Florida State Seminoles: Bobby Hart

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Three years ago, Jimbo Fisher was out of options. Injuries and ineffectiveness had rendered his offensive line a sieve, and as the 2011 season drew to a close, Fisher threw his hands in the air and sent four true freshmen onto the field to start Florida State’s bowl game against Notre Dame.

The last resort proved to be a stroke of genius. The group gelled and by the time the Seminoles secured the 2013 national championship, the offensive line was a strength. With five seniors projected as starters for 2014, the line promises to be the backbone of Florida State’s offense again.

[+] EnlargeRoderick Johnson
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIESPN 300 offensive tackle Roderick Johnson is the Seminoles' top-ranked offensive line signee for the 2014 class.
The problem, however, is the incredibly uncertain future after Tre' Jackson, Cameron Erving, Josue Matias and the rest of this veteran line wave goodbye.

Fisher clearly remembers the struggles of 2011, and he’s not eager to relive them again in 2015 and beyond. So while rebuilding the line is still a year away, the groundwork for that massive overhaul began in earnest Wednesday.

Florida State inked an impressive class on national signing day, reeling in 28 new Seminoles -- including five early enrollees -- and one quarter of that group is offensive linemen. It is one of the largest recruiting scores at the position in school history, Fisher said, and it’s a group with significant upside.

“We got size on the edges, in the middle and that can snap the football,” Fisher said. “From that standpoint, it’s a great group, and guys are just getting bigger and faster.”

There might not be room for the seven linemen FSU inked to get much bigger. The group already averages 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds, including juco transfers Kareem Are (6-6, 350) and Chad Mavety (6-5, 315), who Fisher believes can step in and play immediately.

Of course, finding reps for the fresh faces won’t be easy given the veterans already in place atop the depth chart, but Fisher understands it’s necessary if Florida State wants to avoid another season of linemen learning on the job in 2015.

“If those guys play well, there will be a lot of playing time,” Fisher said. “They’ll get a lot of playing time, and that’s why it was critical we got two junior college guys.”

If game-ready talent was necessary, developmental projects were significant for Florida State, too.

Fisher has racked up big recruiting wins in virtually every segment of the roster since his arrival in 2010, but the offensive line has remained a concern throughout. Part of the struggles to recruit top talent on the line lies with position coach Rick Trickett, who is far less interested in recruiting rankings than finding players malleable enough for him to build up from scratch.

Since Trickett took over the line in 2007, Florida State has signed just three offensive linemen ranked among the top 150 recruits. Jordan Prestwood left shortly after arriving. Ira Denson, last year’s prize recruit, could be on his way out, too. (Fisher said Wednesday that Denson was “still in school,” but didn’t elaborate on his status with the team.) Of FSU’s best line recruits in the Trickett era, only Bobby Hart remains embedded on the depth chart.

In fact, if Denson leaves, FSU will have just two scholarship linemen to show for its recruiting efforts in 2012 and 2013 combined and, before Wednesday’s haul, had just three linemen on the current roster set to still be with the team in 2015. Fisher praised the potential of redshirt freshman Wilson Bell and redshirt junior Ruben Carter, but there’s no doubt Wednesday’s new additions were a necessary influx of bodies.

“The guys who put their hands in the dirt on the offensive line, that controls the game,” Fisher said. “You can have all the skills in the world you want but you’ve got to win those battles up front and protect. Getting great offensive linemen is critical.”

Just how great this group ends up remains to be seen. Strong bodies with weak constitutions have a tendency to crumble under Trickett’s demanding approach. But the potential for this group is obvious.

Roderick Johnson is 6-7, 330 pounds and ranked as one of ESPN’s top prospects at tackle. FSU snagged him out of Missouri as one of Wednesday’s late additions to the class.

"Big Rod is a very athletic guy -- bends tremendously well for a guy 6-7 and 330 pounds,” Fisher said. “Great length and can bend his lower body, great flexibility and very intelligent. Very smart guy. Works very hard. I think the sky is the limit for the guy.”

Corey Martinez ranked just a tick behind Johnson as an ESPN 300 member, too. It’s the first time FSU landed multiple ESPN 300 linemen in the same class since Prestwood and Hart came aboard in 2011.

At 6-9, Brock Ruble is one of the tallest recruits in the nation, while Are and Movety were both among the top junior college linemen in the country. The Seminoles also added three-star center Alec Eberle.

Replacing the five seniors projected to start in 2014 will be no small task, but the first step in the process was providing Fisher and Trickett with some building blocks. Wednesday’s recruiting haul did that, and Fisher hopes that means there won’t be another season like 2011 on the horizon.

“Those guys will get a lot of playing time this year, and we’ll develop them,” he said. “They’ll have been able to play, and they’ll all be sophomores and juniors [in 2015] and they’ll fit in.”

FSU depth chart breakdown: Offense

January, 24, 2014
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A lot has changed for Florida State in the few weeks since Jimbo Fisher hoisted that crystal trophy above his head in Pasadena, Calif. Stars have departed, several incoming freshmen have arrived and the Seminoles are already at work with an eye toward repeating in 2014.

With that in mind, we’re taking a quick run through the depth chart to see where Florida State stands in advance of spring practice. Up first, the offense.

Quarterback

Projected starter: Jameis Winston (RS-So.)
Backups: Sean Maguire (RS-So.) and John Franklin III (RS-Fr.)

[+] EnlargeWinston Sacked
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesKeeping Jameis Winston upright will be a key for Florida State, especially with Jacob Coker transferring.
Storylines: Winston plans to play baseball again this spring, which means at least some concerns about injury. Jacob Coker is transferring, leaving Maguire as Winston’s top backup. He had only limited playing time in 2013 and will need to continue to improve this spring. Franklin has great athleticism, but questions linger about whether he’ll stick at QB for the long haul.

