FSU's emerging stars for 2013

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
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In the months before spring football begins, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about all the talent Florida State lost -- from senior leaders like Lonnie Pryor and Everett Dawkins to talented juniors like Xavier Rhodes and Bjoern Werner.

[+] EnlargeDemonte McAllister
Kim Klement/US PresswireFSU's Demonte McAllister is emerging into a force.
Those discussions will inevitably be countered by enthusiasm about the future, too. Freshman Ronald Darby had an exceptional year in 2012 and is poised to blossom into a star. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. got a crack at the starting role in the final two games of the season and delivered strong performances. Karlos Williams' star has been on the rise for two full seasons now, and he appears ready for a breakthrough. And, of course, the questions of who will take over at quarterback will be ubiquitous.

But as the sun sets on 2012 and the preparations for 2013 begin, here are five more players who didn't exactly earn raves last season but could prove to be significant contributors for Florida State in the season to come.

Kelvin Benjamin (So./WR)

Background: It's somewhat odd that, after more than a year of continuous hype, Benjamin appears to be flying a bit below the radar now. Chalk it up to a rather disappointing finish to 2012. After racking up 25 touches for 476 yards and four TDs in his first nine games, Benjamin mustered just seven catches for 52 yards and no scores over the final five.

Possible 2013 status: Benjamin was frustratingly inconsistent in 2012, and he was on the receiving end of several near misses that may have swung big games (NC State, for example). By year's end, EJ Manuel looked to him less and less -- but FSU's offense also dipped. Another year in the system, another year of refining technique, and Benjamin may finally fulfill his immense promise in 2013 as one of the ACC's most dangerous receiving threats.

Reggie Northrup (So./LB)

Background: A bit player in 2012 as a freshman, Northrup saw plenty of work on special teams but only intermittent snaps at linebacker, usually in mop-up duty. He finished the year with 10 tackles, including one for a loss, but the season was more a learning experience than a breakthrough performance.

Possible 2013 status: Florida State will have some significant turnover at linebacker this offseason, and of the relatively minimal number of replacement options, Northrup easily has the best combination of experience and ability. Vince Williams said often last season that Northrup rarely knew what he was doing, but had a habit of finding the football anyway. With a year of experience under his belt, he could be a nice fit to replace Williams at middle linebacker or Nick Moody on the strong side.

Nick O'Leary (Jr./TE)

Background: Like Benjamin, many fans expected 2012 to be O'Leary's breakthrough campaign, but his progress was more subdued. O'Leary nearly doubled his receptions from 2011 and finished with 252 yards and three TDs, but he also had fumble problems and virtually disappeared from the offense midseason.

Possible 2013 status: There's no arguing O'Leary's talent, and with a new QB adjusting to life as a starter next season, having a big-play threat as a safety valve at tight end could be an oft-used weapon. Moreover, with the departure of Pryor, O'Leary figures to see some work at halfback and FSU figures to employ more two-tight end sets. Whether his numbers take a big jump will depend on how much he has progressed in his route running and ball-handling skills, but the opportunities will be there.

Demonte McAllister (Sr./DT)

Background: McAllister made some noise as a sophomore in 2010, but he appeared to regress in 2011. That had him flying squarely under the radar at a loaded position in 2012, but he still managed a breakthrough season. Despite a limited role, McAllister finished with 33 tackles, including five for a loss, and 3.5 sacks -- third on the team behind only Werner and Cornellius Carradine.

Possible 2013 status: Timmy Jernigan is the only sure thing on the defensive line at the moment, and youngsters like Chris Casher, Giorgio Newberry, Eddie Goldman and Edwards will all see playing time. That makes McAllister's veteran presence even more significant. Goldman and redshirt freshman Justin Shanks could push for playing time, but McAllister certainly earned first crack at a starting job last season.

Marvin Bracy (RFr./WR)

Background: A nagging hamstring injury kept Bracy on the sidelines throughout much of the summer and fall camp, which forced a redshirt during the season. Still, the speedster's talent was unmistakeable, and he generally worked as the opponent's top skill-position player for FSU's scout team.

Possible 2013 status: If Bracy can stay healthy, he has the skill set to emerge as a big-play threat at receiver and as a returner. Finding snaps at receiver may be harder to come by, but given FSU's revolving door at punt returner in 2012, that could be a role Bracy snatches up and runs with next season.

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