Florida State Seminoles: Willie Haulstead

The news was hardly a surprise, but Florida State nevertheless could breathe an immense sigh of relief when Rashad Greene announced he’d be back for his senior season in 2014. There are more talented, more highly regarded players from the Seminoles’ national championship team departing for the NFL, but perhaps no one on the current FSU roster was more crucial in 2014 than Greene. He was practically irreplaceable.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsRashad Green had a team-high 76 catches in 2013, including 9 in the national title game.
The run-up to the start of the 2013 season was a disaster for Florida State’s receiver group. Greg Dent was expected to blossom into a consistent threat, but instead spent the year awaiting a trial for sexual assault. Willie Haulstead figured to return from more than two years saddled with the lingering effects of a concussion, but academics ended his season before it began. Jarred Haggins was poised for a far bigger role, but a knee injury relegated him to the sidelines.

What was left for Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense was essentially a three-man show: Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. Of Winston’s 384 pass attempts in 2013, he targeted his big three receivers 279 times (73 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The tight rotation actually proved to be a benefit. Greene, Benjamin and Shaw all enjoyed breakout seasons, with the former two topping 1,000 yards for the season. But as Florida State looks to 2014, the lack of established depth at the position means a massive rebuilding project must begin, with Greene providing the foundation.

Shaw is graduating. Benjamin departed early for the NFL. Winston’s top three targets out of the backfield all moved on as well. Aside from Greene, the current Florida State roster accounts for just 44 of Winston’s completions, the bulk of those to tight end Nick O’Leary.

So as the enthusiasm builds for a repeat performance by the Seminoles’ high-flying offense thanks to the return of the Heisman Trophy winner and four-fifths of his offensive line, the obvious question is: Who will be catching all of those throws?

Greene’s 76 catches last season were the second-most in Florida State history. It seems likely that number will increase in 2014. Even with tempting options in Shaw, O’Leary and Benjamin, Winston targeted Greene on more than 30 percent of his throws last year.

Greene was fond of telling the story of Florida State’s receivers meeting last summer to discuss the new quarterback running the offense. It would be up to them, Greene said, to make Winston comfortable, to do their jobs so well it made his job easy. In 2014, Greene’s role will be similar, except he’ll now be mentoring a young group of receivers around him, too.

Kermit Whitfield is electric with the ball in his hands, one of college football’s fastest players. He figures to be a nice fit to replace Shaw as the team’s top slot receiver, but he caught just five passes in 2013 -- none from Winston.

Benjamin’s loss provides an even bigger hole. Receivers who are 6-foot-5, 235 pounds and can run and jump effortlessly are rare gems. Still, tall receivers have been a cornerstone of Florida State’s offense, from Greg Carr to Rodney Smith to Benjamin. The last time the Seminoles didn’t have a receiver taller than 6-4 record at least 30 catches and 400 yards was 2005. That role in 2014 figures to fall to 6-4 Isaiah Jones, who caught just two passes for 31 yards as a freshman last season. And while he offers height similar to Benjamin, he checks in almost 40 pounds lighter and is hardly the same matchup nightmare as his predecessor.

Teammates raved about Jesus Wilson’s work on the practice field in 2013, and he’ll get his share of reps, too. Christian Green will be back again, but after a solid freshman campaign in 2011, he’s all but disappeared in the past two seasons. Haggins returns from the knee injury, too, but since Oct. 13, 2012, his combined stat line looks like this: 1 catch, 1 yard.

All of that is simply to underscore the importance of Greene in FSU’s 2014 passing game. His fellow receivers have potential, but Greene is the established weapon. And while the losses of Shaw and Benjamin are big, it’s worth remembering that Winston’s favorite weapon remains.

On third down last season, Winston targeted Greene 27 times -- nearly twice as often as any other receiver on the team. His 18 third-down catches doubled the next closest receiver, and all 18 went for first downs. Winston’s other returning star, O’Leary, converted 8 of 9 third-down targets, too.

