Florida State Seminoles: Wilson Bell
With that in mind, we’re taking a quick run through the depth chart to see where Florida State stands in advance of spring practice. Up first, the offense.
Projected starter: Jameis Winston (RS-So.)
Backups: Sean Maguire (RS-So.) and John Franklin III (RS-Fr.)
Returning the Heisman winner makes life easy for FSU’s offense, but Winston’s health will be watched closely.
Projected starters: Cameron Erving (RS-Sr.), Tre Jackson (Sr.), Austin Barron (Sr.), Josue Matias (Sr.), Bobby Hart (Sr.)
Backups: Sterling Lovelady (Sr.), Ira Denson (RS-Fr.), Ruben Carter (RS-Jr.), Wilson Bell (RS-Fr.), Ryan Hoefeld (RS-Fr.), Kareem Are (Fr.), Stephen Gabbard (Fr.)
Storylines: Barron steps in for Stork in the only noteworthy departure from the line. Barron has starting experience, and if he wins the job, FSU will have five senior starters -- meaning lofty expectations for the unit. Erving and Bell played well on the edges last year, but both could make further strides. The improvement for youngsters such as Bell, Hoefeld and Are will be crucial for both depth in 2014 and managing a massive overhaul in 2015.
The starting lineup might be the best in the country, but developing depth for the future will be crucial this spring.
Projected starters: Karlos Williams (Sr.) and Freddie Stevenson (So.)
Backups: Mario Pender (RS-So.), Ryan Green (So.), Dalvin Cook (Fr.), Cameron Ponder (Sr.)
Storylines: Williams was a revelation in his first season as a tailback, but for all his success, 70 of his 91 carries came in late-game, blowout situations. Pender returns after sitting out two years because of injuries and academics, but he provides ample speed and a knowledge of the system. Green showed flashes of potential as a freshman but must improve his blocking and decision-making this spring. Cook could be the wild card. He’s an immense talent, and by enrolling early, he’ll have a leg up on getting touches in the fall.
With a ton of talent, this group could easily turn this grade to an A by the end of the spring.
Projected starters: Rashad Greene (Sr.), Christian Green (RS-Sr.), Kermit Whitfield (So.)
Backups: Isaiah Jones (So.), Jarred Haggins (RS-Sr.), Jesus Wilson (So.)
Storylines: FSU must replace Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, who accounted for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns between them. The current group, aside from Greene, has combined for just 34 catches, 441 yards and no touchdowns in the past two seasons. After a solid 2011 season, Green has virtually disappeared and must show he’s still capable of making an impact. Haggins returns from a knee injury and figures to be limited in spring practice, but he could provide a solid veteran influence. Whitfield is a budding star thanks to his blazing speed, but FSU will need to see marked improvement from both Jones and Wilson in order to make up for the depth this unit lost.
Without any established depth behind Greene, this is the one area of the offense where Florida State has a lot of work to do this spring.
Projected starter: Nick O’Leary (Sr.)
Backups: Kevin Haplea (RS-Sr.), Giorgio Newberry (RS-Jr.), Jeremy Kerr (RS-Fr.)
Storylines: O’Leary had a breakthrough 2013, but with two of FSU’s top three receivers gone, he figures to see even more looks this year. Haplea returns from a knee injury that cost him all of 2013 and will likely take it slow entering spring practice. Newberry’s stint at tight end after moving from defensive end wasn’t entirely smooth, and he’s been vocal that he’s not enamored with staying at the position.
O’Leary figures to be among the top tight ends in the country this season, and getting the veteran Haplea back for blocking situations adds to the unit’s depth and versatility.
First on the docket for FSU will be identifying which star players will be returning for next season. Running back James Wilder Jr. is entering the draft, according to a source, and more decisions will trickle in before the Jan. 15 deadline. Here are our best guesses at what’s to come — and who might step in for departing underclassmen.
Why he’d leave: Entering the season, Jernigan was Florida State’s top-rated underclassman by most draft experts, and that standing never changed. Jernigan was dominant all season, and his impact was never more noticeable than in the national title game. When he was on the field, Auburn found no running room between the tackles. When he was out of the game, the Tigers moved the ball with ease on the ground.
