Florida State Seminoles: Dustin Hopkins

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. 29 Roberto Aguayo

Position/Class: K/Redshirt freshman

What he's done: Two things were clear at the start of 2012: Roberto Aguayo had the leg to be an exceptional college kicker, but unless Dustin Hopkins got hurt, he wouldn't get a chance to showcase it in a game. True to form, Aguayo spent his first year at Florida State on the sideline, but it wasn't a fruitless endeavor. He studied under Hopkins, the most prolific kicker in college football history, and got a feel for the game-day atmosphere, both at home and on the road. It was a one-year apprenticeship Aguayo hopes will serve him well now that he's atop the depth chart.

Where he's at: The spotlight is completely on Aguayo now that Hopkins has moved on to the NFL, and he insists he's ready. There's no comparison to getting off a kick in a real game, but Aguayo believes the time he spent working with Hopkins last year has prepared him for what's in store. If the spring is any indication, he's right. Jimbo Fisher raved about how well Aguayo kicked throughout spring practice, and while the redshirt freshman botched his first attempt in the Garnet and Gold game, he followed that by drilling his next five in a row, including an impressive 58-yarder as time expired.

What's to come: Aguayo's biggest problem may end up being the comparisons to Hopkins, who was immensely productive and consistent throughout his FSU career. It's a high bar to exceed, in spite of Aguayo's obvious talent. But it's also worth mentioning that even Hopkins wasn't a star from Day 1. As a freshman, Hopkins connected on just 70 percent of his field-goal attempts -- but those numbers ticked up markedly each subsequent year. That's the path Aguayo should look to follow. The pressure is on, but no one should expect perfection (or Hopkins' 83.3 percent success rate from 2012) this season. If Agayo can nail a few big kicks and build confidence as he goes, he has a bright future.
This week, NoleNation is digging into the most hotly debated topics of the summer at Florida State in an effort to separate fact from fiction as the Seminoles get set for the 2013 season.

Next up: Special teams.

Fact or Fiction: With Dustin Hopkins gone, Florida State can expect to regress on special teams in 2013.

The case for: It's not that a kicker makes or breaks a special teams unit, but if any program understands the significance of the position, it's Florida State -- a school with several seasons defined by kicks, both made and missed.

[+] EnlargeDustin Hopkins
AP Photo/Phil SearsIt would be tough for any kicker to replace Dustin Hopkins at Florida State.
Replacing Hopkins is a nearly impossible task. The four-year starter left FSU as the most prolific kicker in NCAA history, rewriting the record book for the school, the conference and the nation. And Hopkins' senior season was no doubt his finest. Only six kickers in the country with at least 20 tries connected on a higher percentage of field-goal attempts than Hopkins (83.3 percent), and he made the sixth-most attempts as well (30). His 25 made field goals were the second-most in the country.

Stepping into the role will be freshman Roberto Aguayo, who certainly has an impressive enough leg -- he drilled three kicks of longer than 50 yards in the spring game -- but no experience. And even Hopkins wasn't a star as a freshman, converting 70 percent of his tries. The pressure will be high for Aguayo, and that's hardly an ideal situation for a freshman.

Beyond the kicking game, last year's special teams units set an awfully high standard. FSU ranked 16th nationally in kick return average (24.65 yards) and led the nation in total punt return yards (536). The Seminoles were one of just five teams with three punt-return TDs, and their coverage unit allowed the seventh-fewest returned punts in the country.

The case against: From Hopkins' big season to big returns by Lamarcus Joyner or Rashad Greene to the strong coverage units all around, it's easy to applaud the work of FSU's special teams in 2012. But for all the success, there were some glaring failures, too.

Freshman punter Cason Beatty struggled mightily at times, and FSU finished with the 11th-worst net punting average of any team in the country. Worse yet, two of Beatty's kicks were blocked, including a disastrous boot late in the game against NC State that directly contributed to an FSU loss. Beatty showed progress late in the season, however, and it stands to reason that he'll improve dramatically in Year 2. Simply moving to the middle of the pack in the ACC would be a vast improvement.

