2012 was a great year to be a Seminole. Florida State finished 12-2 tying a school-record for victories. The Seminoles also captured their first ACC title since 2005 and won their first BCS bowl since taking home the Sears Trophy following the 1999 season. Florida State is hoping to defend its ACC crown in 2013, but the roster looks much different as FSU had a school-record 11 players taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. Nevertheless, big things are still expected in Tallahassee in what will be head coach Jimbo Fisher’s fourth season at the helm. The ‘Noles will begin 2013 ranked 11th and 12th respectively in the two human polls.
Replacing E.J. Manuel, who finished his Florida State career 25-6 as a starter, will be redshirt freshman and two-sport star Jameis Winston. Winston won the job over sophomore Jacob Coker after a stellar performance in the Florida State spring game. Winston was once the top quarterback recruit in the country and is a superb athlete. Behind Winston will be Coker and redshirt freshman Sean Maguire.
The thunder and lightning combination of James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman combined for nearly 1,300 yards rushing and 19 total touchdowns last season. Each will be in his junior season with freshman Mario Pender also getting into the mix at tailback. Converted defensive back and senior Chad Abram is expected to replace four-year starter Lonnie Pryor at the fullback position.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
While the receiving corps has been decimated by injuries and suspensions, it remains one of the best in the ACC. Junior Rashad Greene returns after leading the Seminoles in receiving in each of the past two years. Kenny Shaw, a senior, will man the other starting receiver slot. Behind Greene and Shaw will be redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin, who is 6’6″ and junior Christian Green. Nick O’Leary, a junior, will start at tight end and has the potential to be one of the best in the country at the position.
Despite losing Menelik Watson early to the NFL Draft, the Florida State offensive front is deep and talented. Senior Bryan Stork, a three-year starter, will be the team’s center while a pair of juniors, Bobby Hart and converted defensive lineman, Cameron Erving, will man the tackle positions. Josue Matias and Tre’ Jackson, also both juniors, are expected to start at guard. Jackson is projected to be one of the best in the ACC in 2013.
The Seminoles are very deep up front despite losing four starters to the NFL Draft. At the end position will be sophomore Mario Edwards and senior Dan Hicks with Chris Casher, a redshirt freshman, not far behind. The tackle position is also very good for Florida State with Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister manning the middle. Senior Jacobbi McDaniel should also see plenty of the field at defensive tackle for Florida State.
Christian Jones will anchor the Florida State linebacker contingent. Jones, a senior, can cover sideline-to-sideline and is talented enough to be an All-American. Alongside Jones will be a pair of converted defensive backs, Terrance and Telvin Smith. Both Smiths can also really run and they will be backed by a number of talented, but young players such as sophomore Reggie Northrup and freshmen Matthew Thomas, Ukeme Eligwe and Freddie Stevenson. Thomas was one of the most heralded recruits of the 2013 class.
The secondary for Florida State is also very deep led by Lamarcus Joyner, who moves from safety back to cornerback. P.J. Williams is projected to be the other corner, but junior Nick Waisome and sophomore Ronald Darby are not far behind. At safety will be junior Karlos Williams and senior Terrence Brooks. Williams is a hard-hitter that made the interception a season ago to seal Florida State’s ACC title. Junior Tyler Hunter, who was tied for the team lead with three interceptions a season ago, and senior Gerald Demps should see plenty of the field as well.
At kicker, the Seminoles will be replacing the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in Dustin Hopkins, but Florida State is confident that Roberto Aguayo can get the job done. Aguayo has a big leg and will handle field goals and kickoffs. Sophomore Cason Beatty is once again expected to be the punter. Beatty averaged better than 38 yards-per-punt a season ago. Karlos Williams and Lamarcus Joyner will likely get the duties returning kickoffs while receivers Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw will handle the punts. All four returners have proven to be very explosive.
Florida State should once again be very strong defensively and if quarterback Jameis Winston can limit his mistakes, the Seminoles should be potent offensively as well. FSU has a number of playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the Seminoles will play their toughest two games on the road, at Clemson and Florida. If the Seminoles can survive a mid-October trip to Death Valley, Florida State will likely have a very good shot at capturing a second straight ACC title and could make a serious run at the national championship.