More questions than answers – that’s where the reigning ACC champs start spring practice today.
Florida State, by early entrants and graduation, lose their entire menacing d-line (over 80 percent of the 2012 sacks), a two-year starter and four-year contributor at quarterback (E.J. Manuel), their top rusher (Chris Thompson – 687 yards/5 TD) and top cornerback (Xavier Rhodes - junior to NFL draft).
But the question marks aren’t all in terms of the players – seven (!) new assistant coaches mark the 2013 staff.
More on the Seminoles…
2012 Record: 12-2 (7-1)
Plays Clemson: Oct. 19, in Clemson.
Returning Starters by Position (13)
Outgoing Starters: 11
Offensive Leader: WR Rashad Greene – Outside of Sammy Watkins, there hasn’t been an ACC receiver who’s had a more impressive underclassmen run, hauling in 57 catches for 741 yards and six scores last season. He leads a unit that loses just one top receiver (Rodney Smith – 524 yards/3 TD in 2012).
Defensive Leader: LB Christian Jones – The rising senior is one of a select few defensive leaders back for the Seminoles, leading the group in tackles (95).
Key Issues This Spring: 1) Reloading, re-shuffling lines – Just 6.5 of FSU’s 33 d-line sacks return from 2012 with the attention turned to elite recruits Mario Edwards Jr. (DE) and Timmy Jernigan (DT) to lead the next in line. Senior defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel also has the experience, but has missed the better part of two seasons recovering from an ankle injury. On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles would have had all five starters back on the o-line if not for right tackle Menelik Watson declaring for the NFL draft. Instead, it could be another shuffled deck, with senior center Bryan Stork having experience at that spot. "(We’ve) got quite a few guys," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said on the school’s site. "I think Bobby Hart (No. 4 OT out HS by Rivals) has had a good off-season. Stork and those guys can do what they've got to do there. There's different guys we can put in there that we can have a rotation there. The best guy will play,"
2) QB competition – Wide. Open. Highly-rated redshirt freshmen Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire join redshirt junior Clint Trickett and redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker in vying for quarterback spot. Rated the No. 1 QB in the 2011 class, Winston is a two-sport athlete, sporting a 1-0 record and 1.86 ERA in seven relief appearances for FSU baseball, but Fisher says the priority is football – not expecting Winston to miss a practice leading up to their April 13 spring game. Clemson fans should be familiar with Trickett, who passed for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in a down-to-the-wire game in Death Valley in 2011 (35-30 Tigers win). He had more pass attempts that game (38), in relief of an injured Manuel, than all last season (34), and the only other returner with experience, Coker, didn’t throw the ball once past game three. "You never know what somebody's capable of until they're put in pressure situations,” Fisher said in a spring press conference. “And put out there in a position to lead and also take off so they can go take a job. You don't ever know that. And to sit here and say that you know anybody at anytime, is crazy. Just let it happen and trust your eyes and see what goes on. The big thing is, don't force it. Let them tell you.”
3) New faces on staff – In an understandable move, third-year Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops left for the Kentucky head coaching job, but what followed was a tad atypical – six more assistants leaving a championship staff, including offensive coordinator James Coley to rival Miami for the same position (a factor in the mix there was certainly Fisher still calling plays). From Alabama, Jeremy Pruitt assumes his first defensive coordinator job, with 22-year coach Sal Sunseri brought in to help – coaching defensive ends. Fisher isn’t fretting the overhaul though. "It's not been hard, because those guys come off the same tree,” he said. “They've been in the same system. They've been in the same environment. They hit the ground running easier than the old group did. Sometimes it took a year to get things…And that's not anything against those guys. They did a tremendous job while they were here. But a lot of these guys have been through the same system and know the same thing.”