- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.
It happens every year that a few relatively obscure names find their way into bigger roles, and as the Seminoles get set to start another summer NoleNation is counting down five under-the-radar players who could be in line for breakthrough seasons.
First up: Dan Hicks (Sr./DE)
Career arc: A two-star recruit out of high school, Hicks saw limited action at defensive end in 2010 and 2011, registering 34 tackles and two sacks. After the 2011 season, he was shifted to tight end, but a knee injury during fall camp ended his season. He switched back to defense this spring.
Why he's overlooked: Hicks' history doesn't exactly inspire much enthusiasm, and after a lost season in 2012 he was largely forgotten. While the move back to defensive end offered an opportunity for playing time at his original position, he's also competing against more prized prospects like Mario Edwards Jr., Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher.
Why he'll produce: It might have been a full year since Hicks last competed at defensive end, but he looked the part of an experienced veteran during spring practice. Fisher raved after the spring game that no one on the defensive line had played so consistently well as Hicks, and where he once appeared to add depth at a position in transition, he's now a serious contender to win a starting job.
Projection: Hicks' star might never eclipse that of Newberry or Casher, but Fisher and new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri don't care much about pedigree. When it comes to production, Hicks has impressed, and whether he ends up the starter, he'll get regular reps and should provide valuable experience at a position without much of it elsewhere.
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