In the red zone in 2013, Greene was again Winston’s top target (14 throws) and receiver (eight catches), and he and O’Leary accounted for nearly half of Winston’s red-zone targets.

In short, few receivers made more catches when it mattered most. Fifty of Greene’s receptions went for a first down, tied for third among ACC receivers. And no player on Florida State’s offense has been as consistent. Greene has led the team in receiving in each of his first three seasons in Tallahassee. He needs 41 more catches and 1,133 more yards in 2014 to match FSU’s career receiving marks.

Of course, as good as Greene has been, the onus will still fall to his emerging teammates to draw the attention of safeties away from him and provide Winston with a wider variety of weapons at his disposal. That development remains a work in progress for the next seven months, but Greene’s ability to handle double coverage, to make the big plays when it matters most, to set the standard for game day on the practice field during the week -- that makes the jobs of everyone around him much easier.

For an offense that returns so many stars in 2014, Greene will again be the cornerstone.

FSU offense poised to make history

December, 12, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — They know the numbers, but none of Florida State’s offensive playmakers wants to vouch for just how significant 1,000 would be.

The refrain was established even before the season, and it has been repeated again and again each time another Seminoles star gets within striking distance.

“I don’t feel like anyone is really focusing on that,” said Rashad Greene, Florida State’s leading receiver with 981 yards. “We want that crystal ball. That’s the goal, and individual stuff will take care of itself.”

It’s the same answer given by Kenny Shaw, now 71 receiving yards shy of 1,000.

It’s the same answer given by Kelvin Benjamin, who needs 43 receiving yards to crack 1,000.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
AP Photo/Richard ShiroRashad Greene is one of three FSU receivers who's less than 75 yards from the 1,000-yard mark this season.
It’s the same answer given by Devonta Freeman, who can top 1,000 rushing yards with just 57 in the VIZIO BCS Championship Game.

And, of course, the national championship is exactly where their focus should be, but the proximity of all four players to that elusive mark is nothing to shrug off.

At Florida State, getting to 1,000 has been a remarkably rare accomplishment for anyone. In the school’s history, only 12 players have reached that mark, and only once have multiple Seminoles cracked 1,000 in the same season.

For Freeman, getting to 1,000 would end the longest -- and one of the most inexplicable -- streaks in the country. No Florida State back has topped 1,000 yards since 1996 thanks to a confluence of injuries, depth, performance and bad luck. To end the streak in a national championship game would be a perfect conclusion.

“That would be great,” Freeman said. “But we’ve got to win it. We’ve got to win, then get these 1,000 yards.”

Freeman figured to have plenty of competition from his teammates in Florida State’s backfield, but Karlos Williams (705 yards) was developed slowly after moving from safety in Week 2, and James Wilder Jr. (542 yards) was hobbled by injuries in the early season, opening the door just enough for Freeman to approach that elusive mark.

When the season began, the depth at receiver actually appeared to be a concern. Senior Greg Dent was suspended after being charged with sexual assault. Senior Willie Haulstead was ruled academically ineligible. Jarred Haggins suffered a preseason knee injury and was lost for the year, too. That left Florida State with just four veteran receivers, but the lack of depth actually proved to be a blessing.

The tight rotations meant Greene, Shaw and Benjamin were on the field more often, and for Benjamin in particular, that made a marked difference in his performance. In 2012, Benjamin withered down the stretch, but this season, his last two games have been his best. He has caught 14 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns in his last two contests, pulling him into position to crack 1,000 yards, too.

Only once has Florida State had two receivers top 1,000 in a season -- 1995, when E.J. Green and Andre Cooper did it with a combined 9 yards to spare. That Florida State might have three this year would put the Seminoles’ offense in rarefied company.

Only four other teams in college football history have had three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. Three of those teams -- 2009 Houston, 2007 Hawaii and 2003 Texas Tech -- hardly offer apt comparisons. They combined to throw the ball on 69 percent of their plays. Florida State, meanwhile, has thrown just 46 percent of the time this season.

