Florida State Seminoles: FSU summer countdown

Throughout the summer, Nole Nation counted 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. Even since the list debuted with Mario Pender at No. 40, we've seen some shake-ups, and certainly a lot more can change before the season heats up. But when it comes to identifying Florida State's most impactful player in 2013, there's a nearly unanimous opinion at the moment.

Last up: No. 1 Lamarcus Joyner

Position/Class: DB/Sr.

Lamarcus Joyner
G Fiume/Getty ImagesMoving to cornerback could give 5-foot-8 Lamarcus Joyner a better shot at an NFL career.
What he's done: It's hard to really quantify the impact Joyner has made on Florida State's defense through his first three years with the program. Certainly his numbers from 2012 -- 51 tackles, 1 INT, six passes defended -- don't do justice to the manner in which he dictated games. He's a two-time All-ACC safety, whose physical presence on the field is as intimidating as any defensive back in the conference, in spite of his small stature. Opposing offenses avoided throwing his way, and as such, he helped shrink the field his fellow DBs had to cover and Florida State finished last year as the nation's top pass defense. He's been a vocal and mature leader on a team that lost its biggest voice in Greg Reid just before fall camp. His confidence, leadership and experience helped smooth the transition when former coordinator Mark Stoops announced he was leaving just before the ACC title game. And, as if all that wasn't enough, Joyner has flourished on special teams, where he's been one of the top kick returners in school history. His 90-yard return against Clemson was the defining play in Florida State's biggest win of the year.

Where he's at: If Joyner was three inches taller, odds are he'd have been a first-round draft pick after the 2012 season, and he'd currently be lacing up his cleats in an NFL training camp. Instead, his 5-foot-8 frame pegged him as a mid-round selection from NFL scouts, and Joyner decided that, rather than roll the dice in the draft, he'd return to school and further burnish his credentials. That's meant a major shake-up in the secondary, with Joyner moving from safety to corner this spring. The move was his choice, but a decision that Jimbo Fisher and new DC Jeremy Pruitt happily approved. Still, questions remain. Joyner has been such an impact player at safety, and Florida State has such depth at corner, there are concerns that the move disrupts the entire secondary and was made more for Joyner's personal benefit than the team's overall success. Moreover, his performance in the spring game didn't exactly energize fans as he was on the wrong side of both of freshman QB Jameis Winston's long touchdown throws. Of course, Joyner also arrived at FSU as a corner, and its a position that he probably fits best at given his skill set. And perhaps as important, there's a reasonable chance he might've bolted for the NFL if the move wasn't made.

What's to come: It wouldn't be a complete surprise if Joyner's performance at corner didn't match the success he had at safety, but that's an awfully high bar to exceed. But what the critics of the move miss is how influential and versatile Joyner is on the field. Yes, he'll be getting more reps at corner this season, but he figures to spend a significant amount of time at safety and nickel, too. Given some of FSU's struggles in coverage against slot receivers and tight ends last season, his presence in those roles could mark a significant improvement. Additionally, with the massive shake-up in both personnel and coaching for FSU's defense this year, Joyner represents a calming influence. He's as up-tempo a player as there is in college football, and he's embraced his role as a leader, helping to mentor potential stars like Nick Waisome, Ronald Darby and Karlos Williams. Had Joyner departed for the NFL, the Seminoles certainly would've had the talent to still fill out its secondary, but it wouldn't have had the personality. What Joyner does for the Seminoles on defense, on special teams and in the locker room is irreplaceable, and his return for 2013 was perhaps the single biggest positive Florida State enjoyed this offseason.
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. 2 Timmy Jernigan

Position/Class: DT/Jr.

Timmy Jernigan
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsNow that he'll officially be a starter, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will be expected to step forward as a leader.
What he's done: Throughout his first two seasons at Florida State, Jernigan has been a backup nominally, but a starter when it comes to production. Despite getting just two career starts officially -- both coming during Anthony McCloud's absence due to injury to start 2012 -- Jernigan led all Seminoles interior linemen in tackles in each of the last two years. He's established himself as one of the top defensive tackles in the country, and after racking up 76 career tackles -- including 14 for a loss -- and anchoring one of the nation's top run defenses the past two seasons, Jernigan is widely considered a potential first-round selection in the next NFL draft, should he decide to leave school early.