Next up: Nile Lawrence-Stample took a big step forward this season, gaining valuable playing time in the defensive line rotation. He started six games and finished with 15 tackles. Florida State has five current defensive tackle commitments, so it’s certainly possible one of the incoming freshmen could make a big impact early — as Jernigan did in 2011 — but Lawrence-Stample is the safest bet to step in full time.
WR Kelvin Benjamin (redshirt sophomore)
Why he’d leave: Benjamin was projected as a star from the moment he arrived on campus, but it took him a while to get acclimated. He enjoyed a breakthrough 2013 season, finishing with 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, including the game-winner in the VIZIO BCS National Championship. Some of his game could still use some refinement — as evidenced by two big drops vs. Auburn — but his physical skills already peg him as a likely first-rounder.
Next up: Kermit Whitfield certainly projects as Florida State’s next big-play receiver after an electric season as a freshman, but he fits more in the slot. Replacing Benjamin’s size and physicality isn’t an easy task, but 6-4 freshman Isaiah Jones figures to have the best chance. He saw limited playing time this year, catching two balls for 31 yards.
RB Devonta Freeman (junior)
Next up: Karlos Williams showed plenty of promise this season after moving from safety in Week 2, finishing with 748 rushing yards in reserve duty. He’s largely a straight-ahead runner, but his combination of size and speed makes him a weapon. FSU will still need to develop depth, likely with Mario Pender or Ryan Green, but could get a boost from four-star commit Dalvin Cook.
LT Cameron Erving (redshirt junior)
Why he’d leave: Erving has hovered near the top of the offensive tackle draft boards since the end of 2012, and in his second season since moving from the defensive line, he showed significant progress. Still, it’s a deep draft at the position, and there were moments — including against Auburn’s impressive defensive front Monday — when he showed some flaws.
Next up: Florida State brought in two potentially strong replacements last year in Ira Denson and Wilson Bell. Injuries hampered the progress for both during the season, however, which makes Erving’s decision potentially crucial for the stability of the line going into 2014.
G Tre Jackson and G Josue Matias (juniors)
Why they’d leave: Matias and Jackson might be among the top underclassmen at the position, but both could benefit from another year working with line coach Rick Trickett.
Next up: Florida State has struggled to recruit on the line the past few years, which makes depth — particularly on the interior — a significant concern. The Seminoles have a solid class coming in for 2014, but the loss of more than one of their underclassmen on the line would be a serious concern.
TE Nick O’Leary (junior)
Why he’d leave: O’Leary made huge strides this season, developing into one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets and a legitimate red-zone threat. He’s an adept route-runner, a sure-handed receiver and his blocking game has developed nicely. But with Florida State's receiving corps in transition, O’Leary could be in a position to post huge numbers in 2014 if he sticks around.
Next up: Kevin Haplea returns from a knee injury next year, but he’s more of a blocking tight end than a true replacement.
WR Rashad Greene (Jr./WR)
Why he’d leave: What more can Greene accomplish at Florida State? He’s been the team’s most reliable receiver for three consecutive seasons. He became the Seminoles’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Anquan Boldin this year. He’s quick, a great route-runner, and he has good hands. He does everything well, and his quarterbacks have taken notice. The problem for Greene is that he lacks the obvious physical skills that make scouts drool, so his draft value might not reflect his on-field contributions.
Next up: It would be a surprise if Greene left, but it would also be a huge blow to Florida State’s offense. Winston was a star this season in part because of an exceptional group of receivers, but the group will get a major makeover in 2014. The Seminoles need Greene to help ease the transition.
Out: Lamarcus Joyner, CB
In: Tyler Hunter, DB
Joyner is a huge loss, but Hunter is well prepared to step into the vacancy. His 2013 season was cut short by a neck injury, but he knows the defense well and his combination of size and speed allows him to fit well at safety, corner and nickel. Replacing Joyner is impossible, but Hunter could be in for a huge 2014.
Out: Terrence Brooks, S
He has been an under-the-radar performer since he arrived at FSU as a three-star recruit, but Brooks has been consistently good at safety for two years.
In: Nate Andrews, S
Brooks found a perfect protégé in the similarly underrated Andrews, and the relationship has already paid dividends. Andrews started just one game, but he leads the Seminoles with seven takeaways (four INTs, three forced fumbles) and is second on the team with eight passes defended.
