NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Florida State Prospects

Can FSU Defensive End Bjoern Werner End Up Being a Top-10 Pick in the Draft?

Can FSU Defensive End Bjoern Werner End Up Being a Top-10 Pick in the Draft?

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

In 2012, Florida State enjoyed its most successful season in quite some time, riding a collection of senior leadership all the way to ACC and Orange Bowl titles, respectively. The result of that, of course, is a huge crop of players that could potentially find themselves selected in this year’s NFL Draft. The ‘Noles saw 13 (!!!) players invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis back in February, and a grand total of 15 former FSU standouts could end up having their names called later this month. With so many players to go through, let’s dive in…

Bjoern Werner, DE, Junior (Projected: First Round)

Werner’s one of the best pure pass-rushers in this year’s draft, yet due to the depth of talent available all across the defensive line, he still may end up going in the latter half of the first round. While he’s certainly put up the numbers to warrant a top-10 selection (13 sacks last season), his late-season injury and lack of size in comparison to other DEs (a smaller 6’3″ and 266 pounds) has teams willing to wait. Without true breakout speed — only runs a 4.81 40-yard dash time — it’s tough to see him transitioned to an outside linebacker spot, which means he’ll be playing his natural position wherever he goes. I’d contend that concerns aside, the product out of Germany has less mileage on him than most prospects, which will make a huge difference in his long-term durability.

Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Senior (Projected: First Round)

Werner’s partner in crime on the defensive line, Carradine’s had a meteoric rise since the start of 2012, when he was just a reserve. Just 11 starts and 11 sacks later, “Tank” is universally projected to be a first-round draft pick. Like Werner, he did have a small injury problem at the end of the season. But without starting for the past three or four seasons, I’d give Carradine the same credit towards durability I also gave his counterpart. He’s got less mileage on him, hence will be more durable in the long run. Besides, with some huge paws and height, it’s tough to reason letting this elite pass-rusher slip through, especially as the NFL’s emphasis on throwing the ball increases.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Florida State Seminoles

If 2012 Proved Anything, It's That Florida State is Officially "Back" As an Elite Football Program

If 2012 Proved Anything, It’s That Florida State is Officially “Back” As an Elite Football Program

Team: Florida State Seminoles

W-L: 12-2 (7-1)

Postseason: 31-10 Discover Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois

Top Offensive Performer: EJ Manuel, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Bjoern Werner, DE

Florida State had a checklist prior to this season. The ‘Noles were determined to win 10 games (check, and then some), the ACC Championship Game (check) and the Orange Bowl (check). So why do most accounts of this season seem to view it as a bit of a failure? It might just be a product of Jimbo Fisher succeeding in bringing FSU back to prominence.

Expectations were high for Florida State’s defense, but it was the offense that really needed to deliver if the Seminoles hoped to climb all the way back to the top. With some help of a manageable schedule (just one opponent ended the year ranked), they’d do just that, to the tune of 39.3 points per game (10th in the FBS). FSU outscored their opponents by an average of over 24 points per game, and managed to rank top-40 in both passing and rushing yards per game. For stretches during the season, it seemed as if the offense — led by senior passer EJ Manuel — was absolutely unstoppable, scoring more than 40 points seven different times. In prior years, what alluded. Manuel was consistency, but that was not the case in 2012. His completions, accuracy, yards, touchdowns and passer rating all went up in comparison to last year, as he showed a newfound poise and leadership whether in the pocket or on the run. Despite his own proficiency running the football (he amassed 310 yards and four scores this year), he was still largely helped by efficient play from his running backs. The Seminoles’ 40 rushing touchdowns ranked ninth in the country, made even more impressive by the distribution of the seven scorers, respectively. Devonta Freeman, James Wilder and Lonnie Pryor each scored eight or more times,  while Manuel, leading rusher Chris Thompson and Debrale Smiley each had between three and five. The constant change kept defenses off-balance and provided Manuel with the balanced attack he needed to run this group at optimum efficiency.