Those impressive returns in 2012 were nearly offset by some ugly plays, too, including three special-teams turnovers that led to a yearlong carousel of punt returners. Greene lost his job, replaced by Tyler Hunter, who flubbed the gig and was replaced by Kenny Shaw. Add in an astonishing 18 special-teams penalties last season and there were simply too many mental miscues that should be easily corrected in 2013.

Perhaps the best reason for optimism this year, however, is the sheer quantity of talent. All of last year's top return men are back, and speedy freshman Levonte Whitfield will be added to the mix. New special teams coordinator Charles Kelly has top athletes playing on the return and coverage units. After a year of mental breakdowns, special teams will be a focus across the board.

Verdict: Fact

Really, the success and failure of FSU's special teams in 2013 might be a matter of perspective. There's a strong chance that, on the whole, the unit will be more consistent than it was a year ago, with better performances from Beatty and fewer costly mental breakdowns.

But the story of last year's special teams group wasn't about the handful of flubs but the numerous highlights, and FSU will be hard pressed to repeat that success. Hopkins was as reliable as anyone in the country -- he connected on 21 of 22 kicks at one point -- and his ability to successfully kickoff directionally, rather than simply boot touchbacks, was a distinct advantage for FSU.

In the end, the drop-off in production probably won't be overwhelming, but there's little chance the Seminoles will go the whole season without missing Hopkins in one or two crucial moments. Given that the offense will be trotting out a freshman quarterback as well, odds are those special teams plays will loom even larger than they did in 2012.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's Rankings Week at NoleNation, and each day we'll be counting down the top teams, players and matchups of the 2013 season. Next up, a look at FSU's top 10 freshmen likely to make a major impact.

1. QB Jameis Winston: No surprise here, but Winston could end up being the single most significant piece to FSU's puzzle in 2013.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsQB Jameis Winston could be the significant piece to FSU's puzzle in 2013.
While he still hasn't officially won the job of starting quarterback, that seems a foregone conclusion at this point. The bigger question is how he'll handle the role. His first test won't be easy -- a road date at Pitt -- but he'll have some time to get his feet wet before the Miami and Clemson games that are likely to dictate the Seminoles' place in the ACC race. Will Winston be the potential Heisman candidate so many have predicted, or will he go through the typical freshman struggles? Time will tell, but Florida State has a lot riding on the hope that he'll pick things up quickly.
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.

No. 8: K Roberto Aguayo

[+] EnlargeRoberto Aguayo
Courtesy of Brandon Mellor/Seminoles.comFlorida State kicker Roberto Aguayo spent the 2012 season as the apprentice to Dustin Hopkins.
2012 performance: Aguayo's first season in Tallahassee proved to be an ideal scenario. Originally set to grayshirt, a late scholarship opened and Jimbo Fisher was happy to hand it to his kicker of the future. Aguayo spent the season watching and learning from Dustin Hopkins, getting a feel for the demands of the job from one of the best to put on a Seminoles uniform.

Pressure point: For kickers, the pressure is always on, but Hopkins spent four years at FSU doing the job as if he hadn't a care in the world. That consistency set a high bar, including the NCAA scoring mark for kickers, and Aguayo has some big shoes to fill. Hopkins didn't bother trying to temper expectations of Aguayo, either. Hopkins, drafted by the Buffalo Bills, has already predicted Aguayo would break many of his records over the next four years.

If he succeeds: Aguayo will be well on his way toward toppling some of those records Hopkins set along the way, and Florida State fans can relax and enjoy the fact that the kicker spot is set for another four seasons. Aguayo showed plenty of leg in the spring game, including drilling a 58-yarder as time expired, and if he can gain Fisher's trust early, he could be a major weapon for a team that might struggle to find its offensive footing with a new quarterback.