Out: Telvin Smith, LB
For the past two years, there has been no louder voice in the locker room than Smith, and in 2013, he blossomed on the field, too, leading FSU in tackles.
In: Reggie Northrup, LB
Northrup hasn’t started a game in his two seasons at Florida State, but when he’s been on the field, he has proven to be a big-play defender. He has 46 tackles this season, and he has a skill set to both play the run and in coverage. Terrance Smith is FSU’s only returning linebacker with starting experience, but there’s ample depth at the position, led by Northrup.
Out: Christian Jones, OLB
Jones' move from traditional linebacker to edge rusher was a turning point for Florida State’s defense, helping to seal the edge and add another dynamic pass rusher to the D line.
In: Matthew Thomas, OLB
An injury ended Thomas’ season after just five games, but his potential is immense. He had two tackles for loss in his limited playing time, and his athleticism and strength could make for a smooth transition into the role Jones defined so well in 2013.
Out: Kenny Shaw, WR
Always a reliable option in the slot, Shaw blossomed as a senior and is on pace for 1,000-yard season while also handling punt return duties.
In: Levonte Whitfield, WR
Whitfield may lack Shaw’s consistency, but his big-play potential is through the roof. He racked up 646 total yards and three TDs on just 21 touches (an average of 31 yards per touch) as a runner, receiver and kick returner. It was valuable experience as a freshman, and Whitfield should be an excellent fit in the slot in 2014.
Out: Bryan Stork, C
As Florida State’s line developed from disaster in 2011 to dominant in 2013, Stork was the centerpiece. The veteran leader of the group has been the foundation for the unit’s growth.
In: Austin Barron, C
Losing Stork is big, but Barron is no rookie. He has six career starts already under his belt, and he has worked routinely with the first-team line during practices this season while Stork has nursed a foot injury.
Out: The underclassmen
No one has made it official that they’re leaving, and with so much talent on the roster, plenty of Florida State’s draft-eligible underclassmen could decide to come back for what figures to be another big season in 2014. Of the group, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan -- widely considered a first-round selection -- is the most likely to depart. Beyond that, tailbacks Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., receiver Kelvin Benjamin, tight end Nick O’Leary, and lineman Cameron Erving will all have big decisions to make.
In: The next regime
Replacing Jernigan will be a tough task, but Nile Lawrence-Stample (14 tackles, 2 QB hurries) took some big steps in 2013. Karlos Williams (705 yards, 11 touchdowns) is ready to pick up the slack if either tailback leaves, while Jesus Wilson and Isaiah Jones will see their workload at receiver increase in 2014. Kevin Haplea returns from a knee injury, though he’s unlikely to match O’Leary’s productivity in the passing game. Wilson Bell earned rave reviews before an injury ended his season, but he could step into a vacancy at tackle should one arise in 2014.
Jalen Ramsey is different. All he knows is what he has done before and what he expects to do again. He wasn't making guesses about his production. He knew.
"He came in saying it," Fisher said. "We all said, 'OK,' but when you're around him, you see a different guy. He's a mature guy."
Now that, Fisher said, is a lofty standard, even for Ramsey.
"He's a heck of a player now, but let's give him a break before we put him in Deion's category," Fisher said. "But size, speed, athleticism and very mature, very hard-working and very intelligent. He has a drive to be good, and he's very mature above his years. That's what allowed him to be able to do that, and he's done a tremendous job. He's going to be a heck of a football player."
But it's not just Ramsey exceeding early expectations. With an interception in his first game and five tackles -- including snuffing out a fake field-goal try -- in his second, he has made the biggest impact, but 12 other true freshmen have seen action for Florida State this season.
Defensive end Demarcus Walker started the opener along with Ramsey, meaning more true freshmen got starting nods in just one game in 2013 than did so in all of 2012.
Running backs Ryan Green and Freddie Stevenson both scored touchdowns against Nevada. That marked the first time two true freshmen reached the end zone for Florida State since Devonta Freeman and Nick O'Leary did it against Duke in 2011.
Five true freshmen have recorded a tackle so far, led by Ramsey's nine. That's just one fewer than did so in all of 2012.
