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 Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #16, Lamarcus Joyner

Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner is #16 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner is #16 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than one week until college football kicks off! 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. 16, Lamarcus Joyner, CB/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

Now a senior, Joyner’s been with the Florida State program long enough to know that last year’s top-10 season was an accomplishment. He’s existed with a chip on his shoulder for what feels like his entire playing career too, and just because he has accolades raining down on him now, it doesn’t mean he’s content. As he made clear to ESPN back in December, he’s got a very different approach that drives him:

“I didn’t have five or seven picks or 100 tackles, but I showed opponents that I’m a good ballplayer, and I will make you pay on the football field. Guys respect that, and they’ll game-plan around that. That’s a big honor for me.”

It’s that type of leadership and determination that caught Jimbo Fisher’s eye immediately, and it’s why Joyner’s able to switch positions this late in his college career and still receive praise from all angles. And even if he’s not focused on numbers, Joyner certainly knows he stands a much better chance surpassing last year’s figures at the cornerback spot versus safety. With such a solid front seven, he won’t be mopping up missed tackles in the run game, and given the shutdown corners continually on the roster, there was rarely an opportunity for him to really get involved in one-on-one coverage. Despite all that, last year saw him record 51 stops and an interception, while also getting involved in the return game. And between the solid coverage at the corner spot and the general fear opponents had for Joyner despite his smaller (5’8″) frame, he didn’t see many passes come his way at all. The switch to corner is sure to change all that, though.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #17, Stephen Morris

Miami’s Stephen Morris is #17 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Miami’s Stephen Morris is #17 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than one week until college football kicks off! 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. 17, Stephen Morris, QB/Miami (Last Season: NR)

Last season, Miami passed a lot. In fact, a bit too much, as we discussed in today’s season preview, given the fact they had two high quality running backs. But the success of that passing game — and it was pretty successful — was largely due in part to Stephen Morris, who came on strong last season as the Hurricanes’ starting quarterback. He wasn’t always putting up a ton of yardage, and also didn’t have to. Sometimes his best games were actually when he attempted less passes, and simply made the throws he needed to make in order to keep the offense moving effectively. Of course, everyone sort of forgot about efficiency in his game though, after he exploded for 566 passing yards against NC State in late September. Fans have seen what he’s capable of, and now, despite what should be a fairly balanced attack, there’s a major expectation for fireworks on every play. So what happens next?

First off, that game was an anomaly played against a highly overrated Wolfpack secondary. Morris also wasn’t that accurate. It’s unlikely those numbers are ever replicated by him or anyone else in the ACC. So to figure out what we’re getting from the senior quarterback this season, it starts with tossing that game out. Getting rid of a few less-than-stellar performances too, what you’re left with is a pretty accurate passer (58 percent last year, but at 60 or above late in the season) who has a strong arm and can take over games when called upon. He’s a leader on this young team, and one who cuts down on mistakes (just seven interceptions) and also doesn’t run unless he absolutely has to. More than the statistics (and those should be there too this year), he’s going to be the steadying force amidst a rising tide of team-wide pressure. With every win, the talk of Miami’s triumphant “return” will continue. And as a seasoned veteran, he’ll be working with the coaches to keep everyone calm, cool and collected.

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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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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #35, Rashad Greene

Florida State’s Jamison Crowder is #35 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Rashad Greene is #35 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! 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. 35, Rashad Greene, WR/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

For Florida State, last year’s weak schedule actually hindered quite a bit of production from their core offensive players. Between that and Jimbo Fisher’s overly conservative play-calling, potential stars like Rashad Greene found themselves putting up much lesser numbers than they were capable of — a large source of complaint for FSU fans throughout the fall. But that shouldn’t be the case this season. With a well-spaced schedule of competitive matchups, you won’t see the Seminoles starters sitting on the bench nearly as much, meaning big days from the entire offense.

Despite the limited playing time and emphasis on the run last season, Greene did still manage to put in an impressive effort as a sophomore. His 57 catches led the team, as did his 741 receiving yards and six scores. And he has an ability to get involved in the running game too, as he showed while scoring a rushing touchdown against USF. It’s Greene’s speed (4.47 40-yard dash time) that truly allows him to be everywhere on the field, and let him excel in 2012. Now, he’ll be counting on Fisher to let this offense turn him loose. The evidence is clear that he can be an enormous asset (see the USF or Virginia Tech victories in particular), but can he deliver those types of game-changing performances every single Saturday?