Where he's at: Again, semantics are the biggest issue for Jernigan this season. It's true that he now steps into a starting role as veterans McCloud and Everett Dawkins move on, but his playing time isn't likely to see a major surge. He was getting the bulk of the snaps in FSU's tackle rotation before, and while those numbers may increase a bit, the biggest difference is simply the title. Of course, with that title comes a bigger share of the leadership role, too, and that's where Jernigan figures to take the biggest step forward in 2013. He's now an established veteran, and one who will draw the attention of every offensive line coach he faces. Teams will be scheming around Jernigan, and while FSU still enjoys ample depth at the position, his ability to defeat blocks, stop the run and move the pocket remain keys to the success of the front four -- particularly with all the turnover at defensive end, where FSU lost three players to the draft.

What's to come: There are some questions surrounding Jernigan's ability to step into a bigger role in 2013, but those feel overstated. He came to FSU as one of the top recruits in the nation, and he's done nothing but produce ever since. Moreover, he's embraced the new title and vowed to become one of the top defenders in the conference -- and he may already have been -- while shouldering the burden of easing the transition for a defensive line that lost five players to the NFL from last year's team. Jernigan's numbers will probably never fully tell the story of how effective he is during games, but the success of the rushing defense and the sacks compiled by his teammates off the edge are a testament to the chaos he creates in the middle. If those numbers can be maintained in 2013 in spite of so much turnover on the line, Jernigan will rightfully be discussed as a top-10 NFL draft pick and one of the nation's elite linemen.
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. 3 Jameis Winston

Position/Class: QB/RFr.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesAfter months of hype, Florida State's Jameis Winston is set for his Monday night debut at Pittsburgh.
What he's done: The list of accomplishments for Winston thus far are impressive. He's garnered immense attention as a high school quarterback. He's been the top-recruited quarterback in the country. He's garnered a massive cult following after video surfaced of him throwing footballs over fraternity houses. He's been praised as perhaps FSU's top cheerleader throughout the 2012 season -- home and away. He's generated buzz from teammates for his impressive practice performances. He's battled two more veteran quarterbacks throughout spring practice and come out on top. He's starred in this year's spring game, throwing a touchdown past two-time All-ACC defender Lamarcus Joyner on his first throw. He's touched 100 mph on the radar gun in baseball games as one of FSU's top relief aces. In fact, the only thing Winston hasn't done so far is actually throw a pass in a college game.

Where he's at: Jimbo Fisher's final evaluation is the only one that matters, and he has yet to officially name Winston his starter, but for all intents and purposes, that seems a done deal. Winston was the clear winner during spring practice, and his biggest competition, junior Clint Trickett, transferred to West Virginia soon after practice concluded. Jacob Coker will still push Winston for the job -- a competition that actually figures to be better than what Coker mustered this spring with an injured foot -- but at this point, it would take a major upset for anyone other than Winston to be taking the first snaps of the season. The bigger question for most fans at this point is what Winston will do with those snaps, and the expectations are immense. While Fisher has cautioned restraint, more than a few fans are already dreaming of Heisman trophies and national titles.

What's to come: Winston doesn't seem particularly concerned about the high bar of expectations. Heck, he's put them on himself. He's already balanced football and baseball and compared his longterm ambitions to that of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. But whether he's ready to step in and star as a freshman remains to be seen. Just last year, a redshirt freshman QB won the Heisman, and Johnny Manziel might be the comparison Winston will hear the most. But the more appropriate measure might be that of EJ Manuel, who had an strong season in 2012 but was marked by inconsistency along the way. Winston figures to hit a few bumps in the road, too, as he learns on the job, but his confidence and talent are virtually unmatched, and he's got a strong supporting cast around him. If he can approach Manuel's production from last year, it will have been a successful debut. If he can exceed them, Florida State just might end up being a bigger contender for a conference and national championship than many are currently projecting.
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. 4 Telvin Smith

Position/Class: LB/Sr.

