Florida St Blog

October 8, 2010

MIAMI PREVIEW
By Greg Beckman

Well, here we go, round 2 of how far have we come?  Another highly ranked opponent on the road, except this time it’s a rivalry.  I don’t suspect the Seminoles will lack focus this week as they did preparing for Oklahoma.  I don’t see or hear of anyone patting themselves on the back after beating-up on the weaklings they have been playing.  Beating an FCS team and 3 teams that don’t have a chance in H, E, double hockey sticks of making a bowl game, and considering everyone makes a bowl game, that is saying something, isn’t saying much nor does it prove much.  If the 2010 Seminoles can go down to Miami and escape with a win, then we can start talking about the ‘Noles being a pretty good team.  Not back, not a great team, Miami is a good team, not a great team either.  But winning in Miami definitely sets the Noles up for what should be a run to play in the ACC Championship game.  BC is not the team we thought they would be.  Clemson looks like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  We all know the issues with UNC.  NC State simply doesn’t have the talent of FSU.  So, if the Noles can get past Miami, there are no excuses for not getting to the ACC Championship game.

Three keys to the game:

  1. Turnovers.  If FSU cannot force Jacory Harris into throwing interceptions the way everyone else has, the Noles don’t have a chance.  Simple as that.  If the Seminole defense stays on the field too long this game could get ugly just like Oklahoma did.  FSU is not going to have a bunch of 3 and outs vs Miami so they way to get off the field and create short fields for the offense is to force Jacory Harris into turnovers.  Scoring on defense or special teams is a must in this game as well.  Turnovers. Turnovers. Turnovers.
  2. Christian Ponder must finally play the way he was supposed to play all season.  The Heisman campaign kick-off, CP7.com, are all just embarrassing at this point because simply put, Ponder has not played anything close to the level he is supposedly capable of playing.  His accuracy and arm strength have been off.  As much as I love Ponder and think he is a tremendous leader, the ball is simply not coming out of his hand the way it should.  Against a very good defense that will put a ton of pressure on him, Ponder must find his zip and his accuracy.  Balls thrown behind guys, with too much air, overthrown or tipped at the line will be interceptions against the ‘Canes.  Knowing how great the FSU running game has been the past several weeks, Ponder and the receivers must create some balance on offense to keep Miami guessing.  If this can be done, the Noles win.
  3. Coaching.  Especially on defense.  Everything fell apart when the going got rough in Norman.  At some point in this game there is going to be a rough moment or several.  The staff has to keep this team together and on the same page.  Mark Whipple is an outstanding offensive coordinator and I guaranty he will show some things that the defense hasn’t seen from Miami on tape.  Keeping their heads together and getting lined-up properly and on-time, has to happen.  Same thing with the offense.  When Miami shows coverages and blitzes the offense didn’t expect it is up to the coaching staff to make the in-game adjustments on the fly.  Something they didn’t do at Oklahoma.  Everyone lost their heads in Norman.  The coaching staff has to show that they have learned from that experience and they are ready for the bright lights of being the 8pm game on ABC.  The entire country will be watching this time.

All that being said, I see a lot of this happening at times and at other times it not happening.  It will be another classic is a rivalry that has more classics than probably any other rivalry in the country.  I don’t see the Noles completely falling apart this time and they will compete for all 60 minutes.  But in the end, the game in Miami, more skilled players on offense for the ‘Canes and an overall better defense winning out.  Miami 28  FSU 24. 

Now, Miami being in the Coastal division, even if the Noles do lose this game, there are zero excuses for losing a single game to any Atlantic division teams.  Which should still put the Seminoles in the ACC Championship game.

 

October 1, 2010

Things that have to be corrected against UVA:
By Greg Beckman

Somethings really bothered me about last week’s performance against Wake Forest.  The Noles simply don’t seem to be on the same page offensively, especially in the red zone.  Four things stood out to me that need to change for the offense to become more consistent and to put touchdowns on the board when they get inside the opponents 20.

1. The play-calling inside the 20 is horrendous right now.  The one thing that has been consistent in the first month for the offense is a very productive run game.  It seems like Jimbo Fisher is trying to get Ponder’s stats up by forcing the pass down everyone’s throats inside the red zone.  2 out of every 3 plays are passes instead of sticking with what works, the run.  You have to be able to run the ball once you get inside the 10 yard line and we continually see pass after pass in tight quarters.  Run the football more inside the scoring zone.  I bet we will see more TD’s that way.  That is going to be key this week because Virginia’s strength on defense is their secondary.  The Cavaliers have been good on the D-line, but the linebackers can be blocked and they are still learning a new scheme as well after switching to a 4-3 from a 3-4. 

2. Christian Ponder seems to lose track of what type of ball to throw in each situation.  I don’t know if his arm is 100% or not, he says it is.  But the ball just doesn’t seem to be coming out of his hand as crisply or as sharp as it did before the injury in 2009.  Some balls have way too much arch on them.  Some float instead of being drilled when necessary.  I know touch is important at times, but it seems every throw has too much touch and not enough zip.  The balls are lose and don’t show tight spirals, his accuracy when trying to drill the ball into a tight spot doesn’t seem to be there as in the past either.  Hopefully Fisher and Craig can show him this and get it corrected.  With Virginia’s very good secondary, accuracy and throwing the right type of ball in each situation will be key.

3. The receivers have to help out their QB a lot more.  On several occasions the Seminole receivers simply didn’t fight for the ball against defenders they way big time receivers fight for the ball.  Bert Reed had a chance to catch a TD pass on a fade route during the opening 18 play drive.  He had the football and didn’t fight for it.  The next play Ponder was sacked and fumbled which meant an 18 play 9-minute drive lead to 0 points.  It was a catch he should have made.  Later in the game Willie Haulstead had the ball in his hands on a deep ball that would have set the offense up for more point deep in Wake territory, again, instead of fighting to possess it, he allowed Wake defenders to strip him of the ball and it was close to being a fumble.  This has happened all season to this point.  The receivers are lacking a toughness you see in big time guys that simply out muscle and out hustle defensive backs and make the catch no matter what.   Again, this has to change right now for FSU to score against UVA.

4. Finally, the offensive line has not lived-up to their billing when it comes to pass protection.  Granted they are missing starting left tackle Andrew Datko and are playing 2 freshmen in his place.  But so what.  Down in the red zone is when you have to become more focused and more determined.  This team in every aspect seems to go in the opposite direction.  Where is the nastiness you need to have up-front when it gets tight down in the red zone?  If Fisher is going to call a lot of pass plays inside the 10 yard line, then the offensive line has to be determined to give Ponder the time he needs to allow guys to get open.  Sometimes Ponder can do this on his own, which he did on the first TD pass to Haulstead, but this is not going to happen consistently and the O-line has to find a way to protect Ponder when it comes time to punch it in.

If the Seminoles can shore-up all the things I talked about I see a blow out in Charlottesville.  More than likely though some of this will be better but not all of it.  The Virginia offense just isn’t very good and probably has the least talent in the ACC.  With the way the Noles have been playing on Defense I expect that to continue on the road and I just don’t see Virginia being able to score a lot of points in this game.  Combine that with a huge advantage on special teams for the Noles means I see a Seminole victory.  But with the offense not clicking 100% it will not be a total blow-out.  FSU 27  Virginia

September 23, 2010

MOVE ON AGAIN…
By Greg Beckman

FSU got back on track this past weekend in a dominating performance by both the offensive and defensive lines.  But BYU is over, so forget about it and show me you can do it again this week against a much better offense.  Wake Forest is average 44 points per game.  Also the last two times the Demon Deacons came into Doak Campbell stadium, they beat the Seminoles in every aspect of the game.  More surprising is they beat-up the ‘Noles physically.  The garnet and gold finally snapped the 3 year losing streak to Wake Forest last season.