The 2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are really the only good comparison to what Florida State has done on offense this year. They had a 50-50 split on play-calling, and they are the only team in the last 10 years to have four players top 1,000 yards in one season.

It’s not a record that established Tulsa as an all-time great, of course. It’s simply just an interesting bit of trivia. And that’s why Florida State’s mantra is so significant.

One thousand yards would mean something. Four players topping 1,000 would mean even more. But four 1,000-yard players sharing a national championship would assure the Seminoles of their place in history.

“To me, if it’s in the context of winning and being successful, then it’s a great accomplishment,” Jimbo Fisher said. “Still, 1,000 yards is 1,000 yards, and that means a lot.”
Kenny Shaw Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Getty ImagesWith nine pass catchers from last season out of commission, Florida State needs veterans such as Kenny Shaw to pick up the slack in the passing game.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- About 20 minutes before Florida State wrapped up the first practice of its final two-a-day session of the fall, wide receiver Rashad Greene trudged off the field alongside a trainer, who held held his hand aloft and inspected a taped-up finger.

It's the latest in what seems like a daily addition to the injury report for the Seminoles passing attack.

"We don't need nobody [hurt]," Jimbo Fisher said afterward, "but it's part of camp."

It's a part of camp Florida State has become all too familiar with of late. The receiving corps figured to be among the deepest areas of the Seminoles' roster just a few months ago, but one by one the depth chart has been pared down, and only a few veterans and a trio of untested rookies remain.

The good news is that Greene's injury appears minor. Fisher said the finger wasn't broken, and he expected Greene to return to practice in a few days. The bad news is that, even with Greene, Florida State has just three receivers on its roster who recorded more than three catches last season.

The casualties thus far include seniors Greg Dent, who is suspended indefinitely after an offseason arrest on sexual assault charges, Willie Haulstead -- who didn't qualify academically -- and Jarred Haggins, who is out with a fractured knee. Freshman Marvin Bracy also departed the program to pursue a track career. To make matters worse, three of the four tight ends FSU had on its roster last season have left the program or are done for the season with an injury.

Nine of the 16 Seminoles who caught a pass in 2012 won't see the field in 2013.

"It's a big deal experience-wise," Fisher said. "You always want that experience because that's the thing you can't simulate. You've got to go through those situations."

Greene and Kenny Shaw figure to pick up some of the slack. The pair combined for 90 catches and nearly 1,300 yards last season and have made a point to show the younger receivers how it's done.

"We've put an emphasis on them watching what we do when we go with the ones," Shaw said. "We tell them just to watch, because usually we're doing the right things."

But the two veterans can't be expected to carry the entire load, and further down the depth chart there are plenty of questions.

Start with Kelvin Benjamin, who has been pegged as a future star for two straight seasons without living up to the hype. He opened last year strong, but his final five games produced just seven catches, 52 yards and no touchdowns.

Benjamin insists he's finally turned a corner. He stuck around Tallahassee all summer, working out twice a day to shed excess weight. He's dropped 15 pounds from his 2012 playing weight and is checking in at just 8 percent body fat.

"I feel like I'm jumping higher, coming out of my breaks faster," Benjamin said. "I feel much better."

Benjamin's potential is obvious, but for junior Christian Green, his future is something of a mystery. He flourished as a redshirt freshman in 2011, finishing third on the team with 450 yards receiving on a shaky offense. He all but disappeared last season, though, catching only three passes. That won't suffice this season.

"He needs to get back in that flow," Fisher said. "He had a chance to make some plays [in the scrimmage] and made some. He had a good year two years ago, and hopefully he comes back to the same level -- and I think better."

[+] EnlargeIsaiah Jones
AP Photo/Phil SearsIsaiah Jones (right) is one of three freshman wide receivers FSU hopes will step up quickly.
The real wild cards in the mix, however, might be the freshmen.

