is just as palpable for the Florida State Seminoles as any other year. While a large contingent of the college football world, Seminole fans included, is steadily shaking their head and rolling their eyes with moans and groans of “here we go again”– The Florida State Seminoles are set to field an impressive squad in 2012 and their schedule stacks up quite favorably. Today we’re going to take a shot at identifying the facts surrounding this team and separating them from the things that are still very much in question.

Things We Know

The Florida State defense is elite: This one isn’t up for debate, guys. What an overly emotional and unrealistic fan might do is point to the very few instances in which this defense broke down in 2011 and posture those instances of evidence to the contrary, but ultimately the Seminoles were a top six defense throughout the year and were particularly dominant against the run. Through 10 games last season, the Seminoles were one of just three teams in the entire nation that had given up 800 rushing yards or less–the other two were Alabama and LSU. The Seminoles return nearly 90% of the entire three deep on this defense from one year ago, which brings us to the next item on our list of things we know.

The Florida State Seminoles are no longer young: This is something new. For the past five or six seasons, the Seminoles have consistently had an argument that sounded something like “Our team is so young” or “The best talent on the roster is still extremely young”. In 2012, 16 of Florida State’s 22 projected starters are in their third year in the program or higher. Eight starters return on each side of the ball. The Seminoles have a legitimate chance of having a double digit NFL draft class, and for the second year in a row will have the luxury of being talented and deep enough to sit a lot of highly touted players from the most recent top recruiting class, allowing them to develop as opposed to being thrown into the fire immediately.

The Seminoles are really big and really fast: While this one is tough to fully quantify, especially if you’re listening to head coach Jimbo Fisher, it is undeniably true. Fisher is the type of guy who will insist that Nick Moody gained 15 lbs., and got faster or that Bjoern Werner lost 20 lbs. and got stronger. Despite Fisher’s sometimes completely implausible player weights and performance numbers, on both sides of the ball, the Seminoles field an incredibly physically gifted team. 16 of FSU’s linemen are 300+ lbs. Aside from the incredible team speed that was already present, the Seminoles also added the fastest high school sprinter of all time in WR Marvin Bracy and likely the second fastest freshman in the nation in CB Ronald Darby. This doesn’t take into account the wide spectrum that lies in between the extremes of sixteen 300+ pounders and two elite speedsters, on which lies the likes of a Karlos Williams, who stands at 6’2, 230 lbs. and is likely the third fastest man on a very fast team. The takeaway here is that talent is present everywhere you turn on this roster.

Pressure is on for Jimbo Fisher: While it’s yet to be determined what type of impact this will have on the job that Fisher does in 2012, it is officially year three of his program, with his players, and FSU fans will not be very forgiving if the season turns out to be a dud. Four or five losses would be enough for fans to call for his job, but for perspective it has to be noted that Fisher has won 19 games in his first two seasons at FSU, which is something only 11 other programs in the nation can say over the same two-season stretch. He has the Seminoles in position to win 30 games in three seasons, and if he is able to make that happen, he might be able to quiet the mob. Maybe. Florida State fans want hardware, and it begins with an ACC Championship.

What we’re looking to learn

Can the offensive line be a cohesive, healthy unit?: This is easily the biggest question surrounding this team. There have been plenty of positive reports and reasons for optimism, but ultimately it has to be proven in live action. The projected Seminole starting offensive line still features three or potentially four true sophomores and a converted defensive tackle now playing left tackle for the first time in his career. Last season, the Seminoles were 110th in the nation in sacks allowed and struggled to establish any type of consistent run game outside of the stretch and the option play all season. In order to make things a lot easier on EJ Manuel and those talented skill players, this unit has to come into form, and must do so by the end of September when Clemson comes to town.

Who will replace Greg Reid?: The Seminoles lost one of their most experienced and nationally popular players last week when senior corner and return man Greg Reid was dismissed from the football team. Reid is a more than solid corner, despite giving up the occasional big play, but the biggest blow his dismissal causes will come on special teams. Greg Reid had the ability to flip the field and completely change the tone of a game in one play. The Seminoles are not starved for dynamic talents that can step in and do a good job in the return game, but the likelihood that anyone can duplicate or succeed Reid’s production there is too slim to take to the bank. Ronald Darby, Marvin Bracy, Rashad Greene, Karlos Williams, Kenny Shaw and Lamarcus Joyner are among the group that will battle for the opportunity to produce in the return game in Reid’s sudden absence. Similar to the return game, Florida State is not at a terrible loss for talent in their secondary, either. The issue here will be making up for Reid’s game experience. Tyler Hunter, Nick Waisome and Keelin Smith are all second year corners with a considerable amount of talent that can make their case for playing time. There are also rumblings that freshman corner Ronald Darby is as good as advertised and could be a candidate for some early PT, as well. For now, it doesn’t appear that starting safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, both former cornerbacks themselves, will be making the move back down to corner this year. Only time will tell how this plays out for the Noles.

Can the Seminoles survive the loss of Shawn Powell?: Are we really discussing the impact of losing a punter? Absolutely. The Seminoles had one of the best in the country last year, and he was honestly the hidden difference maker in a big number of games last season. A lot of hidden yardage came off the foot of Shawn Powell, and he is now being replaced by true freshman Cason Beatty. Beatty was considered one of the best in the country in his high school class, but his performance in the spring left quite a bit to be desired. Perhaps the talent is there and will take some time to develop, but one thing is for sure, the freshman Cason Beatty’s production will not hold a candle to that of a senior Shawn Powell in 2011.

All of these answers will be provided in less than one month’s time. The Seminoles look the part as usual, and ultimately their play will be highly scrutinized, discussed and dissected all season long, whether they live up to expectations or not. I look forward to covering them with you guys!

 

Adam Tolliver is an Atlanta, GA native and college football enthusiast who has been covering Florida State Seminole sports for three years. He is currently a contributor at Tomahawknation.com and XOFan.com, where he consistently delivers honest and accurate commentary and reporting regarding Florida State Seminole Football and Men’s Basketball. You can find Adam’s personal twitter account @primediscussion, where he spouts out about all things under the sun, or you can follow @Unconquered_FSU, which is exclusively dedicated to FSU Sports.

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