Florida State should be able to score a ton of points this week.  The passing game has been lack-luster lately and needs to get on track.  Well, Wake is just the answer to do that.  The Deacons have surrended 48 and 68 points in consecutive weeks, mostly through the air.  If Duke can put-up a 48 spot against this team, there is no excuses for the Seminoles not to do the same or even more.  Andrew Datko is going to be missing again at left tackle it looks like, but Henry Orelus played extremely well in his first career start.  The redshirt-frosh’s performance is a testament to how great an O-line coach Rick Trickett really is.  Expect to see a very balanced attack from the ‘Noles on offense and I would be disappointed to see anything under 200 yards as a team rushing and under 250 yards passing.  I would expect to see 500 yards of total offense with a point total starting with at the very least, a number 4.

On defense FSU has always struggled with the misdirection running game of Wake Forest.  The key to winning this game is all on the Florida State front seven on defense.   The Seminole linebackers, who I have continually criticized, finally had a great game last Saturday.  Probably their best game since the 2007 BC game that ended Matt Ryan’s Heisman hopes and BC’s national title hopes.  They will have to be dominate again.  Discipline has to be their top priority along with making the plays at the point of attack.  Missed tackles cannot happen in this game.  The D-line has to show they can play with emotion and intensity two weeks in a row.  Being the first ACC game of the season and being at home should lead to sustained tenacity as opposed to an emotional let-down.  If the FSU front seven plays as well this week as last week, this game could be a route.  If not, look for another shoot out.

This game is a scary game to me.  The Seminoles in the recent past, including this season already, have consistently under-performed after having a big week.  Every time we think the ‘Noles have finally broken-out of their inconsistency and are finally ready to take the next step the team falls flat on its face.  Over-confidence in these situations seems to be a reoccurring theme.  However, after the Oklahoma beating and with Jimbo Fisher constantly preaching consistency and doing everything he can with the entire staff to change the entire mind-set of the players in this situation, I would be shocked if FSU had this happen again.  They have to know at this point that each one of them has to come ready to play with a determined fire inside.  Therefore, FSU 52  Wake Forest 27

September 17, 2010

BYU PREVIEW:
By Greg Beckman

It is time to find out exactly what type of team FSU is going to be this year.  Will they rebound and play with passion and fire, something lacking last week, or will they roll-over and play dead.  FSU DT Everett Dawkins even came out and said Oklahoma had more heart than the Noles.  Is the culture truly changing at Florida State or is it back to the same ‘ole, same ‘ole. 

Offensively the Seminoles should be able to run on BYU.  The O-line is bigger and stronger than BYU’s front seven and I expect another big day on the ground, as was the case in 2009 out in Provo.  The ‘Noles simply have better athletes across the board and if BYU, who got thumped last week on the ground by Air Force, loads up to stop the run, Christian Ponder and ALL the receivers should be able to have a great day through the air.  I see the Noles moving past last week’s debacle and show a balanced attack enabling them to put up big numbers.

Defensively FSU has to show it can tackle.  With two QB’s rotating, a runner and a passer, it will be a constant change in looks from BYU.  Something the defense mightily struggled with last week in Norman.  The experienced QB for the Cougars is the runner, so if the Seminoles can find a pash rush at all and hurry the freshman passer, the defense should be able to create turnovers and limit the BYU offense.  The cougars offense has not seen any consistency in its first two games and despite the problems last week, I expect the Noles defense to play much better this week.  Which could be the theme all year long as they continue to learn the new scheme.  One good week followed by one bad week and vice-versa. 

Special teams edge is all Noles.  Don’t expect to see BYU kick to Greg Reid much.  The Sooners clearly figured out that Lamarcus Joyner was on the left side of the FSU return formation on kickoffs.  I would like to see FSU line-up the two kick-off returners in an I formation and them split as the kicker approaches the ball.  They would mix up the splits and Reid wouldn’t be on the same side every single time.  This way opposing teams cannot kick-away from Greg Reid every single time. 

When it is all said and done the Seminoles are just faster and more talented.  This was not the case last week.  But I do expect a rebound performance and a solid win at Doak Campbell tomorrow afternoon.  Noles 41  BYU 21.

September 13, 2010

Move On
By Greg Beckman

Where do we begin?  I am not going to write another article about how long the road really is back to national prominence, not going to write all the clichés about how far away the Florida State football program really is to getting back to what they used to be.  Plain and simple the whoopin’ they took by a more advanced staff and team simply has to be learning experience for everyone involved.  Look at everything from when they left Tallahassee to the pre-game routine leading up to the game.  Why do I mention the off the field stuff?  Because it was evident the mind-set of the players was completely off.

And as soon as that ball starting rolling down hill, they couldn’t recover mentally in order to stop it and get back in the game. 

THE GOOD…It seemed to me that defensively, the defensive backs were in position to make some plays when the ball was thrown down the field (the constant screens is another story) but could not get their feet moving in order to make those plays.  Almost as if they were stuck in quicksand.  The ball would hang-in the air and the defensive backs simply seemed to watch it instead of moving to knock it down.  To me this signifies where they are at within the new scheme.  They are still thinking way too much about what they are supposed to do in each situation instead of playing instinctively and instead of attacking they sit back and run the process of where they are supposed to move through their heads.  At this point, it will continue to take time until they stop processing and move into just doing mode.  Be patient, it will happen. 

Also, I thought Jermaine Thomas played very well.  Scrap the running back by committee deal and give Thomas 75% of the carries.  The other 25% can be split between the other backs.  He ran hard and fast, probably the only player that played fast, and it showed by his 5.5 yards per carry average and his long run after the catch to open the 2nd half.  I wish he would have seen more than 11 carries.  Even being down by so much at half time I would have liked to have seen the offense ride the one thing that was working and let the game play out.  Establish 1 thing and take away something positive, win or lose.

THE NOT SO GOOD…The receiver, other than Taiwan Easterling were awful.  I wrote during the summer that Rodney Smith has to be one of the players to step-up if the Noles were going to make the move to the next level.  His block in the back on Greg Reid’s long kick-off return was probably the key play that gave all the momentum to OU and of which FSU never recovered.  But it wasn’t just him.  All the receivers struggles against press coverage and simply could not separate from OU defenders.  Willie Haulstead and Smith are big, strong receivers, they have to start playing with a physicality that we haven’t seen so far if this offense is going to take the Noles to an ACC title. 

On defense we already know the tackling went right back to the 2009 level.  But what concerns me most is the lack of pass rush by the front four and the lack of an adjustment to get more pressure on the QB by the coaching staff.  Yes they were screening FSU to death, but you could have sent 1 more guy from a different location each time.  Isn’t that Mister Alexander’s specialty?  The fact remains that OU’s offensive line is not a great line and is average at best.  If Utah State was able to get pressure, forcing Landry Jones to complete less than 50% of his passes, why can’t FSU’s front four or a single blitzer?  The D-line has talked all summer long about how they learned a bunch of new techniques to get into the opposing backfield.   Did all these new techniques get thrown out the window when the whistle blew?  But even more alarming to me is the lack of production from the linebackers.  Granted I believe Alexander is not being used for his strength but Kendall Smith and Nigel Bradham simply disappeared, again.  This is a reoccurring theme with both of them.  Time to either do it or get off the field and let Christian Jones, Vince Williams, Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith get the experience they need to go with their next level talent. 