Status: A
Returning the Heisman winner makes life easy for FSU’s offense, but Winston’s health will be watched closely.

Offensive line

Projected starters: Cameron Erving (RS-Sr.), Tre Jackson (Sr.), Austin Barron (Sr.), Josue Matias (Sr.), Bobby Hart (Sr.)
Backups: Sterling Lovelady (Sr.), Ira Denson (RS-Fr.), Ruben Carter (RS-Jr.), Wilson Bell (RS-Fr.), Ryan Hoefeld (RS-Fr.), Kareem Are (Fr.), Stephen Gabbard (Fr.)

Storylines: Barron steps in for Stork in the only noteworthy departure from the line. Barron has starting experience, and if he wins the job, FSU will have five senior starters -- meaning lofty expectations for the unit. Erving and Bell played well on the edges last year, but both could make further strides. The improvement for youngsters such as Bell, Hoefeld and Are will be crucial for both depth in 2014 and managing a massive overhaul in 2015.

Status: A
The starting lineup might be the best in the country, but developing depth for the future will be crucial this spring.

Running backs/Fullbacks

Projected starters: Karlos Williams (Sr.) and Freddie Stevenson (So.)
Backups: Mario Pender (RS-So.), Ryan Green (So.), Dalvin Cook (Fr.), Cameron Ponder (Sr.)

Storylines: Williams was a revelation in his first season as a tailback, but for all his success, 70 of his 91 carries came in late-game, blowout situations. Pender returns after sitting out two years because of injuries and academics, but he provides ample speed and a knowledge of the system. Green showed flashes of potential as a freshman but must improve his blocking and decision-making this spring. Cook could be the wild card. He’s an immense talent, and by enrolling early, he’ll have a leg up on getting touches in the fall.

Status: B
With a ton of talent, this group could easily turn this grade to an A by the end of the spring.

Wide receivers

Projected starters: Rashad Greene (Sr.), Christian Green (RS-Sr.), Kermit Whitfield (So.)
Backups: Isaiah Jones (So.), Jarred Haggins (RS-Sr.), Jesus Wilson (So.)

Storylines: FSU must replace Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, who accounted for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns between them. The current group, aside from Greene, has combined for just 34 catches, 441 yards and no touchdowns in the past two seasons. After a solid 2011 season, Green has virtually disappeared and must show he’s still capable of making an impact. Haggins returns from a knee injury and figures to be limited in spring practice, but he could provide a solid veteran influence. Whitfield is a budding star thanks to his blazing speed, but FSU will need to see marked improvement from both Jones and Wilson in order to make up for the depth this unit lost.

Status: C+
Without any established depth behind Greene, this is the one area of the offense where Florida State has a lot of work to do this spring.

Tight end

Projected starter: Nick O’Leary (Sr.)
Backups: Kevin Haplea (RS-Sr.), Giorgio Newberry (RS-Jr.), Jeremy Kerr (RS-Fr.)

Storylines: O’Leary had a breakthrough 2013, but with two of FSU’s top three receivers gone, he figures to see even more looks this year. Haplea returns from a knee injury that cost him all of 2013 and will likely take it slow entering spring practice. Newberry’s stint at tight end after moving from defensive end wasn’t entirely smooth, and he’s been vocal that he’s not enamored with staying at the position.

Status: A
O’Leary figures to be among the top tight ends in the country this season, and getting the veteran Haplea back for blocking situations adds to the unit’s depth and versatility.

Winston wows with physical play

November, 19, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The fact that quarterbacks don’t get hit in practice has never quite felt right to Jameis Winston.

Back in high school, he got a feel for when his head coach, Matt Scott, might whistle a play dead to keep his quarterback from getting pummeled. So, just before the whistle blew, Winston would turn upfield, find a defender and deliver a hit of his own.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston's diving block on Kermit Whitfield's touchdown run was the latest example of Winston's sometimes ill-advised physical play.
“It’s just his will, his competitive nature,” Scott said.

Not much has changed at Florida State. Winston dons a green non-contact jersey during practice, and Jimbo Fisher doesn’t take any risks when it comes to halting a play before a big hit, but on game days, all bets are off.

Opponents bring the blitz, and Winston laughs. He’s made a habit of shedding defenders, escaping tackles and chucking the ball downfield for a big play.

Put a defender in his face, and Winston is brilliant. For the season, he’s completing nearly 74 percent of his passes (at 13.6 yards per attempt) when being hurried or hit, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Even when he hands off the football, there’s no guarantees Winston won’t find himself in the thick of the action, with his diving block of Syracuse defensive back Julian Whigham on a 74-yard touchdown run by Kermit Whitfield the latest example of his eagerness to mix it up downfield.

“That says a lot about his character and what type of player and person he is,” running back James Wilder Jr. said. “After a handoff, a toss, you can just chill back there, hold your hands up and say ‘touchdown.’ But it shows what type of determination and team player he is, 40 yards downfield making a block.”

Fisher understands the implicit message being sent, too, so it’s tough for him to be too upset when Winston puts himself in harm’s way for the good of the team.

“You’d like to say no and you’ve got to be smart about it, but when guys know you’re in the hunt with them and you’re in the fight with them, they’ll play really hard for you,” Fisher said. “That’s why they love him, because they know he’s full-board with them.”

The on-field scuffle between tackle Bobby Hart and Miami’s Anthony Chickillo a few weeks ago wasn’t any different. When the ruckus started, Winston was quick to jump to his teammate’s defense. Again, Fisher was less than thrilled to see his quarterback mixing it up, and again, Winston knew it wasn’t the wisest decision.

