Florida State Seminoles: bjoern werner

Just a week remains until national signing day, and Florida State is on pace to add one of its deepest classes in years. Throughout Jimbo Fisher’s first four years on the job, he has managed to reel in plenty of talent. Here’s a look back at the top 10 signees who had the biggest immediate impact.

10. Christian Jones (LB, 2010): Played in all 14 games as a freshman, racking up 18 tackles with three sacks and added a forced fumble in a Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over South Carolina.

9. Lamarcus Joyner (DB, 2010): Played a limited role on defense but still accounted for 23 tackles and three passes defended. Blossomed into a weapon on special teams, racking up 329 yards on 16 kick returns.

8. Bjöern Werner (DE, 2010): Showed flashes of his brilliant future in a more limited role. Werner appeared in all 14 games, racking up 20 tackles, including six for a loss. He finished with 3.5 sacks.

[+] EnlargeLevonte Whitfield
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsKermit Whitfield wasn't a full-time player as a freshman, but he certainly made the most of his opportunities.
7. Nate Andrews (S, 2013): He started just one game for Florida State as a freshman, but his impact on defense was immense, leading the Seminoles with seven takeaways (four interceptions, three forced fumbles). He also racked up 35 tackles.

6. Kermit Whitfield (KR, 2013): Whitfield touched the ball just 25 times as a freshman, but he made the most of his opportunities. He racked up 818 all-purpose yards (32.7 yards per play) and scored four times, including a dramatic kickoff return for a go-ahead touchdown in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

5. Ronald Darby (CB, 2012): Splitting time at corner, Darby tied for the team lead with eight pass breakups, recorded 22 tackles and forced a fumble en route to becoming a Freshman All-America selection.

4. Timmy Jernigan (DT, 2011): Despite coming off the bench all season in 2011, Jernigan was a force in the middle of a talented defensive line. He recorded 30 tackles, tops among FSU’s interior linemen, including six for a loss. He had 2.5 sacks and his three QB hurries ranked third on the team.

3. Jalen Ramsey (DB, 2013): The first true freshman to start at cornerback for Florida State since Deion Sanders, Ramsey made an about-face four games into the season, taking over at safety when Tyler Hunter went down with an injury. He finished third among DBs with 49 tackles (two for a loss), recorded a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception for the nation’s top secondary.

2. Devonta Freeman (RB, 2011): Injuries on the offensive line stymied FSU’s running game and injuries in the backfield thinned the depth chart, but Freeman still stepped up to rack up a team-high 579 rushing yards with eight touchdowns in 12 games. He went on to lead Florida State in rushing in all three seasons he spent in Tallahassee.

1. Rashad Greene (WR, 2011): Because of a midseason injury he appeared in just nine games, but Greene led FSU in catches (38), receiving yards (596) and receiving touchdowns (7). He was at his best when FSU needed him the most, hauling in a 56-yard TD against Oklahoma, racking up 98 yards and a score against Clemson and catching 12 passes for 163 yards against Wake Forest. He was named MVP of the Champs Sports Bowl after recording 99 yards against Notre Dame.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Dan Hicks galloped around the practice fields as Florida State opened fall camp Tuesday, no signs of the knee injury that ended his 2012 season a year ago -- almost to the day.

A lot has changed since the injury. Back then, he was a third-string tight end, moved from defensive end after three years because of a logjam of talented pass rushers. In the 12 months since, he's had surgery, recovered and swapped positions again, returning to his original place on the roster after a stampede of talented ends departed for the NFL. His lone mementos to a lost season are the scar on his knee and the No. 6 on his jersey, which now conflicts with the uniform worn by cornerback Nick Waisome.

Dan Hicks
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesDan Hicks has played in 27 career games at defensive end, but missed all of 2012 with a knee injury.
A year ago, Hicks was such a luxury that he wasn't needed on the defensive line, and he wasn't missed at tight end. Now, the fifth-year senior would rank as the second-most accomplished player on Florida State's roster at either position.

"Dan's had a tremendous summer," Jimbo Fisher said this week. "His conditioning has no signs of anything that's gone on."

That's good news for Florida State, which finds itself in a remarkably tenuous situation on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

In praising Hicks' physique, Fisher was offering an explanation for moving third-year sophomore Giorgio Newberry from defensive end to tight end -- the same swap Hicks made last year. It was a move Fisher said was first discussed weeks ago, but one that was made a necessity when senior Kevin Haplea succumbed to a knee injury and sophomore Christo Kourtzidis opted to transfer, leaving the Seminoles with just two scholarship tight ends.

