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Posted on: April 18, 2011 1:48 pm
 

Questions coming out of Spring 2011

 (Offense)

The most obvious change for the ‘Noles on offense is EJ Manuel taking over for NFL-bound Christian Ponder. EJ is 4-2 as a starter and has played impressively in two bowl starts already. Reminding longtime ‘Nole fans of the glory days, EJ takes over the reigns as a redshirt junior with plenty of experience as he’s thrown for over 1,600 yards through his first two seasons. For what it’s worth, EJ’s play in the Spring game was poor, but his overall body of work should leave ‘Noles fans feeling very comfortable with him returning as the starter.

Backing up EJ, we’ve got Clint Trickett and Will Secord. Trickett is probably the headier ‘system’ QB of the two, but Secord literally stands head and shoulders above him in terms of size and stature and has the stronger, more natural throwing arm. Trickett appears to have earned the back-up role for now and played well in the spring game (easily outplayed EJ and Secord, in fact), but the position battle will surely carry over into the late summer. Ethan Gilbert, a transfer, played in the 4<sup>th</sup> quarter of the spring game and outplayed both EJ and Secord as well.

The less obvious, but far more important changes for the ‘Noles’ offense take place within the offensive line.  The ‘Noles lose two outstanding four year starters in Rodney Hudson (arguably the best O-lineman ever at FSU) and Ryan McMahon.  Tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders are out for the spring but return for 2011 and their play will be a big part of the ‘Noles’ offensive output this season. Developing strong back-ups will be important in the summer and fall as the tackle play in the spring game was very poor. Between the tackles, who among Stork, Faircloth and Orelus, will emerge as a starter? Will David Spurlock be able to return from multiple head injuries?  Will the Jakob Fahrenkrug experiment at center land the ‘Noles a new starter? Will freshman like Bobby Hart, Sterling Lovelady, Ruben Carter, Jordan Prestwood, or Josue Matais compete for playing time in 2011? There are lots of questions along the offensive line that need to be answered through the summer and fall.

At running back, the ‘Noles have plenty of ammunition. Chris Thompson, Ty Jones, Jermaine Thomas, and Lonnie Pryor all return (combined, these guys rushed for 2,000 yards in 2010), and they’re joined by stellar freshman newcomers Devonta Freeman (enrolled early and ran well in the spring game), James Wilder Jr., and Eric Beverly. There’s tremendous talent in the ‘Noles backfield and it will be interesting to see what emerges in the fall. Chris Thompson will likely see the most carries, but it’s doubtful anyone will emerge as a feature back in the group; more likely, and better for the team, expect a host of backs to carry the ball in the fall depending on game situations and weekly performance.  

Finally, who will EJ go to in the air in 2011? The entire receiving corps from 2010 returns in 2011, including Bert Reed, Willie Haulstead, Taiwan Easterling, and Rodney Smith. Jared Haggins saw limited action in 2010 and should see a larger role in 2011 as should Christian Green. TEs Beau Reliford and Ja’Baris Little also return but will be pushed by Nick O’Leary and Will Tye. Among incoming freshman, expect O’Leary and Kelvin Benjamin to have the most dramatic impact in the passing attack. While the receiving corps was serviceable in 2010, it’s fair to question how much of that was driven by a talented senior QB and one of the nation’s best offensive lines that allowed receivers extra time to create space against man and find it against zone. With the QB and the o-line as relative question marks in 2011, it will be important for the ‘Noles’ receivers to step up. The TE position will be interesting to watch and it will be important for a reliable playmaker to emerge there to help the ‘Noles diversify their passing attack.

(Defense)

There are tons of reasons to be excited about what the ‘Noles return on defense. For me, it starts with a cupboard full of NFL-talent defensive backs. Xavier Rhodes looks to build on a break-out 2010 campaign as does Michael Harris while Greg Reid is a flat-out playmaker who continues to mature as a reliable corner in coverage (however, as an aside, I can’t help but wonder if Reid will ever wrap-up after the hit on Lattimore in 2010). In fact, the defensive backs are so good that Lamarcus Joyner (a definite NFL-type dback) has moved over to safety for 2011. Speaking of safety, freshman Karlos Williams is likely to challenge for a starting spot in the fall. His potential is unmatched, but can he learn the position within the framework of Mark Stoops’ defensive scheme? Will Nick Moody grow into the roll and be less of a liability against the pass than he was in 2010? Can Parks leverage his experience to finally cement himself in centerfield over more gifted but less consistent competitors? Will Fr Nick Waisome work his way into some playing time as a freshman? Can Avis Commack parlay his physical attributes into valuable depth as he transitions over from WR?