With this debacle behind them, I expect to see a completely different team the rest of the season.  It should be ingrained into their heads exactly how much they have to work and prepare for every opponent.  No more over confidence after beating-up a nobody and no more attitudes of entitlement.  I expect to see unwavering focus and intensity from this point forward.  If that happens, the Noles are still the favorite in the ACC Atlantic Division.

September 8, 2010

FSU vs OU PREVIEW
By Greg Beckman

It feels like the season is starting for real this Saturday.  I don’t mind everyone playing a cupcake the first week of the season since there are no scrimmages allowed by the NCAA.  It is a smart thing to do.  But every year it just feels like the season starts for real in week 2.  With the ‘Noles traveling to Norman to take on the Sooners, that is feel I have this year.  FSU was one of the exceptions and always seemed to have a tough opener.  It was good for them to get a game under their belt, especially with a new defensive scheme, and I think that will help a ton this week.

Oklahoma struggled a bit in their opener however, if we look back at 2009, FSU did the same versus Jacksonville State (Although we now know that JSU isn’t your typical FCS opponent, just ask Ole Miss) before going to Provo and blowing out the Cougars.  OU did open up an early lead and seemed to lose focus at that point thinking it was over.  I expect to see a completely different, much sharper Sooner team this Saturday.  That being said, here are the match-ups I am going to be watching and should make the difference in the game.

The Oklahoma offensive line vs the FSU front seven should favor the Seminoles.  The struggles of the 2009 Sooners O-line seemed to have carried over into 2010.  It was only game 1 and they should be able to correct some of the issues, but the ‘Noles have a lot more speed and talent up-front than Utah State.  The improved tackling due to the increased size and strength in the FSU D-line and linebackers was evident last Saturday.  Granted DeMarco Murray may be the best back the ‘Noles face all season, but FSU should cause some issues for the Oklahoma offensive line.  Murray will have his moments and probably even break a run or two to get to 100 yards.  But I see FSU creating consistent pressure on Landry Jones.  Jones completed less than 50% against the Aggies and averaged only 6 yards per attempt.  I expect both of these to improve from week 1 to week 2, however, if USU can put pressure on the OU quarterback, I expect FSU to do the same.  Which should lead to some turnovers in the passing game.  Therefore, I give the edge to the Seminoles when it comes to their front seven against the OU offensive line.

Let’s flip this and talk the FSU O-line versus the OU front seven.  Yes, OU has some issues in the interior of their defensive line, but they have a monster pass rusher in Jeremy Beal and two All-American candidates at linebacker.  FSU’s offensive line is very experienced as we know, but they have struggled at times against speed linemen and linebackers.  Zebrie Sanders seems to be much improved, but I expect Beal to have his moments against him this Saturday.  FSU must be able to run the ball and get over the 150 yard mark on the ground to keep the OU defense off-balance.  Travis & Ronnell Lewis at LB for the Sooners will be the key.  FSU’s linemen have to be able to get to the next level, something Rodney Hudson excels at, and get their hands on both Lewis’.  The key to all of this is David Spurlock, who had some struggles in week one after missing most of preseason practice with an injury.  Hopefully he knocked the rust off against Samford.  If not, it could be a long day for FSU running backs. 

Both defensive backfields have been revamped and have yet to face anything close to Landry Jones or Christian Ponder.  Bob Stoops is not going to be surprised by anything his brother Mark, FSU’s new DC, will throw at him.  So, when given time, I expect to see a lot of passing yards racked-up against both teams.  Other than Beal, I don’t see OU being able to put the consistent pressure on Ponder without blitzing.  Leaving their very inexperienced secondary without the help they will need to combat a passing attack like FSU’s.  The Seminole safties, both still new to the position, will have to stay disciplined and make sure Ryan Broyles doesn’t get behind them.  It’s nearly impossible to shut down Broyles and the OU passing attack, but pressure up-front will help.   Because FSU should be able to put more consistent pressure up-front without blitzing, I give the edge to the ‘Noles secondary being able to make plays more often than the OU secondary.  Either way, both offenses will have their moments and will be making plays. 

Finally, in games like this special teams always plays a huge role in winning the game.  FSU has a definite edge on special teams.  Both kickers are experienced and Dustin Hopkins’ ability to kick the ball into the endzone will be a major plus in the field position game.  We all know about Greg Reid and his ability.  Will OU even kick to him?  I liked what I saw from the FSU coverage teams last week and the punt block even returned to Tallahassee.  The Sooners in the past have had great return teams as well, but have struggled in covering kicks at times.  Not good when you have Reid, Larmcus Joyner and other great returners coming to town.  I expect FSU to have a major advantage in special teams.

All the so-called experts are picking the Sooners.  But the more I look at the match-ups, the more all the signs point to the Noles having the advantage.  In the past focus, lack of correct preparation and the lack of intensity and emotion have been the issue, not this edge in match-ups.  This coaching staff seems to have this corrected.  Both offensives will be able to put some points on the board and this will be a shoot out.  But the difference in the game will be the issues OU has on the offensive line, a senior QB named Christian Ponder and the FSU advantage on special teams.  FSU 38  Oklahoma 35.

On a sad note, Mike Harris, a cornerback who debuted with a pick last Saturday for the Noles, lost his mother following the game.  I ask all of Seminole Nation to keep him and his family in your prayers.  He will be playing this Saturday and I am sure it will be very emotional for him.  So, win or lose this weekend, keep this in-mind.  Hopefully it will put things in perspective and make us all realize it’s just a game.  Also keep the Wyoming family in your prayers.  If you haven’t heard they lost a member of their team this week as well.  Also remember 9-11 and all those that perished that awful day.   And all those still over in the middle east doing what they do so we can watch all the great games this weekend.  College Football is the most amazing game on the planet for so many reasons but at the end of the day it’s just a game.   

SOME OTHER PREDICTIONS:
Ohio State 31  -  Miami 21
Michigan 27 – Notre Dame 24
Alabama 35 – Penn State 14
South Carolina 34 – Georgia 28
Tennessee 23 – Oregon 20

September 7, 2010

REVIEW OF SAMFORD
By Greg Beckman

Well, the Noles took care of business on Saturday.  You say, “well, yea, they should have.  It was only Samford.”  But let’s not forget this team has had it’s focus issues in the past, continuously I might add, versus lesser opponents like Samford.  So to see the intensity and focus the team had in the first half this past Saturday was a welcome sight.

Last week I wrote about the three main things I wanted to see.  First was dominating the line of scrimmage.  Which for the most part happened.  I liked what I saw from the back-ups at defensive end, but I still need to see more out of Brandon Jenkins and Marcus White.  Even against an FSC opponent I didn’t see consistent pressure coming from the starting D-ends.  That will have to change this upcoming week if FSU has a chance at beating Oklahoma.  What I did see was a much better and a much more intense interior of the defensive line and that was a welcome sight.  The fact that the Noles did not allow a single play over 10 yards by Samford until the game was already decided is the domination we should see from a team as talented as the Noles.