[+] EnlargeTelvin Smith
Cliff Welch/Icon SMITelvin Smith takes over as FSU's starting middle linebacker and undisputed leader of the defense.
What he's done: Smith's production has increased markedly each season he's been at Florida State, from recording 18 tackles as a freshman in 2010 to 42 as a sophomore and a career-best 64 last season. In each of the past two years, Smith has been an integral part of the platoon at middle linebacker with Vince Williams, anchoring the middle of the defense on passing downs while Williams was sturdy against the run. In addition to his impressive tackle totals for a part-time player in 2012, he racked up 9.5 tackles for loss (third on the team) and finished with three passes defended, three pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Despite his role as a part-time player, Smith also blossomed into one of the vocal leaders of the defense after the dismissal of his former high school teammate, Greg Reid, just before fall camp.

Where he's at: Smith's part-time status belied his impact in 2012. During his early tenure as the co-starter at middle linebacker, his skill set was limited primarily to passing downs, but throughout last season he grew more accustomed to handling the full range of responsibility. In 2013, he'll get a chance to show just how far he's come. Williams is gone, and the full-time job at middle linebacker -- along with the role of undisputed leader of the defense -- belongs to Smith. It's a big job, too. Last season, Smith and Williams combined for 123 tackles, a total that would have ranked second in the ACC had it belonged entirely to one player. Moreover, as new DC Jeremy Pruitt expands the role of Christian Jones on the weakside, Smith's responsibilities in the middle become even more pronounced. And while it was clear throughout 2012 that Smith was poised to become a star, he's now working without a net. Williams had been an established veteran counterpart, but there is no experienced depth at linebacker this year beyond Jones and Smith.

What's to come: It's tough to project exactly how much production Smith might have in 2013. His role is obviously far greater than it was a year ago, but the scheme on defense has changed, too. What's clear though is that, after Williams handled the bulk of the work on running downs in years past, Smith is going to prove he's up to that task. FSU was among the top rush defenses in the nation in each of the past two seasons, but Williams and the entirety of the starting defensive line have moved on. Smith now steps into the role of run stopper, and he'll need to prove it's a role he's comfortable with. His size (6-foot-3, 215) should help, and his punishingly physical approach will pay dividends. Perhaps as important, however, is his role as the vocal leader of a defense that is undergoing serious changes this season. If Smith can handle full-time work and keep the defense on an even keel throughout the season, there's a valid argument he'll be Florida State's 2013 MVP and a potential All-ACC -- or even All-American -- player.
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. 5 Rashad Greene

Position/Class: WR/Jr.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesRashad Greene has proven to be dynamic in many different ways on offense.
What he's done: Greene has been Florida State's most prolific receiver almost from the moment he set foot on campus in 2011. Despite missing four games as a freshman, he led FSU is virtually every receiving category, then topped those numbers as a sophomore by staying healthy all year. Combined, he's already recorded 95 career catches for 1,337 yards and 13 TDs. What's been missing for Green thus far has been consistency. While he's had five career games with 98 or more receiving yards, he's also had seven games of 30 yards or fewer.

Where he's at: While Greene has clearly been atop the pecking order at receiver in his first two seasons, he was always flanked by a deep supporting cast. In 2013, he's still got talent around him, but the leadership role is clearly his. With Rodney Smith gone and Greg Dent suspended indefinitely, Greene is the established veteran with the biggest expectations. He'll also be responsible for making life a bit easier for a new starting quarterback after spending the first two years of his career working with veteran EJ Manuel. Whether or not Greene gets another crack at punt return duties after an up-and-down 2012 performance in the role also remains to be seen.

What's to come: A large portion of Greene's inconsistency over the past two years can be chalked up to injury or the depth around him. When Greene was targeted in 2012, he was exceptional, catching 75 percent of the balls thrown his way -- second-best on the team -- and converting a team-high 34 first downs. He finished the season strong, too, recording at least five catches in five of his final seven games. All of that leads to some ramped up expectations for 2013 that Greene won't just occasionally be great, but will consistently affect games. He's more than capable, and in a year in which FSU has a bit less depth at receiver and needs a bit more reliability around its quarterback, Greene will be at the forefront. It's unlikely he'll suddenly match Duke's Jamison Crowder or Clemson's Sammy Watkins in terms of the glamor numbers because FSU's offense simply won't ask him to do so, but Greene should post career highs across the board again in 2013 and be well on his way toward climbing the upper echelon of the Seminoles record book.
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. 6 Christian Jones

Position/Class: LB/Sr.

