Florida State Seminoles: Eddie Goldman
(Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)
1. QB Jameis Winston (1): Here’s the list of quarterbacks since 2000 to have two games in the same season with at least 15 completions in which they completed at least 90 percent of their throws: Winston. That’s it. That’s the list.
2. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Four more tackles, 1.5 more sacks. Joyner is making a strong case to be named the ACC’s defensive player of the year.
3. DT Timmy Jernigan (5): Of course, if Joyner’s not the ACC’s top defender, maybe Jernigan deserves the honor. He had six tackles (one for a loss) all in the first half, and he now has 37 tackles on the season. While he was in the game, Syracuse had five yards rushing on 18 carries.
4. RB Devonta Freeman (3): A few weeks ago, Freeman’s quest for 1,000 yards looked like a sure thing. After two blowouts in which he’s carried just 10 times, he now needs to average 75 yards a game to make 1,000.
5. WR Rashad Greene (4): He’s suffering a similar fate as Freeman. He’s had just 87 receiving yards in his last two games -- a total he’s topped in a single game five times this season. Still, Greene is just 140 yards shy of 1,000 for the year.
6. LB Telvin Smith (6): Four tackles, one for a loss, and a pass break-up -- Smith’s draft stock is rising by the week.
7. DE Christian Jones (10): His move to the line has been huge, and he finished with four tackles (one for a loss) against Syracuse.
8. S Jalen Ramsey (7): Three tackles, a QB hurry, and another terrific performance from one of the country’s most consistent true freshmen.
9. TE Nick O’Leary (NR): His third-quarter touchdown reception from Sean Maguire made O’Leary Florida State’s record holder for career TDs by a tight end.
10. S Terrence Brooks (9): He returned from a concussion with four tackles as FSU’s secondary was once again dominant.
Honorable mentions: DB Nate Andrews, WR Kermit Whitfield, RB James Wilder Jr., WR Kelvin Benjamin, WR Kenny Shaw, RB Karlos Williams, DT Eddie Goldman
1. QB Jameis Winston (Previous rank: No. 1): If the worst game of Winston’s career is a 27-point win in which he throws for 325 yards, Florida State fans won’t be too concerned.
3. RB Devonta Freeman (6): Yes, Freeman racked up an impressive 176 yards of offense and three TDs, but here’s another area his impact was felt: Winston was 10-of-11 for 183 yards on play-action against Miami.
4. WR Rashad Greene (3): One of just six ACC receivers averaging more than 90 receiving yards per game this year.
5. LB Telvin Smith (4): Four tackles, including one for a loss, in the win over Miami.
6. DT Timmy Jerngian (5): Four tackles and he sat on a guy vs. the Hurricanes. Jernigan has been an absolute beast in the middle all season for Florida State.
7. S Terrence Brooks (7): He left early with concussion symptoms, but coach Jimbo Fisher said Brooks appeared fine in the locker room after the game. He made his impact early anyway, finishing with six tackles, including a big sack, in the early going.
8. LT Cameron Erving (9): Thoroughly dominated Anthony Chickillo throughout and helped open running lanes against a stout front seven for Miami.
9. DE Christian Jones (7): Continues to look like a strong addition in his new role coming off the edge.
10. DE Mario Edwards Jr. (NR): The biggest difference for FSU’s defensive line the past few weeks has been a healthy Edwards, who finished Saturday with four tackles, including two for a loss.
Honorable mentions: TE Nick O’Leary, WR Kenny Shaw, WR Kelvin Benjamin, LB Terrance Smith, DT Eddie Goldman
1. QB Jameis Winston (1): The back-and-forth scoring decision on a throw to Kelvin Benjamin was finally ruled an interception. That kept Winston from topping three touchdowns and 300 yards for his fifth straight game against an ACC foe. He finished with 292.
2. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Four tackles, a TFL, a pass breakup and a QB hurry. Not bad for 30 minutes of work.
3. WR Rashad Greene (4): Greene has now scored in six of seven games this year and 10 of Florida State’s last 13 overall.
4. LB Telvin Smith (3): Six tackles, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and a QB hurry. Also not bad for 30 minutes of work.
5. DT Timmy Jernigan (5): Three tackles, including one for a loss against NC State. Jernigan continues to eat up interior linemen, opening things up for FSU’s linebackers.