Still, it’s tough to keep those emotions at bay.

“Next time it happens, I might run full speed to the sideline and be like, ‘Coach Fisher, are you going to do something about this?’” Winston joked afterward. “It’s just in us to react when something like that happens.”

Of course, Winston's instincts kick in most often is in the pocket. Even that’s become a hot-button issue for the quarterback.

In the blowout win over Syracuse last week, Winston played just the first half, but he was still sacked three times. The problem, he said, was that he wasn’t playing physical enough.

“They brought a lot of pressure,” Winston said. “And on two instances I did hold the ball too long. But I’ve got to break those tackles.”

Winston has yet to chalk up a sack to poor blocking by his offensive line, but he’s actually been pretty good at keeping the pass rush at bay this year.

Winston has been sacked 17 times this season -- once every 18 drop-backs. That’s still a better rate than last year’s quarterback, EJ Manuel, experienced, and Winston has tallied 102 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, more than 70 percent of his rushing total for the year. Overall, Winston goes down on first contact less than 40 percent of the time.

Still, all those hits don’t exactly sit well with his coach.

“You’ve got to be safe now,” Fisher said. “We have to talk about that.”

In the end though, all those talks probably won’t amount to much, and Fisher shouldn’t be entirely surprised.

The physical approach to the game is in Winston’s DNA, and that’s a big reason Fisher wanted him in the first place.

“I think it’s about the guys Jimbo recruits. They always have that edge,” running back Karlos Williams said. “Jameis is one of those guys. If it came down to it, and everything was live in practice, we’d see Jameis laying a few licks on guys.”

Freeman sparks emotional win for FSU

November, 3, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Devonta Freeman's voice is usually quiet, subdued. But when he speaks, his teammates listen.

Freeman provided a voiceover for a video Florida State watched in advance of its showdown Saturday against No. 7 Miami. He told his teammates he loved them, that he’d fight for them, that he’d carry them.

The message resonated with quarterback Jameis Winston, who pulled Freeman aside before the game to exchange an emotional embrace.

“From then,” Winston said, “I knew he was ready.”

Winston struggled early, throwing two first-half interceptions, but just as he’d suspected, Freeman picked up the slack. Freeman, a Miami native, finished with 176 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, carrying the load in Florida State’s 41-14 win against the Hurricanes.

[+] EnlargeDevonta Freeman, Giorgio Newberry, Bryan Stork
AP Photo/Steve CannonFlorida State running back Devonta Freeman (8) celebrates with tight end Giorgio Newberry (4) and offensive linesman Bryan Stork (52) after scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
It’s the second win over a top-10 team in the past three weeks for No. 3 Florida State. The two victories have come by a combined score of 92-28, but they played out in far different fashion.

Against Clemson on Oct. 19, Winston was the star, throwing for 444 yards and accounting for four touchdowns. Against Miami, however, Winston stumbled early, misfiring on a handful of first-half throws, including two deep balls down the middle that the Hurricanes picked off, then turned into points.

“I was very high emotionally and sometimes you can’t let the emotions affect the way you play,” said Winston, who admitted he was eager to complete the deep ball rather than settling for shorter routes in the early going. “I was in the game emotionally and mentally, but the emotions took over the mental part of it.”

But if the emotions rattled Winston, they fueled Freeman.

The junior tailback grew up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods, but he wasn’t heavily recruited by the Hurricanes until late in his senior season of high school. He never wavered in his commitment to Florida State, but he’s always held a grudge.

“Every time I get a chance,” Freeman said, “I want to destroy them.”

Freeman did plenty of damage Saturday.

His 5-yard touchdown run capped Florida State’s first drive. His 48-yard reception -- a dump-off pass followed by a long run -- provided the game’s biggest play, swinging momentum back in Florida State’s direction after Miami held tough early. But it was his powerful, punishing runs throughout the game that drained time off the clock and set the standard for how Florida State enforced its will against the overmatched Hurricanes.

“I wanted to let people know we’re hard-nosed,” Freeman said. “We’re coming.”

Freeman scored again late in the third quarter, effectively ending any comeback hopes for Miami. His 29 touches were a career high, and his punishing hits on Miami defenders provided a spark for his teammates.

"He's one of those guys, he's got the heart of a lion," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "We feed off him."

After each big run or physical hit, Freeman celebrated. He flashed the Miami “U” with his hands, signaled a “305” as a nod to Miami’s area code.

For Freeman, each play was personal, a message he wanted to send.

In three career games against the Hurricanes, Freeman has 343 total yards and five touchdowns.

“This game, I had more of a chip on my shoulder,” Freeman said. “Just to let everybody know, I’m from Miami -- including the kids in my neighborhood, to show them you don’t have to be in Miami to do something special. You can go anywhere and do something special and still rep your hometown. That’s kind of what it was.”

Freeman kept Florida State chugging along early, but Winston responded late.

At halftime, Winston promised his teammates he wouldn’t turn the ball over again. In the second half, he threw just two incompletions.

The turning point, however, may have been an on-field skirmish between FSU tackle Bobby Hart and Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo. Clinging to a seven-point lead midway through the third quarter, Winston completed a pass to Kenny Shaw for 26 yards to the Miami 5. On the play, FSU tackle Cameron Erving blocked Chickillo to the ground. Hart then pounced on Chickillo, who ended up underneath the Florida State lineman. Chickillo grabbed Hart’s face mask without letting go, and as officials tossed flags, the two players argued. Eventually both teams were posturing on the field before coaches intervened.

Before Florida State lined up for its next play, Winston shouted at each of his teammates, pounding his fists in the air and slapping hands with his linemen.