[+] EnlargeChristian Jones
Kim Klement/US PresswireWeakside linebacker Christian Jones had a career-high and team-leading 95 tackles for FSU last season.
What he's done: Jones' talent has been obvious from the outset, but it wasn't until his move to the weakside linebacker spot last season that his numbers finally began to match his potential. In his new role, he set a career high in tackles with a team-leading 95 (good for seventh in the ACC), including seven for a loss, while defending three passes and recovering two fumbles. He was solid in defending the run, where FSU ranked third in the nation, and the pass, as the Seminoles D led the country, showing a versatility at the position that could be exploited even more in 2013.

Where he's at: Jones flirted with the NFL after the season, with the advisory committee pegging him in the middle rounds. Instead, he returned to Florida State, where he and Telvin Smith will be the sole veterans in a deep-but-inexperienced group of linebackers. But while Jones is now the elder statesman, he also figures to be seeing a few new looks, too. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt allowed Jones to work as an edge rusher with his hand in the dirt throughout the spring, and the senior figures to play an even bigger role on defense this year as Pruitt's system clicks into place.

What's to come: The common school of thought last season was that Jones' move to the weak side would be a boon to his numbers, and that largely turned out to be accurate. But FSU's defense was still predicated on a front four that was among the best in the country, while the linebackers played second fiddle. That won't be the case in 2013, as all four defensive line starters have moved on, and Pruitt has shifted gears and opened up the field for athletes like Jones to test their mettle. It should be an interesting challenge for a player who could easily work his way into the first round of the 2014 NFL draft with a strong season, and 100 tackles is likely the starting point for Jones' expectations. Perhaps as important as the numbers is Jones' leadership role, setting the tone for this year's defense and mentoring the next group of young linebackers who will need to step in next season.
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. 7 James Wilder Jr.

Position/Class: RB/Jr.

[+] EnlargeJames Wilder Jr.
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireMuch is expected from Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. after a strong sophomore season.
What he's done: Wilder's first year at Florida State went about as poorly as possible. On the field, he found only limited playing time in spite of a dearth of healthy bodies around him. Off it, he was in nearly constant trouble, with multiple arrests and legal wrangling. But Wilder promised things would be different in 2012, and he delivered in spades. The former five-star recruit finished 11th in the ACC in rushing yards (635), fifth in yards-per-carry (5.77), and third in rushing touchdowns (11) while developing into a threat out of the backfield and a leader on the sideline.

Where he's at: With EJ Manuel, Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor now gone to the NFL, Florida State's once crowded backfield now clearly belongs to Wilder and fellow junior Devonta Freeman. But while Freeman's personality is more reserved, Wilder's boisterous attitude quickly made him the de facto leader for the offense this spring. It's a role he's relished, and he's made it clear he expects big things from himself and his teammates in 2013. A minor injury ended his spring early, but not after he'd wowed coaches and teammates with his hard running in short-yardage situations and his effusive personality in the huddle.

What's to come: As it stands, Jimbo Fisher has offered no clear insight as to which tailback will get the bulk of the carries, but Wilder's determined running style and versatility as a blocker and receiver offers ample cause to believe a breakout season is coming. Wilder was consistent throughout the 2012 season, but his opportunities were limited at times. That won't be the case this season, which when paired with a veteran offensive line, offers some hope that this year, Wilder finally puts an end to Florida State's 16-year drought of 1,000-yard runners.
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. 8 Cameron Erving

Position/Class: LT/RSJr.

[+] EnlargeCameron Erving
AP Photo/Phil SearsCameron Erving's steady improvement helped Florida State make great strides on the offensive line.
What he's done: After two years at defensive tackle, Erving jumped to the other side of the line in 2012, and it was a fortuitous move for Florida State. While the 6-foot-6, 310-pound tackle adjusted to some growing pains, he made consistent progress throughout the season. After wowing coaching and players in spring practice, he upped his game each week throughout the season -- going from inconsistent newcomer early on to stalwart blocker by season's end. Erving graded out at 73.6 percent over his final six games of the regular season. His impact on the overall success of the line is hard to overstate. FSU trimmed nearly 1.5 sacks per game from 2011 and upped its rushing total by 94 yards per game. Most importantly, Erving helped keep QB EJ Manuel healthy and in the lineup all season.

