2011 Pre-Season Preview: #6 Florida State Seminoles

2010 Record: (10-4, 6-2 in ACC)

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (10-4 All-Time)

Last Bowl Game: 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl (beat South Carolina 26-17)

Final 2010/2011 AP Ranking: #17

Final 2010/2011 CFBZ Ranking: #16

2011 ACC Preview

 

Schedule

9/3: Louisiana-Monroe

9/10: Charleston Southern

9/17: Oklahoma (2010 result: lost 47-17)

9/24: at Clemson (2010 result: won 16-13)

10/8: at Wake Forest (2010 result: won 31-0)

10/15: at Duke

10/22: Maryland (2010 result: won 30-16)

10/29: NC State (2010 result: lost 28-24)

11/3: at Boston College (2010 result: won 24-19)

11/12: Miami, Fl (2010 result: won 45-17)

11/19: Virginia (2010 result: won 34-14)

11/26: at Florida (2010 result: won 31-7)

 

Early Game Preview:

Oklahoma at FSU


2010 Offensive Statistics:

Scoring: 31.4 ppg (4th in ACC, 33rd in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 171.43 yds/game (4th in ACC, 39th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 209.9 yds/game (7th in ACC, 68th in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 381.3 yds/game (7th in ACC, 59th in Nation)


2010 Defensive Statistics:

Scoring: 19.6 ppg (3rd in ACC, 20th in Nation)

Rushing Yds/Game: 128.71 yds/game (6th in ACC, 29th in Nation)

Passing Yds/Game: 225.0 yds/game (7th in ACC, 71st in Nation)

Total Yds/Game: 353.7 yds/game (7th in ACC, 42nd in Nation)

 

2010 Misc Stats:

Turnover Margin: +0.29 per game (5th in ACC, 40th in Nation)

Penalties: 57.7 yds/game (8th in ACC, 87th in Nation)

 

Returning Starters:

Offense: 8

Defense: 8

Kicker/Punter: 2

 

Top Returning Statistical Leaders:

Passing: QB EJ Manuel, Jr (65 of 93 for 861 yds, 4 TD, 4 INT)

Rushing: RB Chris Thompson, Jr (133 for 846 yds, 6.3 ypc, 6 TD)

Receiving: WR Bert Reed, Sr (57 rec for 614 yds, 2 TD)

Tackles: LB Nigel Bradham, Sr (97)

Sacks: DE Brandon Jenkins, Jr (13.5)

Interceptions: CB Xavier Rhodes, Soph; CB Mike Harris, Sr (4)

 

Bowl Predictions:

Athlon Sports: Orange (vs West Virginia)

Phil Steele: Chick-fil-A Bowl (vs Mississippi State)

 

Count me in as one of those guys that had some doubt in how quickly Jimbo Fisher could turn around the FSU franchise. From afar the Seminoles seemed to be in a malaise under Bobby Bowden and I wasn’t sure that Jimbo would be able to get that fixed since he was on the same coaching staff during that time period. Well, I’m here to say that I was wrong. FSU wasn’t balls to the walls awesome last year but they did make a substantial improvement of three games in the win column and were two games better in conference play. I like what Jimbo is doing and I think he is positioning the Seminoles as the team to beat in the ACC once they jump that hurdle that is the Hokies of Virginia Tech.

The Florida State defense took a huge step back in 2009 but they did a good job bouncing back last year. The Seminoles improved their yards allowed by 81 ypg and decreased their points allowed by an eye-popping 10.4 ppg. One stat that jumps off the page as still needing improvement is their opponent 3rd down conversion percentage. Last year they decreased from 44% to 41% but that still placed them 9th in the ACC. The numbers are skewed a little as they gave up a 62.5% third down conversion percentage in their last two games- but those are the games (ACC Championship Game and Bowl Game) that you need to have your best performance. One thing is for sure when you look at this defense and that is the fact that talent is everywhere. There is still a lot of room to grow for this defense and if they can take another step forward this year the Seminoles could be looking at a BCS bowl and possibly more depending on how they fare against Oklahoma early in the season.

Last year FSU had a lot of experienced talent going into the season but when you looked up and down the roster they were still very young. This team loses only six starters off of a team that Phil Steele listed in his magazine last year as the 12th most experienced team in the country. This year Steele pegs them as the 18th most experienced team in the country but they feel, at least on paper, that they have more “talented” experience then they did last year. FSU will be breaking in a new starting QB (although he does have big game experience) in EJ Manuel but the Seminoles return one of the two most experienced OLs (along with Clemson), they have a ton of talent returning at WR and also return all of their leading rushers not named Christian Ponder. The more I look at this team the more I like them and I also like their schedule. Yes, they play Oklahoma in the second game of the year after two freebies. That being said, their in-conference schedule is very favorable with their toughest two games probably coming on the road against Clemson and Boston College (depending on how the Miami stuff plays out). The Florida game at the end of the year could be trouble with the revenge factor and the likelihood that the longer Muschamp and Weis work with the team the better they will get.

