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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Updating projections for the Class of 2012

By David M. Hale

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The 2012 signing class brought 16 new faces to Florida State, but after a full year on campus, fans have seen only a glimpse of what the group, ranked as the No. 2 class in the nation, can do.

Nine members of the 2012 class saw action last season, and only defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. earned a start. But even Edwards' progress comes with an asterisk. He was slated to redshirt when the season began, and he only worked his way onto the field -- and later, into the starting lineup -- thanks to a series of injuries.

Ronald Darby
Cornerback Ronald Darby got considerable playing time as a freshman and will compete for a starting position next season.
After a year largely spent on the sidelines, the Class of 2012 is poised to make an impact this season. Here's how we see things shaping up.

The wild card

Marvin Bracy, WR

Bracy skipped spring practice to focus on track, and now it seems entirely possible that decision could be permanent. Bracy has world-class speed, and if he chooses to go pro as a sprinter, he'd wave goodbye to his FSU football career. A decision could come any day.

Waiting their turn

Justin Shanks, DT

Despite FSU losing its two starting tackles, the position is still chock full of talent, which has managed to overshadow Shanks -- something that's awfully hard to do to a player pushing 320 pounds.

Colin Blake, CB

Blake battled injuries early in 2012 and ended up redshirting. He might have had a chance to earn a regular role this season, but Lamarcus Joyner's move to corner likely makes the field a bit too crowded. Blake will see work on special teams, but he'll need a few starters to go down with injuries before regular playing time is available in a crowded secondary.

Sean Maguire, QB

To Maguire's credit, he conceded nothing during FSU's quarterback competition this spring. Still, the writing was on the wall. Maguire has a good arm and solid long-term potential, but the job isn't likely to be his for at least a few more years.

Reggie Northrup and Ukeme Eligwe, LB

Odds are one of the two will see regular playing time this season, but the linebacking corps is still in flux. Only Telvin Smith and Christian Jones have significant reps under their belt, while a group of eight young linebackers will be battling for limited playing time behind them. Northrup's work on special teams and in mop-up duty last season could give him a leg up, but Eligwe remains a top prospect.

Christo Kourtzidis, TE

Kourtzidis has already seen action, and he'll still be in the mix as Florida State employs more two-tight end sets in 2013. But while Kourtzidis excels as a receiver, he still needs to add some heft and improve his blocking ability. He's a distant third on the tight end depth chart at the moment.

On the cusp

Eddie Goldman, DT

Goldman could worm his way into a starting job with a strong summer and fall camp, but regardless he appears poised to be part of the rotation at tackle in 2013. One of the top recruits in the class, he's made strides in limited work already, and his potential is immense.

P.J. Williams, DB

He wasn't one of the most talked about members of last year's signing class, but he saw action early, excelled on special teams, and he turned in an impressive spring while a bevy of other defensive backs sat out with injuries. There's not a defined role for Williams yet, but his versatility should allow him to find a niche this season despite the intense competition in the secondary.

Chris Casher, DE

Casher might've earned time last year had a knee injury not ended his season before it ever began. It's now been two years since Casher has played regularly, and the rust has been apparent at times. Still, Casher's combination of strength and speed makes him an ideal fit for Jeremy Pruitt's scheme, and with the competition at defensive end still wide open, he has as good a chance as anyone at earning regular playing time.

Mario Pender, RB

A groin injury kept Pender from even practicing as a true freshman, but he appears to have made up for lost time. This spring, Pender showed the same burst and top-end speed that made him a top recruit, and while his pass protection skills still need work, he could easily fill a role as the speedy change of pace to Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. this fall.

Top of the class

Cason Beatty (P) and Roberto Aguayo (K)

Beatty struggled as a freshman in 2012, but he improved as the season wore on. Aguayo will get his first chance to replace Dustin Hopkins this year. He connected on three long field goals in the spring game and clearly has the leg to be a big-time kicker. It's tough for FSU to feel completely comfortable with so much youth in the specialist roles, but both players have the talent to get the job done.

Mario Edwards Jr., DE

With Bjoern Werner, Brandon Jenkins and Cornellius Carradine all gone to the NFL, it's Edwards who will pick up the torch as FSU's top pass rusher. He showed flashes of the potential that made him the nation's top recruit in 2012 during a late-season debut, but he remained inconsistent this spring and is still battling to keep his weight down. Nevertheless, he figures to have a starting job locked up, and his potential is immensely high.

Ronald Darby, CB

One of the conference's top freshman defenders a year ago, Darby never landed the starting job at corner, but he played often and endured few growing pains, earning Freshman All-ACC honors in the process. Darby missed the spring with a leg injury, but he'll be in the mix for a starting job this fall, and he'll be a key member of the secondary regardless of whether he wins the job.

Jameis Winston, QB

No member of the Class of 2012 has been under the microscope as much as Winston, and he's yet to actually play a game. Still, he appeared to be the big winner from this spring's QB competition, culminating with a 12 of 15 passing performance for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. The keys to the offense are likely in Winston's hands, which means the success of his signing class will largely be defined by what he does from here.