At linebacker I wanted to see the fast and furious play of linebackers past and even though they all played well and were not caught out of position, which in-itself is a huge improvement over 2009, I still just didn’t see any flashes of brilliance.  I keep waiting for more than one of these linebackers to step-up and just take over a game the way Derrick Brooks or Marvin Jones did in their day and it just never seems to happen.  I thought Mister Alexander was very good, I thought Nigel Bradham was solid.  I think there are much more talented players behind Kendall Smith and I would like to see them on the field more than Smith.  But Smith is steady if not spectacular.  I did love what I saw from Christian Jones.  He may be the guy that with some experience becomes that playmaker all FSU fans keep waiting for at the linebacker position.

Finally, I wanted to see an offense do what an experienced offense with a Heisman candidate at QB is supposed to do.  They did not disappoint.  I would like to see more consistency in the run game and I think that will come.  3.9 yards per carry for starter Jermaine Thomas will not get it done during a tough ACC schedule or against the likes of OU, BYU and UF.  There were some spectacular plays in the run game, as evidenced by Ty Jones’ 57-yard TD run, but the grinding of 5 and 6 yards a pop that has to occur all game long to beat the better teams seemed to be lacking with the first unit on the field.  Other than that, an occasional break-down up-front, which is to be expected in game one against any team, should get corrected and the offense took care of their business.  I can only remember 1 bad throw the entire day by the FSU QB’s and only 1 dropped pass that I can remember.  I would give the offense an A- for game one.  I think even they would tell you there were some little things here and there that kept them from getting an A+.  Which I mentioned. 

Overall it was a sight for sore eyes to see a Seminole team come out with tenacity and focus that hasn’t been seen in many years in Tallahassee and the Noles did exactly what they were supposed to do, which is also something that hasn’t happened lately at FSU.  This team seems to have a presence or focus about them that the teams of 2004-2009 did not have.  Let’s hope they can continue this passion and concentration all season long.  It has shown-up at times over the past five years, as it did against BYU last year, but for the most part it just hasn’t been there.  So again, let’s hope we see this continue for every game in 2010.

Big one this Saturday.  Look for my preview and prediction on Friday for the Oklahoma game. 

Also, please visit my company website at:  www.buckdogsports.com.  We have started a brand new team uniforms and corporate apparel company.  The website is a work in progress so bare with us.  But we should be up and running 100% very soon.  Thank you!!!

September 3, 2010

GAME ONE:  SAMFORD
By Greg Beckman

FINALLY!!! Kick-off is here!!!  Tonight college football finally is back for the 2010 season.  On Saturday Florida State will face off against Samford, a FCS school and Jimbo Fisher’s alma mater.  As well as Bobby Bowden’s alma mater.  Each week I will preview the upcoming game and give you my keys to the game as well as my prediction. 

Samford is a little bit different.  Even though they have a tough running back in Chris Evans, who is on track to be the school’s all-time leading rusher, FSU simply is just too much for Samford.  Instead of giving keys to the game, I will discuss the three things I want to see most from the Seminoles this weekend. 

  1. Domination of the line of scrimmage.  With all five starters back on the offensive line including several All-ACC and even two All-American candidates, I want to see Seminole running backs get five yards up-field before being touched.  Jimbo may want to use this game to get some rhythm in the passing game as well as get some experience for a very inexperienced receiving group, however, all three running backs that are expected to split time, Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson should all have big days and should all be averaging close to 6.0 yards per carry or even more. 

On defense the front four last year simply were awful.  Only four sacks by defensive ends all season and the defensive tackles were consistently pushed off the ball.  A lot has been made of the new strength program under new S&C Coach Vic Viloria.  All of the defensive linemen are noticeably bigger and stronger.  Against an opponent that should be overmatched, I want to see this extra strength and pure bulk pay-off in a big way.  I expect both Marcus White and Brandon Jenkins to create chaos in the Samford backfield when it comes to their passing game and I expect all four D-linemen, no matter who is in the rotation, to simply stuff the run.  If Samford averages anything over 3.0 yards per carry, it will be a disappointing day for the D-line.  I also expect multiple sacks and multiple turnovers created by the pressure of the D-ends. 

  1. The linebackers at Florida State are deep and talented.  But last season they simply did not make enough plays around or behind the line of scrimmage.  If the defensive line does there job there is zero excuse for the linebackers stepping-up and looking like the FSU linebackers of old.  The are bigger as well this year and reportedly have not lost any of their speed and quickness as they have bulked-up.  Last year teams ran right through the tackles of FSU linebackers every single week.  Or they were caught out of position on a regular basis.  On Saturday I expect to see them exactly where they are supposed to be and make the play when they are there.  I am very excited to see Mister Alexander in his starting debut.  The entire team, coaches and players raved about the new and improved Alexander during the spring which has carried over to the fall.  Let’s see it on the field Mister.
  2. Finally, on offense I want to see exactly what is supposed to take place.  First, hold onto the football.  Ball security has gotten Fisher upset this fall.  No more fumbles because of a lack of focus in games like this.  If the attitude and personality of this team has indeed changed then let me see it this Saturday.  Take care of business on offense the way you are supposed to.  Second, the receivers are young and inexperienced.  Only Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling have any real game time.  I would like to see a lot of the younger guys step-up and play without any drop-off.  Third, I want to see Christian Ponder come out and light it up and show me that all the hype is not just hype.  All the Heisman talk, CP7 website and all the rest of the talk about how great this offense is going to be.  Well the last time an FCS team came to Tallahassee, they came within under 1 minute of beating the Noles.  Well this time show me all the talk is warranted and it’s just not all talk.  Anything under a 50 spot and if E.J. Manuel isn’t playing most of the 4th quarter then FSU better figure it out quickly.  Norman, Oklahoma isn’t as easy.  That being said.  I expect to see all three of these things happen.

PREDICTION:  FSU 55  SAMFORD 10.

August 31, 2010

REVISED ACC PREDICTIONS & NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP TALK…
By Greg Beckman


First of all we need to take a second look at my earlier ACC divisional predictions and make some revisions now that we know a lot more about each team and have some obvious concerns about North Carolina with more troubles coming their way.

I am sticking with my Atlantic division predictions.  Florida State simply should win this division and anything less would be a major disappointment in Tallahassee.  I completely believe it will be a heck of a three team race with Boston College and Clemson in the mix, but again, FSU is expected to take the Atlantic.

However, in the Coastal, I simply cannot stick with my prediction of North Carolina taking the division.  I was not as concerned with just 2 key players being out but this program is imploding from within.  The fact is as many as nine starters, 8 on defense, could be missing most if not the entire season.  Even if they are back for ACC action, the damage will have been done internally and the recovery will not happen at the pace it needs to in order to win such a competitive division.  So, that being said, here is my new prediction for the Coastal:

    1. Miami 
    2. Virginia Tech
    3. Georgia Tech
    4. North Carolina
    5. Duke
    6. Virginia

That’s right folks… Finally, the ACC is getting what they wanted all along, a Miami vs FSU ACC Championship Game.   Since I am picking Miami to win the regulars season battle I am going to pick FSU in the rematch and with it a trip to the Orange Bowl as ACC Champs.

Now some National Talk…
Has anyone given Iowa a chance to win the National Championship?  I have seen the Hawkeyes ranked anywhere between 6th-16th.  But no one really gives them a legit chance at winning the whole enchilada.  Why not?  Is it all the returning NFL talent on defense?  Is it all the skill position players back on offense?  Is it that they get the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions and Badgers all at home this year?  Okay, okay, they do have some major holes to fill in the offensive line and that is nothing to sneeze at.  But Ricky Stanzi should be better than he has been, which oh by the way, was 10-0 last year when he started and finished the game.   So my darkhorse to win the National Championship or at least get there and then lose to another SEC team, would be Iowa.  The game that scares me the most for the Hawkeyes is the trip to Tuscon to take on Arizona in week 3.  Dessert swarm isn’t the same old Dessert Swarm, but they could take advantage of that O-line that could need some time to gel.   