We like the Seminoles a lot. The question remains if they can get over the Hokies hurdle this year or if the Hokies will win their fourth ACC title in five years. To get a local perspective on the Seminoles we talked to Scott and Josh from the powerhouse SB Nation Florida State blog Tomahawk Nation

 

Last year was Jimbo Fisher’s first year in charge. What are your overall thoughts on the job he did?

Considering the tumultuous state of Seminole Nation when Jimbo took over—FSU was a program mired in mediocrity with a divide amongst the fan base between Bowden loyalists and Fisher revolutionaries—it is safe to say that he did an excellent job in year one. Fisher wasted no time putting his fingerprints all over the program, implementing systematic changes from day one.

Fisher changed everything about the program that was lacking in the twilight years of Bowden’s tenure. He revamped the coaching staff, bringing in younger coaches who not only perform to his high standards, but have the ability to relate to 18-to-22-year-old players. He changed the strength & conditioning program—adding Vic Viloria as S&C coach—while totally changing the nutrition program and tailoring individual diets for players to assure that his athletes are putting the right fuel in their tanks (as opposed to the beloved “honey-fried chicken” that was a staple in the old meal plan). He also brought in sports psychologists. Every detail of the program’s infrastructure reflects Nick Saban’s methodical influence on Fisher.

All of the changes were reflected by the team’s performance on the field in 2010. While FSU did manage to flub games that they could have (and should have, if you ask me) won against N.C. State and North Carolina, the ’Noles won 10 games for the first time in seven years and have raised expectations permanently by winning the ACC Atlantic Division for the first time since 2005. Factor in that his defense, which improved markedly from ’09, was adjusting to a new defensive scheme on the fly and improved as the season went on and Fisher definitely accomplished a primary goal in 2010: He re-ignited the fire in the belly of the program and its fanbase. -ScottCrumbly


FSU was beaten badly by Oklahoma in Norman last year. Why might this year be a different story when these two teams meet?

FSU was destroyed by OU last year, and it wasn’t even close. There is no way to paint that story any differently. After the opening drive, FSU’s high powered offense was reduced to a yarn ball being batted around by a tiger. The defense, playing in only their 3rd game of a brand new scheme, almost completely fell apart on national television. Whether it was the shock of having their first defensive playbook in over a year, or whether they suddenly realized that hitting the square button to dive-tackle in NCAA 2011 was nothing like doing it in real life… it just wasn’t pretty.

Time can change a great many things. This year, FSU will have the luxury of playing in a sold out Doak Campbell stadium. If that wasn’t enough, Mark Stoops’ defense will also be coming off of a successful bowl win over the SEC East Champions, and have two additional tune-up games to game plan for the Sooners. If you add both of those facts in with an offense that will feature more experienced receivers, who know how to correctly run routes, we think the game will at least be a contest.

Overall, the OU game is just a cherry on top (if they are able to win) to FSU’s season. The real story in 2011 will be FSU’s ACC campaign. Most who follow the program closely don’t expect a national championship caliber team until the 2012 season. If, and this is a big if, FSU is able to overcome a tremendously talented OU team with a win, lookout for a dark horse contender a year ahead of schedule. -Nattylite


EJ Manuel is taking over for Christian Ponder and he has a lot of hype surrounding him. What does he bring to the table and what are your expectations for him this year?

The hype surround EJ Manuel is considerable, but it’s not just coming from Tallahassee—it’s being felt all over the ACC. At July’s ACC Football Kickoff in Pinehurst, N.C., the conference media members voted Manuel second for the Preseason Player of the Year Award behind Montel Harris of Boston College.

Physically, Manuel has everything you want in a quarterback. At 6-5 and 246 pounds, he possesses ideal size for the quarterback position and he combines that size with great athleticism (he recently ran a 4.51 40-yard dash according to an interview in Pinehurst). He has a solid arm and the intelligence to succeed in Jimbo Fisher’s offense.

He also possesses great intangibles. Manuel only has six career starts, but he has acquired experience in big games (two bowl wins and an ACC Championship game). His 4-2 career record and natural leadership ability have inspired confidence among coaches, teammates and fans, and gives reason to believe that the sky is the limit in 2011.

Manuel also says that he has improved his decision making, pointing to the Virginia Tech game as a breakthrough for him mentally. He will be surrounded by playmakers on an offense that returns eight starters, which will will only make life easier for him. All things considered, Manuel should be headed for an All-ACC season, and FSU needs exactly that from its signal-caller if it wants to beat Oklahoma and return to Charlotte in December. -ScottCrumbly

 

FSU has some really talented players on the defensive side of the football. Which guys need to step up this year for the Seminoles to reach their full capability?

There is certainly no lack of talent on the Seminole defense, but one group that needs to be stellar this fall is the linebacker corps.

Kendall Smith’s departure leaves a hole in the middle to be filled by veteran Vince Williams or up-and-comer Telvin Smith. Williams saw action in 11 games last season as a redshirt junior and was the starter during spring but will be pushed by Smith, a sophomore, for the starting spot. One thing we know about Jimbo Fisher is that he is not afraid to go with the youngster if he gives the team the best chance to win.