Fisher inked three receivers in this year's signing class, and all three have made strong first impressions. Levonte Whitfield has world-class speed and could easily fill the role Fisher had expected Bracy to play, running reverses, working in the slot and helping on special teams. Jesus Wilson was the star of the summer, earning rave reviews from teammates on both sides of the ball. He worked extensively on the field and in the weight room with Greene and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, and both admit to being fans. Isaiah Jones might need the most work of the trio, but at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, he's also the biggest.

Fisher has praised the group throughout camp, though he admitted Monday he was beginning to see signs of fatigue.

"You can see it's starting to wear on them a little bit," he said. "They did some good things, but had a couple mental muffs when they got tired that they have to learn to grind through."

Ups and downs from freshmen are be a fact of life, but a big season from at least one of them wouldn't be unprecedented. Greene led the team in receiving as a true freshman just two seasons ago, and this group should have a much better supporting cast.

"I'll just be honest with them," Greene said. "The opportunity is here. It's our job to help you out, but you also have to let us know when you need help, and they're doing a fantastic job with that."

That opportunity extends all the way down the depth chart. Greene has been Florida State's best receiver for two straight seasons, but he'll need more consistent production this season. Benjamin has star potential, but he needs to deliver the results. The freshmen can make an impact, but they'll need to avoid the growing pains.

The pressure is higher on those who remain, but Benjamin insists they're ready for the opportunity.

"Losing players that were going to be a big factor in the offense, we need to bring it," Benjamin said. "Every practice we're going to go hard, trying to be dominant, be elite."

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 12, 2013
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Happy Monday, folks. Get your week started with some ACC reading.

FSU's fall camp position battles

August, 4, 2013
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State opens fall camp this week, and while the bulk of the starting lineup appears firmly in place, there are a handful of key position battles to watch as the Seminoles set their sights on the season opener in Pittsburgh.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards Jr.
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesDefensive end Mario Edwards Jr. was the No. 1 high school prospect in the nation in the Class of 2012.
Defensive end

The candidates: Mario Edwards Jr. (So.), Dan Hicks (RSSr.), Giorgio Newberry (RSSo.), Chris Casher (RSFr.), DeMarcus Walker (Fr.), Davarez Bryant (Fr.), Desmond Hollin (Jr.)

The situation: Florida State lost three top pass rushers to the NFL from last year's team, leaving a major void in a key area. Edwards appears all but certain to earn one of the two starting jobs after closing out 2012 in that role. On the opposite side, however, things are up for grabs. Newberry figured to be the top candidate entering spring practice, but Hicks -- nine months removed from ACL surgery -- made a big push. Walker might have been in the mix, too, but NCAA eligibility issues kept him on the sideline after he enrolled early.

The projection: Hicks' strong spring vaulted him to the top of the depth chart for now, and it's clear he's ready to play a sizable role after being shuffled to tight end a year ago. Odds are, however, this will be an area of some mixing and matching early on, with Hicks, Newberry and Casher all likely to see playing time alongside Edwards.

Linebacker

The candidates: Terrance Smith (RSSo.), Reggie Northrup (So.), Ukeme Eligwe (RSFr.), Nigel Terrell (RSJr.) and five incoming freshmen

The situation: Seniors Telvin Smith and Christian Jones offer a formidable pairing atop the depth chart, but the rest of the linebacker position remains in flux. None of the candidates have any significant experience, and while Terrance Smith looked to take an early lead as the starter on the strong side throughout the spring, there are endless possibilities on how the two-deep at each position might shake out.

The projection: Because FSU will run a majority of its defensive plays in nickel and dime sets, there may not be a need for a third linebacker routinely. Still, the coaching staff knows it needs to develop depth behind its two seniors, and identifying a pecking order is crucial. Northrup, Smith and Eligwe are likely the top contenders for regular playing time, but freshman Freddie Stevenson was an early enrollee who impressed this spring, and freshman Matthew Thomas might have more upside than anyone at the position.