Two more have caught passes, two others have seen work on the offensive line. For a team with sights set on a national championship, that's a lot of youth. In all, a higher percentage of Florida State's 2013 freshman signing class (65 percent) has seen action than in any other year since Fisher took over as head coach.
The way Fisher sees it, getting that group early playing time is a necessity.
"You can explain it to them a thousand ways," Fisher said, "but until they go out and make a mistake or make a play, it doesn't matter."
Last week's blowout win over Nevada gave a handful of the freshmen a chance to shine. Levonte Whitfield's circus catch along the sideline earned praise from Fisher. Green made the most of his late-game opportunities, racking up 78 yards on just five carries. Jesus Wilson worked in on punt-return duties, racking up 29 yards on two tries.
Two easy wins to open the season and an early bye week have helped Fisher ready his freshmen for battle. A date with an FCS foe this week should allow for additional playing time for some of the backups, too. The hope, Fisher said, is that the early experience will mean none of the 13 freshmen who has seen the field so far will be playing like freshmen by the time Florida State hits the meat of its schedule.
"That will help out a lot," receiver Christian Green said. "Them coming from high school to this level is definitely different. They're getting used to the game speed, how things go in a game."
Of course, not all freshmen are created equal, and there have already been some casualties. Stevenson practiced this spring at linebacker, but Fisher believes his future could be at fullback. Wilson Bell was FSU's most advanced freshman on the offensive line, but he went down with a knee injury against Nevada and could be headed for a medical redshirt. Seven other members of Florida State's 10th-ranked signing class appear destined for a redshirt, too.
But the bulk of the group already has dipped its toes into the water, and that's a crucial bit of early development in case Ramsey isn't the only one Florida State needs to throw into the deep end as the season progresses.
"They get that out of their system -- the nerves, the jitters," Fisher said. "Once they get out there, they realize it's football."
Of the 14 non-specialists Florida State added in 2012, only six saw action last year. Mario Edwards Jr. was the only freshman to start a game, and Ronald Darby and Eddie Goldman were the only others to see regular playing time.
The situation may not be dramatically different this year. Twenty-one freshmen were added to the roster, but aside from a small minority, there doesn't appear to be regular reps awaiting the bulk of the group. FSU's initial depth chart lists nine freshmen on the two-deep, though the playing time for each may be limited, and the roles for a few others may yet develop. As it stands though, here's our projections for early playing time for the Class of 2013.
The likely redshirts (4): QB John Franklin, OT Ira Denson, C Ryan Hoefeld, TE Jeremy Kerr
Fisher is never shy with praise for his players -- even those with virtually no shot at seeing a moment of playing time. That's been the case for Franklin, whom Fisher said has looked very good in practice throughout fall camp. Chalk it up to Fisher's desire to talk about any quarterback other than Jameis Winston, but it's nevertheless encouraging given that so many college coaches wanted Franklin as a receiver, not a QB.
Denson arrived overweight, and Hoefeld is still a touch lighter than line coach Rick Trickett would like, which means both are likely to spend the year prepping for the future. Kerr might have been a lock for early playing time given FSU's utter lack of depth at tight end, but a knee injury has kept him off the practice field for weeks.
The victims of numbers (4): DT Keith Bryant, OG Wilson Bell, DB Marquez White, S Nate Andrews
The reports on these four have been generally positive -- particularly Bell, who was well ahead of the other young linemen, according to Trickett -- but barring injuries, there's probably not much playing time to be had. It's possible one or two will find a role -- Andrews and White could make a special-teams impact -- but none are guaranteed to see action at all.
Levenberry and Thomas headline the current depth chart, where both are listed as the primary backups at the Mike and Will linebacker spots, respectively. Both offer immense promise. Thomas is the star of the group, and after an on-again, off-again spring in which he considered transferring to USC, the five-star recruit seems to be happy and comfortable in FSU's defense. Levenberry has also been a big hit with his coaches, and his size -- 6-3, 240 pounds -- has had Fisher drooling.
Both Thomas and Levenberry figure to play, but they may not be alone. Freddie Stevenson was an early enrollee and has drawn praise from teammates. Lyons and Hoskins could figure in the special-teams mix, too.
Florida State has just two established veteran linebackers, and both will be gone at year's end. The Seminoles need to start developing some depth there, which is good news for the entire group.