If he fails: There is no Plan B. Aguayo was tabbed as the successor to one of the nation's top kickers from Day 1, and that comes with its own set of pressures. And in a season in which the margin for error for the Seminoles figures to be far less than it was a year ago, it's hard to believe there won't be at least one game that comes down to a big kick. While Aguayo talks a good game about embracing the role, there's a big difference between watching from the sidelines and drilling a big kick in a key moment. And, of course, FSU fans probably understand that distinction better than anyone.

Projection: The future appears bright for Aguayo, who certainly has the leg for the job and appears to have the confidence to go with it. Still, it's worth remembering that even Hopkins wasn't a star from Day 1. As a freshman, he connected on just 70 percent of his field goals (and just 8 of 14 longer than 40 yards), and along the way he missed a few big ones. It would be surprising if Aguayo completely fell apart under the pressure this year, and topping Hopkins' freshman-year performance seems an appropriate standard, but the biggest tests won't come until he's faced some adversity and is forced to rebound. Projecting how a kicker responds to that is tough to do.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 7-1
Returning starters: Offense 6, Defense 5, Kicker/Punter 1

Top returners

WR Rashad Greene, LT Cameron Erving, C Bryan Stork, LB Christian Jones, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner, DT Timmy Jernigan

Key losses

QB EJ Manuel, RT Menelik Watson, RB Chris Thompson, DE Bjoern Werner, DE Cornellius Carradine, CB Xavier Rhodes, K Dustin Hopkins

2012 statistical leaders (*returning)

Rushing: Chris Thompson (687 yards)
Passing: EJ Manuel (3,392 yards)
Receiving: Rashad Greene* (741 yards)
Tackles: Christian Jones* (95)
Sacks: Bjoern Werner (13)
Interceptions: Xavier Rhodes, Tyler Hunter* (3)

Spring answers:

1. Changes on D: New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brought a slew of new schemes with him from Alabama, meaning the FSU defense won't look all that much like the one that finished second in the nation in 2012. With the loss of five former starters from the defensive line, that's probably a good thing. Pruitt's scheme will be more aggressive and bring a lot more blitzes, allowing FSU to get pressure from other areas.

2. Beating Hart: When right tackle Menelik Watson made the somewhat surprising decision to leave FSU after just a year to enter the NFL draft, all eyes turned to junior Bobby Hart, whose turbulent career with the Seminoles was already well documented. Hart started as a 17-year-old freshman in 2011, but problems with his work ethic derailed his sophomore season and he found himself on the bench. He appeared to work his way back into line coach Rick Trickett's good graces by the end of the spring, however, and he'll be crucial to maintaining the continuity of the line without Watson.

3. Famous Jameis: Jimbo Fisher still isn't calling the contest over, but it certainly looks like redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is in the driver's seat to take over for Manuel as FSU's new starting quarterback. Winston shined throughout the spring and delivered a monster performance in the Seminoles' Garnet and Gold game, completing 13 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. A week later, junior QB Clint Trickett announced he was transferring.

Fall questions:

1. Winston, Part II: Yes, the spring was impressive for Winston, but as Fisher was quick to point out, he'll need to pick up right where he left off in the fall if FSU is going to make a smooth transition at a position that's been remarkably stable for the past five years. Jacob Coker remains in competition -- and he should be fully healed after breaking a bone in his foot that limited this spring -- but the loss of Trickett puts a lot of pressure on Winston to step up, particularly with a daunting road contest at new ACC member Pittsburgh looming in the season opener.

2. New-look secondary: Lamarcus Joyner appeared to make a relatively smooth transition from safety to corner, but FSU didn't get much of a look at what will constitute the secondary in 2013. Key players such as Tyler Hunter, Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby were all hurt, while promising freshman Jalen Ramsey had yet to arrive. The group will finally all work together during fall camp.

3. Just for kicks: Redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo showed off his powerful leg during FSU's spring game, connecting on three long field goals, including a 58-yarder to close out the game. Still, replacing the NCAA's all-time leading scorer among kickers won't be an easy task. Dustin Hopkins was as reliable as it gets for FSU, and Aguayo still needs to show he can handle the pressure of making a big kick with the game on the line.