Quarterback

The candidates: Jameis Winston (RSFr.), Jacob Coker (RSSo.), Sean Maguire (RSFr.)

The situation: What was a wide-open, four-man race this spring now looks to be Winston's job to lose. He was impressive throughout spring practice, dominated the spring game and has enjoyed immense hype and enthusiasm from the fan base ever since. Still, Fisher has been quick to point out that nothing is set in stone at the position yet, and Coker, who endured a foot injury that limited him this spring, figures to keep the pressure on Winston as fall camp begins.

The projection: In spite of Fisher's pronouncements, it would be a shock if anyone other than Winston got the starting nod in Week 1. By all indications, the redshirt freshman has continued to develop this summer, has handled all the publicity with aplomb, and his potential is undeniable.

Defensive back

The candidates: Lamarcus Joyner (Sr.), Nick Waisome (Jr.), Ronald Darby (So.), Tyler Hunter (Jr.), P.J. Williams (So.) and others

The situation: This falls under the category of good problems to have, but FSU's wealth of talent in the secondary is causing at least some confusion on the depth chart. Joyner switches from safety to corner this year, leaving five talented and experienced corners vying for limited playing time alongside presumptive starters at safety Terrence Brooks and Karlos Williams. The versatility of the group -- particularly Joyner, Hunter and P.J. Williams -- offers some options for new DC Jeremy Pruitt, but finding enough playing time for all the talent on the roster may be a tall order.

The projection: There is likely to be a healthy dose of mixing and matching this year, with Karlos Williams getting reps at linebacker, Joyner, Hunter and P.J. Williams shifting between corner, nickel and safety, and other options like Keelin Smith and Colin Blake vying for reps, too. Still, Joyner is the unquestioned leader, so his playing time should be secure, and Darby, Waisome and Hunter will likely grab the lion's share of what remains.

Wide receiver

The candidates: Kelvin Benjamin (RSSo.), Christian Green (RSJr.), Willie Haulstead (RSSr.), Levonte Whitfield (Fr.), Jarred Haggins (Sr.), Isaiah Jones (Fr.), Jesus Wilson (Fr.)

The situation: Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw have a firm grip on starting jobs, but injuries, defections and suspensions have seriously limited FSU's depth in the passing game. Fisher needs at least one or two more receivers to step up into bigger roles, with none looming larger than the uber-talented Benjamin. Green and Haulstead -- afterthoughts a year ago -- are aiming for comeback seasons, while Whitfield's speed makes him an immediate threat, and Wilson has garnered early praise for his work in summer seven-on-seven drills.

The projection: Benjamin is perhaps the biggest wild card on Florida State's roster. His talent is immense, but he's had difficulty showing consistency during his first two years in Tallahassee. If he blossoms into a star in 2013, it would be a huge boon to the Seminoles' offense, but don't be surprised if at least one of the freshmen manages to make some noise, too.
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. 31 Jarred Haggins

Position/Class: WR/Sr.

What he's done: For three seasons, Haggins has quietly established himself as a reliable, consistent weapon in Florida State's passing game without ever blossoming into a routine contributor. He's upped his receiving yards each season, including 108 as a junior in 2012, but has never been able to break through into a more pronounced role.

Where he's at: In his senior season at Florida State, Haggins may finally have the opportunity he's been waiting for. With the offseason arrest of fellow senior Greg Dent, and the subsequent questions surrounding Dent's eligibility in 2013, there's a major void on the receiver depth chart. While others, including incoming freshman Levonte Whitfield, should factor in to that competition, Haggins' mix of experience, knowledge of the system and impressive athleticism could vault him to the top of the heap.

