Wednesday, January 30, 2013
FSU's biggest 2013 holes to fill
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A year ago, there wasn't a lot of mystery looming over spring practice at Florida State. Signing day brought another crop of highly regarded talent, and spring practice storylines included more injuries than marquee position battles.
That won't be the case this year as a rash of departures from both assistant coaches and underclassmen mean the signing class is still in flux and the depth chart has plenty of spots up for grabs.
So, as the Seminoles' spring kicks into high gear, here are the five departures that have left the biggest voids that will need to be filled over the next few months.
Jacob Coker's size and athletic ability will be big factors in FSU's QB competition.
Going:EJ Manuel ended a five-year tenure in Tallahassee with a mixed reputation among the fans. Among NFL scouts, however, things seem a bit more uniform. Manuel starred at last week's Senior Bowl, and with NFL teams increasingly interested in versatile quarterbacks capable of running the read option, Manuel's pro prospects look brighter.
Coming: FSU has a deep reserve of QB talent in Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. The question is which one of them can take over the job on a full-time basis. Trickett enters spring practice atop the depth chart, but Coker and Winston have too much talent to cede the job without a fight.
2. Right tackle
Going:Menelik Watson's time at Florida State amounted to only about eight months, but he made his presence felt. The junior college transfer anchored FSU's offensive line in 2012, and since announcing his intentions to enter the NFL draft -- something of a surprise to FSU coaches -- his profile has steadily increased. Several recent mock drafts have Watson as a first-round selection.
Coming: The obvious answer at right tackle would be Bobby Hart, who started eight games there as a freshman before being relegated to a reserve role last season. Hart's maturity, attitude and relationship with line coach Rick Trickett have all been called into question at times, however, making him anything but a safe bet to win the job. Further complicating matters, FSU lost one of its top recruits in Austin Golson, leaving just two commitments in what was supposed to be a big offensive line class.
Going:Dustin Hopkins left Florida State as the school, conference and NCAA leader in scoring among kickers. He'll likely be the first kicker selected in the NFL draft, and while special teams don't get a ton of attention during the spring, his absence will be one of the most visible vacancies on the roster.
Coming: Enter freshman Roberto Aguayo, who figured to grayshirt in 2012 before a scholarship opened up at the last minute. He earned strong reviews from Hopkins throughout the season -- Hopkins said Aguayo was ahead of where he had been as a true freshman -- but it'll be a tough act to follow.
4. Defensive end
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Going:Bjoern Werner could become the highest drafted player in Florida State history, and Brandon Jenkins and Cornellius Carradine also figure to do well in April's NFL draft. All of that adds up to a ton of talent lost at the position. Werner and Carradine were the most prolific pair of teammates in the nation in 2012 when it came to sacks.
Coming:Mario Edwards Jr. appeared to lock up a starting job when he filled in for an injured Carradine in FSU's final two games, but the opposite side of the line is a mystery. Giorgio Newberry failed to progress as coaches hoped in 2012, and Chris Casher battled injuries throughout the season. FSU also appears to be losing out on four-star end Davin Bellamy, who appears headed elsewhere after being a Seminoles commitment since August.
Going:Lonnie Pryor never became a household name nationally, but through four years of selfless play, every Florida State fan had a soft spot for the versatile fullback. Like Hopkins and Werner, he figures to be the top available player at his position in the NFL draft, and after turning in a career-best performance on the ground in 2012, he's shown he's more than just a blocker.
Coming: What makes this roster vacancy so intriguing is that there isn't an obvious replacement. James Wilder Jr. certainly has the physical presence to do the job, but he's said he isn't particularly interested in a switch. Nick O'Leary figures to get more work at H-back, and Jimbo Fisher said he plans to employ more two-tight end sets. The bottom line is that, while Pryor might not have had the biggest role in FSU's offense, he could be the least-replaceable player on the roster.