Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CFI Countdown: #18 Florida St. Seminoles

2008 Record: 9-4 (ACC: 5-3)
Bowl Game: Won Champs Sports Bowl vs. Wisconsin 24-21
Location: Tallahassee, Florida
Stadium: Doak Campbell Stadium (82,300)
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden
Overall: 382-123-4 (44th season)
@ Florida St.: 309-91-4 (34th season)
Link to FSU Football Page

Following back-to-back 7-6 seasons (and unranked finishes) the Seminoles bounced back with a solid nine win campaign, including an impressive bowl win over Wisconsin last season. It was just the second time since they won the National Championship in 1999 that FSU finished the season ranked higher than they started. They are a year away from making a run at the top ten (and maybe more), but should be back in ACC title contention in 2009.

When the ‘Noles Have the Ball

Offensive Coordinator: Jimbo Fisher (3rd season)
Scheme: Multiple
Starters Returning: Eight
Key Losses: RB Antone Smith, WR Preston Parker (Dismissed), WR Greg Carr, WR Corey Surrency (Ruled Ineligible), K Graham Gano

With Florida St. returning all five starters along the offensive line, led by All-American candidate junior guard Rodney Hudson, they will have the top offensive front in the ACC, and perhaps the nation. In addition to Hudson, it wouldn’t be surprising to see sophomore left tackle Andrew Datko and junior center Ryan McMahon receive post-season honors. Line coach Rick Trickett has done nothing to hurt his reputation as one of the best in the business—turning a porous offensive line into the strength of the team in short measure. Benefiting from that improved line play will be junior quarterback Christian Ponder, a dual threat who is expected to progress as passer. He will need weapons to emerge at the receiver position with senior Richard Goodman and sophomore Bert Reed the likely candidates. Don’t count out the youngsters, including true sophomore Jarmon Fortson who provides a huge target (6’ 3”/231 pounds). Caz Piurowski is a solid tight end who can sneak up on people. The running game should be in good hands with sophomores Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones handling the duties. Late in the season, both showed the ability to break off the big play—Thomas in particular could be special.

Top Pro Prospects: 1) OG Rodney Hudson (JR), 2) OT Andrew Datko (SO), 3) RB Jermaine Thomas (SO)

When the Other Team Has the Ball

Defensive Coordinator: Mickey Andrews (26th season)
Scheme: Multiple 4-3
Starters Returning: Five
Key Losses: DE Everett Brown, DE Neefy Moffett, LB Toddrick Verdell, LB Derek Nicholson, S Myron Rolle (Left For Oxford), CB Tony Carter

For the first time in several seasons, the onus is on the defense to live up to their end of the bargain if the ‘Noles are to make it back to the ACC Championship Game. The primary concern is finding a replacement for Everett Brown (and to a lesser extent, Neefy Moffett). Junior Markus White is expected to step up as their top pass rusher, with senior Kevin McNeil solid at the other end. They are experienced at the tackle spot, but youngsters Moses McCray (sophomore) and Jacobbi McDaniel (true freshman) the most explosive. Youngsters are looking to play a major role at linebacker as well—sophomores Nigel Bradham, Nigel Carr and Vince Williams are future stars with Bradham a potential breakout candidate starting at the WILL position. The leader of this unit and the entire defense is senior SAM Dekoda Watson, who is looking to end his career with a bang. The same could be said for corner Patrick Robinson, who saw his play drop off as a junior. Robinson has the size and speed to be a lockdown corner. The ‘Noles will have to replace two starters in the secondary.

Top Pro Prospects: 1) LB Nigel Bradham (SO), 2) CB Patrick Robinson (SR), 3) LB Dekoda Watson (SR)

The Schedule

The schedule is, in a word—tough. Jacksonville St. (week two) is the only non-2008 bowl team on the docket. They start with one instate rival in Miami (September 7th), face BYU and South Florida out of conference in September, and close out with an even tougher in-state rival in Florida. They “avoid” Duke and Virginia—the only two non-ACC bowl teams from last year, while facing North Carolina (on the road) and Georgia Tech from the Coastal Division. Within the Atlantic, FSU visits Clemson, their toughest challenger. The one plus is they will not have to play Virginia Tech, at least not in the regular season.

Pivotal Point

The pass—the ‘Noles need to be better at throwing the pigskin and as good as they were last season (number one in the ACC) at stopping the other guys from doing the same. Ponder is developing, but the bottom line is he completed just 55.7 percent of his passes and was only plus-one in touchdowns, throwing 14 to 13 interceptions. Making that growth more challenging are the losses suffered at receiver. Preston Parker (dismissed) and Taiwan Easterling (ruptured Achilles) would have been nice starters. Also gone are Greg Carr (used up eligibility) and Corey Surrency (ruled ineligible). If Easterling could make it back 100 percent it would go a long way. Defensively they must replace experienced starters in Tony Carter (CB) and Myron Rolle (S), not to mention their top pass rushers, Brown and Moffett. Both Brown and Rolle were juniors, Brown leaving for the NFL and Rolle for Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.

CFI Final Analysis

The Seminoles will be better in 2009 with so many players having seen the field as freshmen and sophomores the past two seasons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will have a better record. Nine or ten wins are likely in the offing for Bobby Bowden’s bunch. An ACC title and New Year’s Day bowl are legitimate goals as they work their way back to national contention.

College Football Insiders Top 25 Countdown:

The Next 25 (26-50) Plus 18 Bowl Teams
#25 West Virginia Mounainteers
#24 Tennessee Volunteers
#23 Clemson Tigers
#22 Pittsburgh Panthers
#21 Michigan St. Spartans
#20 Utah Utes
#19 Oregon Ducks

Contact Daniel Mogollon via email

Photo Credit: FSU Sports Information