Our analysis on the starters, top backups, history and trends for Clemson’s Tallahassee trip come Sept. 22…
2012 Record: 9-4 (5-3 ACC, third in the Atlantic Division)
2012 Florida State Schedule
Sept. 1 MURRAY STATE
Sept. 8 SAVANNAH STATE
Sept. 15 WAKE FOREST
Sept. 22 CLEMSON
Sept. 29 at USF
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 BOSTON COLLEGE
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 DUKE
Nov. 3 Bye
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech (Thursday)
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 FLORIDA
FSU Quick Profile
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8 career record, 11-6 against ACC [1-1 vs. Clemson], second year at FSU).
Offense (2011 ranks): Pro-style (Total offense: 77th/Rush offense: 104th/Pass offense: 33rd)
Defense (2011 ranks): 4-3 (Total defense: 4th/Rush defense: 2nd/Pass defense: 20th).
2011 Special Team Ranks: Net punting – 2nd/Kickoff returns – 6th/Punt returns – 34th/Punt return yardage defense – 74th/Kick return yardage defense – 17th.
2011 Misc. stats: Turnover margin – 37th/Fewest penalties – 118th/First downs – 84th/First downs allowed – 6th/Third down efficiency – 85th/Red zone efficiency – 25th/Red zone defense – 29th/Time of possession – 62nd.
Outgoing starters: 7
2012 Starters (2011 stats)
Returning Offense (6)
QB: E.J. Manuel (Senior, 2,666 passing yards/65.3% cmp/18 TD-8 INT/151 rush yards/4 TD)
RB: Devonta Freeman (Sophomore, 579 rushing yards/8 TD)
FB: Lonnie Pryor (Senior, 74 rush yards/2 TD)
WR: Rodney Smith (Senior, 561 rec. yards/7 TD); WR Rashad Greene (Sophomore, 591 rec. yards/7 TD)
O-line: RT Bryan Stork (Junior, 6-4 307/15 starts).
New Projected Starters (5)
TE: Nick O’Leary (Sophomore, 164 rec. yards/1 TD)
O-line: LT Cameron Erving (Sophomore, 6’5 304), LG Josue Matias (Sophomore, 6’5 320/1 start), C Austin Barron (Sophomore, 6’3 295), RG Tre’ Jackson (Sophomore, 6’4 325/1 start)
Outlook: FSU fans can only imagine and hope it happens this year that they get a healthy season from senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was banged up early last season and missed the Clemson game and portions of two others. As one of the ACC’s more efficient passers, Manuel has 17 starts under his belt and is a viable threat on the run too, though the Seminoles may want to keep him in the pocket for health reasons.
Sophomore tailback Devonta Freeman hopes to lead a resurgence in the FSU running game, after finishing 104th nationally in rushing offense, but Freeman averaging 4.8 yards per carry with eight scores. Senior RB Chris Thompson, FSU’s 2010 leading rusher (845 yards/6 TD), returns as well after sitting out most of last season and taking it easy this spring recovering from a back injury.
With some young talent (Rashad Greene, Christian Green and more) and some vets (Rodney Smith and Kenny Shaw), the Seminoles may have one of the best wide receiver corps in the nation.
The FSU o-line saw a youth movement this spring with four sophomores who saw action last season surging into starting roles, leaving some seasoned players filling backup roles going into the fall.
Returning Defense (7)
D-line: DE Brandon Jenkins (Senior, 8 sacks/12 TFL/41 tackles); DT Everett Dawkins (Senior, 2 sacks/3 TFL/25 tackles); DE Bjoern Werner (Junior, 37 tackles/7 sacks/11 TFL).
LB: WLB Christian Jones (Junior, 56 tackles/6 TFL); MLB Vince Williams (Senior, 54 tackles/5 TFL)
DB: SS LaMarcus Joyner (Junior, 54 tackles/4 INT); CB Xavier Rhodes (Junior, 43 tackles/1 INT)
New Projected Starters (4)
D-line: DT Timmy Jernigan (Sophomore, 2.5 sacks/3.5 TFL).
LB: SLB Nick Moody (Senior, 23 tackles)
DB: FS Karlos Williams (Sophomore)/Terrence Brooks (Junior, 17 tackles/5 PBUs); CB Nick Waisome (Sophomore, one tackle)
Outlook: FSU has the best defensive line in the ACC and touted by multiple outlets as the best in the nation with a talented and experienced two-deep that will haunt offenses this fall.
The secondary isn’t far behind, ranking in the top-20 in pass defense and pass efficiency defense last season, but took a hit Wednesday when senior cornerback Greg Reid was dismissed for a violation of team rules. The impact of Reid's dismissal hurts most in the punt return game, which earned him preseason All-ACC honors.
