In recognition of the first day of Fall practice, today I’ll rundown what I expect to see from the Florida State Seminoles in 2010. Over the course of the last two weeks, I’ve shared my thoughts on each unit by position on offense and defense and how they look entering the season. Overall, I think FSU will field a product that is far superior to the what was placed on the field of competition last season. Unfortunately, that may not be completely indicated by the final record in 2010.
In 2009, Florida State’s offensive line was impressive, one of the best in the conference. Despite how good they were, I expect them to improve in 2010. As has been noted, they return all three and four year starters and this entire unit has been playing together since 2008. The key players of this unit will be LT Andrew Datko and LG Rodney Hudson. Both have performed extremely well in the past and while improvement on Hudson’s part is at times hard to imagine, Datko will be entering his third season as a starter and will be expected to make strides both physically and mentally.
The FSU backfield will be expected to improve in 2010 as well. Last season the Seminoles running game was inconsistent in the early part of the year and gained steam as the season went on. This season, due to a coaching change and improved personnel, there is reason to believe that the FSU running game could be something special. There is no shortage of talent in the Florida State backfield, but the key players here will be FB/RB Lonnie Pryor, RB Chris Thompson and RB Jermaine Thomas. Each of them should be expected to contribute heavily in the run and pass game in 2010.
At wide receiver, the Seminoles have a talented group of players that will likely cause quite a bit of trouble for opposing secondaries. This is another unit that can improve in production and will likely do so if QB Christian Ponder remains healthy. Key players for the receiving corp include Bert Reed and Jarmon Fortson, with honorable mention of the dependable Taiwan Easterling. Two younger guys looking to make an impact will be sophomores Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith. Most of the members of this unit are capable of making big plays happen due to size, speed or an impressive combination of both.
The Seminoles are very fortunate at the QB position. Starter Christian Ponder is the subject of much preseason hype and is capable of backing it up when the Seminoles take the field. The main concern with Ponder should be staying healthy, but in the event that he doesn’t, Florida State has possibly the best fall back plan in the nation in RS Sophomore EJ Manuel. Manuel came in and led the Seminoles to a 3-1 record in Christian Ponder’s absence last season, including a bowl victory against West Virginia. Both of these QB’s are capable leaders with impressive athleticism and understanding of the position and Jimbo Fisher’s offense.
As efficient as the FSU offense was in 2009, the 2010 unit overall could improve due to a more stable and consistent run game, fully matured offensive line and now three year starter at Quarterback.
Taking a look at the FSU defense, we will see a unit that is looking to rebound from an embarrassing season in 2009. Each unit is expected to improve by a large margin and if they don’t, Florida State is in trouble. The defensive line will need big time production and progression across the board and it is expected to come by way of drastically improved physical size and strength as well as an improved working relationship between the defensive ends and defensive tackles coaches. RS Sophomore Everett Dawkins has added nearly 25 lbs to his frame and will play along side the extremely talented Jacobbi McDaniel on the interior, while Brandon Jenkins and Markus White will both look to improve on their sack totals and run stopping from a year ago. Functional depth along the defensive line is present but largely untested and will play a big role in the unit’s performance this season.
The second and third levels of the defense will need to improve as well, but much of that will be helped along by better defensive line play. At linebacker , players like Nigel Bradham and Kendall Smith are expected to step up and be big time leaders for a unit that is a strange mix of unproven talent and experienced veterans. This is a very athletic group, that now has size to match their impressive speed.
In the secondary, much of the success will be dependent upon a few players stepping up and becoming consistent in preseason practice. CB Greg Reid has already done what he can to show coaches he’s ready for his increased role in the FSU defense, by earning Defensive MVP honors in the Spring. Along with Reid, the entire secondary will be doing what they can to master a scheme that has yielded Defensive Coordinator, Mark Stoops an incredibly high amount of turnovers in the past.
The Florida State defense and how they perform will have a huge impact on the Seminoles’ final record. As obvious as that statement may be, it is difficult to understate the amount of changes that this unit has undergone in the off-season and how much they will improve in 2010 is hard to accurately quantify or predict. The thing to remember is that these players have gone from not having a defensive playbook, to being coached by two of the better defensive minds in the nation. There growth won’t happen overnight, but large steps should have been made between 2009 and 2010.
With all of the positive signs coming out of the program under Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, the issue of Florida State’s schedule is still cause for concern. As stated earlier, this could be a better team than last year, who’s record doesn’t show an incredible improvement. Aside from playing Oklahoma in Norman in week two of the season, the Seminoles have a mid-season stretch where they will face Miami, Boston College, NC State, North Carolina and Clemson, followed by an in conference away game before defending Doak Campbell Stadium against the arch rival Florida Gators. Despite this very challenging schedule, there is hope that Florida State is finally good enough to win games they should win and compete better against tough competition. My predictions for the Seminoles in 2010 are as follows:
Best Case Scenario
W-L: 12-2. FSU wins the ACC and Orange Bowl with a chance at finishing in the top 10 for the first time in a decade. Defeats include a loss to Oklahoma in Norman and a second straight loss to Miami. This scenario would involve snapping the 6 game losing streak to UF.
W-L: 11-3. This scenario involves a 9-3 regular season (7-1 in conference). I still believe that Florida State will win the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl. They will lose to Oklahoma, Miami and UF but have a second crack at Miami in the conference championship game.
Worst Case Scenario
W-L: 8-5. This is the scenario that most FSU fans don’t like to hear, but it is one that is possible. With the long stretch of competition against schools that have played Florida State particularly well over the last few seasons, the team could possibly slide. Losses against Oklahoma, Miami, UNC, Clemson and UF, with a win at the end of the season in a lesser bowl game.
While the 2010 FSU Football team is full of talent and solid coaching, this season is very much a transition year. My advice to Florida State fans is to be patient if they are expecting to see an elite, dominant football team. The changing over of coaching regimes rarely ever yields the desired results overnight and in Florida State’s case I believe it to be more likely to take another year or two.
*Enjoy this article? Click the subscribe button at the top of this page and receive FSU Sports updates for FREE*
Be sure to check out all of dampfang.com’s ACC football previews.