6. RB Devonta Freeman (6): 12 carries, 92 yards and two touchdowns, and Freeman is well on his way to snapping that ridiculous 17-year drought without a 1,000-yard rusher.
7. S Terrence Brooks (NR): Brooks is quietly becoming one of FSU’s premier defenders. He racked up the defensive hat trick Saturday, picking off a pass, forcing a fumble and recording a TFL.
8. LB Christian Jones (7): His new role rushing off the edge has made all the difference. Jones had four tackles, a sack and a QB hurry against NC State. He has 3.5 TFLs in the last two games after just one in his first four games.
9. LT Cameron Erving (8): Easy day for Winston means a big day for the O line, and Erving was exceptional once again.
10. WR Kenny Shaw (9): Shaw had just three catches for 44 yards against NC State, both season lows, but he’s still on pace to top 1,000 yards for the year.
Honorable mentions: TE Nick O’Leary, WR Kelvin Benjamin, DT Eddie Goldman, RB Karlos Williams, CB Ronald Darby
Florida State is 6-0 and has played as well as any team in the country.
1. QB Jameis Winston (1): We're running out of adjectives to describe how great he's been, but here's a stat that helps: Winston has accounted for 23 touchdowns in six games so far. E.J. Manuel, the first QB taken in this past April's NFL draft, recorded his 23rd touchdown for FSU last season ... in Game No. 12.
2. CB Lamarcus Joyner (5): It's fair to say the new defensive scheme agrees with Joyner. He recorded eight tackles, a sack and forced three take-aways, including a tempo-setter on Clemson's first offensive play. He's on pace for 77 tackles and seven sacks this season.
3. LB Telvin Smith (6): It's possible there were three or four guys wearing No. 22 jerseys on the field Saturday. That's about the only way to explain how Smith managed to be in on virtually every play. He finished with 11 tackles, including one for a loss.
4. WR Rashad Greene (4): In three career games vs. Clemson, Greene has 20 catches, 280 yards and four touchdowns.
5. DT Timmy Jernigan (3): His sack Saturday was his lone tackle, but Jernigan flat out ate up Clemson's interior line, opening up room for Smith and the other linebackers to have a field day.
6. RB Devonta Freeman (2): Quiet day for the FSU running game, as Freeman finished with 84 yards on 21 carries. The bulk of his production came on a handful of long runs, but there was little room the bulk of the time. That's a slight concern for FSU, which is averaging just 4.1 ypc against ACC teams. Take away Freeman's 17-yarder and Winston's 18-yarder Saturday, and the Noles managed just 3.3 ypc (not counting sacks).
7. LB Christian Jones (NR): This was the breakthrough game Jones was looking for in FSU's new defensive scheme. The 3-5-3 FSU ran much of Saturday is perfectly suited to his skill set, and Jones responded with eight tackles, including two for a loss and one QB hurry.
9. WR Kenny Shaw (7): He was overshadowed by his fellow receivers Saturday, but Shaw's body of work this season is still exceptional.
10. TE Nick O'Leary (NR): Five catches, 161 yards. That's not a line you'll see from tight ends at FSU often. It included a 94-yard reception and one of the biggest hits an FSU offensive player has delivered in a long time.
Last week's rankings in parentheses.
1. QB Jameis Winston (1): Seven more touchdowns, another acrobatic escape act turned highlight-reel TD, and another big win. Ho-hum. But how about these numbers: This season, on the final drive of the first half and first drive of the second half, Winston is 26-of-30 for 493 yards and seven touchdowns. FSU has scored on all 10 drives, including nine TDs.
2. RB Devonta Freeman (5): It has been 17 years since an FSU runner went over 1,000 yards. Freeman is currently on pace for 1,001.
4. WR Rashad Greene (3): There may not be another player in the country who so easily floats under the radar after putting up 108 yards on four catches.
5. CB Lamarcus Joyner (2): Just one tackle, but he got solid pressure on Maryland quarterbacks throughout and forced a fumble.
6. LB Telvin Smith (6): The success from the D line opened things up for Smith, who created significant chaos in the Maryland backfield. He finished with five tackles and a PBU.
7. WR Kenny Shaw (4): What's a guy have to do to get a 100-yard game? Shaw has been between 89 and 96 each time out this year.
8. S Terrence Brooks (8): No one played with more ferocity Saturday than Brooks, who has come into his own as a force in the FSU secondary.