Where he's at: A year ago, there were high hopes for Erving, but he was clearly a wild card. FSU sent out a starting offensive line that had just 16 starts among them -- 14 of which belonged to one player, Bryan Stork. This year, things are completely different. FSU has among the most experienced groups in the country, and Erving is clearly at the forefront -- both in terms of talent and responsibility. He'll be protecting the blind side of a freshman QB, and given the hopes pinned on Jameis Winston's future, that's as significant a task as any player on the roster will be undertake in 2013.

What's to come: Erving's consistent progress throughout the season last year helped create even loftier expectations for 2013. He now has a year of experience under his belt, a veteran group around him, and many are projecting he could blossom into a potential NFL first-round pick by year's end. That may still be a bit of optimistic thinking given Erving's limited workload thus far, but it's certainly not a point out of reach. He's grown by leaps and bounds, and he's eager to continue that trajectory. With a first-year starter at QB and a new starter on the opposite end of the line, the pressure will be on Erving from the outset this season, but if he lives up to expectations, the rewards should be great.
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. 9 Karlos Williams

Position/Class: S/Jr.

[+] EnlargeKarlos Williams
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreFSU's Karlos Williams is looking to start at safety, return kicks and make a big impact in 2013.
What he's done: For two years, Williams and FSU fans have waited patiently for his coming out party, but the process of earning regular reps has been slow. The immensely talented safety saw limited playing time as a freshman, but excelled as a kick returner. In 2012, his role grew as he worked again on special teams and as FSU's sixth DB in dime sets. But it wasn't until his emergency work at linebacker against Georgia Tech in the ACC title game that Williams solidified his star status. He recorded a game-high 11 tackles and a game-clinching interception to help the Seminoles to a conference title. The 11 tackles represented more than a third of his season total, but it also set the tone for a potentially momentous step forward in 2013.

Where he's at: Following his stellar outing at linebacker in the ACC championship game, the buzz to move Williams permanently began, but he wanted no parts of a change. Still, it wasn't until the decision was made to shift Lamarcus Joyner to corner before spring practice that Williams' fate was settled. He's now in position to be the team's starting strong safety, and while he's still refining his technique, his rare combination of speed and physicality should play especially well in new DC Jeremy Pruitt's system. And, of course, Williams figures to resume kick-return duties in 2013 as well. For his career thus far, he's averaged 25 yards per kick return -- a number that would rank as FSU's all-time best if Williams maintains it through the end of his career.

What's to come: The sky is the limit for Williams in 2013. He's waited for his shot for two years, and the ACC title game was a prime example of what could happen now that he's finally earned a starting job. But as much as Williams' talent has been obvious, his patience and desire to refine every aspect of his game is what should carry him. He has the luxury of playing in one of the nation's top defensive backfields, and it's entirely possible that, by year's end, he'll be the best of a very talented 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. 10 Ronald Darby

Position/Class: CB/So.

[+] EnlargeRonald Darby
Geoff Burke/Getty ImagesCornerback Ronald Darby got considerable playing time as a freshman and will compete for a starting position next season.
What he's done: It's not that Darby didn't have a healthy dose of hype upon arrival at Florida State, but even his impressive recruiting pedigree couldn't have been enough to assuage concerns in the secondary when senior Greg Reid was dismissed from the program just before fall camp, and Darby was thrust into the mix as a potential replacement. As it turned out though, Florida State didn't miss a beat without Reid, and while it was Nick Waisome who landed the starting job, Darby earned a healthy chunk of playing time from the outset and was impressive enough to earn freshman All-America honors by the time the season was over. He finished the season with 22 tackles, eight pass-breakups and a forced fumble, while Florida State's passing D ranked No. 1 in the nation even without Reid.

Where he's at: When Xavier Rhodes chose to leave a year early for the NFL draft, the immediate assumption was that Darby would step seamlessly into the vacated starting corner spot and FSU's secondary would once again endure the loss of a star player without a hiccup. As it turns out, the plan may still work nicely, but it got a bit more complex when Lamarcus Joyner switched from safety to corner before spring practice. That left three potential starters for two jobs, and a spring injury meant Darby wouldn't get a chance to test his mettle until the fall. Still, even if Darby doesn't land an official starting job, he's likely to see an even bigger share of reps this year than he did a year ago as Joyner moves back and forth from corner to safety and nickel on passing downs.

