2009 ACC Football Preview: Florida State

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Florida State Seminoles

Returning Starters: 13 (8 offense, 5 defense)

Key Returnees: QB Christian Ponder, RB Jermaine Thomas, WR Taiwan
Easterling, C Ryan McMahon, RG David Spurlock, LG Rodney Hudson, RT Zebrie
Sanders, LT Andrew Datko, DT Justin Mincey, DT Kendrick Stewart, DT Budd
Thacker, DE Markus White, LB Dekoda Watson, CB Patrick Robinson, ROV Korey
Mangum, FS Jamie Robinson

Key Losses: RB Antone Smith, WR Greg Carr, WR Preston Parker, WR Corey
Surrency, DE Everette Brown, DE Neefy Moffett, DT Paul Griffin, LB Derek
Nicholson, LB Toddrick Verdell, CB Tony Carter, ROV Myron Rolle, FS Darius
McClure, CB Michael Ray Garvin

Overall View

Florida State returns eight starters on offense and should be much improved
on that side of the ball. There are some gaps to fill on the defensive side, but
Mickey Andrews puts a stout defense on the field every year. FSU will be in
contention for the Atlantic Division Championship.

The ‘Noles have a menacing schedule though. They have road games at BYU,
Boston College, UNC, Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida. Even their home games are
tough: Miami, USF, Georgia Tech, NC State and Maryland. Their only definite win
is on September 12 against Jacksonville State.

FSU has the talent to win the Atlantic Division, but do they have the
schedule?

Offensive Strength

Florida State’s offensive line will be the strength of their team in
2009. Last season, the ‘Noles started three true freshmen and two sophomores,
and still averaged 4.8 yards per carry. This group is light and quick, and they
can achieve the blocking angles that offensive line coach Rick Trickett
requires.

Offensive guard Rodney Hudson is a First Team All-ACC player, and center Ryan
McMahon could be the best center in the conference. Depth is still questionable,
so this line must stay healthy. If they do that, they have the potential to be
the best offensive line in the ACC.

Offensive Weakness

With the loss of Greg Carr, Preston Parker and Corey Surrency, wide
receiver
is Florida State’s offensive weakness in 2009. Carr and Parker led
the team in receptions last year, and though there are some good players coming
up, they don’t have the experience of the guys they are replacing.

FSU also won’t be able to replace the height of Greg Carr (6-6). He was a
major mismatch, and basically the only consistent threat in Florida State’s
offense over the last few years. Cameron Wade is 6-6, but does he have the speed
and body control of Carr?

Sophomore Taiwan Easterling is the leader of this group, and Bert Reed should
be dependable as well. Rod Owens and Richard Goodman are seniors with limited
talent who have never produced much. The ‘Noles will need Jarmon Fortson and
Avis Commack to step up.

Defensive Strength

Florida State always has a talented and athletic defensive line, and
this year will be no different. Though they have lost the services of defensive
ends Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett, if Markus White has the season he’s
expected to have, the ‘Noles will be just fine off the edge.

FSU also returns three experienced players at defensive tackle: Budd Thacker,
Kendrick Stewart and Justin Mincey.

Florida State always has players who can pressure the quarterback, and this
year it will fall on White, a senior defensive end and former JUCO transfer.
White has talent, but he had just 5.5 tackles for loss last year. He had a great
spring, and if he can translate that to actual games, he could be the next great
FSU defensive end.

Defensive Weakness

The Seminoles don’t have the type of talent in their defensive backfield
that they are used to. There are no great cornerbacks, and with the loss of
Myron Rolle to a Rhodes Scholarship, there is no outstanding talent at safety
either. (Editor’s Note: kudos to CC for working the little-used phrase
“loss of [fill in the blank] to a Rhodes Scholarship” into the
article.)

Patrick Robinson is a returning senior starter at cornerback. He is a solid
player, but doesn’t wow anyone with his talents. Jamie Robinson is the projected
starter at free safety, and he has bounced around from corner to safety for his
entire career. He will be entering his senior year at safety, so he should have
a good season as a senior.

Rover Kory Mangum is an experienced player, but he has been a cornerback in
the past. He doesn’t have great range, but he should be a better fit at rover.
FSU also lacks depth in the secondary, so they moved former quarterback
D’Vontrey Richardson to free safety to serve as Jamie Robinson’s backup.

Key Game

Florida State plays at Clemson on November 7. The ‘Noles are just 2-4 in
their last six meetings with the Tigers, though they did win 41-27 last season.
The November 7 matchup could potentially decide the Atlantic Division.

Chris Coleman’s Thoughts

I think Florida State’s offense could be trouble this year (finally). I
really like the potential of this offensive line, though their best year could
be in 2010 rather than 2009. Quarterback Christian Ponder will be a r-junior,
and he’s a talented player who will provide a dual threat to the Florida State
offense.

I also think Florida State has an upgrade at the tailback position this year.
Antone Smith was a good player, but Jermaine Thomas rushed for 482 yards as a
true freshman last year, averaging a whopping seven yards per carry. The Florida
State line fits his style of running, and with an inexperienced group of wide
receivers, I could see the ‘Noles running the ball more this year. No FSU
tailback has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season since Warrick Dunn did it in
1996, but that could change soon.

On the other hand, I’m not sure the FSU defense is quite as talented as it
usually is. The best talent is probably at linebacker, but two of them will be
new starters. The talent in the secondary is not up to the FSU standards that
many of us grew up seeing. They should have very good defensive ends, but I
don’t see them having a major playmaker at defensive tackle.

On special teams, FSU loses kicker Graham Gano and return specialists Tony
Carter and Michael Ray Garvin. All three players were very good, so the
Seminoles aren’t likely to be as good on special teams this year.

My main question when I look at Florida State is this: who is in charge of
the football program? Whenever I watch an FSU game these days, Bobby Bowden
rarely even uses a headset. He just stands there and watches, like a hands-off
supervisor who really doesn’t know what his employees are doing. Jimbo Fisher is
the offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting, and just by watching games
on TV you can tell he plays a big role during games.

There can only be one head man. There aren’t two Presidents of the United
States, or two CEOs of General Electric. I’m not sure Bobby Bowden is that head
man anymore, despite his job title. I’m not convinced the ‘Noles have the
leadership at the top that they once had. Combine that with less talent at wide
receiver and defensive back, and that’s going to equal fewer wins.

I realize Florida State is the heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division
this year, and looking at it on paper, I think they should be. But when I look
at their schedule, and I look at their coaching situation, it gives me cause for
concern.

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