The ‘Noles will feature a stout defensive line with returning starters Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner, Jacobbi McDaniel and Everett Dawkins backed up by Anthony McCloud, Demonte McAllister, Darius Cummings and Dan Hicks. Add Tank Carradine (who had a good spring and strong showing in the scrimmage) and r-FR Cameron Erving to the mix, and the ‘Noles have some nice size, speed, experience, and depth up front. Among the incoming freshman, ‘Noles fans have to be excited to see how Tim Jernigan will fit in to the mix in the fall. Can he add valuable depth at DT? Can Moses McCray elude the injuries that have plagued his career and work his way into an already deep and talented rotation? Personally, I’m beginning to suspect that Werner and Jenkins may be the best bookend combination the ‘Noles have fielded since two guys named Wilson and Boulware.  Opposing QBs, start panicking now.

Finally, at LB, Nigel Bradham and Vince Williams are proven commodities, though I’m still waiting for Bradham to make the leap from very good to great. Can he do it in 2011? Perhaps more likely, Christian Jones will look to emerge as FSU’s premier LB in the year ahead. Where will Jeff Luc fit in the mix when the fall rolls around? Will Telvin Smith surprise and compete for the starting spot at MLB?

(Special Teams)

Dustin Hopkins returns for placekicking duties – and this is critical for the ‘Noles. Half of Hopkins’ 2010 kick-offs went for touchbacks, and many of those that didn’t still resulted in poor field position for ‘Noles’ opponents who chose to run the ball out of the end zone. In field goal duties, Hopkins’ accuracy improved to almost 80% from a 70% success rate his freshman year and one of the most impressive plays from the ‘Noles’ spring game was his 60 yard howitzer shot at the end of the first half. P Shawn Powell was held out of the spring game but returns for 2011 and will be a valuable weapon for FSU in the field position battle. Who will FSU feature in the return game for 2011? After a phenomenal freshman campaign, Greg Reid struggled in 2011 and FSU was among the worst teams in FBS last year in terms of yards per return on kick-offs.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: FSU, Seminoles
 
Posted on: August 29, 2010 6:46 pm
 

2010 Seminole Preview

2010 Seminole football is almost here and September 4<sup>th</sup>’s noon kick-off against Samford will usher in a new era. What kind of era that is remains to be seen, of course, but Jimbo Fisher has certainly built a strong foundation in just eight months of work as the head coach. To recap briefly:

-          Jimbo loaded up on best-in-class coaches including Eddie Gran (running backs), Dameyune Craig (quarterbacks), Greg Hudson (linebackers), DJ Eliot (defensive ends), Vic Viloria (strength and conditioning), and Mark Stoops (defense). Add to that list the other assistant coaches (Rick Trickett, Lawrence Dawsey, and James Coley) that Fisher helped to bring in as the head coach in waiting, and that leaves Odell Haggins as the only holdover coach from the Bowden era.

-          By all accounts, FSU’s recruiting haul in 2010 was nothing short of spectacular. With half a coaching staff in place, Fisher and company (hats off to Trickett, Dawsey, and Coley) brought in a top 10 recruiting class in just a few weeks of work. Christian Green, Christian Jones, Lamarcus Joyner, Jeff Luc, Kenny Shaw, and Telvin Smith collectively helped turn the tide for FSU with their commitments.

-          2011 recruiting is looking even better.  The recent commitment of James Wilder Jr. shows FSU can go out and recruit with the big boys now as Wilder was thought by most to be a UF lock.

Leading up to the 2010 season, not everything has gone perfectly for Jimbo, of course. Nigel Carr’s off-field behavior brought him away from the team, Ed Imeokparia was arrested for stealing a cell phone, and Jarmon Fortson was dismissed from the team for rules violations. Throw in the season ending injuries to Moses McCray and Tavares Pressly and while few programs are fortunate enough to have eventless offseasons, losing three projected starters and several other impact players is a tough pill to swallow.