Looking back at the 2013 draft class 

April, 29, 2013
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Florida State registered a nation-leading 11 NFL draft picks over the extended weekend. NoleNation takes a look back at how they were scouted coming out of high school.

QB EJ Manuel
Selected by: Buffalo Bills, No. 16 overall

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There weren't many mock drafts that pegged EJ Manuel as the top quarterback available, but Jimbo Fisher had a hunch his guy would impress a few teams.

Manuel's athleticism made him a popular prospect for teams looking to exploit the option offense, and his strong arm and experience in Fisher's pro-style scheme made him a viable option in more traditional sets. In the end, that was enough to convince the Buffalo Bills to take Manuel with the 16th overall selection in Thursday's NFL draft -- the first quarterback taken.

"You think about the journey, when I was a little kid, the ups and down," Manuel said after the selection. "I'm just so happy."

[+] EnlargeE.J. Manuel
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Bills selected Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel with the 16th pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Manuel's emotions were held in check throughout a rocky 2012 season in which he led Florida State to its first ACC championship in seven years. Throughout the season, Manuel's mother was battling breast cancer, missing several of his games late in the season, but she was on hand Thursday in New York as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name.

"I knew she was doing what she had to do to get better," Manuel said before the draft. "Football is a special part of my life, but having my mom for a lot longer, that's what's really important to me. I'm just happy she'll be there."

Manuel's surprising early selection is another boon for Fisher, too, who has become a guru for creating NFL quarterbacks. Manuel's predecessor, Christian Ponder, went 12th overall in the 2011 draft, and former protege at LSU, JaMarcus Russell, was a top overall selection in 2007.

"I'm extremely happy for EJ," Fisher said in a statement released by the school. “He’s a tremendous young man who has been a great representative of Florida State University. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this goal. He’s one of the main reasons that this program has been able to get back to national prominence because of the sacrifices he’s made through his career as well as his development as a player. I’m extremely happy for him and his family. This couldn’t have happen to a better group of people.”

Florida State's return to national prominence was on display throughout the first round of Thursday's draft, even after Manuel was selected.

Defensive tackle Bjoern Werner went 25th overall to the Indianapolis Colts, while the Minnesota Vikings took cornerback Xavier Rhodes with the 26th pick. Both players were juniors who departed FSU a year early.

Werner was pegged as a potential top-five selection late in the season after leading the ACC with 13 sacks, but his stock dipped slightly following an underwhelming performance at the combine.

Rhodes, who came to FSU as a wide receiver before Fisher convinced him to switch to cornerback, might have been a first-round pick a year ago had a bowl-game injury not derailed his plans. He returned for 2012 and helped Florida State's secondary to a No. 1 ranking in the nation in pass defense.

"We were laughing about the day when he didn't want to move over to corner," Fisher said. "He was mad at me for a couple of months. But it's funny how you go back and reminisce when things work out like that."

The three first-round selections were the most for Florida State since 2006, when four Seminoles were taken. They had just three first rounders in the six drafts since.

FSU figures to have at least two more players go in tonight's second round. Right tackle Menelik Watson and defensive end Cornelius Carradine are widely projected as early second-round talent.

As many as a half-dozen more Florida State players could fill out the later rounds of the draft, including fullback Lonnie Pryor, linebacker Vince Williams, kicker Dustin Hopkins and defensive end Brandon Jenkins.

That would mark a massive shift in Florida State's NFL prospects after a dry spell in recent years. FSU has had just 11 players selected in all in the last four drafts prior to this year.

"Hopefully we can do that every year as we establish ourselves as a program," Fisher said. "We've revamped the type of recruiting we're doing and identified certain types of athletes we thought were difference makers and great kids. We've come a long way."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's tough to say with any level of certainty just how many sacks Florida State's defense would have recorded if Saturday's spring game was played under true game conditions, but even if the quarterbacks couldn't get hit, Jeremy Pruitt's new-look defense had a strong showing.