What's to come: From Jameis Winston to Karlos Williams to Mario Edwards Jr., there are numerous Seminoles stepping into bigger roles in 2013 that are widely expected to blossom into stars, but perhaps none seems as sure a bet for longterm success as Darby. His ability to pick up FSU's defensive scheme so quickly last fall was surprising, but he continued to grow as the year went along, and now he'll get a taste of new DC Jeremy Pruitt's scheme which should free Darby to be even more of a playmaker. How the snaps are shared between a crowded defensive backfield remains to be seen, but if Darby's not at the top of the depth chart now, there's a strong belief he will be by year's end -- and he's got the potential to be an All-American before his time is up at Florida State.
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. 11 Terrence Brooks

Position/Class: S/Sr.

Terrence Brooks
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsSenior safety Terrence Brooks Brooks led all Florida State defensive backs with 52 tackles last season.
What he's done: After two years as a role player, Brooks finally stepped into a starting job in 2012, and his season was largely an overwhelming success. Brooks led all Florida State defensive backs with 52 tackles, and he and Tyler Hunter are the only two returning DBs to record multiple interceptions last season. There were a few blips on the radar, most notably against Clemson, when Brooks was burned by DeAndre Hopkins for a long TD and whiffed on a potential interception late in the game that also ended with a Tigers touchdown. But rather than lament the mistakes, Brooks clearly learned from them, with his game -- and FSU's secondary -- improving as the season progressed.

Where he's at: The biggest change from a year ago for Brooks is his stature on the D. Last season, he was just one year into his new role at safety after switching from corner, and while he'd logged some experience in dime sets, the starting role was a massive expansion of responsibility. This season, those jobs are all old hat, and Florida State is counting on Brooks to be able to be a rock at safety following Lamarcus Joyner's move back to corner. With Karlos Williams stepping in to replace Joyner, Brooks figures to be freed up to work more in coverage in 2013, but his biggest job is simply to ensure FSU's secondary, which ranked as the top unit in the nation a year ago, doesn't miss a beat in spite of the shake-up in personnel.

What's to come: Because FSU's secondary is littered with big names, from veterans like Joyner and the departed Xavier Rhodes to highly touted younger players like Williams and Ronald Darby, Brooks often gets overlooked, but 2013 sets up nicely for him to blossom into one of the top safeties in the conference. He's a hard hitter, a hard worker and a versatile athlete -- and now he'll have a bigger share of the spotlight. While the experience of 2012 should be something he builds on, his success this season will be as much about the confidence he built as it is an understanding of his role. Add in the more aggressive scheme implemented by new DC Jeremy Pruitt -- a scheme Brooks has raved about all offseason -- and there's a strong possibility Brooks posts career highs across the board and finishes the year as an All-ACC defender.
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. 12 Mario Edwards Jr.

Position/Class: DE/So.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsMario Edwards Jr. gave a glimpse of his immense potential during the final two games of his freshman season.
What he's done: The consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation a year ago, Edwards arrived at Florida State with much fanfare -- and more than a few extra pounds. Pegged as a pass rusher, Edwards opened fall camp checking in at more than 300 pounds, and it was clear from the outset he wasn't ready to contribute to an already stacked defense. He was slated to redshirt -- much to his chagrin -- but when Brandon Jenkins was lost for the year with a foot injury, Edwards was given a reprieve. He saw minimal action through the next 11 games, but a second season-ending injury to a defensive end finally opened up a full-time job. Edwards started the ACC championship game and Orange Bowl and accounted for 10 tackles as FSU won both.

Where he's at: The strong finish to his 2012 campaign offered ample optimism, and when Jenkins, Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner all headed to the NFL this offseason, Edwards became the de facto No. 1 pass rusher on the team. Still, his turn in spring practice wasn't entirely inspiring. He'd clearly shed some weight, but new ends coach Sal Sunseri wants more progress. He'd clearly learned the ropes a bit, but Sunseri still feels Edwards is relying too much on natural ability. But the bottom line remains that Edwards is both the most talented defensive end FSU has and a virtual lock for a starting job.