“That’s me telling the guys, 'It’s on,'” Winston said. “We’re not taking no prisoners. We don’t care about those guys anymore. At first, we respected them because they’re a great team with great players. But after that skirmish, it was over. All that nice stuff, all the game day and that stuff of them being compared to us, it was over. We know we had one goal, and that was to beat them bad.”

Winston proved his point. What began as a close game ended as a 27-point victory. Miami’s only points came off turnovers, and Florida State dominated at virtually every level, nearly doubling the Hurricanes’ total yardage.

It was exactly what Freeman had predicted before the game. It was, Freeman said, a message delivered.

“I told them, [the Hurricanes] aren’t like us,” Freeman said. “We’re different. We grind different.”

FSU power rankings: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
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There's no question who tops the power rankings yet again. Instead, it's really a matter of where he shows up on the Heisman watch list.

Last week's rankings in parentheses.

1. QB Jameis Winston (1): Seven more touchdowns, another acrobatic escape act turned highlight-reel TD, and another big win. Ho-hum. But how about these numbers: This season, on the final drive of the first half and first drive of the second half, Winston is 26-of-30 for 493 yards and seven touchdowns. FSU has scored on all 10 drives, including nine TDs.

2. RB Devonta Freeman (5): It has been 17 years since an FSU runner went over 1,000 yards. Freeman is currently on pace for 1,001.

[+] EnlargeTelvin Smith
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsTelvin Smith (22) and the Seminoles held Maryland to 33 rushing yards.
3. DT Timmy Jernigan (8): The big mover in this week's power rankings, he set the tone for a major turnaround on the D line, which held Maryland to just 33 yards one week after giving up 200 to Boston College.

4. WR Rashad Greene (3): There may not be another player in the country who so easily floats under the radar after putting up 108 yards on four catches.

5. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Just one tackle, but he got solid pressure on Maryland quarterbacks throughout and forced a fumble.

6. LB Telvin Smith (6): The success from the D line opened things up for Smith, who created significant chaos in the Maryland backfield. He finished with five tackles and a PBU.

7. WR Kenny Shaw (4): What's a guy have to do to get a 100-yard game? Shaw has been between 89 and 96 each time out this year.

8. S Terrence Brooks (8): No one played with more ferocity Saturday than Brooks, who has come into his own as a force in the FSU secondary.

9. DB Jalen Ramsey (7): Another strong performance from the freshman in his new role at safety. Given the concerns about Tyler Hunter's neck injury, Ramsey's presence looms large with Clemson on the horizon.

10. WR Kelvin Benjamin (10): Fisher pushed Benjamin to do the little things better this year. He has responded, as evidenced by his five-catches, 60 yards and two TDs against Maryland.

Honorable mentions: Tackles Cameron Erving and Bobby Hart, DTs Jacobbi McDaniel and Eddie Goldman, DE Chris Casher, RB Karlos Williams, K Roberto Aguayo, CB P.J. Williams.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Away from the field, it's quiet now, and that's a nice change for Bobby Hart. Not that he paid much mind to the criticism anyway, but the junior prefers the anonymity of being just another member of Florida State's offensive line over the enduring prodding from a curious fan base wondering if he'd ever live up to his potential.

On the field though, the soundtrack emanating from his position coach, Rick Trickett, is the same as it ever was. Maybe, Hart said, it's worse.

[+] EnlargeBobby Hart
AP Photo/Steve CannonFlorida State offensive tackle Bobby Hart, who was ranked No. 25 in the 2011 ESPN 300, has been solid this season.
"He's still in my ear," Hart said. "Probably more now. He doesn't want me getting complacent -- which isn't going to happen."

Hart learned his lessons. Trickett keeps preaching them anyway, and Hart's glad for it. That's the first change.

Eighteen months ago, Hart was the incumbent starter at right tackle, riding high as a 17-year-old with a bright future. The world was at his fingertips, and he acted accordingly. Trickett wasn't pleased.

"You get in that sense of entitlement, sense of fame," Hart said. "Playing as a freshman, being 17 and not knowing how to handle it."

The 2012 season unfolded the way all redemption stories must -- with a long, painful spiral toward the bottom.

Hart lost his starting job. He spent the year in Trickett's doghouse. He was told again and again that all the things he'd done to earn playing time as a freshman simply weren't good enough anymore, and that infuriated him.

"I was mad when things weren't going right," Hart said. "I was just thinking, why does everyone keep bothering me? Why is everyone on my case so much?"

The first few months weren't so much about learning lessons as they were about fighting them. The problem for Hart, of course, is that he picked a fight with the wrong person.

Trickett had no interest in coddling his young lineman. Instead, he rode Hart harder, and dangled few carrots to inspire him. Trickett wanted Hart to understand the value of the work done on Tuesdays and Wednesdays even if there was no reward on Saturdays.

That's the second change.

"A lot of things came easy to Bobby when he was younger, and now, when he works, he works," left tackle Cameron Erving said. "He wanted to feel what it felt like to actually work and earn something, and he did it. I'm proud of him."

The talent was never a question for Hart. Even at 16, he was a behemoth -- powerful and quick, but completely unrefined. He was thrown to the fire because Florida State was desperate, and Hart was special.

But it took a year of working largely in obscurity before Hart really understood that what it took to get on the field was far less than was required to succeed once he was there.

"There's been so much scrutiny over Bobby this past year-and-a-half, and he was so young," Erving said. "You take in all that criticism, and it's just like -- you've got to process it and then you've got to move on and do what you've got to do to make yourself better. He's done a tremendous job."

Hart entered this spring as the wild card on an offensive line that returned four starters. Without Hart in 2012, the unit had undergone a massive turnaround as FSU nearly doubled its rushing total from the year before. But Menelik Watson departed for the NFL at year's end, and after a season in the shadows, Hart got his second chance.