[+] EnlargePj Williams
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsP.J. Williams intercepted Jacob Coker on Saturday, returning the pick for a touchdown.
Overall, the two teams recorded nine sacks in Saturday's scrimmage, led by defensive tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample's 3.5, which would've been impressive under any circumstances. But as Jimbo Fisher pointed out after the game, those numbers came from a relatively vanilla scheme.

"You ain't seen blitzes yet," Fisher said with a grin.

In his first year as Florida State's defensive coordinator, Pruitt has installed an aggressive style that promises to offer a myriad of looks designed to get after the quarterback.

Saturday's spring game wasn't exactly a sneak peak, however, with a number of key defensive starters out with injuries and only a watered-down version of Pruitt's game plan implemented. But the past four weeks have been eye-opening, linebacker Christian Jones said, and there's ample reason for excitement.

"This spring, we pretty much put in the whole playbook, and we just ran a little sample of it," Jones said. "We've done a pretty good job of picking it all up, but it's a lot of stuff, a lot of checks, change the fronts, but we've done a good job of handling all that. Once we get into the fall and can game plan, I think we're going to have a real scary defense."

It wasn't all smooth sailing for the defense Saturday, as all four of Florida State's quarterbacks managed at least one touchdown pass, but there was plenty of room for optimism. Lamarcus Brutus and Karlos Williams both intercepted passes, and P.J. Williams came up with a pick of a Jacob Coker throw that he returned for a touchdown.

"I thought the defense played well," Fisher said. "I'm very pleased with the way they're playing."

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For all the buzz about new schemes and aggressive tweaks to the defense, odds are Saturday's Garnet and Gold game will feature a relatively vanilla approach as Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt winds down the spring.

The quarterback battle has been the hottest topic in years among Florida State fans, but coach Jimbo Fisher has yet to draw any lines of demarcation on the depth chart, and he insists the four men vying for the job will again rotate reps Saturday.

Kelvin Benjamin
Melina Vastola/US PresswireKelvin Benjamin could be the player to produce the big plays in Saturday's Garnet and Gold game.
And after four weeks of intensity, the battle scars are showing. As many as a dozen key members of the 2013 Seminoles team won't be available for the spring game due to injuries.

So, what's there to be excited about as Florida State's spring practice comes to a somewhat anticlimactic conclusion? Actually, there's still plenty worth watching, even if some of the biggest curiosities will remain just that until fall camp begins in August. Here's a rundown of some of the most noteworthy items of intrigue on display Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

The QBs, of course

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There was no chance Roberto Aguayo would see action. Two months earlier, he wasn't even expecting a scholarship. This was simply a dry run, a small sample of what the life of a kicker might someday be like.

[+] EnlargeRoberto Aguayo
Courtesy of Brandon Mellor/Seminoles.comRoberto Aguayo didn't see any action last season, but was one of the top-ranked kickers in his recruiting class.
And yet, when Aguayo stepped through the tunnel last September and onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for warm-ups before Florida State's opener, the gravity of the proceedings overwhelmed him.

"My stomach -- butterflies just hit it," Aguayo said.

Eventually the nerves subsided, and while Aguayo made it through the game -- and then the season -- without ever lining up for a kick, the experience meant something.

For a team and a fan base that enjoyed the calm consistency of college football's most prolific kicker during the past four years, Aguayo is something new -- and that can be a frightening prospect. But for him, the experience already feels routine, and routine is a kicker's best friend.

"I feel confident," said Aguayo, who was set to greyshirt in 2012 before a scholarship opened up at the last minute. "I don't like to pressure myself. Right now I'm focused on school, spring ball is going well, and I'm taking it step by step."

Kicking has always come naturally to Aguayo, who started playing soccer when he was just 2. When he was 8, his Pop Warner team needed someone to boot extra points, and Aguayo was the only logical candidate.

"I kicked the farthest," he said. "Everybody else's would go 2 yards off the ground."

The rigors of the job didn't change much through high school, where Aguayo was considered one of the top kicking prospects in the nation. But when he arrived at Florida State, it quickly became clear that there was a nuance to the preparation that made all the difference on game day. It's a methodical approach Dustin Hopkins executed with precision.

