Florida State Seminoles: FSU spring questions 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The expectations

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesJimbo Fisher and several new assistant coaches have a lot of work to do at Florida State.
The question: The offseason saw six assistant coaches depart and a host of talented veterans head for greener pastures in the NFL. So with so much turnover, can Florida State still be considered a championship contender?

The possibilities: Jimbo Fisher is an optimist by nature, but even he admits this spring was just the start of a significant project. A new starting quarterback, a complete overhaul of the defensive line and a host of new voices running practice doesn't make things easy. But there's still plenty of talent in the coffers, which could mean either a season of growing on the job or, potentially, a year in which FSU's game against Clemson once again decides the conference.

What we learned this spring: From the outset, Fisher has raved about the potential of the team -- which, to be fair, is a distinct difference from a year ago when he unflinchingly declared the Seminoles ready to contend. But just because there's still room for growth with this year's group doesn't mean his expectations for the finished product are any lower.

While that enthusiasm was largely demonstrated in glowing post-practice reviews, perhaps the most jarring and significant moment of the spring came in the final week, when Fisher cut a practice short because he wasn't pleased with the effort level. It was a low point for the team, but it was a perfect chance for Fisher to deliver a message about what he expects going forward.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The defensive scheme

The question: How much would Jeremy Pruitt's arrival as Florida State's new defensive coordinator impact a unit that has been among the best in the country the past two seasons under Mark Stoops?

[+] EnlargeJeremy Pruitt
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreNew coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has brought elements of Alabama's blitzing defense to Florida State's base 4-3 defense.
The possibilities: Certainly Pruitt -- along with two other new faces on the defensive coaching staff -- could have made only minor tweaks as they worked with personnel recruited by the previous regime. Or he could have taken everything he learned at Alabama and made a sweeping overhaul, installing a 3-4 base defense and churning out a relatively unrecognizable product. The upside to Florida State's array of versatile defenders was that Pruitt had a malleable product to work with.

What we learned this spring: The spring opened with Jimbo Fisher promising little in the way of a dramatic overhaul to the defense, but of course, he was playing coy. It didn't take long for the players to begin reporting some sweeping changes.

For what it's worth, most players argue, as Fisher has, that the basics of the defense haven't change, only the terminology. But that's really just arguing semantics. The fact is, Pruitt has brought with him a real philosophical change, even if the base defense still has four down linemen.

Where Stoops' group tended to play it safe, relying on pressure from the front four and exceptional coverage from its secondary, Pruitt clearly enjoys living more dangerously. There's motion before the snap. There's multiple looks from the same personnel. There's blitzing -- a lot of blitzing.

"It gives us a chance to make plays," safety Terrence Brooks said. "It's a very complex defense, but it's really good for us. It mixes a lot of things up and it confuses the quarterback a lot."

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The defensive line

The question: Five former starters are gone, likely all headed to the NFL, so what will become of Florida State's once-vaunted defensive line without Bjoern Werner, Cornellius Carradine and Co.?

Timmy Jernigan
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreTimmy Jernigan moves into the starting lineup at defensive tackle, having already proved himself as a backup.
The possibilities: The interior of the line appears to be in good hands with Timmy Jernigan stepping into a starting role, freshman Eddie Goldman getting a crack at a bigger job, and veterans like Demonte McAllister and Jacobbi McDaniel around to provide stability. On the edge, there are bigger questions as Mario Edwards Jr. looks to live up to his recruiting hype, Dan Hicks returns to defense, and Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher work to establish themselves.

What we learned this spring: Perhaps the biggest lesson of the spring wasn't about who would fill the void on the defensive line but rather how new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt planned to scheme around it.

It's not that the pass-rush responsibilities will be shifted completely away from the defensive ends, and technically speaking, FSU isn't moving toward the 3-4 base defense Pruitt ran at Alabama, but there have clearly been some marked changes to the scheme.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The offensive line

The question: With starting right tackle Menelik Watson leaving for the NFL draft, can FSU find a suitable replacement and improve on a solid season by a young offensive line?

[+] EnlargeHart
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesNow in his third season, Bobby Hart is still very young at 18, but he's showing more maturity.
The possibilities: The simplest solution would be for junior Bobby Hart to seize the right tackle job -- a position he owned for eight games in 2011. But Hart has struggled with maturity and consistency, which opened the door for a potential reshuffling of the line, with Bryan Stork moving out to tackle and Austin Barron taking over at center.