For certain, there’s been far more good than bad for the Seminoles since they last stepped on the field for Bobby Bowden’s finale against West Virginia. What are the biggest questions ahead for 2011?

1)      QB health. Arguably, FSU has the strongest QB depth chart of any team in the country. Christian Ponder is set for a senior Heisman campaign and back-up EJ Manuel represents the future of the program. But both QBs had off-season surgery on their shoulders and missed parts of off-season prep as a result. FSU’s fate in 2010 rests on Ponder’s shoulders to a large degree, so having 14 games of healthy performance (which would be a first for Ponder in a career marred by various injuries) is critical.

2)       Defensive scheme. In 2009, FSU went 7-6 with one of the worst defenses in college football. There’s ample opportunity for the defense to improve and intuitively, any improvement on defense will add significantly to the win column. The new coaching staff is bringing a new, more zone-oriented defense to Tallahassee, and early reports indicate the players are adapting quickly. Nonetheless, it’s never easy to learn a new system and FSU’s early schedule (at Oklahoma, BYU at home) will be a real test.

3)      Wideouts. The ‘Noles return 100 catches and 1,200 yards from 2009’s team. That’s not bad… but it could be better. Bert Reed is an elusive burner. Willie Haulstead is unproven but has NFL caliber measurables. Taiwan Easterling is the reliable possession receiver. And Rodney Smith is the deep threat. The ‘Noles have the pieces, but what will be interesting to see is whether a few of these guys can make the jump from good to great.

4)      Run defense. While many pointed to the secondary as FSU’s defensive woes took form in early 2009, the lack of performance in the front seven was the true root cause. The defensive line was outplayed frequently, and when they weren’t outplayed they were flat out in the wrong position. Discipline and toughness were in short supply, but that looks to change as DJ Eliot ushers in a new attitude on the line and for the defensive ends in particular. There’s lots of talk that the ‘Noles off-season conditioning program has added bulk to the front seven that was sorely needed to stop the run. With limited depth due to injuries and poor recruiting, the ‘Noles will need exceptional contributions from guys like Jaccobi McDaniel, Markus White, and Brandon Jenkins on the defensive line, while rookies Jeff Luc and Christian Jones will be pressed into service at LB.

5)      Running backs. There’s an adage that goes something along the lines of “when you’ve got two running backs, you don’t have any”. How that adage would tie-in to FSU and their backfield is an interesting question. The ‘Noles are extremely deep in the backfield, with each back having a special skill that distinguishes him from the others. That said, one thing the ‘Noles will need to watch out for is allowing other teams to pick up on play-calling tendencies based on the personnel on the field. With Jermaine Thomas and Chris Thompson alternating the starting role for much of the offseason, it leaves some question as to how solidified the ‘Noles really are in the backfield. We’ll know the answer soon enough, but my guess is that Eddie Gran will get the most out of Thomas and we could easily see Thomas pick-up right where he left off against WVU when he rushed 25 times for 120 yards. The only thing preventing Thomas from getting 1,000 yards this year will be the talents of his stable mates – most notably Thompson, Smiley, and – my personal favorite – Lonnie Pryor.

Looking forward to a fantastic season in 2010 and the beginning of a new era for FSU football… Go ‘Noles!
Posted on: May 11, 2010 11:12 am
 

Off-Season Thoughts 'Noles to the SEC?

It’s a tribute to FSU’s coaching staff and the players’ commitment that my thoughts are able to wander to things like conference alignment and the strategic direction of our Seminoles at this time of year. In years past, things like player arrests, eligibility concerns, QB controversies, and lousy Spring workouts often consumed my thoughts in May, stuck squarely between Spring drills and Summer two-a-days. But not this year. This year, there are no off-field distractions and the on-field issues (Will Ponder return to form following surgery? What vector – ie, direction and velocity – will the defense’s improvement take in ’10? Which newcomers will step up in the season ahead? Etc.) all seem to be well in-hand. Perhaps that’s what unwound the dynasty most over the last decade of Bowden’s tenure…  in hindsight, it seems we were all too busy focusing on the proverbial six inches in front of our face to worry much about the strategic direction of the program. There’s a lot to be said for getting the details right, and I think that’s something Fisher and company have done exceedingly well so far.

