Florida State spring practice preview
Spring practice kicks off in Talahassee on Monday as Florida State looks to put behind a 4-loss season filled with inconsistent offensive showings.
Let's take a look at some of the storylines that will play out over 15 practices as the Seminoles prepare for their spring game on Saturday, April 14.
2011 Record: 9-4, 5-3 ACC
Can consistent playmakers emerge on offense?
Just like Florida, Florida State surprisingly has dealt with a lack of consistent playmakers on offense. While Jimbo Fisher's squad will have a strong defense once again under coordinator Mark Stoops, the lack of offense crippled the 'Noles at times during their 4-loss 2011 season. The question now is whether the offense can resemble more often than not the unit that played well in the second half of its bowl win over Notre Dame. There's no question that subpar play and injuries along the line hurt the offense. But quarterback EJ Manuel needs some weapons to work with in order to consistently move the ball down the field. Rashad Greene should be even better as a sophomore after catching 7 touchdowns and nearly 600 yards receiving, and running back Devonta Freeman went on to become the team's leading rusher in his first season, reaching the end zone 8 times and averaging nearly 5 yards per carry. But the team will need other players to help out, so keep an eye on redshirt freshman receiver Kelvin Benjamin and early enrollee running back Mario Pender. Benjamin has lost a significant amount of weight after arriving on campus looking more like a tight end. And Pender may get an even stronger look now that Freeman will miss spring drills because of a lower back injury. Fisher may also move sophomore safety Karlos Williams to offense after he showed his speed and elusiveness as a kick returner.
Can the young line gel while staying healthy?
ICONEJ Manuel will need to be protected by a young offensive line if FSU wants to improve on a 4-loss 2011 season.
Offensive line is the unit that will be under the spotlight throughout the offseason and when the games finally kick off this fall. This group struggled with health issues and ineffectiveness throughout the 2011 season, failing to protect Manuel consistently as well as struggling to open up running lanes for the team's backs. It was a big factor in the team's three-game losing streak, but the coaching staff should be enthused that the O-Line came together in the win over Notre Dame despite four freshmen starters (Tre Jackson, Josue Matias, Austin Barron and Bobby Hart). Matias, a guard, played very well in his first career start against the Fighting Irish and should be an anchor for this unit for the next few years. And keep an eye on former defensive tackle Cameron Erving, who is making the move to the offensive line, as well as JUCO transfers Daniel Glauser and Menelik Watson to see if they can press the rising sophomores for playing time.
The defense is scary good
Mark Stops has done wonders to the FSU defense since his arrival, and end Brandon Jenkins will lead yet another stout unit this fall. If you thought the 'Noles were a force defensively last season when they were the country's No. 4 scoring defense, they may be even better with the nation's top end (Mario Edwards) and top tackle (Eddie Goldman) arriving on campus. The depth is strong and the starters, nine of which return, could play for any team in the country. Lamarcus Joyner thrived at safety after being used as a reserve corner and kickoff returner as a true freshman, as he led the team with four interceptions, and linebacker Christian Jones thrived at strong side, recording three sacks, forcing two fumbles and recovering another one.
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