9. DB Jalen Ramsey (7): Another strong performance from the freshman in his new role at safety. Given the concerns about Tyler Hunter's neck injury, Ramsey's presence looms large with Clemson on the horizon.
10. WR Kelvin Benjamin (10): Fisher pushed Benjamin to do the little things better this year. He has responded, as evidenced by his five-catches, 60 yards and two TDs against Maryland.
Honorable mentions: Tackles Cameron Erving and Bobby Hart, DTs Jacobbi McDaniel and Eddie Goldman, DE Chris Casher, RB Karlos Williams, K Roberto Aguayo, CB P.J. Williams.
The outcomes were just as he'd remembered. Boston College's rather mundane attack gashed the Seminoles' defense again and again, big chunks of yardage adding up to 34 points -- the most BC had scored in an ACC game in nearly four years.
Florida State still escaped with a win, thanks to another dynamic effort from Jameis Winston, but the defense was exposed, and the future schedule promised to be far less forgiving. Fisher assumed the worst, but the film eased his mind.
There is ample room for big-picture concerns. Players admit to being slow to latch on to the subtleties of new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's defensive scheme. The aggressive approach has yielded a handful of big plays but also surrendered a few more to the opposition. The Seminoles' performance through four games has fans wondering if disaster looms just over the horizon, as the explosive offenses of Maryland and Clemson await.
Instead, what Fisher saw on film were a few minor glitches -- easily correctable mental errors. A few missed assignments here, a few sets of eyes focused on the wrong things there. Rather than panicking, Florida State's defense seems relieved.
“Those mistakes are going to help you," safety Terrence Brooks said. "It’s bad, but it also can be good for you, too. Those are things you know you’ve got to key in on. It’s just room for improvement.”
That's the upbeat spin. These are the raw numbers: Through four games, Florida State has coughed up 606 yards on the ground, nearly half the total its defense allowed in 14 games last year. Boston College amassed 397 total yards Saturday; only Clemson (2010 and 2011) managed more against FSU since the start of the 2011 season -- and the Tigers' high-flying attack gets its shot against the Seminoles in just three weeks. The defense has started slowly in every game, and as a result, FSU has trailed in three of four games. It's a particularly disconcerting picture given that this week's opponent, Maryland, has topped 500 yards of offense three times, is averaging better than 7 yards per play, has a dual-threat quarterback and one of the ACC's most explosive playmakers in receiver Stefon Diggs.
"We had some little, stupid mental errors in that game -- letting our guys go, trying to do too much and getting out of gaps," Brooks said. "That’s the only reason they were able to get all those points they did get."
It's not an entirely unfair accounting. Two of Boston College's touchdowns came on nearly identical plays, when the offense shifted heavily to one side, then threw the opposite way. FSU's defense aggressively pursued the ball and left a receiver wide open.
Of course, Pruitt's approach also might be part of the problem. As FSU's players raved about the new scheme this offseason, the buzzword used again and again was "aggressive." Pruitt promised to turn the Seminoles' athletes loose to make plays, and the players loved the concept. It all sounded good until Boston College used that mindset against them.
"We’re a very aggressive defense, and we want to get to the ball fast," Brooks said. "That right there kind of killed us a little bit."
It's not that the scheme is flawed, however. Pruitt essentially is installing a defense similar to what Alabama used to win three of the past four national titles. There's a track record of success.
The difference is that when Pruitt took over as defensive backs coach at Alabama in 2010, that scheme was already in place, and the veterans already knew it well. At Florida State, it's all new, and the learning process requires time.
"When you come in during the spring and put in a new defense, especially as complex as this one, it’s not like you’re coaching a team full of guys that have already been in the system," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "It’s almost like you’re coaching a defense full of freshmen, technically. We’re all learning it."
Jernigan insists his teammates have bought in, but the learning process has come more quickly for some. Fisher praised Jernigan's work against BC, saying the junior played perhaps the best game of his career. Eddie Goldman earned raves, too, and linebacker Telvin Smith earned player of the week honors in the ACC after finishing with 10 tackles.
So where are the problems?
Fisher did his best to avoid criticizing specific players, though the absence of senior Christian Jones from his synopsis was noteworthy. Dan Hicks was burned for a touchdown, as well, though he was noticeably overmatched in his assignment. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and safety Tyler Hunter sat out for the second straight game against BC, too, and there are no assurances they'll be ready this week.