What about a possible BCS Championship game participant coming from the ACC?  Well, I wouldn’t count on it in 2010.  The coastal division is just too tough and the four teams at the top will all eliminate each other from any National Championship contention.  The Atlantic Division, sorry FSU fans, just does not have a team ready to compete at the elite level.  Now if Mark Stoops pulls a miracle and the defense goes from #108 to #28 or better, then maybe.  But don’t forget, it is still the same names on the field that finished #108.  So I don’t see this happening in year one of the Stoops’ defensive era.  I see 2012 as the year the Noles push back into the top 5 and compete for a National Championship.  E.J. Manuel will be a senior, 2nd year starter,  if all goes as planned.    He has even more physical tools than Christian Ponder and seems to be developing right on track.  The offensive line will take its lumps in 2011, but will be ready to compete for a national championship a year later.  The skilled positions will only be better as an influx of talent keeps streaming into Tallahassee.  The defense will be in year 3 of Stoops’ scheme.  Players like Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes, Jacobbi McDaniel and Brandon Jenkins, if they all stick around, will be juniors and seniors, as will the kickers.  If everyone stays on the same page and stays healthy, 2012 will be a special year for the ‘Noles.  

Okay, back to 2010.  I know Phil picked Oklahoma to win it all over Ohio State and I think the Sooners will get to 10 wins this year, but I just have this feeling that everyone is overlooking Texas and not giving Garret Gilbert enough credit.  Texas still returns the best secondary in the Big 12, if not the entire country.  If the Longhorns step-up on the defensive line and find a way to run the ball, look-out for the ‘Horns.  But again, too much to replace to expect another BCS title game appearance for Texas.  Ohio State is just flat loaded, but going to Iowa City does scare me for the Buckeyes.  Also travelling to Wisconsins is no picnic. 

I simply do not see any undefeated teams at the end of the season and the BCS will be in turmoil once again.  How about Nebraska?  Their schedule sets-up very nicely.  The Black-Shirts will be just as tough as last year and I expect more consistency on offense.  At the very least, fewer turnovers from the Huskers will get them to 11-1 and competing for a BCS Championship game birth in the Big-12 championship game.  Texas at home and no Oklahoma is big for Nebraska.  The rest of the games should all be wins.  Even travelling to Washington.  If they get by the Huskies, look for the Cornhuskers in the BCS title game. 

Boise State?  Not gonna happen.  I see them losing on the road to Virginia Tech and probably again to Oregon State.   Mike Riley will have the Beavers ready for the blue turf.  So 10-2 for the Broncos despite all the returning starters. 

So, it is down to Alabama and Florida in the SEC.  Florida simply has too much to replace to not lose twice.  10-2 and another SEC title game birth for the Gators will leave them out of the National Championship picture.  Another undefeated season for the Tide?  I don’t see how with all the replacements on defense.  And the schedule does not do the Tide any favors.  With some many teams having 2 weeks to prepare for Alabama, I see someone tripping them up along the way.  But they still have the best shot to get out of the SEC 12-1.  Which puts the Tide back in the BCS Championship game.

Losing Masoli will come back to bite the Ducks out in the Pac-10 and without any other dominating teams, I don’t see a Pac-Ten team playing for the NC either.  So… I go back to the Hawkeyes.  They lost in OT in Columbus last year and Stanzi didn’t even play in the game.  If they get through Arizona, I see Iowa vs Alabama in the 2010 BCS Title game.    But how do I leave out a 12-1 Nebraska?  Hmmm…. Playoff, anyone…. anyone….?   Well let’s hope Oklahoma or Texas knocks off the Huskers in the Big-12 title game so we don’t have to deal with that.  Kirk Ferentz had his team ready for Paul Johnson and GT last year.  With time to prepare for Alabama, does he pull the upset?  By the time Nick Saban gets his defense to January they will be just as dominating as the past 2 seasons.  So as much as I hate picking back to back National Champions, which has never been done since the BCS’ inception, I have to go with the Tide once again.

I estimate about 880 days until the 2012 BCS Title game sometime in January 2013!!!

My Top 10 for 2010:

    1. Alabama
    2. Iowa
    3. Nebraska
    4. Ohio State
    5. Oklahoma
    6. Florida
    7. Texas
    8. Wisconsin
    9. Boise State
    10. Arkansas

22. Florida St

2 DAYS TIL KICKOFF!!!  4 DAYS TIL THE SAMFORD GAME!!! – NOLES, GET TO THE GAME!!!  15,000 unsold tickets is embarrassing.  I have my 4 tickets.  Do you?

August 25, 2010

PICKING THE GAMES - NOVEMBER
By Greg Beckman


On to November and into December.  I have said all along that anything less than an ACC Championship game birth would be a disappointing season for Florida State.  Which means if that is the expectation from this team, let’s put them in the game.   A regular season record of 9-3 would be acceptable.  But again, anything less would be a disappointment.   Here are the games:

Nov. 6th vs North Carolina

I have spoken very highly of the UNC defense and I believe even without Marvin Austin, which is a real possibility, this will be the lowest scouring output by FSU all season long.  The Heels remember what happened to their D last year and they will come to Tallahassee with a chip on their shoulders.  If they get any offense at all, they will upset the Noles in Doak.  FSU will have 9 days to prepare.  The key to this game is going to be FSU’s ability to run the football against the best front 7 in college football.  If the Noles can rack-up yards on the ground, they win.  If not, the UNC secondary will be scoring points.  This is the hardest game for me to pick and I just don’t have a feel for it.  But having to pick today, I will go with the revenge factor in a lower scoring, tight, hardest hitting game of the season.  UNC pulls an upset.  SCORE: 20-17.

Nov. 13th vs Clemson

Coming off a very disappointing loss to UNC, unlike in years past, this team will rally and save their season with 3 games to play.   Clemson brings in the 2nd best defense in the conference in-terms of returning experienced talent and a much better offense than UNC.   Even without Spiller and Ford, I see the Tigers putting up some serious points and gaining a ton of yards this season.  Especially with 2 accomplished running backs and only 1 spot to fill on the O-line.  Last year FSU was standing toe to toe and matching those points until the end of the 3rd quarter.   This year, the Seminole defense is much bigger and stronger and I think we will see that show up in their ability to tackle better and not get pushed off the ball.  Also, despite Clemson’s talent on defense they still have a tendency to give-up big plays and a lot of points at times.  See the ACC Championship game last year.   I see the FSU defense coming-up bigger than expected in this game.  This year’s FSU team seems to have a higher level of maturity and they will not free fall as in years past.  FSU gets back in the win column.  SCORE: 34-20.

Nov. 20th @Maryland

Let’s hope this is the noon ACC game of the week.  The last few times the Noles have visited College Park this late in the year they have all been night games and being from Florida, I am tired of sitting in the freezing cold weather!  Maryland will be better this year and get to 6-6 I feel.  The Terps almost pulled the upset in Tallahassee in 2009 which would have stopped FSU’s bowl streak and handed Bobby Bowden a losing season.  A last minute TD saved FSU’s season.  However, the ‘Noles dominated the first half up until a redshirt freshman QB started playing like a Redshirt freshman QB.  If Ponder is healthy and playing like we all expect him to, with the Atlantic Division crown on the line, the Noles destroy the Terps.   Even with 2 ACC loses (both to Coastal Division teams) the Noles take care of business and win the Division.  SCORE: 48-14.