He hasn't been perfect this season, but that's beside the point. He has played as well as anyone, but when he has made mistakes, he has learned from them.

"He's responded very well and didn’t go in the tank and played the next play like we always talk about," Jimbo Fisher said. "He’s really grown up.”

Trickett still barks and curses and yells each time Hart slips in practice, but Hart's not angry.

A year ago, he viewed his early success as an excuse for why he deserved a starting job. Now, he watches that game film from 2011 and feels sick.

"It's terrible," Hart said.

Seeing how he looked before, he understands why Trickett rode him so hard, why no one at Florida State would let him settle for what he'd already accomplished. He's both embarrassed and inspired.

That's the biggest change.

"It's good to see where you were and where you are now," Hart said. "But I have a long way to go and I don't plan on stopping now."

FSU power rankings: Game 3

September, 23, 2013
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It was about as uninspiring a 54-6 win as is possible, so there wasn't a ton of movement on this week's power rankings. (Last week's position in parentheses.)

1. QB Jameis Winston (1): His first TD throw to Kelvin Benjamin was a thing of beauty, but Winston insists he'll be in trouble for it during film study. Winston, however, was looking on the bright side. "I had to at least throw a touchdown while I get yelled at in the film room," he said.

[+] EnlargeDevonta Freeman
AP Photo/Phil SearsTailback Devonta Freeman rushed for 112 yards on just 10 carries in the Seminoles' blowout win over Bethune-Cookman.
2. CB Lamarcus Joyner (3): Joyner had three tackles. Bethune-Cookman threw for just 60 yards. Easy as it gets.

3. RB Devonta Freeman (8): The big mover of the week, Freeman racked up his second straight 100-yard game. Freeman is averaging nearly 10 yards a carry so far this season, and none of his 28 rushes has gone for a loss.

4. WR Rashad Greene (2): He flubbed what would've been a long touchdown pass from Winston, but he still managed to haul in his next chance, a 19-yard score that put FSU up 40-0.

5. WR Kenny Shaw (5): Three games, 279 receiving yards. It could've been more, as Shaw chipped on on the drop-fest by FSU's receivers Saturday, but he's been incredibly reliable thus far.

6. LB Telvin Smith (6): Few regulars were on the field for the defense through much of the game, but Smith was the exception. He finished with five tackles and a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown -- FSU's first defensive score in nearly a year.

7. DT Timmy Jernigan (7): Assisted on one tackle, but aside from that, Saturday was a quiet game for Jernigan.

8. LB Christian Jones (4): The senior was suspended for Saturday's game. Terrance Smith racked up a game-high 12 tackles in his place.

9. S Terrence Brooks (9): Five more tackles for Brooks, who continues to be consistent, if under-appreciated.

10. RB Karlos Williams (NR): Perhaps it's crediting Williams too much for his work against second-string defenses from bad teams, but he turned in another stellar performance, running for 83 yards and two TDs on nine carries. Jimbo Fisher says Williams will start seeing a bigger role and earlier touches going forward.

Honorable mentions: TE Nick O'Leary, LT Cameron Erving, RT Bobby Hart, Benjamin

FSU power rankings: Game 2

September, 16, 2013
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Florida State burnished its stats in an easy win over Nevada. So how did the win shake up the power rankings? Safe to say the top spot went unchanged. (Previous week's rank in parentheses.)

1. QB Jameis Winston (1): Three incompletions? An interception? What a bum!

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene, Kenny Shaw
Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via Getty ImagesRashad Greene (left) and Kenny Shaw moved up the FSU power rankings after their performances against Nevada.
2. WR Rashad Greene (3): Just 39 yards on three catches, but his TD grab was as good as it gets.

3. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Tied for team lead with six tackles. In fact, FSU had four players with at least five tackles. Three of them were DBs.

4. LB Christian Jones (7): Five tackles and was all over the field making plays early in the game, particularly when the rest of FSU's D was struggling.

5. WR Kenny Shaw (8): Two weeks, two games of 90-plus receiving yards. Shaw scored FSU's first touchdown and racked up 147 all-purpose yards.

6. LB Telvin Smith (4): Four tackles and a strong day after a few hiccups on Nevada's opening drive.

7. DT Timmy Jernigan (5): Relatively quiet day with just three tackles. He had a fourth, but it came without his helmet and led to a 15-yard penalty.

8. RB Devonta Freeman (10): Karlos Williams was all the buzz after the game, but it was Freeman who starred early. He finished with 109 yards, a TD and a 60-yard scamper.

9. S Terrence Brooks (9): Tied for the team lead with six tackles, 10 tackles and an INT through the first two games.

10. TE Nick O'Leary (6): Just two catches for 16 yards. They can't all be three-TD games.

Honorable mention: Williams, RT Bobby Hart, CB Jalen Ramsey, S Tyler Hunter

Week 3 helmet stickers

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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Florida State toppled Nevada 62-7, but spread the wealth on both sides of the ball. All eight touchdowns were scored by a different player, and no member of the defense had more than six tackles. Still, we managed to piece together some of the game's top performers for the Seminoles …

QB Jameis Winston: All the excitement leading up to Winston's home debut really did get to him. He said he came out too amped up, and it showed. He took a risk downfield early in the second quarter, throwing his first career INT in the process. Afterward, Jimbo Fisher calmed him down and told him to learn from the mistake. Winston listened, completing his final 13 passes and leading six straight touchdown drives. He's now recorded eight touchdowns (six passing) and thrown just five incomplete passes this season.

