Florida State Seminoles: FSU Hidden Gems

When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

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

Next up: Reggie Northrup (So./LB)

Career arc: A solid recruit out of Jacksonville, Northrup found his way onto the field in a limited role as a freshman in 2012, shining on special teams while making a few big plays in late-game situations at weakside linebacker. For the season, Northrup finished with 10 tackles, including six in a dominant second-half performance against Boston College.

Why he's overlooked: With two veterans clearly entrenched in starting jobs at linebacker and a massive group of young and untested talent behind them, there's a clear line of demarcation in the group between the big names and the players flying under the radar. And while Northrup is one of the few reserves with playing experience, it's also possible he'll be upstaged by one of the five incoming freshmen, including highly regarded Matthew Thomas.

Why he'll produce: Northrup's game wasn't entirely refined last year, but his athleticism and ability to find the football were obvious. He was a missile on special teams, and his work ethic and energy at linebacker impressed teammates. He's also versatile enough to back up Christian Jones on the weakside or step in on the strongside when FSU is in its base 4-3 set. Considering both Jones and Telvin Smith will be gone after the season, there's ample reason for Jeremy Pruitt and new LBs coach Charles Kelly to make sure a few of those young linebackers get some much-needed experience now.

Projection: Even with the starting strongside job open, Northrup isn't guaranteed much, and there promises to be stiff competition even for backup roles from Terrance Smith, Freddie Stevenson and Thomas. Still, it's in FSU's interest to find ways to get as many of the young LBs on the field as possible, and Northrup's playing experience in 2012 could certainly give him a leg up.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

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

Next up: Willie Haulstead (Jr./WR)

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

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

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

Projection: Haulstead might never get back to the numbers he posted as a sophomore, but he won't be an overlooked piece of the offensive game plan this year. While Fisher figures to still spread the ball around, it wouldn't be surprising if Haulstead earned a sizable slice of the pie this year, potentially sliding into a starting role when FSU opens in three-receiver sets. He might not match the numbers Smith posted last year (38 catches, 524 yards) but a 25-catch, 400-yard season is certainly possible.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

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

Next up: Nile Lawrence-Stample

Career arc: A well-regarded recruit, Lawrence-Stample played just one season at defensive tackle in high school. That translated to a slightly steeper learning curve upon arrival at FSU. He redshirted as a true freshman in 2011, and he saw extremely limited playing time in 2012, recording 10 tackles for the season.

Why he's overlooked: Despite losing its two starters, Florida State is still deep at defensive tackle. McAllister and Timmy Jernigan are veterans with solid seasons already under their belt, and they figure to step into starting roles in 2013. Meanwhile, senior Jacobbi McDaniel returns from an injury and highly touted sophomore Eddie Goldman looks to take the next step in his career, pushing both Lawrence-Stample and fellow sophomore Derrick Mitchell to the back of the pack.

Why he'll produce: Earning playing time may still be an uphill battle at a crowded position, but Jimbo Fisher was effusive in his praise of Lawrence-Stample following an impressive spring game performance in which he recorded three sacks. Fisher said no player on FSU's defense improved more over the course of the spring, and at 315 pounds, he could be a force in the middle of the defensive line if an opportunity arises.

Projection: With so much talent surrounding him, it's tough to project a significant role for Lawrence-Stample at the moment, but both Jernigan and McAllister missed significant time this spring with injuries, and Mitchell and McDaniel both have problematic injury histories, too. It's not an ideal way to earn playing time, but as the Seminoles learned at defensive end a year ago, depth on the line is tested often, and Lawrence-Stample's progress in Year 3 offers plenty of reason for optimism.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

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

Next up: Kevin Haplea (Sr./TE)

Career arc: Florida State ended up No. 2 among Haplea's college choices coming out of high school, and the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end landed instead at Penn State. After the NCAA sanctions that rocked the Penn State program, however, the doors were opened for players to transfer, and Haplea decided to give FSU another look.

Why he's overlooked: Haplea arrived in Tallahassee just days before the start of fall camp last season, and what followed was a whirlwind. An injury to Dan Hicks opened the door for Haplea to get on the field routinely, but he was never an integral part of the offense. Haplea's blocking was solid, but he caught just three passes for 15 yards.

Why he'll produce: For the past four years, Lonnie Pryor has been a fixture of FSU's offensive game plan at fullback, but his departure after the 2012 season likely opens the door to some different looks, and Jimbo Fisher said he's planning on employing more two tight end sets this season. That's good news for Haplea, who might already be FSU's best blocking tight end. But while the grunt work was always a solid niche for Haplea, he showed some athleticism during the spring, becoming a regular target in passing situations, too.

Projection: After a full year in the program, Haplea has clearly made some major strides, and Fisher raved about his spring performance. While Nick O'Leary and Christo Kourtzidis battled injuries, Haplea kept producing. It's unlikely he'll ever be the offensive weapon that O'Leary could be, but Haplea's consistency at the little things should earn him a hefty slice of playing time in 2013.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

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

First up: Dan Hicks (Sr./DE)

Career arc: A two-star recruit out of high school, Hicks saw limited action at defensive end in 2010 and 2011, registering 34 tackles and two sacks. After the 2011 season, he was shifted to tight end, but a knee injury during fall camp ended his season. He switched back to defense this spring.

Why he's overlooked: Hicks' history doesn't exactly inspire much enthusiasm, and after a lost season in 2012 he was largely forgotten. While the move back to defensive end offered an opportunity for playing time at his original position, he's also competing against more prized prospects like Mario Edwards Jr., Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher.

Why he'll produce: It might have been a full year since Hicks last competed at defensive end, but he looked the part of an experienced veteran during spring practice. Fisher raved after the spring game that no one on the defensive line had played so consistently well as Hicks, and where he once appeared to add depth at a position in transition, he's now a serious contender to win a starting job.

Projection: Hicks' star might never eclipse that of Newberry or Casher, but Fisher and new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri don't care much about pedigree. When it comes to production, Hicks has impressed, and whether he ends up the starter, he'll get regular reps and should provide valuable experience at a position without much of it elsewhere.

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