Under-the-radar players to watch

March, 14, 2013
3/14/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- With spring practice less than a week away, the fervor surrounding some of the most-hyped storylines of 2013 has already been raging for months. The three-way battle at quarterback, the return of Bobby Hart to the limelight, Lamarcus Joyner's move to cornerback -- Jimbo Fisher already has plenty to keep his eye on.

But while those stories will continue to headline Florida State's preparations for the 2013 season, there are a handful of other intriguing players to watch this spring. They might not be in the running for a starting job, but they should offer plenty of reasons to watch as they look to impress a new group of coaches and find their own niche for the upcoming season.

Mario Pender (RB/RFr.)

When it comes to sheer intrigue, the entirety of Florida State's returning redshirts could probably make the list -- with Jameis Winston probably atop it. But while there will be genuine interest in Justin Shanks' weight or Marvin Bracy's speed, it's Pender who likely leads the pack in non-QB buzz from fans. The highly touted tailback missed all of 2012 with a groin injury and is just now getting back into full swing. His workouts during fourth-quarter drills earned raves from Fisher, who compared his burst and home-run ability to Chris Thompson -- only Pender is a bit bigger and stronger. Does that mean a job awaits this fall? Not exactly, but he'll definitely have his coaches' attention.

Jacobbi McDaniel
AP Photo/George FreyJacobbi McDaniel is finally recovered from a severe ankle injury.
DeMarcus Walker (DE/Fr.)

A late switch in the recruiting process from Alabama to Florida State, Walker is already on campus and learning the ropes under new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, which could be huge by August. Walker has plenty of talent (a top-five recruit at his position, according to ESPN), and he's playing a position where opportunity abounds. Even if Mario Edwards Jr. has one end spot locked up, Walker should be in the mix with Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher for the other starting job, and none appears to have an obvious leg up in the competition.

Jacobbi McDaniel (DT/RSr.)

It's been nearly two years since McDaniel was on a football field and completely healthy. He's finally rounding into shape and getting back to full speed after a gruesome ankle injury derailed his career in 2011. Five years ago, he was among the most highly regarded recruits in America. Now, he's simply trying to get back on the field. With Demonte McAllister out for the spring, McDaniel should get a long look from coaches, and a strong month could earn him enough playing time in the fall to reignite his career.

P.J. Williams (DB/So.)

The reviews on Williams from fourth-quarter drills were impressive, and while he might not have a definitive job waiting for him in the fall, the spring should be a nice proving ground. Three of Florida State's top defensive backs will miss all of spring drills, leaving the door open for Williams to impress the new coaching staff and earn his way into the rotation in the secondary. In 2014, he could be at the head of the pack for a starting job, but he'll be laying the ground work right now.

Christian Green (WR/RJr.)

Two years ago, Green finished third on the team with 450 yards receiving. Last year, he virtually disappeared. What happened? It was something of a combination of a stocked depth chart and Green's own lack of development. Hart found himself in a similar situation a year ago on the offensive line, and he'll be under the microscope now as he fights for a starting job. Green has remained under the radar, and there doesn't figure to be a lot more throws in his direction this year. So can he shrug off last year's disappointment to again join the mix at receiver or was he something of a one-hit wonder? This spring should go a long way toward providing an answer.

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