What we learned this spring: Hart has grown up -- at least a bit. Now in his third season at Florida State, it's hard to believe, but Hart is still just 18 years old, so some of those maturity issues early in his career are understandable. But with age and experience comes wisdom, and Hart insists he's learned from his struggles.

"Once you sit back and understand why you're in that predicament, you mature and you learn from it, and that can be a good thing," Hart said.

At times this spring, that maturity showed. Hart and Cameron Erving were Florida State's two most consistent linemen this spring according to coaches, and when the spring game ended Hart was still the nominal starter at right tackle.

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

First up: The quarterbacks

The question: Which of Florida State's four talented backups could take over for EJ Manuel and win the starting job?

Jameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesRedshirt freshman Jameis Winston appeared to climb the quarterback depth chart this spring with a star quality that none of the other contenders possessed.
The possibilities: Clint Trickett entered the spring as the de facto No. 1 thanks to two career starts and three years on the sideline as Manuel's backup. Sophomore Jacob Coker was next in line, followed by redshirt freshmen Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire. Each had their supporters, but Winston's recruiting pedigree made him the most intriguing of the bunch.

What we learned this spring: Winston can back up the hype. The freshman split his attention between football and baseball throughout the spring but still wound up as the most impressive of the four candidates vying for the job, which speaks to his athletic ability and mental resolve.

"I don't have a social life," Winston joked.

Winston might not have time to get out much these days, but he's certainly got his share of admirers. He worked his way from third string to effectively splitting reps with the No. 1 offense by the end of spring practice, and he delivered in the spring game, completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

What's left to decide: Jimbo Fisher still isn't naming a starter, and Trickett and, to a lesser degree, Coker and Maguire remain in the mix. But Winston has clearly established himself as a potential star. Whether he starts the opener remains to be seen, but the notion that he'll eventually be Florida State's starting quarterback feels like something of an inevitability at this point.
Jimbo Fisher Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher will be looking to six new assistant coaches for counsel this season.
Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Will new coaches bring big changes for FSU?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher said he's eager for spring practice to begin because it offers the first incites into the personality of this upcoming season's team. For the first time in four years, however, his players might be able to say the same about the coaching staff.


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Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Will FSU have its new starting quarterback in time for the spring game?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher previewed spring practice Monday by offering a well worn bit of coach speak, insisting every spot on the depth chart is an open competition. Of course, even if that were true, none would be quite as interesting as the battle for the starting quarterback job.

While Fisher might be liberally defining the competition at other spots on the roster, this one really is a wide open race, and picking the favorite is little more than conjecture until Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire get onto the field.


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Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Can FSU's offensive line continue to grow in 2013?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The starting point was so low, it would've been nearly impossible for Florida State's offensive line to fall short of expectations last season.

In 2011, the line was horrendous -- allowing the most sacks in the conference, providing virtually no room to run, and forcing an injured EJ Manuel to be a one-man offense far too often. By season's end, Jimbo Fisher essentially went back to the drawing board and started from scratch, giving a starting nod in FSU's bowl game to four freshmen. It was a gesture that admitted there was nowhere to go but up.

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Lamarcus JoynerAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesCoaches are feeling more and more comfortable with Lamarcus Joyner's move to cornerback, where Jimbo Fisher believes the 5-foot-8 defender belongs.
Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: Was moving FSU's best returning defender to a new position the right decision?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- During an offseason marked by news of players and coaches leaving Florida State, the biggest story might have been about one who stayed.

By December, Lamarcus Joyner seemed to have one foot out the door. He'd earned All-ACC honors for a second straight year, and while NFL scouts weren't pegging him as a first-round pick, his pro stock had likely reached its apex, given his physical limitations. Add the fact that his defensive coordinator and a slew of other coaches were leaving and there seemed to be little incentive for Joyner to return for his senior season.

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Editor’s note: Each day until the start of spring practice, we’ll pose a question facing Florida State's football team as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: How will the defensive front look after a wave of departures from last year's group?

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- By the time next year's NFL draft is complete, five former Florida State defensive linemen figure to hear their names called. That's an impressive indication of just how much talent was on this unit for the past two seasons, but it also underscores one of the biggest questions of this spring: How can Jimbo Fisher replace so many departing stars in one group?

In 2012, FSU finished in the top three in the country in rush defense (91.9 yards per game) for the second year in a row, and for the third straight year, the Seminoles led the ACC in sacks (36). As far as pass rushers go, Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine were the most prolific defensive end tandem in the nation. But aside from quarterback, no area of the roster figures to get as big a facelift for 2013.


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