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. 4 Telvin Smith
What he's done: Smith's production has increased markedly each season he's been at Florida State, from recording 18 tackles as a freshman in 2010 to 42 as a sophomore and a career-best 64 last season. In each of the past two years, Smith has been an integral part of the platoon at middle linebacker with Vince Williams, anchoring the middle of the defense on passing downs while Williams was sturdy against the run. In addition to his impressive tackle totals for a part-time player in 2012, he racked up 9.5 tackles for loss (third on the team) and finished with three passes defended, three pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Despite his role as a part-time player, Smith also blossomed into one of the vocal leaders of the defense after the dismissal of his former high school teammate, Greg Reid, just before fall camp.
Where he's at: Smith's part-time status belied his impact in 2012. During his early tenure as the co-starter at middle linebacker, his skill set was limited primarily to passing downs, but throughout last season he grew more accustomed to handling the full range of responsibility. In 2013, he'll get a chance to show just how far he's come. Williams is gone, and the full-time job at middle linebacker -- along with the role of undisputed leader of the defense -- belongs to Smith. It's a big job, too. Last season, Smith and Williams combined for 123 tackles, a total that would have ranked second in the ACC had it belonged entirely to one player. Moreover, as new DC Jeremy Pruitt expands the role of Christian Jones on the weakside, Smith's responsibilities in the middle become even more pronounced. And while it was clear throughout 2012 that Smith was poised to become a star, he's now working without a net. Williams had been an established veteran counterpart, but there is no experienced depth at linebacker this year beyond Jones and Smith.
What's to come: It's tough to project exactly how much production Smith might have in 2013. His role is obviously far greater than it was a year ago, but the scheme on defense has changed, too. What's clear though is that, after Williams handled the bulk of the work on running downs in years past, Smith is going to prove he's up to that task. FSU was among the top rush defenses in the nation in each of the past two seasons, but Williams and the entirety of the starting defensive line have moved on. Smith now steps into the role of run stopper, and he'll need to prove it's a role he's comfortable with. His size (6-foot-3, 215) should help, and his punishingly physical approach will pay dividends. Perhaps as important, however, is his role as the vocal leader of a defense that is undergoing serious changes this season. If Smith can handle full-time work and keep the defense on an even keel throughout the season, there's a valid argument he'll be Florida State's 2013 MVP and a potential All-ACC -- or even All-American -- player.