But if Fisher was filling a need on offense, he also was robbing from a position on defense that lacked veteran experience to spare.

Newberry was no one's idea of a success story thus far. Physically, he's intimidating and his potential seemed high, but through two full years in the program, he'd yet to develop as a pass rusher. Still, he played in every game last season, which made him a rarity among FSU’s defensive ends.

All-ACC defensive ends Bjoern Werner, Brandon Jenkins and Cornellius Carradine were all selected in this year's NFL draft, which meant Florida State would be looking to fill a massive void at the position. Only Newberry and Mario Edwards Jr., who opened last season with a redshirt before injuries eventually forced him into the starting lineup, saw the field in 2012.

And yet Fisher said he's confident there is talent to spare.

"I feel very good about where we're at defensive end-wise," he said. "You've got to play both sides of the ball, and we've got just as many inexperienced guys at tight end. There was no apprehension whatsoever. It's something we would've done either way."

That might be true, but there's no avoiding the obvious numbers. Last season, in just 12 games, Carradine finished with 80 tackles, including 13 for a loss, and 11 sacks -- stats that dwarf the combined career totals of every member of FSU's current depth chart at defensive end.

Only Edwards and Hicks have seen serious game action. Redshirt freshman Chris Casher hasn't played in two full years after sitting out his senior season in high school and going down with an injury in his first game of 2012. Freshman Demarcus Walker figured to get an early start on his career by enrolling this spring, but NCAA eligibility issues kept him off the field during spring practice. Tuesday's start to fall camp represented the first official practice session of his career at Florida State. The same is true for fellow freshman Davarez Bryant and junior college transfer Desmond Hollin.

But Fisher insists he's not worried about the lack of experience.

"You have a great group of guys there that we feel very comfortable with the size and speed and the things we do," he said.

When the games begin though, establishing the pass rush may be more about scheme than personnel. New coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has implemented a blitz-heavy approach that players have embraced. He also comes from a 3-4 base system at Alabama, and the Seminoles could certainly employ those looks more often in 2013. Pruitt isn't just planning to throw his rookie pass rushers into the deep end of the pool, either. He's mixing and matching, finding alternative options in unlikely spots.

"In the spring we had some packages with me actually playing some D-end and coming off the edge a little bit," senior linebacker Christian Jones said. "And we're blitzing a lot more this year."

Like Newberry's move to tight end, the new approach to the pass rush was likely to a necessity regardless of the surprises Florida State has faced this summer. Werner, Jenkins and Carradine were the backbone to Mark Stoops' highly ranked defenses the past two seasons, and changes were required in the wake of their departures.

Giorgio Newberry
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreGiorgio Newberry's size could make him a valuable asset as a blocking tight end.
"The key to the game on both sides is the guys that put their hand in the dirt, and that's why we could play the way we did last year was the D-line," Fisher said. "But I think we've got just as good a group [in 2013]. I like our group better. I really do."

Optimism is easy to find this time of year, but Florida State has already walked the tight rope that comes with having limited options at key positions.

For now, Newberry fills the Seminoles' biggest hole. Hicks' health and the emerging Edwards, who has dramatically improved his physique from a year ago, offer possibilities in another significant area of concern.

Not all choices are supposed to be easy, and Newberry's move was the best option Fisher had, and FSU’s pass rush will make due with what's left.

"[If we weren't satisfied] we'd have tried to find something else to do," Fisher said, "but I felt very comfortable with those guys."
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. 25 Giorgio Newberry

Position/Class: DE/Redshirt sophomore.

What he's done: After sitting out the 2011 season as a redshirt, Newberry figured to be a central player in Florida State's rotation at defensive end in 2012. When the season started, he appeared well on his way to securing that job, too. He opened as the primary backup for Bjoern Werner, and in his debut against Murray State, Newberry forced a fumble and recovered another. But it was mostly downhill from there. He finished the season with just 13 tackles, saw playing time diminish as the season went along, and by the time Cornellius Carradine went down with an ACL injury in December, it was Mario Edwards Jr., not Newberry, who was the clear choice to replace him.