Another sophomore, Christian Jones, will be counted on to step in at strongside backer for Mister Alexander. The 240-pounder possesses freakish athleticism for his size and contributed last year on special teams and as a situational backup on D. If he can come into his own this fall, he could be special for FSU. Another young linebacker with seemingly infinite potential is rising sophomore Jeff Luc. One of the best in the class of 2010, Luc saw limited action as a freshman but hits like a freight train and has all the physical tools to be a difference maker at LB if he shakes off the after effects of minor knee surgery in the spring.

The player who needs to step up the most is without question weakside linebacker Nigel Bradham. If we’re talking about the All-Airport squad, Bradham is a first-teamer—the dude is downright scary. Unfortunately the senior has yet to play up to his potential on the field at FSU. Bradham has led the team in tackles two years running, but has been very inconsistent during his tenure. He has shown flashes of greatness, but has failed to bring that level of play on a game-to-game basis up to this point. If Bradham can be better in coverage and find a way to bring his A game every Saturday (and on one Thursday in November), he can elevate Mark Stoops’ defense to an elite level.

Just like the rest of the defense, talent is not a question at linebacker; there’s an abundance. They just need to play like it. -ScottCrumbly


Besides Oklahoma, what do you see as the biggest games on the schedule this year?

Let’s preface this response by saying the ACC is terrible at placing its flagship programs in the best position to win championships. We at Tomahawknation have long felt this simple concept is one of the main reasons the nation has seen the ACC struggle so greatly in BCS bowl competition. By that, we mean that ACC programs are so battered and bruised from ridiculous schedules, that they never have the opportunity to make it to the bigger dances in the first place. Think about it for a second… Ever considered it odd that the ACC consistently ranks second to only the SEC in terms of NFL draft talent, yet hasn’t won a BCS title since FSU did it in 1999?

We think the first game that really jumps off the schedule is @ Clemson directly following the OU game in Tallahassee. Whether the Noles win or lose against OU, they will certainly be coming off an emotional and physically challenging week. The Tigers always play the Noles closely and they will have an excellent shot at taking out tired FSU team that week.

Another head scratcher is the Boston College game in Chestnut Hill on a Thursday night in November. The grand poobas in the ACC offices thought it would be a wonderful idea to fly a bunch of Florida boys 1,317 miles into the arctic north with 4 days of TOTAL preparation after playing NC State in Tallahassee. Yes, you read that right.

Aside from the 2 games listed above, Miami and Florida are always circled annually on the Noles’ calendar. After the absolute demolishing both took at the hands of the Seminoles last year (at a combined score of 76-24), both of these teams most definitely want to return the favor.

-Nattylite

 

What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?

Gut feeling is 12-2 (eternally optimistic) with wins in both the ACCCG and Orange Bowl as capstones to an incredible season. Realistically? You could probably add another one or two in there for the loss category. In fact, after taking a poll from some of the Tomahawknation regulars, averages worked out to something along these lines.

In our eyes, success is something you build on, and with that in mind anything short of the ACC Championship will be a disappointment this season. FSU is coming off its first division title since 2005 and also has a shot at its first ACC championship since that very same year. With the amount of experience returning on both sides of the ball, we don’t see an ACC title as a very unrealistic expectation. -Nattylite

 

CFBZ Top 25

#1-#5?

#6 Florida State Seminoles

#7 Arkansas Razorbacks

#8 Stanford Cardinal

#9 Boise State Broncos

#10 Texas A&M Aggies

#11 West Virginia Mountaineers

#12 Nebraska Cornhuskers

#13 Oklahoma State

#14 Mississippi State Bulldogs

#15 Michigan State Spartans

#16 Virginia Tech Hokies

#17 TCU Horned Frogs

#18 South Carolina Gamecocks

#19 Ohio State Buckeyes

#20 USC Trojans

#21 Georgia Bulldogs

#22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

#23 BYU Cougars

#24 Missouri Tigers

#25 Texas Longhorns

 

2011 Team Previews

ACC- Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, NC State, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

Big 12- Baylor , Iowa St, Kansas, Kansas St, Missouri, Oklahoma St, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Big East- Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, UConn, USF, West Virginia

Big Ten- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota , Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio St, Penn St, Purdue

C-USA- East Carolina, Houston ,Marshall, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF

FCS- Georgia Southern, Georgia State

Independent- Army, BYU, Notre Dame

MAC- Akron, Ball St, Bowling Green, Buffalo , Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Temple, Toledo, Western Michigan

MWC- Air Force, New Mexico, TCU, UNLV, Wyoming

Pac-12- Arizona , Arizona St, California, Colorado, Oregon St, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington

SEC- Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Miss St, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee

Sun Belt- FAU, FIU, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Troy , ULM, Western Kentucky

WAC- Fresno St, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico St, San Jose St

Kevin Causey

About Kevin Causey

dry humorist, beer snob, occasionally unbiased SEC fan, UGA alumni, writer for Crystal Ball Run and founder of College Football Zealots

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