Florida State opens the 2012 season by playing host to Murray State on Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The seventh-ranked Seminoles boast one of the nation’s top defenses, including a line that returns everyone after finishing 2011 ranked second nationally against the run and eighth in sacks.
Led by defensive ends Brandon Jenkins (senior) and Bjoern Werner (junior), the Florida State defense will look to get off to a fast start against a Murray State team that could prove challenging if taken lightly.
The Racers averaged more than 460 yards of offense per game last season, including more than 300 yards per game in the air. Senior quarterback Casey Brockman is an accomplished passer and will take advantage of anything Florida State gives him.
But the Noles outclass the Racers up front and should have little problem locking down the receivers thanks to a talented secondary that includes Xavier Rhodes (Miami Norland) and Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas).
Offensively, FSU will look to jump-start its running game after a dismal 2011.
The Seminoles ranked 104th in the nation running the ball last season, primarily because of injures. On Saturday, they face a team that gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground in FCS competition.
Florida State hopes that’s just the recipe to get its ground attack off on the right foot.
Senior tailback Chris Thompson is back as the starter a year after breaking two vertebrae against Wake Forest. He joins senior fullback Lonnie Pryor and redshirt senior quarterback EJ Manuel in the Seminoles backfield.
After three years of bringing in players and building a system, it’s the seniors who have coach Jimbo Fisher so confident.
“Those guys, there’s a sense of urgency in them,” he said. “I think you always see that in seniors and how they get on people and how they lead. That’s the magical thing about having seniors that everyone wants — that urgency and attention to detail. It’s your last go-round and you want to make sure it’s right.
“That’s why usually senior-laden teams are the ones that are very successful. Hopefully, that will pay off for us.”
But FSU’s underclassmen should see plenty of action in the first week, too. The Seminoles boasted a top national recruiting class in the offseason and many of those players are ready now.
“The look in their eyes is just priceless,” Fisher said. “It’s excitement. You remember all the hard work you do and the love of the game again.
“The fall is my favorite time of the year. I love it for a lot of reasons, but football is the main one.”