Where he's at: If Newberry's progress in 2012 proved to be a bit disappointing, he earned a significant reprieve this year when Werner departed early for the NFL, leaving both starting defensive ends spots vacant. Edwards again appears to have a firm grip on one, but Newberry entered the spring as the leading contender for the other job. It was clear from the outset that new ends coach Sal Sunseri saw promise in Newberry, and he rode the sophomore hard throughout spring practice. Whether the added motivation worked, however, remains to be seen. By spring's end, it was Dan Hicks who had turned in the more impressive performance, but plenty of hope remains that Newberry can step up this fall.

What's to come: Newberry has plenty of natural talent, and his combination of size (6-foot-6, 275 pounds) means coaches will always be intrigued with what he might be capable of doing. This spring, he got a chance to test his skills in coverage, too, and that appears to be a role he could excel in. But the promise of Newberry's future has never been in doubt. What's troubling is how few steps he's taken toward achieving it. Sunseri praised Newberry's work ethic this spring, and with more time to study under the new defensive coaching staff, perhaps things click for him when fall camp begins. Regardless, he won't have the luxury of learning on the sideline in 2013. Ready or not, Newberry will be asked to play a significant role on a unit thin on experienced pass rushers.
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.

No. 2: DE Mario Edwards Jr.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards Jr.
Bob Donnan/US PresswireMario Edwards Jr. was going to redshirt in 2012, but those plans were scuttled when Brandon Jenkins was injured.
2012 performance: The past year was a roller coaster for Edwards. He arrived at Florida State as the most touted recruit in the country, a 300-pound behemoth expecting to make an instant impact at defensive end. Of course, FSU already had its share of talent at the position -- including three 2013 NFL draft picks -- and when the season began, Edwards was slated to redshirt. That didn't last long, though. Brandon Jenkins' injury opened up some playing time, and slowly but surely, Edwards dropped some weight and began to make an impact. When Cornellius Carradine's season ended with an ACL injury, Edwards emerged as the starter in the Seminoles' last two games, finishing the year with 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Pressure point: The mere fact that Edwards was poised to redshirt to open 2012 underscores just how much depth FSU had at the position. This year, however, it's a much different story. Jenkins, Carradine and Bjoern Werner are all gone, and Edwards is the cornerstone of the Seminoles' pass rush. He certainly has the talent to make an instant impact, but last year he showed signs of a lack of maturity and an excess of weight. That's not necessarily an ideal scenario for a player whom Florida State will rely upon to key the pass rush.

If he succeeds: The Seminoles are in good position to move forward even without a bevy of veteran defensive linemen, with Edwards leading the charge. While Werner, Jenkins and Carradine all were exceptional players with bright NFL futures, Edwards' ceiling might be higher than any of them. Add the new defensive scheme from coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and there's a distinct possibility that Edwards doesn't just fill a void in 2013, but blossoms into one of the most fearsome defenders in the country.

If he fails: The truth is, there isn't much room for failure for Edwards in 2013. Florida State needs him to take the next step and become a productive pass rusher as much as it needs any player to perform. There simply isn't any significant established depth at defensive end, and several others -- Giorgio Newberry, Chris Casher -- remain works in progress. Even with Pruitt looking for ways to bring pressure from elsewhere, the line remains an essential keystone to FSU's defensive success, and if Edwards can't build on his late surge in 2012, there may not be a realistic Plan B.

Projection: Edwards showed enough in his late-season stint as starter last year that there's ample room for enthusiasm. Yes, he still needs to drop a few pounds, and yes, he still has a lot to prove. But Edwards' natural ability is so immense that he should find some measure of success regardless of how much he develops from here. That, of course, doesn't mean Jimbo Fisher will be satisfied with a solid performance. Edwards could be special, and while he might not reach elite status in 2013, the FSU coaches will be pushing him hard to get there.
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 FSU players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.

No. 6: DT Timmy Jernigan

2012 performance: For the second season in a row, Jernigan was impressive in a role that was largely as a reserve. He did start two games while Anthony McCloud sat out with an injury, but Jernigan's primary work came off the bench, where he might have been one of the best backup defensive lineman in the country. He led FSU's interior line in tackles (46) and tackles for loss (8) and was a force against the run, where the Seminoles finished in the top three in the country in rushing defense for the second straight season.

