On January 2, 2010, Jimbo Fisher was running his 1st staff meeting as the head football coach of the Florida State Seminoles. The Noles had just defeated West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, which was also the last game of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. While there was excitement and relief that the team was able to send Coach Bowden out a winner, the reality was the Seminoles had just completed their third 7-6 season in a four year span. Despite the love for Coach Bowden, embarrassing losses and empty seats in Doak Campbell Stadium meant it was time for a change.
In less than 2 years, Coach Fisher has completely revamped the roster. Top ranked recruits are flocking to Tallahassee and are excited about the possibility of playing with other top ranked recruits.
With 18 of 24 starters returning from a 10 win team in 2010, folks are starting to pay attention to FSU Football once again. The first preseason coaches poll had FSU ranked #5 and several respected media outlets have ranked some of FSU’s position segments among the best in the country.
Athlon Sports and Rivals recently ranked each position segment. Here’s what they had to say about the 2011 Seminoles.
Athlon Rank #2
The Seminoles made big improvements on defense last year, largely due to their success up front. Brandon Jenkins blossomed into one of the nation’s top pass-rushers, recording 13.5 sacks. Bjoern Werner had a solid freshman campaign last year, and his ability to get after the quarterback should prevent defenses from focusing too much on Jenkins. Junior college transfer Tank Carradine will also see snaps at end. Everett Dawkins, Jacobbi McDaniel, Demonte McAllister and Anthony McCloud give the Seminoles a deep rotation at tackle.
Rivals Rank #1
The Seminoles were lax at times against the run, especially in the second half of the season, but they had a fierce pass rush (48 sacks) and all but one of the top eight linemen returns. E Brandon Jenkins had 13.5 sacks and did a nice job against the run, as well. There will be a solid five-man rotation at tackle, headed by junior Jacobbi McDaniel, and the good news for coaches is that none of that quintet is a senior. Depth at end isn’t as good, but with Jenkins getting so much attention from opposing blockers, you have to figure the other ends are only going to have to beat one man to get to the opposing quarterback.
Athlon Rank #3
Junior Greg Reid and sophomore Xavier Rhodes took their share of lumps, but that experience will pay off in 2011. Their return gives the Seminoles one of the top corner duos in college football, and both will only get better with more snaps. Reid checks in at 5-foot-8, but is one of the ACC’s most physical corners. Rhodes is the better cover corner entering 2011. Safety was a concern last year, but improvement is expected with the move of Lamarcus Joyner from cornerback and the arrival of true freshman Karlos Williams. Junior strong safety Nick Moody and senior free safety Terrance Parks are returning starters, but will have to battle with Joyner and Williams for snaps.
Rivals Rank #4
All four starters are back for the Seminoles. Sophomore CB Xavier Rhodes exceeded expectations last season, when he had four picks and 12 pass breakups. Greg Reid is an able running mate at corner, and depth is good at the position, as well, as third CB Mike Harrisalso is a productive player. FS Nick Moody and SS Terrance Parks aren’t as good as their counterparts at corner, but they nevertheless form a solid tandem. They combined for 123 tackles last season. There are high expectations for true freshman S Karlos Williams.
Athlon Rank #10
The Seminoles return an experienced group, led by senior Bert Reed, who caught 58 passes last season. Juniors Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith are back after breaking the 400-yard mark last season. Haulstead exploded for 10 catches and 154 yards against North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Christian Green is a name to watch, along with sophomore Kenny Shaw. True freshman tight end Nick O’Leary could also see significant snaps this year.
Rivals Rank #2
Dustin Hopkins and Shawn Powell give Florida State a quality kicker/punter tandem. Hopkins went 22-of-28 on field-goal attempts last season and made a 55-yarder to beat Clemson. He made a 60-yarder in the spring game. He also produced touchbacks on 47.7 percent of his kickoffs. Powell averaged 44.3 yards per punt last season and helped Florida State rank 15th nationally in net punting. The Seminoles also have an outstanding return man in CB Greg Reid, who led the nation in punt returns in 2009 and ranked 28th in that category last season. Kickoff returns need to improve. The Seminoles were adequate with their coverage units last season: 53rd in punt coverage and 55th in kickoff coverage.
Jimbo Fisher makes it a point to not shy away from the expectations and hype, he wants the players to embrace it. They know they’re a talented team, they know they’re expected to win the ACC title this season and they know they have some of the best segments in the country. Starting September 3, they will be begin the process of proving it.