The special-teams stalwarts (4): DE Davarez Bryant, DE Desmond Hollin, RB Ryan Green, WR Levonte Whitfield
Fisher's history suggests skill-position players who can contribute on special teams will get a chance as freshmen, even if there isn't much of a role beyond that. FSU allowed P.J. Williams, Reggie Northrup and Christo Kourtzidis to do it last year, which means Green, Bryant and others could do the same in 2013, even if a wealth of scrimmage snaps aren't there. Hollin, a juco transfer, probably stands the best shot at a bigger role, and Bryant has actually worked in some at tight end, too. Whitfield figures to be in the mix as a kick returner early, but he is a potential weapon as a slot receiver on offense, too.
The best bets to play (4): CB Jalen Ramsey, DE DeMarcus Walker, WR Jesus Wilson, WR Isaiah Jones
Fisher was impressed with his freshman wideouts from the outset, but now it's a necessity that at least one or two contributes heavily. FSU lost three senior receivers for the season, which means there should be ample playing time to go around. Wilson has wowed teammates since the summer, and he figures to be first up, Jones also turns up on FSU's two-deep, backing up Rashad Greene at the X position.
Walker's progression was hindered a bit during the spring when NCAA compliance issues kept him off the practice field. Still, he spent long hours in the film room and coach's office, and his teammates have raved about his football IQ. Given the relative depth issues at defensive end combined with a depth chart with little or no game experience, Walker has as good a shot as anyone at getting playing time early.
Unlike the rest of this group, the numbers don't exactly favor Ramsey. The FSU secondary is stacked with talent, but that's only more of a testament to how good Ramsey has looked during fall camp. He spent the first few weeks working with the No. 1 defense while Darby nursed an injury, and he appears to have established himself as a legitimate threat to contribute. He opens the season No. 2 on the depth chart behind Lamarcus Joyner, and that's a role that could expand as the season progresses.
1. Offensive tackle
It's been a relatively prolonged dry spell on the recruiting trail for FSU when it comes to the offensive line, with tackle in particular being a concern. As it stands, the Seminoles have three natural tackles projected on the roster beyond 2013, but Bobby Hart remains a wild card after an up-and-down two years, Wilson Bell has yet to arrive on campus and Cameron Erving could be headed to the NFL early if he turns in a strong junior campaign. Florida State needs to make a splash with this class, adding not only at least one or two game-ready options, but depth as well.
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Rick Trickett was already heading into the film room to watch tape of the day's workouts, but former FSU assistant Dameyune Craig was happy to make an introduction -- with just one, small warning.
"Just count the number of F-bombs he drops," Craig told Hoefeld.
"It ended up being like 27," Hoefeld said. "That was when I first started really liking him."
Hoefeld is not alone. Trickett pulls no punches, and that's made him a hero for many of the hard-scrabble, blue-collar linemen who have called Florida State home during the past six years. But that gruff personality doesn't always endear him to players with a softer side or fans concerned about Trickett's negative effect on recruiting. In fact, there might not be a more divisive figure in Tallahassee than the diminutive ex-Marine with a penchant for breaking down weak players and building the strong ones into NFL prospects.
"What young guys don't understand is, the way Coach Trickett teaches it, it's a business," said former FSU tackle Menelik Watson, a second-round selection by the Oakland Raiders in this year's NFL draft. "If you don't come with the mindset that you want it, you're going to struggle. … A lot of players don't understand that."
A Vietnam veteran, Trickett began his coaching career in 1973 and in the 37 seasons since, he's coached seven All-Americans and sent nearly three dozen players on to the NFL, with Watson, a junior college transfer with virtually no football experience, his latest success story.
But Trickett’s old-school approach doesn't always play well with 17-year-old prospects. While a handful of players like Hoefeld have been drawn to Trickett's stern demeanor, the overall depth on offensive line has lagged noticeably in spite of Florida State's immense success in other areas on the recruiting trail.
Two seasons ago, FSU's only signings on the line were Watson and Daniel Glauser, both junior college players who have already moved on. Last season, Trickett landed three players -- Hoefeld, three-star tackle Wilson Bell and four-star guard Ira Denson -- but missed out on a handful of top targets. As the 2014 class begins to take shape, there is no bigger area of concern for the Seminoles than finding some much-needed depth on the line.