Pressure point: In his first two years at FSU, Jernigan developed into a star, but he had the luxury of a prominent supporting cast. That won't be the case in 2013. The Seminoles lost five defensive linemen to the NFL, including both starters at tackle. That leaves Jernigan as the man every opposing offensive line coach will be scheming for.

Timmy Jernigan
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreTimmy Jernigan talked in the spring about wanting to become a leader for the FSU defense and a star performer on the field.
If he succeeds: A strong season would mean a lot for the Seminoles' D and for Jernigan personally. He's already being discussed as a potential first-round draft pick and one of the top underclassmen in the nation, but there remains a bit of skepticism about how he'll hold up in a bigger role in a more novice defensive line. If Jernigan answers those questions, it would be a boon for a young line in need of leadership and a strong push for Jeremy Pruitt's defense which, unlike last year, won't rely solely on pressure from the front four. Moreover, it would secure Jernigan's spot near the top of many NFL draft boards.

If he fails: Few people are expecting failure from Jernigan, but rather question how much he'll advance in a full-time role and whether that will be enough to weather the storm after so much turnover on the line. A year ago, FSU's strength was its ability to get pressure without the blitz and its dominance against the run. Jernigan won't shoulder the entirety of the responsibility for maintaining that standard, but anything less than a marked step forward for the junior would certainly make a repeat performance from the rest of the line awfully tough.

Projection: During the spring, Jernigan said all the right things about wanting to become a leader for the defense and a star defender in the ACC. Unfortunately, his spring was cut short by a high ankle sprain. It's the second spring in a row in which Jernigan has gone down with a relatively serious injury, and that's perhaps the biggest concern right now. No one questions Jernigan's talent or ability, and while the larger role brings with it increased pressure, it's also a bigger opportunity for him to produce. And while life will be tougher without Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine flanking him, Jernigan does have the benefit of some veteran talent on the interior of the line. Expect another strong performance, even if the overall defensive line takes a small step back.
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
2012 record: 12-2
2012 conference record: 7-1
Returning starters: Offense 6, Defense 5, Kicker/Punter 1

Top returners

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

Key losses

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

2012 statistical leaders (*returning)

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

Spring answers:

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

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

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

Fall questions:

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

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

3. Just for kicks: Redshirt freshman Roberto Aguayo showed off his powerful leg during FSU's spring game, connecting on three long field goals, including a 58-yarder to close out the game. Still, replacing the NCAA's all-time leading scorer among kickers won't be an easy task. Dustin Hopkins was as reliable as it gets for FSU, and Aguayo still needs to show he can handle the pressure of making a big kick with the game on the line.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Nothing was going to change. That was Jimbo Fisher's story to start the spring, regardless of the massive overhaul of his defensive coaching staff.

Sure, new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt would bring a few new wrinkles from his old stomping grounds at Alabama, but in the big picture, Fisher assured, Florida State's defense would still look much as it did for the past three seasons under Mark Stoops.

By the end of the spring, however, it was clear Fisher had downplayed the impact his new coaches would have. The Seminoles spent weeks watching tape of the Crimson Tide. Pruitt installed new verbiage, new calls, new schemes and a whole lot of new blitz packages. And when a rather vanilla spring game ended, even Fisher was ready to ratchet up the expectations.

[+] EnlargeKarlos Williams
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonKarlos Williams made several big plays in pass defense last season, but could be used in more blitzes in 2013.
"You ain't seen blitzes yet," Fisher said.

If the quarterback battle was all the buzz among Florida State fans this spring, it's the defense that created the most excitement inside the locker room. Pruitt's approach completely restructured the simplified scheme Stoops had used with such success the past three seasons, and that meant new opportunities for the Seminoles' defenders and plenty of confusion for the offense.

The only problem was that FSU had just four weeks to master it before the long summer began.

"That's the hardest part, because at some point we were trying to relate last year's calls to this year's calls, and you really can't do that," safety Terrence Brooks said. "You've got to forget all that. It's learning a whole new defense."

The large-scale changes were bound to occur given the three new coaches on defense. But shaking things up also brings risk.

Stoops' unit was immensely successful, finishing second in total defense in 2012 and fourth in 2011. And the beauty of Stoops' approach was in its simplicity. He asked his defensive backs to cover, asked his linebackers to stop the run and asked his front four to generate pressure. Blitzes were the exception, not the rule.