But to hear Fisher's analysis, there's no cause for alarm. It's not a matter of a flawed scheme, a too-steep learning curve or a lack of personnel. It's simply about getting the little things right.
Florida State's players are convinced of that, too, and the film from Boston College only burnished that optimism. But even so, this week's practices come with a mandate for improvement.
"Having that happen with these good teams that have mobile quarterbacks, people who can run and pass better, better receivers," Brooks said, "it’s just more of a problem at that point."
It was only after Smith crossed the goal line that he realized he wasn't alone. Two steps behind him was fellow linebacker Matthew Thomas, who'd kept pace with Smith step for step throughout the return.
"I turned around and he's standing right next to me," Smith said. "That's what the coaches and myself love about him."
That was hardly the only highlight of the game for Thomas, who dropped Bethune's quarterback in the backfield twice in a span of five plays in the third quarter. In a game in which Jimbo Fisher criticized his defense for ceding too much ground to an overmatched opponent, Thomas stood out.
That's been a theme of the early season for Florida State's defense. It's a unit in transition, having lost a bevy of veterans to the NFL draft and its coordinator to Kentucky. Changes have come at nearly every turn, and the youngest Seminoles are taking advantage.
"They're stepping up," Smith said. "The best man is going to play, and right now, they're proving themselves to be the best man. The young guys are coming. They're on our toes."
It's not just Thomas making an impact.
Jalen Ramsey become the first FSU cornerback to start as a true freshman since Deion Sanders, then delivered the Seminoles' first interception of the season against Pittsburgh. He's sixth on the team so far with 12 tackles, including one sack.
Demarcus Walker got a start in the opener, too, and he's seen consistent work on the defensive line ever since. Chris Casher, a redshirt freshman, racked up 10 tackles -- including two for a loss -- against Bethune-Cookman and was named FSU's defensive player of the week. Second-year players P.J. Williams and Mario Edwards Jr. are now established starters, and a handful of other youngsters are getting regular reps on defense, too.
Fisher was so pleased with the work of his young defensive backs that he felt comfortable flipping veteran Karlos Williams from safety to tailback. Casher, Thomas and sophomore Eddie Goldman have helped pick up the slack for FSU's pass rush after its top three defensive ends all left for the NFL. Overall, nearly half of Florida State's tackles this season have come from defenders with zero previous starting experience.
"The platform is even because new [defensive coordinator], new philosophy, and you have to learn it," cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said. "Experience on the football field, those young guys haven't had it, but with their talent level and where they're coming in, it's good to see them playing and be able to play fast."
Of course, it's easy enough to chalk up the early success for the freshmen and sophomores to the lack of quality competition on the field, but Fisher said this isn't a passing fad. Florida State's schedule gets markedly tougher in October, and rather than shuffling the young defenders to the sidelines for the big games, he wants to ensure they're ready to play when it counts.
"Ability is never the issue," Fisher said. "It's about technique and assignments and getting playing time to be able to relax on the field and do what you do, taking it from the practice field to the game field. You see that more and more, you feel more comfortable. We're going to keep developing all those guys."
Ramsey already appears to have a starting job locked up moving forward, beating out junior Nick Waisome, who started all 14 games last season, and Ronald Darby, a freshman All-American in 2012. Fisher raved about Ramsey's combination of speed and physicality, but said it's the freshman's football acumen that has set him apart.
Thomas is a bit more of a work in progress. He's flashed potential, but he's spent much of his first few months on campus simply soaking in all he can about how to do his job.
"He's observing a lot of stuff," Smith said. "He's taking it in, and he's going to erupt when he gets the chance."
Fisher sees it coming, too.
Since arriving on campus in June, Thomas has already packed on nearly 25 pounds to his frame, but it hasn't slowed him down.
"He's gotten faster," Fisher gushed.
Walker and Casher are following a similar path, too, though they've had longer to learn the ropes.
Casher has been sidelined for the better part of the past two years -- first because of an eligibility issue his senior year in high school, then because of a knee injury that cost him nearly all of 2012. Walker arrived this spring to get a jump start on his college career, but an issue with the NCAA Clearinghouse meant he didn't practice with the team at all.
The down time might have been a blessing, however, as both were eager to learn.
"They came in with their eyes open and their notepad ready, listening to the older guys," Smith said.