RB Karlos Williams: So what if the safety-turned-tailback had just eight practices to work at his new position. His first carry of his career still went for a 65-yard touchdown, he still managed to carry 10 Nevada defenders on a first-down run, and he still finished the game with 110 yards on just eight carries. Not a bad start for Williams, who helped anchor a rushing attack that racked up 377 yards and saw six different players score touchdowns.

Linemen Bobby Hart and Ruben Carter: A year ago, if the right side of Florida State's line featured Carter and Hart as starters, it would've been time to panic. This year, the duo held up quite well. FSU allowed just one sack -- to left end Lenny Jones -- and ran the football down Nevada's throat. Carter and Hart helped lead the charge. Hart has shown he's progressed nicely in FSU's first two games after spending all of 2012 in line coach Rick Trickett's doghouse, and Carter filled in for Tre' Jackson, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and looked like an old pro.

Hat tips to: Devonta Freeman racked up 109 yards on nine carries and scored; Kenny Shaw had 147 all-purpose yards and caught Winston's first touchdown reception; Tyler Hunter recorded FSU's lone takeaway; Jacobbi McDaniel recorded his first tackle for loss in nearly two years; Jalen Ramsey got his second straight start and helped snuff out a crucial fake field-goal try by Nevada.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The conventional wisdom a year ago was that Florida State had everything it would take to win a championship except for a decent offensive line. The refrain was repeated again and again among fans and media: If the line doesn't screw it up, the Seminoles should be pretty good.

The mantra was repeated so often, in fact, that line coach Rick Trickett adopted it as the unit's rallying cry. Before each game, Trickett would gather his troops and remind them where they stood.

"He'd come up and be like, 'What are we not going to do?'" guard Tre' Jackson said. "And we'd be like, 'We're not going to mess it up.' We used it as motivation."

Bryan Stork
Sean Meyers/Icon SMIBryan Stork returns to anchor Florida State's line.
The motivation worked, and not only did the line avoid catastrophe, it developed into one of the more productive units in the country.

After a dismal 2011 campaign in which Florida State ranked 105th in the nation in rushing and 110th in sacks allowed, the unit blossomed with new personnel, cutting its sack total nearly in half and opening up running lanes to the tune of 5.62 yards per rush -- the fourth-best mark in the country.

Now, just a year after being labeled the black sheep of the position groups, Florida State's offensive line is a strength.

"That's as good a group as we've had," Jimbo Fisher said. "I've been around a long time, and that's a very good group up front."

It's essentially the same group that worked together throughout the 2012 season, save the right tackle spot, where junior Bobby Hart steps in to replace the departed Menelik Watson.

When that group took the field against Murray State for FSU's opener last season, the starters had just 16 career starts between them -- 14 of which belonged to center Bryan Stork. With Hart, who started nine games as a freshman in 2011, this season's starting five will open the year with 80 starts under their belt. Overall, the FSU depth chart at offensive line has more career starts than all but nine other teams in the country.

Perhaps the most surprising part about the progress made by the line is that, of the five projected starters, Hart is the only member who was highly recruited out of high school. Jackson and Stork were both three-star recruits. Left tackle Cameron Erving was a two-star player who was offered late by FSU and ignored by virtually everyone else. Now, all three -- along with guard Josue Matias -- are working their way up NFL draft boards.

"I think our starting five, athletically and ability-wise, yes, we're probably the most talented we've been since we've been here," Trickett said.

A few injuries have thinned the ranks, but Trickett said he's narrowing in on a depth chart with eight reliable options on the line, and the starting group looks to be firmly established after Hart's strong spring.

Still, there are some concerns.

Florida State ran for a whopping 2,882 yards last season, but critics are quick to point out that the bulk of that total came against severely overmatched opponents. Florida State's offensive line averages 317 pounds, and manhandling undersized defenders was easy. Against more formidable defenses, however, the yards were tougher to find.

In the eight games FSU played against teams with run defenses ranked 60th or worse nationally, the Seminoles averaged 6.5 yards per carry and scored 31 rushing touchdowns. In their other six games against better run defenses -- NC State, USF, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida and Northern Illinois -- that average dropped to just 4.3 yards per rush and the Seminoles scored just nine times on the ground.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, in the six games against better defensive fronts, FSU had 64 rushes that resulted in no gain or lost yardage. In the other eight games, it had just 50.

Set aside mid-major Northern Illinois and exclude a 22-yard scamper by EJ Manuel on FSU's final play against Florida, and the Seminoles averaged just 1.6 yards before contact against the five best run defenses they faced last season. Against everyone else, that number jumps to 3.6 yards before contact.

None of those numbers are particularly damning, but they serve as a reminder that there's still something for the unit to prove.

"We have the potential to be one of the best O-lines in the country," Stork said, "but that's only going to happen if we put the team on our backs and get yards for our running backs."

Running the ball will be a top priority with a new quarterback taking the snaps, and Jackson said coaches have made it a point of emphasis to run early and often. But protecting a first-year starting quarterback will be key, too, and that's where losing Watson might hurt. In the 10 quarters Florida State played without him last season it allowed 10 sacks. The Seminoles gave up just 16 sacks the rest of the season.

But Hart's emergence this spring after a year in Trickett's doghouse has been one of the bright spots for FSU, and even the irascible line coach is pleased with the results.

"[Hart] still has a tendency to do some things his way technique-wise ... but he's progressed a great deal from last year," Trickett said.

Watson went from a juco transfer with virtually no experience to a top NFL draft pick in just nine months at Florida State, but he wasn't alone in his rapid ascent throughout the 2012 season.

A year ago, even the optimists among Florida State's fanbase recognized the weakness. Now, the offensive line is leading the charge. But if expectations have changed markedly, the mindset of the group hasn't.

