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: #39, Terrence Brooks

Florida State’s Terrence Brooks is #39 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Florida State’s Terrence Brooks is #39 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

We’re less than two months away 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. 39, Terrence Brooks, FS/Florida State (Last Season: NR)

When your defensive line is as good as Florida State’s was last season, it’s tough for the secondary to get a ton of action coming their way. But Terrence Brooks still made the most of his opportunities last year, with 51 tackles — most among Seminoles defensive backs. His standout game? Arguably the biggest contest FSU played in last season; a 49-37 win over Clemson. Up against the high-powered Tigers, he managed 12 tackles, which was directly related to the quick pace of Clemson’s offense. Despite a rough start to that game by the entire FSU defense, it was the second half effort by Brooks and co. that made the difference in notching that important early victory.

This season there’s still plenty to like on Florida State’s defensive line, but with much less experience, this team suddenly relies a lot more on the defensive backs — especially in a scheme devised by new defensive coordinator (and former Alabama DB, then secondary coach) Jeremy Pruitt. Brooks certainly saw plenty of involvement last year, but under Pruitt, it’s likely we’ll see even more activity from the secondary as the team looks to take a few risks to bolster the pass-rush and keep opposing passers off-balance. Last year, he nabbed two interceptions, while forcing a fumble and also tallying one tackle-for-loss. Expect those numbers to remain a bit static as he fills the deeper free safety role in coverage, though the interceptions could end up spiking as a result of more passes coming his way, too.

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ACC Football Goat of the Week, Week 6: Phillip Sims, Virginia

Virginia QB Phillip Sims is the ACC Goat of the Week for Week 6

No one enjoys piling on when things go wrong. But nonetheless, we’ve got to call out the ACC players who were counter-productive in helping their teams grab a victory this weekend. On the bright side for them, they can always get off this list next week. And for their sake, let’s hope they do.

ACC Goat of the Week, Week 6: Phillip Sims, QB/Virginia

In his first collegiate start, Sims had his worst game Saturday, completing just 50-percent of his passes, for 268 yards and two interceptions. After being inserted into the starting role, the hope was that Sims could re-energize what’s become a stagnant Cavaliers offense. Instead, things looked to get even worse than they were under Michael Rocco, as UVa looked overmatched and inconsistent all day in their loss against Duke. Of course, Sims shouldn’t take all the blame. For this entire season thus far, Virginia’s play-calling has appeared uninspired, and the running game has lacked for any sort of rhythm. And of course, there’s the defense, which appears to be staunchly against covering receivers. Sims can potentially succeed as the Hoos’ starter, but given the myriad issues currently plaguing the squad, it may be a more difficult task than once thought.

Honorable Mention:

Virginia Tech defense (allowed 48 points, 533 yards of offense — including 339 rushing yards)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State Head Coach (overly conservative play-calling in second-half of Saturday’s 17-16 loss to NC State)

Terrence Brooks/LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State (beat on Mike Glennon‘s game-winning touchdown pass)

Mike James, RB/Miami (6 carries, 28 rushing yards)

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