"Stoops made it really, really simple," Brooks said. "I feel like he was a genius for that, getting the defense to be that good, but so simple."

Maintaining that simplicity might have been difficult regardless of the coaching changes, though. With the loss of five defensive linemen and one of the nation's top cornerbacks to the NFL, changes were inevitable. Ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine had been immensely successful in generating pressure without blitzing, but that's a luxury Pruitt won't get a chance to enjoy.

Instead, Pruitt's scheme takes some of the responsibility away from the defensive front and opens up the game plan for the athletes off the line of scrimmage -- and that's an exciting proposition for players such as new starting safety Karlos Williams.

"I feel like we will be way more aggressive than we have been because we're just doing a lot more -- we're a lot more active," Williams said. "But you all can watch it and see what happens."

Blitzes come from all over the field, and Pruitt has created dozens of new looks. Linebackers creep up to the line of scrimmage, ends drop into coverage, defensive backs are blitzing routinely. It's chaos for the offense -- but it's not entirely simple for the defense, either.

"We all felt overwhelmed at some point, but all those little things and calls, it really helps a lot because it gives us a chance to make so many more plays," Brooks said. "It's amazing to see on film how Alabama did it. They had guys dropping into coverage, all the different calls they had, but they all made a lot of plays off those little calls."

But picking up all those new calls was crucial. As a new crop of freshmen arrive this summer and a handful of veterans return from injuries, it will be the responsibility of FSU's veteran defenders to pass along what they learned from this spring's four-week crash course.

Truth be told, linebacker Christian Jones said, they could've used a few more weeks to prepare. But all things considered, Jones is confident the summer will prove to be a productive time even without Pruitt's immediate oversight.

"This spring, we pretty much put in the whole playbook," Jones said. "The guys have done a pretty good job of picking it all up, but it's a lot of stuff. It's a lot of checks, change the fronts a lot."

The new defense presents some pressure, but Jones isn't complaining. It might take a while longer to get everyone on the same page, but when it all comes together, this new defense could be awfully fun to watch.

"It's spring, so they've got to throw all that stuff in so we can know it in the fall," Jones said. "Once we get to the fall and can game plan, I think we'll have a real scary defense."
Florida State registered a nation-leading 11 NFL draft picks over the extended weekend. NoleNation takes a look back at how they were scouted coming out of high school.

QB EJ Manuel
Selected by: Buffalo Bills, No. 16 overall
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There weren't many mock drafts that pegged EJ Manuel as the top quarterback available, but Jimbo Fisher had a hunch his guy would impress a few teams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hopefully we can do that every year as we establish ourselves as a program," Fisher said. "We've revamped the type of recruiting we're doing and identified certain types of athletes we thought were difference makers and great kids. We've come a long way."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.

Next up: The defensive line

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

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

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

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

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Mario Edwards Jr. might be the heir apparent to a trio of NFL-caliber defensive ends this season, but he's still got a ways to go to match the consistency of Bjoern Werner, Cornellius Carradine and Brandon Jenkins.

[+] EnlargeMario Edwards
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsMario Edwards Jr. has been up and down in his first spring at Florida State.
Jimbo Fisher said he's seen improvement in his sophomore pass rusher, but Edwards has struggled to put a series of good plays -- and more importantly, good practices -- together.

"He's still got to come on," Fisher said. "He's got to play much more consistent and get a little more of an urgency to him."

Edwards, who had five tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, in Monday's scrimmage, said he's trimmed 25 pounds off his frame since he arrived last summer, but new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri said there's still room for improvement.

"He's finding out that with what I want to do, it's taxing and we've got to get him into better shape," Sunseri said. "He's going to fight through it, and he's going to be good. He's got a lot of talent."

Fisher echoed those sentiments, saying that while Edwards might not be where he needs to be yet, he's not far off from where Werner and Jenkins were at the same point in their careers.

"He's that guy, a young guy, but he can take off," Fisher said. "He's at that stage where a lot of those other ends were. But he's got to continue to grow and let us push him."

For his part, Edwards said he's far more comfortable now than he was eight months ago, and new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defense has helped the adjustment.

"It's no more reading, it's just see it and go, more of an attack," Edwards said. "And being my second year, the speed of the game has slowed down. I'm feeling more comfortable."

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Florida State goes through the spring, one major debate has surfaced.

