ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #7, Christian Jones

Florida State’s Christian Jones is #7 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Christian Jones is #7 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

It’s finally game week! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 7, Christian Jones, LB/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

As has been covered over and over again, Florida State replaces quite a few players on defense this year. Christian Jones, however, is not one of those replacements. As the only remaining member of the Seminoles’ starting front seven, Jones brings the group a sense of veteran leadership they’d otherwise be lacking. He also has more talent than just about any defender in the ACC (a discussion for another day, I’m sure). But given the perceived (but not actual) youth around him, will that be enough?

Of course it will be. Surrounded by future NFL talent last year, Jones still managed to turn in a pretty dominating performance against both the run and pass. A total of 95 tackles, seven TFLs, two fumble returns and a touchdown, too. Considering the players up front for the ‘Noles last year, it’s amazing he was able to get behind the line as much as he did. He was so successful that he was about to head off to the pros himself, likely making for the 12th FSU player drafted this past April. But Jimbo Fisher was able to convince him out of it, selling the senior linebacker on the impact he’d be able to have this season. With new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt also in the fold, there’s a thought Jones’s aggression will be put to even better use this season — a very scary thought for Florida State’s opponents this season.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back?

Can Florida State Repeat as ACC Champs, Or Will They Take a Small Step Back Under Jameis Winston?

Team: Florida State Seminoles

2012 W-L: 12-2 (7-1)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (31-10; fourth season)

Returning Starters: 10 (6 Offense, 4 Defense)

Is Florida State “back?” Depends on your definition. After a bit of a tailspin (by their standards) toward the end of the Bobby Bowden era, the Seminoles have since rebounded pretty well under Jimbo Fisher, winning a division title in two of the last three years and a conference championship last season (their first since 2005). SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has a lot more to say about the progression since Fisher’s hire, and rather than simply repeat him, it’s probably much easier to just head there for the full scope of improvement. Based on recruiting rankings and the glut of talent on this roster, I’d say Florida State is “back” in the sense they’re a top-15 program. But we’ll see if they can return to the national title conversation.

For the large majority of the 2012 season, the ‘Noles offense was an absolute force. And while they lose plenty — including quarterback EJ Manuel, halfback Chris Thompson and wide receiver Rodney Smith — there’s still plenty left over for another superb effort. Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal as the new starting passer, and he’ll have a very experienced, big offensive line in front of him to help with the transition. Bryan Stork and Tre’ Jackson in particular are two of the best linemen in the conference, and will play key roles in protecting Winston, who also has plenty of mobility. There’s much talk about the impact of tackle Menelik Watson’s departure to the pros (as there should be), but so long as everyone stays healthy, I don’t see a ton of drop-off. With the little depth they have across the offensive line, however, it’s something to watch out for.

At the skill positions, last year’s top target Rashad Greene is back, and prepared to take on a larger role in the passing game — but there’s a long, talented depth chart of pass-catchers behind him as well. No matter Winston’s ability to throw though, it’s likely Fisher will be calling for a run-heavy offensive attack, which he also has ample personnel for. Neither Devonta Freeman or James Wilder Jr. started the 2012 season atop the depth chart, but both managed over 100 carries apiece for a combined 1,295 yards and 19 scores. Last year, injuries limited every FSU running backs’ carries. In 2013, so long as they can stay healthy, there’s a good chance both of the ‘Noles featured rushers top the 1,000-yard mark.

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Phil Steele’s 2013 Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele's Preseason All-ACC Team

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd Headlines Phil Steele’s Preseason All-ACC Team

As part of Phil Steele’s extensive 2013 season preview activities, today he released his picks for the All-ACC team. Not an overwhelming number of surprises to be found, but that said, there’s certainly some switches partisan fans might make here and there between first- and second-teams or third- and fourth-teams. Most notably, I’d probably move up UNC‘s Bryn Renner to the second team, while moving Virginia Tech‘s Logan Thomas down to the third — but the difference is negligible, really.

We won’t lay out the entire list for you here, but below we’ve included the first-team offense and defense, plus a school-by-school count of all players included on all four teams compiled by Steele. Regarding the latter, Florida State led the way with 19 players out of the 112 named, while Maryland had the least, with just three.

First Team All-ACC: Offense

QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB: Duke Johnson, Miami

RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State

WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State

WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland

TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina

C: Bryan Stork, Florida State

OG: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State

OG: Brandon Linder, Miami

OT: Morgan Moses, Virginia

OT: James Hurst, North Carolina

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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