What's to come: This is the big question. Edwards' ceiling is immensely high, and he could easily blossom into one of the most feared defenders in the nation this season -- particularly with Sunseri and Jeremy Pruitt's prodding. Of course, Edwards' lack of preparation in advance of his freshman season, his occasional pouting after he was pushed down the depth chart, and his continued struggles with his weight are all red flags. But if motivation is the key, FSU appears to have the right staff in place -- from Sunseri to Edwards' father, Mario Sr. -- and there's no argument that he'll be heavily involved in the scheme in 2013. Where he goes from there is almost entirely up to him, but the odds are, even if he doesn't reach his potential, he'll still be pretty good.
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. 13 Devonta Freeman

Position/Class: RB/Jr.

[+] EnlargeDominique Easley
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesDevonta Freeman gets overlooked on the preseason depth chart, but he has produced in his first two seasons at FSU.
What he's done: In each of his first two seasons, Freeman began the year third on Florida State's depth chart at tailback, and in each season he ended the season as its leading rusher. That speaks volumes about Freeman's determination, and the numbers offer plenty more evidence for why he's such a crucial cog in the offense. He's racked up 1,239 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in his two seasons at FSU, and he averaged nearly 6 yards per carry as a sophomore in 2012 -- good for fourth in the conference.

Where he's at: As Florida State gets set for the start of fall camp this year, Freeman once again seems to be taking a backseat to fellow junior James Wilder Jr. Part of the reason was Freeman's inconsistent finish to the 2012 season. In his final eight games, he topped 70 yards four times (including 148 vs. Maryland) and finished with 40 or fewer three times (including a woeful minus-5 against Virginia Tech). That's opened the door for Wilder, whose freakish physicality makes him an intriguing alternative to the more prototypical Freeman. Of course, Jimbo Fisher still suggests it'll be something of an even timeshare at the position, and Freeman has been in this position before.

What's to come: Freeman is still learning some of the nuances of playing the position, and his decision making at times last season left something to be desired -- particularly on short-yardage and between-the-tackles runs. Still, his progress was obvious, and his strong numbers were made even more impressive considering off-the-field distractions following the death of a close family member early in the year. With Wilder in the mix, it's hard to envision Freeman blossoming into a bell cow in 2013, but he should improve on the 120 carries he got a year ago, and if he simply repeats his numbers from his first two seasons over the next two, he'd finish his career eighth in school history in rushing yards and third in rushing TDs.
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.

Nick Waisome
AP Photo/Phil SearsAfter a stellar 2012 season, what does Nick Waisome have in store for this fall?
Next up: No. 15 Nick Waisome

Position/Class: Cornerback/Junior

What he's done: When three-year starter Greg Reid was dismissed from the team just before the start of fall camp last year, many predicted doom for the secondary. Filling the bulk of the void was the sophomore Waisome, little tested as a freshman and not nearly as highly-regarded as Reid. As it turned out, he was more than up to the task. Waisome turned in a stellar 2012 campaign, starting all 14 games and making 21 tackles, recording eight passes defended and helped secure a pass defense that ranked as the best in the country. While Waisome had ample highlights in 2012, none loomed larger than his shut-down performance against Clemson's Sammy Watkins that culminated with a fourth-quarter interception.

Where he's at: All that sophomore success should've set up Waisome to blossom into a household name in 2013, but that's not been the case thus far. It was talented backup Ronald Darby who got the bulk of the postseason love, earning freshman All-America honors, and now that Lamarcus Joyner has switched from safety to corner, there appears a logjam at the position with Waisome potentially the odd man out. The reality, however, is that new DC Jeremy Pruitt has made no proclamations about who will start, and with FSU using plenty of nickel and dime sets, there's no reason Waisome shouldn't see as many -- and perhaps more -- snaps than he got last season.

What's to come: For whatever reason, Waisome seems to be the member of Florida State's secondary who flies beneath the radar, regardless of his talents. He plays hard, has developed quickly, has tested his mettle and talks a good game -- and yet, he's situated behind Joyner, Darby, Terrence Brooks, Karlos Williams and potentially even incoming freshman Jalen Ramsey in terms of attention from fans. Of course, that means little when it comes to what happens on the field, and there, Waisome has proven he's ready. FSU's secondary figures to be its biggest strength on defense this year, and Waisome is at the center of that, regardless of how the roles are divvied up.


Top Position Battles Heading In To Spring
While a good portion of the country is buried in snow, spring football is underway. Adam Rittenberg looks at some of the top position battles heading in to spring practice.