Are the Seminoles rebuilding or reloading?

Depends on your perspective, of course. Coach Jimbo Fisher believes looking at the number of returning starters when making that determination is misleading. Especially in this case. Guys the Seminoles are going to be relying on this year, from Telvin Smith to Mario Edwards to Timmy Jernigan to Devonta Freeman to James Wilder Jr. have gotten valuable playing time and/or starts.

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But on the flip side, it is hard to ignore just how much talent is gone: Four of the five Seminoles who made the ACC first team are gone, including defensive player of the year Bjoern Werner. That does not even count veteran quarterback EJ Manuel.

So which is it? Linebacker Christian Jones makes his pitch:

"I feel like we’re reloading. We have a lot of younger guys but we have a lot of talent here, a lot of great athletes. With the coaching staff we have now, they’re more hands on. They like to go over the fundamentals and teach the basics. I feel like with the talent we have, we can just reload and plug in new guys at the spot. We have a lot of older guys helping those younger guys out, so once we get through the spring and have a better understanding of this defense, we can once again be a dominant defense.

"Even on offense, we return a lot of guys on the O-line. Clint [Trickett] is a guy who has starts and he played pretty well in those games he started. We have other talented receivers and running backs. So being able to get this spring in, get the guys better, the sky’s going to be the limit for next season."

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Vote in our poll and let us know what you think.
You look at the Florida State roster, and you look at the Florida State coaching staff, and the automatic assumption is this could be a rebuilding year for the Noles.

Jimbo Fisher does not see it that way. Not one bit. As spring practice opens today, Fisher needs to find new starters at some key positions, including quarterback, defensive end and linebacker. But he sees players who have had valuable playing experience ready to step right into starting roles, not wet-behind-the-ears freshmen in over their heads.

To him, there is no dropoff between the talent on his 2012 ACC winning team, and the talent on his 2013 team.

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsThere will be a competition for FSU"s starting quarterback, but Clint Trickett has more game experience than the others.
"I ask people this: Lawrence Dawsey is arguably one of the best receivers in Florida State history," Fisher said during his pre-spring news conference earlier this week. "How many years did he start here? He started one year. How about Odell (Haggins)? He was a linebacker that got moved. Nowadays he’d be, 'Oh, he wasn’t what we said he was, you moved him.'

"Just because you don’t start a game doesn’t mean you’re not starter material. Do you understand what I’m saying? We’re establishing ourselves as a program again and guys still played as much ball as anybody else."

Fisher gave a host of examples. Every starter on the defensive line is gone -- ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, and tackles Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. But the players expected to move into the starting lineup played extensively last season. Mario Edwards Jr. and Giorgio Newberry will start with the first-team at end; Timmy Jernigan, perhaps the best interior lineman last year, moves up to start at one tackle spot.

Vince Williams and Nick Moody are gone at linebacker. Into the middle steps Telvin Smith, who has extensive game experience and should have no problems moving up.

Then of course, there is the quarterback spot, a position that folks across the ACC will be paying attention to as the competition begins. Clint Trickett starts out No. 1 on the depth chart, and here again is where playing time has helped him. Trickett has played in 16 games with two starts behind EJ Manuel the last two seasons.

The other three players competing for the starting job -- Jacob Coker, Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston -- have either limited or no game experience. That does not take them out of the mix by any stretch. Fisher already said the position is wide open, and he has no timetable to make a decision. But having game experience is certainly not going to hurt him as the Noles try to find their leader on offense.

"From a talent standpoint, I think we’re still a very talented football team and we have guys with a lot of experience still playing," Fisher said. "We look at returning starters sometimes, it’s a very misleading factor about depth of a team and how much guys have played behind them. I’m excited about these young guys. Even though they’re new starters, they've still played like starters."

As for the coaching changes, six new assistants will be on the field this spring, including new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. But Fisher downplayed those changes as well, saying nothing would change about philosophy or with the schemes the Noles run.

"We're going to do things the Florida State way, the way we've been doing," Fisher said.

That means plugging new guys into the starting lineup and believing there will be few hiccups along the way.
The group of early enrollees that stepped onto Florida State's campus in January consisted of just two players -- excluding the medically disqualified Richy Klepal. DeMarcus Walker and Freddie Stevenson got their lockers, staked out their freshman dorm rooms and entered the Seminoles’ strength and conditioning program.


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