FSU Quarterbacks: B-
Heading out of spring camp Florida State’s starting quarterback job looked as though it had been nailed down by redshirt freshman Jameis Winston (6-4 227). With just weeks before the start of the season though, redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker (6-5 235) continues to challenge for the position. Either way, after two seasons with EJ Manuel under center, the Seminoles must now break in a new starting quarterback. Potential is high with both of FSU’s top two quarterbacks, but experience is not — between the pair they have attempted just six collegiate passes.
FSU Running Backs: A
Florida State hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Warrick Dunn and this might not be the year either, but that doesn’t mean the Seminoles aren’t more talented at the running back position than they have been in years. James Wilder Jr. (6-2 229) and Devonta Freeman (5-9, 203, Miami Central) will share the load for FSU this season. The duo combined for 1,295 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground last year and those numbers should improve with Chris Thompson (722 yards, 5 TD in 2012) now in the NFL. Joining Freeman and Wilder are speedy freshmen Mario Pender (5-10 192) and Ryan Green (5-10 188).
Wide Receivers: C+
What once appeared to be a position of strength now has a depth chart that is starting to look tenuous. Since spring Florida State’s receivers have dropped like flies. Three seniors — Willie Haulstead, Greg Dent and Jarred Haggins — will all miss the season, and promising newcomer Marvin Bracy left the team to pursue a professional track career last April. That leaves a depleted unit with plenty of potential but very little experience. Starters Kenny Shaw (6-0 170) and Rashad Greene (6-0 180, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) are both proven commodities and Kelvin Benjamin (6-5 235) and Christian Green (6-2 205) have some experience, but beyond that the Seminoles will need to rely on the contributions of newcomers to move the chains in 2013.
Offensive Line: B+
Florida State’s starting offensive line has come full circle and enters the 2013 season as a veteran unit. Just two years ago the Seminoles were forced to cobble together a line made up of freshmen and sophomores for their bowl game against Notre Dame. A conference title and an Orange Bowl win later, FSU’s line enters 2013 as juniors and seniors and has matured into one of the top units in the ACC. Depth, however, is a major issue facing this unit as Florida State is just a rolled ankle or a twisted knee from finding itself in the same predicament it faced a couple years ago at the Champs Bowl once again. Behind Florida State’s starting offensive line — lead by redshirt senior Bryan Stork (6-4 300) — the Seminoles have very few experienced linemen.
Defensive Line: B+
Florida State lost a lot of talent off 2012’s defensive line to the NFL draft, both starting ends were selected in the first 40 picks and five lineman in total are currently in NFL camps. 2013’s group has enough potential to be even better. In the middle, junior Tim Jernigan (6-2 294) has evolved into one of the most highly regarded defensive tackles in the country. Around him, tackle Demonte McAllister (6-2 298) and former No. 1 overall recruit Mario Edwards Jr. (6-3 278) are starting for the first time after making an impact as part of last year’s D-line rotation, senior Dan Hicks (6-4 260) is back at defensive end after a year on offense and a talented group of underclassmen waits in the wings.
Florida State will be showcasing a new, attack-oriented style of defense under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt in 2013 and the linebackers will be asked to take on a diverse set of new roles. Fortunately for the Seminoles, they are well-equipped. Christian Jones (6-4 235) returns to FSU for his senior season and will play alongside senior Telvin Smith (6-3 218) to form one of the most experienced, athletic duos in the country. When Florida State does line up with a third linebacker, they have a deep group to pick from — including five-star newcomer Matthew Thomas (6-3 210, Booker T. Washington).
Defensive Backs: A+
The top-ranked pass defense in the entire nation from 2012 returns almost everyone this season. Gone is Xavier Rhodes (Miami Norland), a first-round selection by Minnesota. Here is new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defensive back-oriented new scheme. And fortunately for Seminole fans, Florida State’s group might be the most athletic it’s been in more than a decade. Lead by preseason All-American Lamarcus Joyner (5-8 190, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), who moves back to corner after a two-year stint at safety, the Seminole secondary looks to be the strength of the entire team.
Special Teams: C
Last year, Cason Beatty (6-3 229) allowed just eight of his 47 punts to be returned and put 23 of them inside the 20. The bigger issue facing Florida State was Beatty’s protection; the Seminoles gave up several key blocks — including one in an upset loss at North Carolina State. Likewise, ball security on returns is a question facing the Seminoles in 2013. Both Tyler Hunter (5-11 197) and Rashad Greene had punt return touchdowns in 2012 but also muffed multiple attempts. At kicker, redshirt freshman Robert Aguayo (6-1 208) will replace FSU’s all-time points leader, Dustin Hopkins.
There is no doubt that Jimbo Fisher can recruit with the best of them, Florida State’s recent recruiting classes have rated highly and its roster is loaded with talent. Fisher’s ability to develop players is also cemented at this point — FSU had a school-record 11 players drafted last April and Fisher’s past three starting QB’s have all been first-rounders. But his reputation as a game-day coach is still up for debate, with upsets at the hands of out-matched opponents and stretches of play-calling leaving legitimate questions. With FSU heading into 2013 as defending ACC champs, breaking in six new assistants, Fisher faces arguably his toughest test yet as he attempts to establish himself as one of the top coaches in all of college football.