What's to come: For a player with just 20 receptions in his three-year career, it's hard to predict a breakthrough in 2013. While Dent's absence could be significant, there are bigger, stronger receivers like Kelvin Benjamin and Willie Haulstead who could also step in to fill that void. Haggins would share slot duties with Kenny Shaw regardless, and Whitfield brings incredible potential to the position, too. Still, Haggins has paid his dues and bided his time, and while an injury kept him off the practice field this spring, he figures to play a big part in the competition this fall. He may not produce huge numbers in his senior season, but it would be surprising if he didn't set career highs across the board.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

It happens every year that a few relatively obscure names find their way into bigger roles, and as the Seminoles get set to start another summer NoleNation is counting down five under-the-radar players who could be in line for breakthrough seasons.

Next up: Willie Haulstead (Jr./WR)

Career arc: Haulstead burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2010, finishing second on the team in receptions (38) and receiving yards (587) while hauling in a team-high six touchdowns. He seemed poised for stardom, but a serious concussion suffered during fall camp in 2011 ended his junior campaign before it ever began. Haulstead returned in 2012 overweight and out of shape, and he saw only limited playing time, catching just three passes all year.

Why he's overlooked: It has been two full years since Haulstead was last a productive member of the offense, and by the end of 2012, he was buried on a depth chart that included an ample amount of talent. With established veterans like Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene along with potential stars like Kelvin Benjamin and incoming freshman Lavonte Whitfield, it's been tough to envision Haulstead rebounding as a senior.

Why he'll produce: Haulstead's path to regular playing time still isn't entirely clear, but he might be in for a bigger role than many have assumed. For one, he has shed the extra weight that plagued him last season. Haulstead has dropped 15 pounds and now checks in at a slim 217 -- and he's working to get down to 210. That has helped his speed, and it allowed him to be a much bigger part of the scheme this spring. Add that Benjamin has struggled with consistency and Rodney Smith is gone, and it stands to reason Jimbo Fisher would be looking for a productive receiver who can match up physically with bigger corners, and Haulstead could fit the bill.

Projection: Haulstead might never get back to the numbers he posted as a sophomore, but he won't be an overlooked piece of the offensive game plan this year. While Fisher figures to still spread the ball around, it wouldn't be surprising if Haulstead earned a sizable slice of the pie this year, potentially sliding into a starting role when FSU opens in three-receiver sets. He might not match the numbers Smith posted last year (38 catches, 524 yards) but a 25-catch, 400-yard season is certainly possible.

State of the Noles: Wide receivers 

February, 28, 2013
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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, the final position in the series: Wide receivers.

Scholarship receivers (12): Kenny Shaw (Sr.), Rashad Greene (Jr.), Christian Green (RSJr.), Kelvin Benjamin (RSSo.), Jarred Haggins (Sr.), Josh Gehres (RSSr.), Marvin Bracy (RSFr.), Willie Haulstead (RSSr.), Greg Dent (Sr.), Jesus Wilson (Fr.), Levonte Whitfield (Fr.), Isaiah Jones (Fr.)

Noles 2013 snapshot: Jesus Wilson 

February, 25, 2013
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With national signing day now beyond us, NoleNation takes a closer look at the next crop of Seminoles.

Vitals: Wide receiver Jesus Wilson (Miami/Columbus), 5-foot-10, 165 pounds.

Committed: June 15, 2012.

ESPN.com grade: 80, four-star prospect.

ESPN.com rankings: No. 62 wide receiver in the country, No. 221 prospect in the Southeast region and No. 89 player in the state of Florida.


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Noles 2013 snapshot: Isaiah Jones 

February, 18, 2013
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With national signing day now beyond us, NoleNation takes a closer look at the next crop of Seminoles.

Vitals: Wide receiver Isaiah Jones (Milton, Fla./Milton), 6-foot-4, 195 pounds.

Committed: July 6, 2012.

ESPN.com grade: 83, four-star prospect.

ESPN.com rankings: No. 18 wide receiver in the country, No. 75 player in the Southeast region, No. 32 prospect in the state and the No. 160 player in the ESPN 300.

Picked Florida State over: Auburn, Georgia, Miami (Fla) and Tennessee.