Before Bell committed in February, he had a long talk with FSU guard Josue Matias. It wasn't a sales pitch as much as it was a warning.
"[Matias] was like, 'If you do come, he's going to be the best coach you've ever had, but he's going to be hard on you, he's going to stay on you, he's going to grind on you.' "
Hoefeld heard similar horror stories, but he was prepared. In high school, Hoefeld's line coach was a mild-mannered religion teacher, but on game days, he was restricted to the press box because his on-field outbursts were a little too explosive. Hoefeld found Trickett to be a kindred spirit.
But for all the advanced warning, Trickett's approach is still jarring. On the practice field, his players tower over him and even Jimbo Fisher cracks jokes about Trickett's small stature, but no one commands more attention.
There's cursing and yelling and zero tolerance for mistakes, and no one manages to escape Trickett's wrath for long. In the midst of it all, however, there are lessons.
"I've had coaches who would scream and yell and curse, but they didn't have a clue how to teach a kid something," Watson said. "He does. People hear the screaming and hollering, but forget he's trying to teach something. I figured that out early."
At 23, Watson had the luxury of maturity. Not all of Trickett's players are so lucky.
Bobby Hart was just 16 when he arrived on campus two years ago. A wave of injuries on the line forced him into a starting job in 2011, and he showed promise, but by the time spring practice began last year, he'd shown little progress and had put forth only minimal effort. This was something Trickett wouldn't tolerate.
Trickett shipped Hart to the bench, where he remained for virtually the entire season. He might have been a backup again in 2013 had Watson not departed early for the NFL, but when his second chance came, Hart knew what he had to do.
"It's hard, but he's just a perfectionist, and he wants you to understand that there's a right way to do everything," Hart said. "He's big on work ethic. He wants you to give 100 percent, and that's all you have to do."
For most high-school sophomores and juniors, however, life with Trickett can be an intimidating prospect -- and that's a concern other coaches are happy to exploit.
"Nobody bashed him for not being a good coach, but I heard he was going to push you, going to yell at you and all of that," Bell said of his recruitment. "Other recruiters said, 'He's going to punch you, he's going to kick you.' And I said, the guy knows what he's talking about. He can do whatever he has to do to get me to the next level. Whatever it takes."
For Bell, he'd heard such horrific tales that he was determined to separate fact from fiction. For other players, however, the negative recruiting works, and Trickett's divisive personality can become a serious liability.
For Florida State, however, there appears to be little obvious concern. Trickett turned a group of players with just 16 career starts between them into one of the ACC's top lines in 2012. FSU finished with the fourth-best yards-per-rush average in the nation, while coughing up 14 fewer sacks than the year before. Trickett was rewarded with a three-year contract extension that will pay him more than $450,000 per season and keep him in Tallahassee through 2015.
There are detractors who worry the deal has doomed FSU’s recruiting prospects for the foreseeable future. So far, the Seminoles' lone offensive line commitment for 2014 is Alec Elerbe, a 270-pound guard from Virginia with only Maryland and Connecticut as his only other BCS offers.
Still, Trickett would be the first to argue with the significance of recruiting results. In their first meeting in FSU's film room, Trickett was quick to shrug off Hoefeld's recruiting ranking.
"I don't care about the stars," Trickett told him.
Not every player wants to play for a coach like Trickett, and Trickett isn't interested in every five-star prospect. The yelling and the cursing are as much a weeding out process as they are a tool for teaching.
Trickett demands that the path be difficult. It ensures the rewards are great for those who survive.
"I felt like I was one of the best prepared offensive linemen [at the NFL combine] just because of who I worked with last year, working with Coach Trickett," Watson said. "I don't believe anyone got coached the way I did or as hard as I did."
1. Six coaches definitely make a difference.
Fisher assured that Florida State's core philosophies wouldn't change just because there are six new assistant coaches overseeing practice, but the new assistants brought a much different feel to the proceedings in the first few days. From Randy Sanders keeping his eye on the QB competition to Sal Sunseri's booming voice reverberating across the practice fields, players certainly had to make a few adjustments to their new coaches. "They're probably in there saying, 'Boy, the man is crazy,' " Sunseri said after the first day of workouts.
Players said some terminology is new, and Telvin Smith suggested the defense planned on playing more aggressively under Pruitt, too. But until FSU hits the field in September, we might not fully know just how big an impact this new staff will have.