 

On to the topic…  should the ‘Noles join the SEC?

 

I’ll admit that my loathing for all things SEC (most notably the fans themselves whose chants of “S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C!!!” are only slightly less annoying and idiotic than those of Ohio State hollering, “O-H!..... I-O!!!!”) has always made my skin crawl, and that as a result, I throw up a little bit in my mouth each time talk of FSU being SEC-bound arises. But the SEC is not some butt ugly cow that you’d be embarrassed to be seen hanging on your arm as you leave the bar.  To the contrary, they’re the beautiful, seductive, blonde next door in the three-story colonial mansion with the Mercedes parked out front. She’ll never discover the cure for cancer, but she’s no dummy either. By contrast, the ACC is the smart, attractive girl at the library with the Prius Hybrid parked out front who has a ton of potential, but may never go for that makeover or err on the wild side of things.

 

I put it this way b/c the ACC’s contracts with ESPN and Raycom are set to expire in 2011 and there’s every indication that the conference will take a pay cut or perhaps only increase revenues slightly from the current $67MM per year with a bundled package in the next contract. Meanwhile the SEC pulls in $200MM per year through 2025 across its various package deals. Put differently, the ACC’s contract will bank around $5.5-6MM per team, per year while the SEC pulls in $17MM per team per year. The ACC just doesn’t have the sex appeal of the SEC and, judging by the statements of conference execs who say that expansion is not under consideration and who do not believe that Big 10 or SEC changes will impact them, they don’t seem willing to take the chances necessary to challenge the SEC for supremacy. Indeed, if the SEC is the blonde next door, she’s the blonde next door who has been breaking FSU’s heart since the 1960s b/c FSU to the SEC is anything but a new idea.

 

Taking for granted that a transfer to the SEC is more lucrative for FSU, let’s think for a moment about the true impact of money in college football. If you compare the coaching contracts of FSU’s 2009 staff ($4.7MM total) to the 2010 gross ($4.4MM) you’d be impressed to see that FSU has significantly improved its coaching staff while saving some $300k per year. But look closer, and you see that the primary driver of this savings is that Fisher ($1.8MM) is making significantly less than Bowden ($2.3MM) did in his final year. Now step back, and you’ll see that the larger trend in college football suggests FSU is essentially getting away with highway robbery – Texas’s nine assistant coaches earn an average of $369k while FSU’s group of 10 assistants average only $262k. And if Fisher (and his staff) is as successful at FSU as I and others expect him to be, we’d be foolish to plan for modest pay increases to keep him around. Nick Saban makes a cool $3.9MM, Urban Meyer banks $4MM, and Bob Stoops checks in at $4.3MM. Of the 60 assistants who earned $300,000 or more in 2009, 29 coached in the SEC. Add in other critical items for the football program like a new indoor practice facility, construction of a new dorm, support staff for tutoring, nutrition, etc., and all sorts of other miscellaneous expenses and you can see that the costs associated with being an elite football program are high and going higher.

 

Of course, there are two primary arguments against FSU joining the SEC. The first goes something along the lines of, ‘we want to compete for National Championships and it’s easier to get there through the ACC than through the SEC.’ I’ve made the argument myself many times, but I’ve never been particularly critical of it. In the history of the BCS, the SEC has appeared in 6 National Championship games…. and won all 6. The ACC? – 3 appearances and one championship – all credited to FSU. (VT and Miami appeared in NC games as Big East teams.) The more current trend is even more pro-SEC as LSU, then UF, and now Alabama have dominated.

 

The second argument against joining the SEC is an academic exercise, literally. It goes something along the lines of, ‘admission standards, test scores, academic reputations, etc. are all much greater in the ACC than the SEC.’ This is true and I don’t care to spend a lot of time proving it – thank you Duke, for making FSU a better institution of higher learning by affiliation.

 

So the question is simple, really…. Do you want more money, better football, and more National Championships?