State of the position: Arguably Florida State's deepest and most talented position on the roster, the wide receivers have a chance to be a special group over the next couple of years. Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent and Kelvin Benjamin, Jarred Haggins, Marvin Bracy, Christian Green and Willie Haulstead are all back in 2013. Jimbo Fisher's offense, though, loves rotating players at the position and most, if not all, will see significant time next season.


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2013 Spring Preview: WRs, TEs 

January, 22, 2013
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Florida StateRobert Mayer/US PresswireTight end Nick O'Leary will need to be more consistent in 2013.

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 2013.

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 the start of spring practice.

Last week: Cornerback

Next up: Receivers and Tight Ends


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The Big Board: Distributing the ball 

December, 12, 2012
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Among the myriad talking points entering the season that offered heaps of optimism for the 2012 Seminoles was the deep and diverse group of receivers and the potential damage Florida State's aerial assault might inflict on opposing defenses.

The case for FSU's receivers was air tight: Rashad Greene would be a year older and healthy for a full season after missing four games in 2012; Kelvin Benjamin would be on the field and his size would make him a huge weapon; Willie Haulstead would finally return from a concussion that kept him out all of 2011 after being the team's leading receiver in 2010; juniors Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins and Greg Dent were ready to come into their own.

Really, the only question was how EJ Manuel would manage to find enough footballs to ensure all these weapons were given sufficient opportunities to make plays.

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FSU Awards Tracker: Week 8

October, 23, 2012
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With two-thirds of the season finished, the opportunities for Florida State players to showcase themselves for postseason awards are diminishing. Last week's win over Miami provided only small steps forward for a handful of Seminoles stars. Here's how the awards races stack up through eight games.

RISING
DE Cornellius Carradine, Sr. (Bednarik)
Carradine recorded his first sack in three weeks and added seven tackles in the win over Miami. For the season, Carradine leads all FSU tacklers with 48, and only Miami's Shayon Green has more among ACC defensive linemen.

K Dustin Hopkins, Sr. (Groza)
Hopkins connected on four of five field goal tries Saturday, with his lone miss coming by mere inches. Two of his kicks were from 40 yards or more, and he's now third in the nation -- and tops among BCS automatic qualifier schools -- in field goals for the season with 16.

QB EJ Manuel, Sr. (Heisman, Maxwell, O’Brien, Unitas)
Saturday was a relatively mundane performance by Manuel's standards -- 211-of-31 passing for 229 yards and no touchdowns -- but he wasn't asked to do much. Three potentially big passes were called back due to offensive pass interference calls, and he did connect with Kelvin Benjamin on a 39-yard bomb that set up a game-securing touchdown. He was named one of 16 finalists for the O'Brien Award this week.

CB Xavier Rhodes, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
Despite being in significant pain with an ankle injury he continued to reaggravate, Rhodes turned in a stellar performance against Miami, helping out in the run game and finishing with two tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass break-up.

(Read full post)

FSU Awards Tracker: Week 7

October, 16, 2012
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Florida State got a handful of impressive performances in its bounce-back win over Boston College, which won't go too far in erasing the damage done in a loss the previous week, but should help bolster the cases for a number of Seminoles still in the hunt for postseason awards.

RISING

DE Cornellius Carradine, Sr. (Bednarik)
Carradine didn't record a sack, but he did have two QB hurries and racked up five tackles.

K Dustin Hopkins, Sr. (Groza)
Hopkins connected on all three of his field-goal tries and was perfect on PATs, giving him 15 points for the game to establish a new Florida State and ACC record for career scoring.

DT Timmy Jernigan, So. (Outland)
Jernigan was in on his first sack of the season and recorded 1.5 tackles-for-loss in the win over Boston College. He had three tackles overall. His 41 tackles this season ranked second among defensive linemen in the ACC.

LB Christian Jones, Jr. (Butkus)
For the second straight game, Jones was Florida State's leading tackler. He made eight tackles, giving him 39 for the season -- just two behind Carradine for the team lead. More importantly, Jones and the linebacking corps handled BC's short passing game far better than it did a week earlier against NC State.