"We still get motivated the same way," Matias said. "Last year, we were the group that was supposed to mess it up. That was our motivation. This year's the same. We're going to have the spotlight on us the first time we make a mistake, so we're trying to do the same thing."
Kelvin BenjaminAP Photo/Phil SearsJunior wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has shown flashes of potential in his two seasons at Florida State, but the Seminoles need him to truly break out this season.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State is finally set to open fall camp today, and while the enthusiasm surrounding new faces on the coaching staff and the roster has been high, there are some big question marks remaining before Jimbo Fisher's crew takes the field at Pittsburgh on Sept. 2.

Here's a quick look at the biggest storylines to watch during the next few weeks.

Can anything keep Jameis Winston off the field?

While most Seminoles fans have anointed Winston the next big thing, Jimbo Fisher still hasn't officially handed him the starting job. Instead, Fisher said he expects Jacob Coker -- fully healed from a broken foot that hampered him this spring -- to push Winston for reps. Regardless, Fisher raved that both quarterbacks have handled the offseason work -- and the immense hype -- well.

Has progress been made on defense?

The Seminoles got a four-week crash course this spring on the scheme being implanted by new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, but that still left plenty of questions. It's a complex attack, and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said FSU's defense -- which ranked among the top three in the nation in each of the past two seasons -- is still learning. The first few days of fall camp should provide some insight as to how far along they are in that process and how many of the incoming freshmen have proven to be quick studies.

Who's playing tight end?

Since the 2012 season ended, Florida State has lost its tight ends coach (James Coley) and three players (Kevin Haplea, Christo Kourtzidis and Will Tye), while the incumbent starter (Nick O'Leary) survived a horrific motorcycle accident. Needless to say, the position will be in flux this fall. Fisher said he plans to shuffle some players around, potentially giving one or more of his defensive ends a crack at playing tight end, to provide some depth.

Are some key third-year players ready to step up?

A lot might be riding on the likes of Kelvin Benjamin, Bobby Hart and Karlos Williams this season. All three members of the 2011 signing class will be stepping into bigger roles this season, and all three have ample talent to get the job done. Still, question marks surround all of them. Fisher specifically praised Benjamin's progress this offseason, but all three will have a spotlight on them as camp begins.

How will playing time be split in the secondary?

Joyner is perhaps Florida State's best defender, but his move from safety to corner this offseason certainly created some waves. He said he hopes to be on the field for nearly every snap this season, but that would cut into playing time for a slew of other talented DBs, including Ronald Darby, Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter -- all three of whom missed spring practice with injuries.

Is four weeks enough time to prep for ACC play?

The clock is ticking from Day 1 for Florida State this season. Unlike recent seasons, there's no cupcake game against an FCS opponent to kick off the year. Instead, Florida State opens against ACC foe Pittsburgh -- on the road, in prime time on national TV -- meaning there won't be much time for refresher courses early on. FSU needs to hit the ground running to ensure its clicking on all cylinders when the season begins. Luckily for Fisher, he'll finally have the luxury of a new indoor practice facility to ensure the weather doesn't wreak havoc with the schedule for a change.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State had 10 players finish in the top four at their position in preseason All-ACC balloting, which should underscore the significant amount of talent Jimbo Fisher is bringing back for the 2013 season. But while Lamarcus Joyner, Timmy Jernigan and Christian Jones provide a strong foundation, and Karlos Williams, Mario Edwards Jr. and Jameis Winston offer ample potential for the future, the most interesting portion of the Seminoles' roster might be the players in the middle -- established veterans whose potential still far outweighs their production.

As FSU gets set to open fall camp next week, we're looking at five players approaching a make-or-break season. Another marginal year could mean they're labeled career disappointments, while big seasons could push the Seminoles to a second straight conference championship.

Nick O'Leary (Jr./TE)

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
Elsa/Getty ImagesNick O'Leary has considerable talent, but mental mistakes have held the junior back.
O'Leary arrived as perhaps the best tight end prospect ever to attend Florida State, but his first two years have been rather pedestrian -- 33 catches, 416 yards, three touchdowns and a handful of bone-headed miscues. With backup Kevin Haplea done for the year with an ACL injury and Christo Koutzidis' decision to transfer, there's no margin for error for O'Leary in his junior season. He'll be a crucial part of both the running game as a blocker and a valuable asset for a new quarterback as a safety valve in the passing game.

Giorgio Newberry (RS So./DE)

At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds with good athleticism and mobility, Newberry is a physical beast that has tantalized coaches and fans for two full years. What he hasn't done is provide much actual impact on the field. He opened last season as part of FSU's rotation at defensive end, but even after two starters succumbed to season-ending injuries, his playing time remained limited. He showed some flashes of improvement this spring, but still appears to be behind Dan Hicks on the depth chart.

Kelvin Benjamin (RSSo./WR)

Perhaps no player on Florida State's roster has enjoyed as much hype and excitement as Benjamin through the past two seasons. He's been a practice-field star, making acrobatic catches and using his sizable frame to push defenders around downfield. The problem, Fisher said, is that Benjamin has worried too much about making those same highlight-reel plays on game day rather than focus on doing the little things right. Coaches and teammates have assured Benjamin is making strides this offseason, and that could be crucial for a receiving corps in need of a viable No. 3 option with senior Greg Dent suspended indefinitely.

Bobby Hart (Jr./RT)

Hart's mental lapses have been well documented, and he spent virtually all of 2012 in line coach Rick Trickett's dog house. That trend might have continued into 2013 had Menelik Watson not bolted for the NFL, but as it stands, Hart appears the heir apparent at right tackle -- for better or worse. He showed good signs of improved play and, perhaps as important, improved maturity this spring. If he can live up to his recruiting pedigree as a junior, Florida State could have one of the top lines in the country.