Nov. 27th vs Florida

Well, could things go any worse against the Gators?  This hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately.  2006 was the last time the Noles had a chance to beat the Gators, but ended up losing by a touchdown.   Simply put,  UF still has more talent and talent that has played on much bigger stages.  Yes, they have to replace a ton of players and FSU is certainly closing the gap talent wise, as seen in the ’10 & ’11 recruiting classes.   I believe the ‘Noles and Gators will play one of the epic battles of all-time in this rivalry this season.  But, Florida is still a little bit better than Florida State right now.  Could this change during the season.  Of course.  But right now I have to still, for the 7th year in a row, give the nod to the Gators.  SCORE 35-34.

ACC TITLE GAME vs North Carolina

It is very tough to beat the same team twice in one year.  If my predictions are right and UNC beats FSU the first time, FSU will come out much more emotional and with a higher level of intensity in every aspect of the game.  I think this will be close again, but FSU’s special teams will be the difference.  FSU wins the ACC and goes to the Orange Bowl.  SCORE: 27-17.

August 20, 2010

PICKING THE GAMES - OCT0BER
By Greg Beckman

In the second installment of picking the games, it’s time to look at the month of October.  Starting with Miami on October 9th, FSU will enter a brutal stretch of games where every one of them could go either way the rest of the season.

Oct. 2nd @Virginia

Well, this game falling right before Miami would normally scare me.  But Virginia is just bad.  Mike London will get that program turned-around.  But it isn’t happening in 2010.  Going on the road before a road game at Miami may keeps this closer than expected for a while, but in the end FSU goes to 5-0 and climbs to about #10.  SCORE: 31-6.

Oct. 9th @ Miami

Okay folks, this is the one that sends us all back to reality.  We know the ‘Noles simply are not where they need to be yet and a loss here is just what I see in my crystal ball.  Miami’s entire defense will be the first real test for FSU’s offense.  The ‘Canes will create some turnovers and the ‘Noles will not be able to recover in the end.  Also, the defense will have its breakdowns leading to a big number for Miami.  The defense has been hidden because of the teams that FSU has played to this point.  The deficiencies will show through here just as they did against the Sooners.  But this time the offense cannot overcome it.  The first loss of the season.  SCORE: 41-28.

Oct. 16th vs Boston College

This is another game I put on my list of games that scares me.  BC always seems to find a way to beat FSU.  They will bring in a very tough, nasty attitude up-front on both sides of the ball along with two outstanding linebackers.  However, the breakdowns in tackling and giving-up big plays in the secondary are about to come to an end vs BC.  Montrel Harris will have his moments, but the lack of a QB will not be able to be overcome by the Eagles.  Receivers just won’t be as wide open this year as last year.  Especially with the lack of experienced receivers at BC.  Despite how incredibly awful the ‘Noles played most of the game at BC in ’09 they had a chance to win at the end.  Rebounding after the Miami loss against a divisional nemesis will have the team focused.  Noles win and take control of the Atlantic.  SCORE: 31-21.

Oct. 28th @NC State

Another one of those dreaded Thursday night games in Raleigh.  Even though Russell Wilson will give the FSU defense fits all night long, the rest of the Wolfpack just isn’t good enough to win this game.  The difference in this game and in past Thursday night games in Raleigh, see 2006, is the Noles have 12 days to prepare instead of only 4.  Noles win another shoot-out vs Russell Wilson.  SCORE: 52-35.

Record at the end of October: 7-1.

12 Days til kickoff of the college football season!!! 14 days until Samford visits Doak!!!

August 16, 2010

PICKING THE GAMES - SEPTEMBER
By Greg Beckman

First a disclaimer… I reserve the right to change these picks week by week.  But as things stand right now in the pre-season this is how I see Florida State faring throughout the month of September, game by game.   Look for October later this week and then November through the post season next week.

Sept. 4th vs Samford

Samford is a good FCS team and I can see some 1st quarter jitters for the ‘Noles in the very first game under Jimbo Fisher.  However, by halftime I expect to see a sizeable lead and I expect that lead to grow.  E.J. Manuel should get to QB the entire 4th qtr.  SCORE: 55-10.

Sept. 11th  @Oklahoma

With both teams having defensive issues and both teams having plenty of offensive fire power, I see this game being another shoot-out for the ‘Noles.  The Sooners do bring back some experienced, all-conference, next level talent at linebacker which could be the difference in the game.  However, the Sooner O-line is not at the same level as Florida State’s which could create some opportunities for the Noles to make plays in the OU backfield.   I am going to go with a surprise upset here and pick the Noles.  It has the same feel as going into the BYU game last year to me.  SCORE: 38-34.

Sept. 18th vs Brigham Young

BYU just has too much to replace and they will not be able to handle the atmosphere in Doak Campbell or the team speed of the ‘Noles.  However, FSU has been notorious the past several seasons for laying an egg after a big upset win on the road.  See USF.  However, I think FSU gets it done, but closer than people thing.  SCORE: 35-24.

Sept. 25th vs Wake Forest

I listed this game as a game that truly scares me.  Although FSU is superior in talent across the board along with Wake having to replace Riley Skinner and several other key contributors this game falls after the big games vs OU and BYU.  A mental let-down is prime for this slot in the schedule.  Jim Grobe will have his team ready to go.  But the revenge factor of the last two beatings the Deamon Deacons gave the Seminoles at home hopefully will be in the players’ minds and they will not have that mental let down.  FSU gets it done again.  SCORE: 42-17.

RECORD IN SEPTEMBER: 4-0

17 days ‘til the first college football game!!!  19 days until Samford!!!

August 11, 2010

INJURIES, SUSPENSIONS AND DISMISSALS… SO WHAT! PLAY BALL!
By Greg Beckman

Injuries, suspensions, dismissals all seem to be front and center at Florida State these days.  But quite frankly, that’s just part of college football.  Injuries are part of all football.  Deal with it and move on.  No whiners allowed!!!

With the legal troubles of Nigel Carr, Jarmon Fortson being kicked-off the team and key injuries to a projected starting nose guard and a big running back all I seem to read about is how these are all such big blows to the ‘Noles.   Not here, not from me.  No excuses in 2010 or 2011 or 12 or ever…  Programs that whine about these kinds of things are just losers.  Programs that take the next step forward like it never happened and just fill-in the holes with more effort or even better players are the ones I love to root for and are the ones that get to BCS bowl games. 

Yes, Nigel Carr was one of my break-out players in a blog I did several weeks ago, but so what.  Now Mister Alexander has to be that break-out player.  Or is it going to be one of the freshmen, Christian Jones or Jeff Luc?  Remember Vince Williams?  Everyone of those names should be on the field anyway.  Alexander is the best pass-rushing linebacker on the squad.  So now he gets to play more.  Christian Green may be the single best, most talented player on the team.  Those players we all like to classify as “Freaks”… Well, Green is the one “Freak” amongst all the linebackers.  So what if he is a freshman.  He will take some lumps as he learns but you will see a phenomenal player.  Luc, by most recruiting rankings, was the #1 linebacker in the country.  And Williams is a fanstatic and instinctive player who adds great size to a position that is in need of size.  Personally speaking, I am excited to see these guys get more playing time.