 

S-E-C....S-E-C... S-E-C!!!!!

 

Good reads related FSU and Conference Expansion / SEC

http://www.tomahawknation.com/2010/
5/10/1466490/random-thoughts-about-
realistic#storyjump

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/20
10/05/08/1424826/acc-meetings-to-fo
cus-on-tv-deals.html

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/
389570-the-seminoles-and-the-sec-a-
sordid-love-affair

http://www.tomahawknation.com/2010/
2/9/1302407/what-it-takes-to-be-con
sistently

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sp
orts_college_fsu/2010/01/a-comparis
on-of-florida-state%E2%80%99s-footb
all-coaching-salaries-%E2%80%93-200
9-and-now.html

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/coll
ege/football/2009-11-09-coaches-sal
ary-analysis_N.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowl_C
hampionship_Series

Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Fisher, FSU, SEC, Seminoles
 
Posted on: January 6, 2010 10:52 pm
 

The State of the (Seminole) Nation

It is January 6, 2010, and the state of Seminole Nation is strong! How appropriate to be thinking and writing about Seminole football today as the energy of Bobby Bowden’s tremendous finale lives on while we usher in a new dynasty era of Florida State football with Jimbo Fisher officially taking the helm! Looking back on the 2009 season, and ahead at 2010, it feels great to be a part of Seminole Nation.

First, it’s not all hugs and kisses in Tallahassee. The elephant in the room is that the ‘Noles fielded one of the very worst defenses in college football in 2009, en route to a 7-6 season (4-4 in the ACC). Coming off a 9-4 season in 2008, FSU seemed poised for more, but it was not to be. FSU finished 1-for-the-state-of-Florida, losing a heartbreaker to Miami, a full body heaver to USF, and a butt-whipper to UF. FSU’s only in-state win in ’09? – Jacksonville State.

The ‘Noles defense allowed opponents to have their best offensive output of their respective seasons in 9 of 13 games, finished #94 in scoring defense (yielding a staggering 30 ppg), #108 in rushing defense (205 ypg), #77 in passing defense (229 ypg), and #108 in total defense (435 ypg). A tiny defensive line (average weight across the unit < 265 lbs) was blown off the ball all season and coaches moved LBs to DE and even started a senior walk on (who held his own!) to try and muster some semblance of a pass rush. Meanwhile, the LB corps showed promise but missed too many tackles and too often over ran the play or flat-out fell asleep on their assignment, and the secondary gave up one big play after another through a pathetic mix of blown coverage and poor coverage technique. Looking ahead to next year, there is some raw talent to be excited about, but no one that saw the field in ’09 should feel like they’re invulnerable to a significant drop in playing time next year.

But enough of the sour stuff. On the plus side, the ‘Noles offense was exceptional in 2009, finishing #32 in scoring, #26 in passing ypg, and #28 in total offense despite playing the last three games without Maxwell Award Semi-Finalist Christian Ponder. FSU’s offensive line wasn’t quite the dominating force many expected them to be (particularly during a 3-game losing streak that dropped the ‘Noles to 2-4), but they played better from last October on, and with all 5 starters returning again next year (including All American Rodney Hudson, and All American candidate Andrew Datko) they should be the core of a potent offense in 2010.

The ground game started slow, but after performances of 10, 8 , 23, 15, and 21 yards to start the season, Jermaine Thomas went over 100 yards in four of the last 6 games and finished with 832 yards on the season at an exceptional 5.1 yard per carry average. Back-ups Ty Jones (250 yards), Lonnie Pryor (150 yards), and Chris Thompson (150 yards) spelled Thomas well, but with only one football, we didn’t hear much from Tavares Pressley. Barring injury, each of these guys will be back in 2010.

Perhaps the best part about the 2009 season, besides extending FSU’s streaks of winning seasons and bowl appearances, was that Seminole fans got to see plenty of youngsters contributing early and often. Greg Reid, Jaccobi McDaniel, Nick Moody, Dustin Hopkins, EJ Manuel, Lonnie Pryor, and Chris Thompson all made significant impact as freshmen, and FSU looks forward to returning 10 starters on offense and 5 starters on defense.