Terrance Smith (RS So./LB)

Florida State appears in good shape at the top of the linebacker depth chart, with Jones and Telvin Smith both among the ACC's best. Beyond the two seniors, however, there's virtually no experienced depth. That's where Terrance Smith steps in. He's entering his third season on defense and has played in 15 games already -- though largely on special teams. He spent the spring working with the first-team defense on the strong side, and while he might not be the most talented of the young linebackers, he's the oldest and can help set the tone for the rest of the group.
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

Next up: No. 14 Bryan Stork

Bryan Stork
Sean Meyers/Icon SMIBryan Stork's versatility on the offensive line is invaluable to Florida State.
Position/Class: Center/Senior

What he's done: A tight end in high school, Stork has developed into Florida State's most versatile and consistent offensive lineman during his four seasons in Tallahassee. He's started games in each of the past three years and is now FSU's most veteran lineman, with 35 games and 27 starts under his belt. Over the years, he's worked at center, guard and tackle, and last season he made 13 starts at center -- anchoring a line that entered the season with just two career starts among the four other regulars.

Where he's at: Not much has changed for Stork. He's still pencilled in as the starting center, but Jimbo Fisher has continued to make noise that Stork could slide to right tackle if Bobby Hart doesn't develop as hoped. During spring practice, Stork worked at both positions, while continuing to mentor both Hart and junior Austin Barron. After two rebuilding years on the line, the group is now firmly established -- the 96 career starts between them ranks 10th in the nation for 2013 -- but Stork is still the unquestioned leader. His role, both as the senior leader and the versatile blocker, makes him an invaluable part of the puzzle.

What's to come: It's almost impossible to overstate the significance of Stork's experience a season ago. The group entered the season as a work in progress and finished it as one of the more successful units in the nation, with FSU racking up its third-highest rushing yards in program history and keeping QB EJ Manuel healthy for the entire year. As the line has grown up around him, however, Stork's job shifts somewhat. This season will be less about bringing the rest of the group along and more about ensuring the line takes the next step -- going from successful to dominant. If that happens, Stork should receive a good bit of credit, and along with it, some serious consideration as one of the top centers in next year's NFL draft class.
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

Next up: No. 18 Tre' Jackson

Position/Class: OG/Jr.

What he's done: Part of Florida State's much-needed youth movement at the close of 2011, Jackson and fellow freshman guard Josue Matias got their first career starts in a win over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. The momentum carried over into 2012, where Jackson and Matias became fixtures on the O line, starting all 14 games. Jackson's season grade of 84.7 percent was the second-best among FSU's offensive linemen last season, and he topped the list in six different games, according to FSU's Web site.

Where he's at: Like Matias, Jackson's role is solidified, and short of a serious injury, he'll be Florida State's starting right guard for the second straight season. The bigger question at this point is whether he'll be ready to take the next step from solid performer to potential All-ACC lineman, particularly given the relatively significant question mark with Bobby Hart stepping in alongside Jackson at right tackle.

What's to come: The success FSU enjoyed on the ground last season (third most rushing yards in school history) was due in large part to the progress made by Matias and Jackson, but this season presents a new challenge. Former right tackle Menelik Watson missed 10 quarters of action last season, and when he was out, FSU's pass protection fell apart. With Watson now gone and the enigmatic Hart taking over, major questions linger about how well the right side of the line is prepared to protect freshman QB Jameis Winston. But if 2012 was still a learning experience for Jackson, this season, he'll be the established veteran. As much as it is incumbent upon him to progress in his own production, he'll be leaned on to help mentor and motivate Hart, too.

FSU Countdown: RT Bobby Hart

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Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

Next up: No. 21 Bobby Hart

Position/Class: RT/Junior

[+] EnlargeHart
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesBobby Hart, FSU's starting right tackle in 2011, looks to reclaim his starting spot in 2013.
What he's done: Hart arrived on campus at FSU when he was just 16 years old, and his rise up the depth chart happened almost overnight. During the Seminoles' disastrous 2011 campaign in which numerous linemen went down with injuries and numerous others struggled in all phases of the game, Hart landed a full-time job at right tackle, starting the final eight games of the season there. It seemed the start of a long, successful career, but by the following spring, Hart had run afoul of line coach Rick Trickett and was promptly benched. Hart's lack of progress, questionable work ethic and problematic relationship with Trickett pushed him into a role with the second-team offense. When transfer Menelik Watson arrived for fall camp, the chances of Hart recovering his job evaporated. He spent the entirety of the 2012 season watching from the bench.

Where he's at: If Watson's arrival signaled an end to playing time for Hart, his departure opened the door to a second chance. When Watson left early for the NFL draft, Hart immediately was thrust back into the starting lineup, but this time, he insists he's learned his lessons. Throughout spring practice, that certainly appeared to be the case. While Jimbo Fisher made noise about shifting Bryan Stork out to the edge rather than handing the starting job to Hart, the now 18-year-old junior didn't flinch. He performed well throughout the spring, and he's still hanging on to his spot on the depth chart as FSU preps for fall camp.

What's to come: There may be no player on FSU's roster as hard to project as Hart. Clearly, his talent is immense. The question has always been maturity, and while he handled himself well during the spring, the real concerns begin now that he appears to be safety atop the depth chart once again. If he backslides, it could be disastrous for FSU's line, which lacks much depth. If he surges forward, it could help make the Seminoles line one of the best in the country. Odds are the real results will be somewhere in between, and matching the production Watson' provided a year ago will be no easy task. But if Hart can simply maintain a consistent mental approach, he should improve as the season goes along.

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