Another name I listed in the players that I think have to have a break-out season is receiver Rodney Smith.  Not only is smith 6’6” he has also added 15 pounds without losing a step of speed.  Now at 220 pounds, he will be a major force for the Seminoles offense.  Fortson provided some great plays over the past two seasons, but he had just as many lapses in focus and just as many not so good plays.  I think you will all see Smith provide much more consistency to the position and become that red-zone threat that seems to have been missing since Greg Carr left.   Smith is a football player first.  He shined on special teams, not being afraid to hit and tackle, as a freshman.  You will see that in the way he plays and the way he attacks the ball in a crowd.  He is very physical.  Taiwan Easterling is completely back and 100% healthy.  If you remember,  2 seasons ago, he was the go to guy when the offense needed a big play on third down or in the endzone.  Reports say he looks better and faster than ever now that he is another year removed from the achilles injury.   Also remember the name Kenny Shaw.  Only a true freshman and is very thin right now, but he will be a star.

Running back is loaded and really, the only pain I feel in this whole thing of injuries, suspensions and dismissals is for Tavares Pressley.  He is a kid that just has had one serious injury after another.  Hopes were so high for him and I don’t feel one iota of sympathy for the team, FSU has plenty of talented backs, I feel awful for Pressley.  He worked so hard to get back into the rotation and in his last year of eligibility this happens again.  Tavares I think all FSU fans are rooting for you in all you do.  

The one position that will have to find someone to step-up is the inside of the defensive line.  Already thin on shear bulk in the middle of the D-line, losing McCray the one mountain of a man at 316 pounds is out for the season.  However, Amp McClound coming-in from the JC ranks is a true blessing for Odell Haggins and the D-Line.  At 303 lbs, McCloud is the one guy that can add instant  ideal-size for the position.  However, everyone is remarkably bigger coming into the season this year.  It is noticeable on every player in the D-line, both ends and tackles.   Jacobbi McDaniel at 290 pounds is the guy that will start now in-place of McCray.  McDaniel showed flashes as a true frosh in ’09, but now it is time to take the next step and be the total dominating force he was expected to be when arriving on campus.  He is the 1 guy that can be that Warren Sapp type interior lineman.  Time to do it.

So, I am no longer talking about or reading about all these losses in personnel.  Boo Hoo, go cry someplace else.   The team motto for the season is attitude.  Time to show me some.

22 days until college football!  24 days to kick-off in Doak!!!

August 5, 2010

2010 ACC PREDICTIONS
By Greg Beckman

With fall practice starting today in Tallahassee, it is time to make my 2010 ACC predictions.  So here you go…

ATLANTIC DIVISION:

  1. Florida State – The defense cannot be any worse.  If they can improve to be just in the middle of the pack nationally in total defense, with the offense, which should be the very best in the ACC if not in the country I just don’t see how the ‘Noles don’t win this division.  Also, outside of the Miami game, FSU’s toughest conference games are all at home, including the two next best teams in the division.  No excuses for the ‘Noles not to win the Atlantic this year.  Anything less than a division title would be another major disappointment in the panhandle.
  2. Boston College – When you return an offensive line as good as BC’s along with a back like Montel Harris to go with the best set of linebackers in the conference you have a chance in every game you play.  The Eagles, year in and year out just seem to find a way to win a lot of games.  With their discipline and tenacity I see them, once again, finding a way to win 9 games overall and finishing second in the division.  I think some of the holes they have on defense in the front and the back will show-up against the top offense in the conference when they play in Tallahassee and FSU finally gets some revenge on the Eagles.
  3. Clemson – Defense, defense, defense is the key at Clemson.  They have All-ACC candidates at every position.  Being lead by All-American candidates D’Quan Bowers and DeAndre McDaniel.  They should have the #1 defense in the division.  Kyle Parker coming back to go with a pair of very good running backs will also help get the Tigers to another bowl game.  However, there are some holes in the offensive line and at receiver.  Losing the big play ability of Spiller and Ford simply just can’t be replaced nor should we expect this team to be as good offensively or on returns without those two dynamic players.
  4. Maryland – A more versatile quarterback, I think, will make bigger plays for the Terrapins, also allowing Da’Rel Scott a little more running room.  A healthy Scott will also make this offense much more consistent.  The Terps may have to live with some mistakes from Jamar Robinson at the QB spot, but I also think you will see more big plays from him than the QB’s that just tried to manage the offense the past few years.  As the season goes forward you will see a star start to emerge in Robinson.
  5. NC State – Yes they have probably the 2nd best QB in the conference, however, there are just way too many holes to play the “what-if” game with the Wolfpack.  Can they be good enough to go bowling?  Yes, but 6-6 would be a good year in Raleigh.  Both fronts are in question as is the backfield behind Russell.  That is just a start of the question marks for this squad.
  6. Wake Forest – It all starts with replacing Riley Skinner.  Quite frankly, the Demon Deacons just don’t have anyone to step right in and play at that elite level.  Maybe down the road one of their QB’s can get there, but not this year.  Jim Grobe is too good to allow this program to slide completely, but 4-8 may be unavoidable.

COASTAL DIVISION:

  1. North Carolina – This is finally the year that Butch Davis keeps his team focused enough to win the division.  The offense will be better.  The possible loss of Greg Little will hurt but the simple fact that T.J. Yates has some serious competition at the QB spot will make him better and if he isn’t, they have more of a capable back-up to get the offense on track.  Actually, Bryn Renner has much more big play ability and you may see him anyway.   The defense simply has the most talent in the country.  Even if the Heels lose Austin, who frankly, fails to show-up at times, they will not lose a beat on defense.
  2. Miami – This team should have the best offense in the Coastal Division.  They have the best defense at Miami in many years.  But the mistakes on offense, the lack of focus by receivers at times and the holes they have on the offensive line I think will cost them against the Tar Heels.  And this division is going to be way too close to overcome any mistakes.  The simple things will win this division and at times it seems Miami will allow those things to slip by them in games they simply should win.  I think they beat the ‘Noles in Miami but then will have a couple conference games that will come back to bite them.
  3. Virginia Tech – Yes they have the magnificent backfield.  Tyrod Taylor should be better in the passing game as well.  However, they lost quite a bit up-front offensively and at every level defensively.  With such a tight race with four good teams that could win the Coastal, those losses will be tough to overcome.
  4. Georgia Tech – Changing to a 3-4 with players recruited to play the 4-3 will take some time.  The defense, despite having a first round DE, struggled giving up large chunks of yards at times.  The Yellow Jackets don’t have the overall pure talent FSU has on defense, so I think it will take GT a little longer to adjust to the new scheme compared to the Seminoles, who actually fit better into their new scheme.  This is why I have the Ramblin’ Wreck falling all the way to #4 in the division.  But still should get to 8 wins overall and be a decent bowl game. 
  5. Duke – The Blue Devils will be okay at the QB spot.  Sean Renfree will get it done.  Maybe not at the level Lewis did last year, but he will get there.  Duke should be better elsewhere almost across the board.  David Cutcliffe will need even more time to build the overall talent and depth this program will need to get to a bowl game.
  6. Virginia – Way too much to overcome in Charlottesville.  No team in the conference is worse off at the QB spot than the Cavaliers.  Do they have some kids in the pipeline that will change this down the line.  Yes.  But not one of those would be considered a blue-chipper either.  The skill position players at every spot are simply average at best.  How such a proud program has let the talent level slide so greatly is quite perplexing. 