With Bowden and Andrews retiring, and Amato, Allen, Carter, and Stroud not being retained, the ‘Noles coaching staff will look very different next year. Besides Jimbo taking over as Head Coach, we’ll have:

- James Coley - Offensive Coordinator/TE Coach

- Mark Stoops - Defensive Coordinator/DB Coach

- Rick Trickett - Assistant Head Coach/OL Coach

- Eddie Gran - Associate Head Coach/RB Coach

- Lawrence Dawsey - Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach

- Dameyune Craig - QB Coach

- Greg Hudson - Assistant Head Coach/LB Coach

- Odell Haggins - DT Coach

- Darin Eliot - DE Coach

- Terrell Buckley - Graduate Assistant (?)

- Tamarick Vanover - Student Assistant (?)

an exciting group to say the least. Look for each new coach to make a significant impact in their respective areas next year (think Trickett-type impact from Gran on the RBs and from Hudson on the LBs, and expect Dawsey-like impact by Eliot on the DEs and by Stoops on the DBs).

Finally, although the 2010 recruiting class hasn’t been finalized yet, most groups are ranking it somewhere in the top 10, and it has obviously picked up momentum in the last few weeks. A lot can change in a short period of time, but with names like Joyner (5-star DB), Luc (5-star LB), Dent (4-star athlete), and Shaw (4-star WR) locked up and other like Elam (5-star athlete), Lattimore (5-star RB), Brown (4-star RB), Green (4-star ath), Lemonier (4-star DE) and Jones (4-star LB) all in the works, there’s potential for FSU to vault into the top 5 on National Signing Day.

Looking ahead to 2010, the big questions I'll be looking to answer for myself are:

1) Can Christian Ponder return to the form that made him a Maxwell Award Semi-Finalist coming off the shoulder injury?

2) Can Stoops and Hudson do a significant turnaround on the defense, turning it into a top 50 unit? In particular, can we make adjustments to finally stop 'spread' (UF) and 'multiple' (GT) offensive schemes and can we get some size and strength in the front seven?

3) How will the five new members of the coaching staff come together to form a cohesive unit that can scout, recruit, develop talent, and gameplan for opponents?

It may be early January, but I’m already psyched for the 2010 season. Go ‘Noles!

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 11, 2009 1:27 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2009 11:23 am
 

Just past the halfway point...

We're just past the half way point in the '09 season, and it's getting ugly. Nevermind the off-field issues about the coaching staff, the succession plan, and Bobby's place in the program; the product on the field is 2-4 and 0-3 in the ACC. A winning season and a post-season bowl game both seem unlikely at this point and the front 7 of the defense has been seriously exposed as an enormous weakness after back-to-back losses at BC and at home against GT.

Some bright spots
I'll take this part on first, b/c it's quicker and easier to write. The offense, led by QB Christian Ponder, looks pretty good and has done enough to win every game but USF. In 2010, Ponder could be a dark horse Heisman candidate with some help around him. The receivers have made us forget about the loss of Parker and Surrency, and the running game has shown flashes of strength; Jermaine Thomas moves well when he's healthy and Lonnie Pryor reminds me alot of Greg Jones, running north-south and seldom letting the first man bring him down.

On defense, Greg Reid has proven he's a big-time playmaker and LBs Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr form the core of a strong, young LB corps. Jaccobi McDaniel has gotten alot of time at DT and Jenije has made a nice transformation from safety to corner.

... and despite the distraction created by the coaches and administrators, the team seems to be holding up fairly well. They took the field arm-in-arm against GT and there's a positive attitude from the players' interviews and public statements.

The not-so bright spots
It's time to tell it like it is - this is easily the worst FSU defense in the last quarter century. The defensive line wouldn't be second string on many of the past Seminoles' teams and the LBs are sloppy in coverage and below average (by FSU standards) in tackling and run support. QBs facing the 'Noles are seldom pressured, let alone sacked, and average lines from BC and GT have blown FSU's front 4 off the line of scrimmage and opened holes for the running game at will.

In the secondary, FSU has an enormous hole at rover, and slot receivers, backs, and TEs often streak down field for easy completions. To make matters worse, the rover has also failed in run support, leaving the job to the front 7 alone which they have too often failed to accomplish. The corners - Robinson, Jenije, Reid, and Allen - have played well, all things considered, and could really excel if the line could muster more pressure.  