That's been a trademark of the Class of 2013 in particular. When Joyner arrived in 2010, Florida State was in the midst of a culture change in the locker room that took a while to take hold. The latest batch of freshmen, however, look right at home from Day 1.
"Those guys are coming in here with the same talent level that guys took two to three years to develop," Joyner said.
That's exactly what Fisher wants to see. He doesn't promise playing time to his recruits, he said, but he offers opportunity. This latest crop of Seminoles was prepared when that opportunity arrived.
"When you get here, you get an opportunity, and if you're the best player, you're going to play," Fisher said. "A play don't care who makes it, and there isn't an age limit on being a good player."
The receivers aren't perfect: Against Bethune-Cookman, Jameis Winston threw nine incomplete passes, nearly doubling his season total from the first two games of the season. Indeed, Winston wasn't nearly as crisp as he'd looked down the stretch just a week ago, when he completed his final 13 throws, but a good bit of the blame goes to the receivers. FSU's receivers hadn't dropped a pass all season, but Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw all allowed potentially easy touchdown throws slip through their fingers. None of it ended up mattering all that much -- aside from Winston's completion percentage plummeting 10 points -- but it was a reminder that, as good as the group had been in the early going, there's still room to get better.
FSU's young defenders are going to be good: There won't be many games this year when Terrance Smith, Matthew Thomas, Ukeme Eligwe and Co. get as many snaps as they did Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, but the blowout win for Florida State -- coupled with the absence of Christian Jones, Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. -- offered a glimpse into what the talented cast of youngsters might one day become. In his first career start, Smith finished with a game-high 12 tackles. Thomas was a beast coming off the edge, recording a sack and two TFLs. Eligwe had six stops, Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry each had five, and Chris Casher made 10 tackles, including two for a loss. For all the defensive success, however, Bethune-Cookman still mustered 18 first downs -- far too many by Jimbo Fisher's estimation. The group has talent, but it's a work in progress.
The biggest lessons are yet to come: What could FSU learn, really, from a game against a clearly overmatched FCS opponent? Three of the Seminoles' starting defenders sat out. Winston was on the bench midway through the third quarter. The tempo of the game never quite clicked, and the score was still out of hand by the half. These first three games have offered a glimpse at what FSU could be, but the Seminoles have yet to be truly tested. That should change moving forward, with an Oct. 5 date against undefeated Maryland looming, and a trip to Clemson awaiting on Oct. 19.
1. Jameis Winston: The hype was for real. So what happens next for FSU's quarterback? Odds are Jimbo Fisher still manages to find room for improvement.
2. Lamarcus Joyner: First game back at corner? No problem. Joyner led the team in tackles and collected two sacks.
3. Rashad Greene: With three senior WRs gone, Greene showed he belongs among the elite receivers in the ACC. He hauled in eight passes for 126 yards -- his third career 100-yard game -- and a TD.
5. Timmy Jernigan: Four tackles, two for a loss and one sack. Yeah, he'll be just fine as a starter. By far FSU's most productive D-lineman on Monday.
6. Nick O'Leary: All of 2012, three TDs for O'Leary. First game of 2013, three TDs for O'Leary. Being Winston's favorite red-zone target has its privileges.
7. Christian Jones: An eight-tackle night wasn't bad, but Jones could've done more. He looked tentative at times coming off the edge, and FSU's D is going to need him to get more pressure when he lines up with his hand in the dirt.
8. Kenny Shaw: As quiet a four-catch, 94-yard performance as you'll see, but Shaw looked like a solid option in the slot to complement strong games from Greene and Kelvin Benjamin.
9. Terrence Brooks: Four tackles and an interception isn't too shabby, though Brooks will be the first to say it could've been more. He had a couple of passes thrown his way that could've been picked.
10. Devonta Freeman: Really, it's splitting hairs between Freeman and James Wilder Jr., who split reps just about evenly through most of the game. Freeman finished with nine carries for 52 yards and added two catches for 11 yards.
Honorable mentions: Wilder, Benjamin, CB Jalen Ramsey, C Bryan Stork, DT Eddie Goldman
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.
Florida State questions
Q: What does QB Jameis Winston bring to the Seminoles' offense that EJ Manuel did not?