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Florida State

NC State Scored a Memorable Upset Over Florida State Last Year; Can the 'Noles Exact Revenge in 2013?

NC State Scored a Memorable Upset Over Florida State Last Year; Can the ‘Noles Exact Revenge in 2013?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Florida State Seminoles

Opponent: NC State Wolfpack

Last Year: Loss, 17-16 at NC State

This Year: October 26, vs. NC State

Yes, Florida State lost two games last year, and one of them was to archrival Florida. But this — the major upset loss to NC State on the road — was the one that likely hurt the most for ‘Noles players and fans alike. After beating highly-ranked Clemson in front of a national audience just two weeks prior, FSU suddenly looked flat in comparison to its no. 3 national ranking. With a manageable schedule, it appeared everyone was willing to push fears aside though; the Seminoles were set to compete for a national championship for the first time in more than a half-decade. And then the offense went overly conservative in the second half. The Wolfpack made the plays they needed to late in the contest. And we were left with a downtrodden, upset FSU team, a beleaguered conference and this indelible .gif.

The Seminoles course-corrected immediately following the loss — hi, 51-7 drubbing of Boston College — but the issue of Jimbo Fisher’s overly conservative play-calling at times never truly went away. One could argue it’s what kept the contests against overmatched Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech teams so close, and maybe what kept Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl for at least a half. It’s certainly what drove now-Miami offensive coordinator James Coley out of Tallahassee, being handcuffed by Fisher calling plays. So while the personnel is certainly different — both teams have new starting quarterbacks and offensive coordinators this year — there’s still plenty to learn from last year’s loss that can help bring FSU success against the Pack in 2013.

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ACC Football Chat: Coach Speak, “Respect,” and Increased Cooperation Between ACC & Its Members

Last Week, Jimbo Fisher Tried to Dispel the Myth of ACC Inferiority -- But Was it All Coach Speak?

Last Week, Jimbo Fisher Tried to Dispel the Myth of ACC Inferiority — But Was it All Coach Speak?

Last week around the ACC, the buzz was all about respect and a new sense of cooperation between the league and its members (specifically the football schools). Jumping off from these ideas, Hokie Mark and I chatted about what it all means, and what these ideas may develop into over the coming years. Check out the conversation below:

Mark: Earlier this off-season, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma made sports news with his statement to the effect that SEC football superiority is largely “propaganda.” Now Florida State‘s Jimbo Fisher has come out and said that the ACC is not far behind the SEC and that “perception is a huge part of it.” Is this just coach speak, or are OU, FSU and others in the ACC really close enough to dethrone the SEC?

John: College football coaches are, to a point, politicians, in that they’ll say whatever needs to be said to stay in the good graces of their fans/constituents. Stoops also said in the last month that the BCS was terrible after what happened to his team last year — ignoring all the times his team benefited from that same flawed system. Point is, he’ll say whatever’s necessary to make it appear like it’s not his fault that his team has fallen short of expectations. Fisher is in a similar boat, but has also just come off a season in which the ‘Noles largely met preseason expectations (ACC title, Orange Bowl). Both do have a point, however.

The college football season is largely shaped by the preseason polls, and whether or not a team appears in them regularly determines whether they’re in the title conversation at the end of it. So the bias toward the SEC has actually created a situation where the league gets off to a running start against the competition. That’s not to say the top teams in the SEC aren’t better than the top teams in other conferences (they are, for the most part), but they do get a slight leg-up on the perception front, which is half the battle in college football.

What about you, though? Obviously your team’s been in the national title conversation more often than mine has over the past decade, so how does it feel being discounted when you’re near the top of the polls?

Mark: Not at all, John. I’m one of those guys who thrives on not getting respect — it makes me want to prove it. And I think for the most part the Virginia Tech football team is the same; when they are disrespected, that’s when they are most dangerous. I know the Key Play has “Beat Bama” t-Shirts for sale, and Hokies everywhere seem to be running with the #BeatBama hash tag. So even though we are prohibitive underdogs, I’m quietly optimistic that Beamer & Co. will have “a little something” for Alabama.

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