S Lamarcus Joyner, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
Joyner's interception of a Chase Rettig pass at the end of the second quarter likely sealed the win for FSU. Boston College had driven to the Seminoles' 21-yard line and was aiming to trim the FSU lead to 14 when Joyner picked off the pass, returned it 33 yards and set up a last-second field goal for Florida State.

QB EJ Manuel, Sr. (Heisman, Maxwell, O’Brien, Unitas)
It probably wasn't enough to make anyone forget his struggles against NC State, but on a Saturday when Heisman favorite Geno Smith came up short, Manuel did his best to get back into the discussion, passing for a career high 439 yards and four TDs.

DE Bjoern Werner, Jr. (Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski)
For the fourth straight game, Werner was held without a sack, but his impact was nevertheless felt. On BC's opening drive, Werner was at the center of three of FSU's four stops from inside its own 1-yard line.

HOLDING STEADY

DT Everett Dawkins, Sr. (Outland)
Dawkins had two tackles in the game and was part of a solid pass rush from the middle of the FSU line. Boston College's 75 yards rushing in the first half did keep the Eagles in the game and was one of the more unimpressive efforts by the usually stout FSU run defense.

CB Xavier Rhodes, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
BC's leading receiver, Alex Amidon, had just 44 yards in the game, including a 22-yarder that represented the Eagles' longest passing play of the day. Rhodes finished with just one tackle, but he was largely effective in keeping Rettig from finding any big plays downfield as BC played catch-up in the second half.

FALLING

WR Willie Haulstead, Jr. (Biletnikoff)
Nine different receivers caught passes Saturday, but Haulstead wasn't one of them.

DE Brandon Jenkins, Sr. (Bednarik)
Jenkins is out for the season with a foot injury.

LB Nick Moody, Sr. (Butkus)
Moody assisted on one tackle, but he saw only limited playing time as Boston College fell behind early and FSU spent much of the game in nickel packages.

FSU Awards Tracker: Week 6

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
9:00
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There's little in the way of awards talk this week other than a few remaining rumblings about how far the Seminoles have fallen. It's all about dishing out blame right now, which means there are few players rising up the ranks in this week's awards watch.

[+] EnlargeChristian Jones
Kim Klement/US PresswireChristian Jones had 14 tackles to lead the Seminoles defense Saturday against NC State.
RISING
K Dustin Hopkins, Sr. (Groza)
Hopkins connected on three field goals for the second straight week, pushing him ever closer to the school and conference scoring titles. But what he'll remember about Saturday's game is the two field goals he never got a chance to try -- the 52-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter in which Jimbo Fisher decided to punt and a potential game winner as time expired that never came to fruition.

LB Christian Jones, Jr. (Butkus)
It wasn't a perfect game for Jones, and the linebackers share a significant chunk of the blame for allowing NC State to effectively use all those dink-and-dunk crossing patterns to great success in the second half. But Jones also defended those throws as well as anyone, breaking up two passes, and he finished with a game-high 14 tackles.

S Lamarcus Joyner, Jr. (Bednarik, Nagurski, Thorpe)
If Saturday's game had ended with a win, Joyner would be hailed as a hero. Because it ended with a loss, the best of his contributions will be forgotten. Joyner made a handful of huge plays in the second half, including stripping a catch near the goal line and making a game-saving open-field tackle to force an NC State punt in the fourth quarter -- but it was all for naught. He finished with seven tackles in the game.

HOLDING STEADY
DT Everett Dawkins, Sr. (Outland)
The goal entering Saturday's game was to get Mike Glennon out of the pocket. That never happened, and part of the reason was the lack of push by the big men up front. But Dawkins was stout in the running game once again -- NC State averaged just 2.4 yards per carry -- and he had three tackles. It wasn't his best game, but there was plenty of blame to go around.

(Read full post)

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ACC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Saturday, 1/10
Monday, 1/12