Looking ahead
The problems that have led to the 2-4 start run much deeper than anything that can be corrected this season. In the Spring, I expected FSU to go 9-3 and compete for an ACC Championship. Now, 5-8 seems much more likely with UNC, Clemson, and UF all ahead. NCSU and Wake Forest are not gimme's either, and FSU could lose either or both. Maryland seems like the only game left that's a fairly certain win, but even that could turn out poorly in late November.

The defensive line is small and weak in the middle, and slow and undisciplined on the outside. This absolutley must be a point of emphasis in recruiting, and to the best of my knowlege, FSU has yet to target the kind of players they'll need in this area. Tavares Barnes (6'5", 250 DT) seems like a good start, but FSU really needs 4 or 5 guys as good or better than him to prevent this problem from carrying over into '10 and beyond.

New coaching is needed for FSU's front 7 as well. Markus White came to FSU with significant pedigree but has yielded absolutely nothing after two years in the system, and that seems like poor coaching. The LBs? - Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr are tremendous talents with great upside, but their progress over the first two years of their career has been modest at best. Jacobbi McDaniel came to FSU with high expectations, but he's really just holding ground at DT. FSU needs to load up on the line, and the current coaching staff will struggle to land the type of recruits we need in light of their past few years of performance. Mickey Andrews has said he will retire at the end of the season after a long and tremendously successful run as FSU's defensive coordinator. His successor should come in and overhaul the defensive coaching staff.

Finally, there's the Bobby Bowden situation. All indications are that he will finish out the 2009 season, but will he be back in '10? With the losses piling up faster than empty seats at Doak Campbell Stadium, it seems unlikely FSU will extend his contract another year. Jimbo Fisher will take over and his first critical manuever will be naming Mickey Andrews' successor and hitting the recruiting trail hard. The consecutive bowls' streak is in jeopardy, but that might not be the worst thing in the grand scheme of things.... 'Noles fans want FSU competing for a National Championship, and the quickest road to get there lies on the recruiting trail, not the November practice field getting ready for the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Go 'Noles!
Posted on: September 29, 2009 1:59 am
Edited on: October 1, 2009 1:52 pm
 

Some thoughts...

Like most folks, I'm pretty annoyed by Saturday's loss to USF. The loss is disappointing, but the trend is what really bothers me at this point. To be more specific, the trend is inconsistency. I'll break it down by year:

2004 - (9-3 record, win over WVA in Gator Bowl) Here's where I think the inconsistencies started. Wyatt Sexton (139-252, 1,661 yds, 8 TD, 8 INT) and Chris Rix (76-149, 865 yds, 3 TD, 7 INT) combine to form a two-headed quarterback nightmare. Rix's performance begins to suggest that Jeff Bowden can't develop QBs or offenses, and FSU begins a losing streak versus UF that persists to this day.
2005 - (8-5 record, lost to Penn State in Orange Bowl) After a fast 5-0 start, FSU loses unnexpectedly at Virginia... then again at home against NCSU three weeks later and at Clemson the following week. Drew Weatherford (276-469, 3,208 yds, 18 TD, 18 INT) takes over as the freshman QB and struggles to lead the offense, but does enough to win ACC Freshman of the Year honors. He has some great games, but also some horrible throw-aways. In many ways, this is his best season. FSU ranks #8 in total passing yards for the season, but there is also no running game; although FSU features two future NFL backs, Leon Washington (97 carries, 430 yds, and 3 TD) and Lorenzo Booker (119 carries, 552 yards, and 4 TD) never establish a ground game behind a subpar o-line. FSU ranks #102 in total rushing yards and averages only 94 yards per game.
2006 (7-6 record, win over UCLA in Emerald Bowl) FSU escapes its second game of the season against Troy, but then loses at home to Clemson, at NCSU, at home to BC, at Maryland, and then at home to Wake Forest. They edge by Western Michigan in a tune-up and then nearly pull off the upset of UF at home, and finish the season with an impressive win over UCLA. Drew Weatherford (177-318, 2,154 yds, 12 TD, 11 INT) and Xavier Lee (62-121, 885 yds, 7 TD, 5 INT) each refuse to play well enough to take over the starter's role and Lorenzo Booker (143 carries, 617 yards, 4 TD) and fellow 5-star recruit Antone Smith (88 carries, 456 yds, 4 TD) again fail to establish a strong running game behind a pathetic o-line. Off the field, FSU dismisses Fred Rouse - arguably the best offensive recruit in the country -- Perhaps the low mark of Bowden's tenure at FSU, the 'Noles are defeated 30-0 at home by Wake Forrest.
2007 - (7-6 record, lost to Kentucky in Music City Bowl) Open with a loss at Clemson, then win 4 in a row  before losing at Wake Forest and at home to Miami. They lose unimpressively at VT and at UF and then lose an ugly game against Kentucky with half their squad. We play musical chairs with quarterbacks Drew Weatherford (181-318, 2,049 yds, 9 TD, 3 INT) and Xavier Lee (66-124, 972 yds, 5 TD, 5 INT) Antone Smith is the 'feature' back (191 carries, 817 yds, 3 TD), but he leads the worst rushing offense in the ACC and one of the worst in the nation. FSU ranks #83 in the country in total ruishing yards and #92 in yds per game russhing. Off the field, however, the players can't seem to stay out of trouble as the cheating scandal erupts, there's a brawl in the campus center, and several players leave the team, some for disciplinary reasons.
2008 - (8-4 record, win over Wisconsin in Champs Sports Bowl) Yet another loss to Wake Forest early in the season, but the 'Noles seem to get it together and finish October at 6-1. From there, they lose 3 in November (at GT, BC, UF), but come back strong against an overmatched Wisconsin team. Jimbo Fisher, starts the year out with a bang, naming Christian Ponder as the starter over senior incumbent Drew Weatherford. Ponder (177-318, 2,006 yds, 14 TD, 13 INT) has a rough first year under center as a redshirt sophmore, but there is a resurgence in the running game as FSU finishes #34 in total rushing yards and averages 180 yds per game on the ground.
And then we have 2009.... impressive offensive but no defense against Miami... defense saves the day against JCU... offense throttles BYU on the road and defense looks better... offense goes lifeless and drops the ball against USF.... 2-2 record so far.

In a previous post a while ago (http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/messag
es/chrono/14779360/0/0/15435234#ID1
5435234
), I noted that there are five, yes five, coaches at FSU with the words "Head Coach" in their job title -- Bobby Bowden (Head Coach), Jimbo Fisher (Head Coach in waiting), Mickey Andrews (Associate Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator), Chuck Amato (Associate Head Coach and Linebackers Coach), and Rick Trickett (Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach). At the time, I brought this point up b/c there had been some off-field problems with players and we were wondering who was the one laying out the discipline for the team. I speculated that with so may chiefs, it must be difficult to coordinate and manage the team off the field, and now I wonder if this isn't the case on the field as well.

While I was putting this together, I noticed that FSU's record against Division 1 opponents since 2005 is 29-23. Double check me if you want... Start with the Sept.5, 2005 win over Miami, exclude the September 10 win  over Citadel, count the following wins over BC, Syracuse, and Wake, and then note the loss to UVA. Go through all the records (ESPN.com has the old schedules) and see if I'm right.
I think I'm being very, very kind to call this sort of performance 'inconsistent'. Please pardon the euphemism.

Here's my idea: Bobby Bowden should announce his retirement right now and the University should formally name Jimbo Fisher as his replacement. Let Bobby ride out 2009 as a fair well tour... heck, keep him on as the head of booster fund-raising and let him go talk to recruit's mothers if they want to meet him. Just get him away from the day to day operations of this team right now. Although there has been significant improvement in the team since Jimbo's arrival, there's lots of evidence that suggests that players and coaches are not consistently owning up to their responsibilities. Centralize the decision-making and the accountability under one coach and make sure the other coaches and the players know who's in charge. Despite the efforts of some of the players on the field, we too often look leaderless out there and it's time for that to stop. This is not a Democracy, nor is it a Socialist society; it's a football team, and a football team needs one head coach.  
 
 
 
 
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