Hale: I think there are two distinctly opposite emotions in play here. On one side, Manuel always took a few more lumps from fans than were probably deserved. He finished his career 25-6, winner of four bowl games and the school's all-time record holder for completion percentage. That's a sturdy resume. On the other side, Winston is already getting so much hype that anything short of a Heisman and a national title during his tenure would probably be a disappointment. The truth on both guys is probably somewhere in between, which likely means Winston is going to have a hard time eclipsing Manuel's production this season.
Still, looking back at last year's Florida game, the bar is low -- and 12 games into the season, Winston should be clicking on all cylinders by then. Manuel was dreadful in that game (four turnovers) and I think it's his ugly mistakes in big moments that angered fans the most. Winston has a flair for the dramatic and a love of the spotlight, and that confidence might be his best weapon -- which is saying something, because the guy's got a ton of weapons.
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Next up: No. 20 Eddie Goldman
What he's done: Goldman arrived on campus last year with as much hype as anyone from Florida State's highly-touted recruiting class, but he found himself in the midst of a numbers crunch at defensive tackle. Goldman made waves right away, with teammates praising his speed and footwork, but with a number of established veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, playing time was scarce. Still, Goldman managed to avoid a redshirt and appeared in 10 games, making eight tackles, including one for a loss.
Where he's at: With the departures of Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins, the path to a starting job is now much clearer for Goldman, but that doesn't mean he's won the spot. Veterans Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister are the heirs apparent at defensive tackle, likely meaning Goldman will enter fall camp running with the No. 2s. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Jernigan played that role for two seasons, yet he's still projected as a first-round pick in the next NFL draft. Goldman may have even more upside, and his status as a second-stringer is even less definitive.
What's to come: Goldman will be one of the more intriguing players to watch during fall camp. McAllister missed all of spring practice, and while both players are likely to see significant reps -- FSU is renowned for rotating its D linemen -- Goldman has a real shot at stealing the starting job. Either way, his future is immensely bright. Those raving reviews about his quick first step and powerful strength are now supplemented by a far better understanding of the playbook. And as new DC Jeremy Pruitt works in some of the 3-4 technique his defenses ran at Alabama, Goldman looks like an ideal fit. He may not blossom into a star in 2013, but he looks to take a big step in that direction.
Next up: No. 22 Demonte McAllister
Position/Class: DT/Redshirt senior
What he's done: Through four seasons at Florida State, McAllister has largely floated beneath the radar while building a still impressive list of credentials. Despite never serving as a starter on the defensive line, McAllister has appeared in 38 games in his career, compiled 54 tackles, including 12 for a loss, along with 6.5 sacks. His 2012 campaign was his best, as he earned the most playing time of his career and finished with 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks, tops among FSU's interior linemen.
Where he's at: McAllister missed all of spring practice with a shoulder injury, but that hasn't changed his status atop the team's depth chart at defensive tackle. The departure of senior tackles Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins, along with three veterans at defensive end, means there's a significant void in experience on FSU's defensive line, which makes McAllister a valuable commodity. Of course, tackle is also one of the deepest positions on the Seminoles' roster, meaning McAllister will be pushed for playing time from rising stars like Eddie Goldman and a returning veteran in Jacobbi McDaniel.
What's to come: As good as Florida State's defense was in 2012, few players took as big a leap forward as McAllister. His role grew as the season progressed, and he responded with a sterling overall performance. The only question now is whether he can maintain that trajectory as his role grows again, but Florida State has the luxury of depth at the position. That means no one member of the group should have to shoulder too much of the burden. McAllister's best asset may be his maturity, which will be crucial on a defensive line that will see a lot of action by freshmen and sophomores. Still, if McAllister can improve on last season's numbers -- stats that were only exceeded by highly-touted Timmy Jernigan among FSU's interior linemen -- he could find a lot more attention from NFL scouts by season's end.
First up: The defense.
Fact or Fiction: Under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Florida State's defense can expect even more production in 2013 than it had a year ago.
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Vidal Hazelton (No. 3 recruit) Taylor Mays (8), Antwine Perez (10)
The trio signed with a USC program that was coming off back-to-back BCS title game appearances, but their reality ended up being a pair of transfers and a final game for Mays in the Emerald Bowl. Perez played sparingly as a true freshman and then transferred to Maryland. Hazelton was the leading receiver for the Trojans in his sophomore year with 50 catches but transferred to Cincinnati after his junior year. Mays stayed all four years and earned All-American status before being drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the 49ers. -- Garry Paskwietz
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