In practice, Aguayo would boom kick after kick. Hopkins preached restraint. On game day, Aguayo soaked in the energy of the big stage. Hopkins relished the minutiae. Through the season, Aguayo watched and learned, while Hopkins decimated virtually every kicking mark in the NCAA record books.

(Read full post)

Florida State lost a ton of talent off its ACC title team, including two All-Americans.

Much of the focus this offseason has been on how the Noles will replace one of them -- defensive end Bjoern Werner. Much less has focused on a replacement for the other -- kicker Dustin Hopkins.

While it is true that more people focus on the star players like Werner, you cannot overlook what Hopkins meant to the Noles program. He was as automatic as you can get at the kicker position, setting a new NCAA career scoring record for kickers (466 points), while establishling new NCAA, ACC and school records with 88 career field goals.

Simply put, kicker has been a position the Noles have not had to worry about in years.

But let's just say the cupboard isn't bare. Coach Jimbo Fisher is supremely confident in the next man up -- redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo, who was rated the sixth-best kicking prospect in the class of 2012.

"We’ll be very pleased with him," Fisher said earlier this week. "I expect great things out of Roberto. He’s extremely talented, extremely explosive, very strong leg, very similar to the guy we just lost. He hasn’t done the things Dustin’s done in a pressure situation but from a talent standpoint, a very good guy. That’s why we signed him a year ago. I loved him in camp and I thought it very beneficial for him to follow Dustin around, learning how to prepare, and how to work and do those things."

The hope, of course, is that Aguayo can end up starting for four years the way Hopkins did, and allow Seminoles coaches and fans to breathe easy every time he steps onto the field. If all goes according to plan, his first game as a Seminole will come in an intensely pressure filled situation -- on the road in Pittsburgh in a nationally televised game, at a stadium known for being unfriendly to kickers.

State of the Noles: Special teams 

February, 21, 2013
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When it comes to recruiting, coaches need to be thinking long-term. It's not just about which holes must be filled immediately, but rather where the needs might be in two or three more years.

With that in mind, NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, we take a look at the key contributors on special teams.


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2013 spring preview: Special teams

February, 15, 2013
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From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for the 2013 season.

With that in mind, we're going to go position by position, looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for spring practice.

Previously: Cornerbacks, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive tackles, and running backs can be found HERE.

Next up: Special teams

2012 recap: Special teams is a pretty broad term, so it's tough to look back on last season and call it a success or a failure for Florida State when, the truth is, it was a little of both. On the plus side, kicker Dustin Hopkins turned in the best season of his remarkable career, setting the NCAA scoring mark for kickers in the process. Lamarcus Joyner and Karlos Williams both were exceptional on kick returns once again, and FSU even accounted for three punt-return touchdowns in its first season without Greg Reid. Of course, the flip side of that was the significant struggles by freshman punter Cason Beatty, including a block against NC State that likely cost FSU the game, a bevy of turnovers on punt returns that resulted in a revolving door at the position, and a truly ridiculous number of special teams penalties (with Williams responsible for a season's worth by himself).

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FSU's biggest 2013 holes to fill

January, 30, 2013
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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.

1. Quarterback

[+] EnlargeFlorida State
AP Photo/Phil SearsJacob 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.

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FSU 10: End of Season edition 

January, 3, 2013
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The 2012 season has drawn to a close, and the final judgement of this Florida State team and so many of its core players will be based largely on the expectations thrust upon them way back in August.

On the one hand, Florida State won 12 games, an ACC title, a BCS bowl. On the other hand, it was never really close to competing for a national title -- as so many had predicted -- and the losses to NC State and Florida were both aggravating for various reasons.

[+] EnlargeBjoern Werner
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsBjoern Werner produced in every way possible, on the stat sheet and off, to guide the Seminoles.
The same is true for a number of the star performers. To put together our final FSU power rankings for the year, weighing expectations against performance is a must. So, with that in mind, here's how our final rankings for the season shook out. (Previous rankings in parentheses.)

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