Both veteran linebackers, WLB Christian Jones and MLB Vince Williams, also happen to be FSU’s top tacklers returning (110 combined) and converted former starting safety Nick Moody takes over at SLB.
Returning Kicker/Punter (1)
PK: Dustin Hopkins (Senior, 22-of-27 on FGs/12-17 from 30+/long of 53).
New Projected Kicker/Punter (1)
P: Cason Beatty (Freshman).
Outlook: Dustin Hopkins’ strength in both accuracy and distance on field goals make him a weapon for the Seminoles. FSU faces replacing steady punter Shawn Powell, who led the ACC by far with a 47 yards per punt average, and most likely with a underclassmen.
Notable Backups (2011 stats)
WR: Christian Green (Sophomore, 450 rec. yards); Kenny Shaw (Junior, 418 rec. yards/4 TD); Greg Dent (Junior, 236 rec. yards)
RB: Chris Thompson (83 rec. yards/1 TD, missed most of 2011 with a back injury)
O-line: Jacob Fahrenkrug (Senior, 6-4 317/13 starts); RT Bobby Hart (Sophomore, 6-5 314/9 starts); Garrett Faircloth (Senior, 6-7 283/6 starts)
D-line: DE Tank Carradine (Senior, 5.5 sacks/8 TFL); DT Anthony McCloud (Senior, 2 sacks/5 TFL); DE Mario Edwards (Freshman)
ACC Position Rankings
Clemson/Florida State recent history: Down starting quarterback E.J. Manuel, FSU barely skipped a beat in Death Valley with backup Clint Trickett passing for 336 yards and three touchdowns (one interception), and had a shot late in the fourth quarter to take the lead, which they couldn’t take advantage of – sacked on fourth down from their 38-yard line to clinch the 35-30 Tigers’ win..
The Tigers and ‘Noles struggled to find the endzone the last time in Tallahassee in FSU’s 16-13 win. Clemson got on the board early with an opening touchdown drive capped by a 26-yard Jamie Harper run and led 10-3 at the half. The Seminoles answered with two scores in the third and early fourth quarters to take a 13-10 lead, but the Tigers would tie things up with 53 seconds to go from a 29-yard Chandler Catanzaro field goal. FSU QB E.J. Manuel engineered a 34-yard, 47-second drive to give kicker Dustin Hopkins a 55-yard attempt with three seconds to go…and he made it for the win.
Clemson players versus…Florida State: Tajh Boyd had one of his stronger games last season, hitting 22-of-35 passes for 344 yards and four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).
Sammy Watkins had one of his three multi-TD games, racking up 141 receiving yards and two touchowns. DeAndre Hopkins made his mark in Tallahassee with eight catches for 106 yards and last season with five grabs for 78 yards. Martavis Bryant got in the mix as well with a catch for 33 yards.
Andre Ellington rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown and missed the 2010 matchup with a toe injury.
Chandler Catanzaro missed his only field goal attempt last season (35-yarder) and made two of his four at FSU with a blocked 34-yarder, made 22-yarder, missed 38-yarder and made 29-yarder to tie it up with 55 seconds to go. New projected starting punter Spencer Benton even got in the action with two attempts for a 33-yard average.
Last year’s game was forgettable defensively for the Clemson returning starters, but Bashaud Breeland posted seven tackles and Rashard Hall had six.
Trends: Road teams are 1-9 in the last 10 games in this series with Clemson’s 2006 win in Tallahassee being the exception. The Tigers are 1-2 in road openers under Dabo Swinney, but lost the two by an average of three points per game (2009, 30-27 loss at ACC champion GT and 2010, 27-24 OT loss at national champ Auburn) and won the other one by 20 (23-3 at Virginia Tech last year). Overall, Clemson is 5-10 on the road under Swinney with the worst loss at NC State last year (37-13) and three 20-point wins (NC State, 2009; Wake Forest, 2010; Virginia Tech, 2011). The Tigers are 6-2 against the spread as an away underdog under Swinney and the favored team has won four of the last five (covered three times).
2011 FSU Schedule
Sept. 3 LA MONROE – W 34-0
Sept. 10 CHARLESTON SOUTHERN – W 62-10
Sept. 17 OKLAHOMA – L 23-13
Sept. 24 at Clemson – L 35-30
Oct. 8 at Wake Forest – L 35-30
Oct. 15 at Duke – W 41-16
Oct. 22 MARYLAND – W 41-16
Oct. 29 NC STATE – W 34-0
Nov. 12 MIAMI – W 23-19
Nov. 19 VIRGINIA – L 14-13
Nov. 26 at Florida – W 21-7
Dec. 29 Notre Dame – W 18-14