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ACC Football 2012 Heisman Watch: Week Nine

Don’t Look Now, But UNC’s Giovani Bernard is Flying Up Our List of the ACC’s Top Playmakers

The ACC no longer has a viable national title contender, thus we have no Heisman candidate to speak of, either. So as promised, for the remainder of this season, we’ll now be compiling a watch list for the fictional Chris Weinke Award, to honor the best player in the ACC. These posts will remain under “Heisman Watch” for the purposes of consistency and SEO, however. Have other nominees? Submit your ballots below.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (2,095 total yards, 19 total TD, 6 INT, 67.1 percent completion) (LW: 1)

Boyd and the Clemson offense failed to look all that great against Virginia Tech, but that’s only when compared to their usual standards of individual and collective excellence. Though the junior passer was just 12-for-21 with 160 yards passing, he also managed 27 yards on the ground. His three touchdowns on the day were still well worth praise, too. The accuracy drop under pressure — especially when they had a lead for the large majority of the contest — is still a concern, but no need to extrapolate it out until we see a trend.

2. EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (2,253 total yards, 15 total TD, 4 INT, 71.5 percent completion) (LW: 2)

EJ Manuel shook off a rocky start against Miami to set up a decisive victory in the fourth quarter, but without a single touchdown directly attributable to him, it’s hard to move him up from second. On the other hand, his passing improved throughout the evening, and once again, he made smart decisions to tuck it and run when necessary. With Chris Thompson now out for the season, we may see the weight of the offense transferred back to Manuel; an interesting development as he tries to improve his team’s title chances and his draft stock, too.

3. Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina (1,194 all-purpose yards, 12 TD) (LW: 4)

When taking into account the time he’s missed (2.5 games), Bernard’s numbers stand out even more, and they’re already pretty impressive. And Saturday’s game was more of the same, as he racked up 209 total yards. But it doesn’t even tell the full story. In one of the zanier plays of the weekend, Erik Highsmith‘s late fumble ended up in the hands of Bernard for the touchdown, thanks to the running back’s heads-up play. While the Heels ultimately lost, it was that fumble recovery that put them in position to win with just three minutes to go.

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ACC Football Player of the Week, Week 3: Chris Thompson, Florida State

Florida State RB Chris Thompson is Week 3’s ACC Player of the Week

Each week, we’ll be identifying the best ACC player from that weekend’s games. As always, it’s a completely arbitrary award with no specific criteria beyond the vague concept of “excellence.” No, we don’t take write-ins.

ACC Player of the Week, Week Three: Chris Thompson, RB/Florida State

In just one half (and nine carries) of football, FSU’s Chris Thompson obliterated the Wake Forest line, racking up 197 rushing yards, along with two scores and two receptions for 23 yards. While we won’t necessarily point to any one factor in the Seminoles’ complete evisceration of the Demon Deacons on Saturday, there’s a pretty strong case to be made for FSU’s running game and its ability to pick up large chunks of yardage at will. With Thompson and cohort James Wilder Jr. in the backfield, it’s difficult for the unit to have an off-game and they’ve been incredibly instrumental in setting a well-balanced offense for a ‘Noles team currently firing on all cylinders.

Honorable Mention:

Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (245 all-purpose yards, 4 TD)

Romar Morris, RB/North Carolina (202 all-purpose yards, 2 TD, 1 blocked punt)

Nick Clancy, LB/Boston College (24 tackles)

Tevin Washington, QB/Georgia Tech (218 total yards, 4 TD)

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Florida State Seminoles

The Road to a National Championship Starts in Spring for E.J. Manuel and Florida State

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Florida State Seminoles

At 9-4, the Seminoles’ 2011 season was mostly considered a failure. That just goes to show how high expectations really were down in Tallahassee last year. Starting their season as a top-10 team, their precipitous drop and subsequent rally mostly cancel each other out to be lukewarm. Hope and title dreams return in 2012 though, especially after hauling in what many have called the top recruiting class in the country. Most importantly, they’ll bring back a healthy E.J. Manuel, who could very well stick around the Heisman race for an extended period of time should FSU climb the polls. Any extended stay in the country’s top tier will be directly attributable to the rising-senior quarterback, and undisputed team leader.  But not without a running game. As much as Manuel struggled for consistency last season, the running game fared far worse. On very limited carries, Devonta Freeman had just two 100-yard games, and the team failed to top 1,500 yards on the ground for their entire season. Freeman will likely get a chance to at increased carries this spring, but a rejuvenated Chris Thompson and incoming freshman Mario Pender will be lurking. Continue reading