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With that in mind, we're going position by position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.
Previous entries can be found here.
Next up: Offensive Line
2012 recap: If success is determined as a matter of perspective, then 2012 was a tremendous accomplishment for the Florida State offensive line. It's not that the unit was dominant -- though at times, it was exceptional -- but rather that it came so far from the unmitigated disaster of 2011. Only center Bryan Stork was a holdover from the previous season's regular starters, while guards Tre Jackson and Josue Matias built on the foundation they laid in the 2011 bowl game. But it was the arrival of right tackle Menelik Watson and left tackle Cameron Erving that made the biggest impact. Overall, the line helped FSU to nearly double its rushing total from the previous season while trimming the number of sacks allowed from an ACC-worst 40 to a much more respectable 26.
Devonta Freeman -- The running game made huge strides in 2012, and Freeman was solid down the stretch after Chris Thompson's injury. Consistency was the bigger issue, and with a first-year starter at quarterback in 2013, FSU's offense will need to rely on Freeman every week.
Mario Edwards Jr. -- There's no doubting Edwards' potential, and he certainly looked the part of a future star in his two-game trial run as FSU's starting defensive end last season. But things will be different in 2013 as Edwards won't have the luxury of Bjoern Werner commanding double teams on the other side of the line. He'll need to step up and become the centerpiece of FSU's pass rush.
Bobby Hart -- Jimbo Fisher has some options at right tackle, so it's not as if the offensive line's success or failure will all fall on Hart's shoulders, but life could be made a lot easier -- both in the short term and down the road -- if Hart could maximize his enormous potential in 2013 and be a suitable replacement for Menelik Watson.
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Up next, one of the biggest long-term needs for FSU: Offensive tackle.
Current scholarship offensive tackles (4): Cameron Erving (RJr.), Henry Orelus (RSSr.), Bobby Hart (Jr.), Wilson Bell (Fr.)
Potential early departures: The buzz surrounding Erving in his first season on the offensive line in 2012 was immense, making an early exit for the NFL a possibility. But throughout the year, he showed he still needed time to develop. He has the physical talent for the next level, but it remains to be seen if he'll be ready by the end of 2013.
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With that in mind, NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going through each 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, a look at the interior of FSU's offensive line: Guards and centers.
Current scholarship Guards/Centers (11): Tre Jackson (Jr.), Ruben Carter (RSSo.), Josue Matias (Jr.), Daniel Foose (RSJr.), Trey Pettis (RSSo.), Garrett Faircloth (RSSr.), Ira Denson (Fr.), Sterling Lovelady (Jr.), Bryan Stork (Sr.), Austin Barron (Jr.), Ryan Hoefeld (Fr.)
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When the dust settled, Fisher beamed.
This wasn't another sales pitch. This was as honest an evaluation of Florida State's take on national signing day as Fisher could muster.
No, FSU didn't hold together the entirety of the class it had assembled before six assistant coaches left for greener pastures. Yes, Fisher lost out on some key battles for recruits. Some needs were met, others fell a bit short.
But after a whirlwind six weeks in which Fisher was both assembling a staff and a recruiting class, sometimes nearly singlehandedly, the end result was about as good as he could have hoped for.
Florida State landed 22 players -- though offensive lineman Richy Klepal isn't expected to play for the team for medical reasons -- and ended the afternoon with ESPN's No. 9 overall signing class.
After nabbing offers from Auburn, Florida State and Ole Miss in January, the three-star offensive lineman was suddenly faced with a difficult decision. After having taken an official visit to all three schools, and decommitted from UCF, he chose the Seminoles over the two other finalists.
Florida State's sports information department confirmed that Bell's national letter of intent had been received.
While on his visit to Tallahassee, Bell was compared to Rodney Hudson, an underrated offensive lineman from Alabama who went on to be a second-round draft pick to the Kansas City Chiefs.
"They compared me to Rodney Hudson and told me all about his work ethic and the way he came out with low offers into an incredible player, one of the most decorated players that ever played there," he said.
That, combined with his quickly developed relationship with the coaches, won him over.
At 6-foot-4, it is unclear whether Florida State intends to use him as a guard or a tackle on the offensive line.
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