ACC Championship Game:  Florida State over North Carolina

BOWL PREDICTIONS:

Orange Bowl: Florida State

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Miami (Marquee name to match-up vs the SEC)

Champs Bowl: Clemson (Travels too well to pass-up)

Sun Bowl: North Carolina (Cannot fall any further than this game)

Meineke Car Care Bowl: Virginia Tech (Next best team)

Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech (Close to Atlanta, Tech will travel better then BC to this game)

Independence Bowl: Boston College (Another disrespected BC team falls further than they should)

Eagle Bank Bowl: Maryland (A natural fit over NC State)

*NC State should land in a bowl game when another conference doesn’t have enough qualified teams.

28 days til kick-off!!!  30 days til opening day in Tallahassee!

 

July 30, 2010

SCOUTING REPORT ON CHRISTIAN PONDER
By Greg Beckman

SCOUTING REPORT ON CHRISTIAN PONDER
Below is a scouting report, on Christian Ponder, using the Blesto Scouting Service scale of 1-5.  For those of you that do not know Blesto, they are a scouting service that some NFL teams use as a secondary scouting service for the NFL draft.  The report is also based on a report that they would use in terms of the categories grades.  A grade between 1.0-1.19 would be a first round pick.  1.2-1.29 or so would be a 2nd round pick.  So on and so forth.  I grade Ponder a 1.16, putting him in the lower 3rd of the first round.  This being the pre-season before his senior year, this certainly could change.  What brings him down a bit is the question of his durability, his size (which is probably going to register under 6’ 3”) and his TD/INT ratio.  The ratio did improve in 2009, but was still not at the elite level.  If he can complete a full-season and have a 3-1 or even 4-1 or better ratio, this grade should improve.

NAME: Ponder, Christian                     COLLEGE: Florida State    POS: QB
FINAL GRADE: 1.161
HEIGHT: 6026            WEIGHT: 227
40 SPEED:  HI: 4.75 LOW: 4.68 AVG: 4.72                  TEST SCORE: 38


ATHLETIC ABILITY:            SECTION GRADE: 1.075
Quickness, Agility, Balance:  1.1
Quick Feet:  1.0
Flexibility: 1.1
Coordination: 1.1

SECTION COMMENTS: Ponder has outstanding quickness and agility.  His ability to process his thinking into moving may be the best for any quarterback in the draft.  He has the fastest short shuttle time out of any player at FSU.  Although there are faster QB’s in the draft for straight speed he should be #1 when it comes to quickness and agility.  His ability to make plays with his feet shows us his elite athletic ability at the position.

COMPETITIVENESS:            SECTION GRADE: 1.117
Toughness: 1.1
Clutch Play: 1.1
Production: 1.3
Consistency: 1.2
Team Player: 1.0
Pride/Quit: 1.0

SECTION COMMENTS:  Ponder will play hurt, as evidenced in the 2009 Clemson game when he played with a rib injury.  His production has improved over time.  He is an elite team leader and takes exceptional pride in everything he does on and off the field.  All the intangibles about leadership and competitiveness are there.  TD to INT ratio needs to improve.  (29/22 for FSU Career) It is okay, but needs to be better. 

MENTAL ALERTNESS:             SECTION GRADE: 1.133
Learn/Retain:  1.0
Instincts/Reaction:  1.3
Focus: 1.1

SECTION COMMENTS: Ponder will be as good as it gets when it comes to learning and retaining football information.  He will be able to learn an NFL playbook quickly.  Quicker than most.  However, he is a player that must know a system inside and out and plays within the system.  He will not play a lot on instincts.  His reaction time will improve as his comfort level with his knowledge of a system improves.  He can transfer thought to movement very quickly, it is the thought that will take some time to be automatic in a full-speed football situation.  He is not a naturally instinctive football player.  His focus is outstanding.  Academics proves this.

STRENGTH/EXPLOSION:             SECTION GRADE: 1.350
Body Type:  1.4
Durability: 1.6
Explosion: 1.2
Play Strength: 1.2

SECTION COMMENTS: Ponder does not have prototypical size and strength for the NFL but has worked very hard to get himself to an adequate place body wise.  His durability is in question after missing the last 4 games in 2009 with the shoulder injury.  Explosion is excellent as proven by his shuttle time.  Play strength continues to improve as he gets stronger. 

PLAY CHARACTERISTICS:
TECHNIQUE:  1.2 – not elite quickness in release but more than adequate
ARM STRENGTH:  1.4 – Relies on accuracy more than arm strength, but adequate
CONVERT %: 1.2 – Outstanding a picking-up big chunks of yards
2nd LIVES: 1.1 – Quickness and agility will buy him extra time
ACCURACY SHORT: 1.0 – Best in the draft
ACCURACY LONG: 1.1 –  Elite accuracy in the mid-range passing attack, but relies on timing, not arm-strength
ACCURACY ON MOVE: 1.1 – Has proven he can throw on the run as well as any in the draft
BIG PLAYS: 1.1 – Accuracy helps receivers create yards after the catch
UNDER PRESSURE: 1.1 – Will stand in pocket and take the hit, will create time with elite feet in pocket
POISE/LDRSHP: 1.0 – Best in the draft
READ DEFENSES: 1.2 – Needs to improve to be an elite QB.  Will need time to develop in a system to become elite.  But still better than most.
ERRORS: 1.1 – Has drastically cut down on errors as he has become more comfortable in the system.
SECTION GRADE: 1.133

CRITICAL FACTORS:
Size: 1.5 – Lacks ideal size at under 6030
Strength: 1.4 - Adequate strength
Play Speed: 1.4 – Needs time to develop and completely understand system
Athletic Ability: 1.1 – Outstanding for a QB
Competes: 1.0 – Elite

OVERALL:  Ponder, if given time to develop can become an elite QB in the NFL due to his unparalleled accuracy in the short and mid-range passing game.  He has adequate but not top-end arm-strength, however, his accuracy makes-up for it.  His intelligence is probably the best in the 2011 draft among QB’s and his team leadership and poise are also unmatched.  His work-ethic, athletic ability and accuracy – despite elite size and arm-strength – will allow him to be successful as a starting QB in the NFL.

July 1, 2010

THREE GAMES THAT SCARE THE BEJESUS OUT OF ME!
By Greg Beckman

First, as we have seen over the past decade, Florida State can get beat by anyone on the schedule.  No longer are losing games FSU should win a big surprise.  Which tells me the program was mediocre at best even though many FSU fans felt it was still an elite program and raised some serious cane when the ‘Noles would lose to an inferior opponent.  All that being said, the Seminoles do have a legitimate chance to win every game they play in 2010.   They won’t.  But the talent level to go with the experience, especially on offense and special teams, are both there.  When programs have the combination of a senior, 3-year, super-starter at quarterback and an offensive line that are all junior and senior returning starters, including at least 3 post-season awards candidates… they have a real chance to have a special season. 

That being said, there are three games that I think are the scariest on the schedule and will make or break Florida State’s 2010 season.  We all know the big stage that will be the Oklahoma game out in Norman.  Two traditional programs will just be a fun match-up to watch.  But winning or losing that game really will not have an overall effect on the entire season.  The Seminoles are not ready to contend for a National Championship because of the defense.  So the OU game, although some-what of a statement game if the ‘Noles roll in Norman, is not really a big deal if they don’t.  The first game I think is an absolute must win is that first ACC game at home vs Wake Forest.  True, Wake is not the team that they were from 2006-2008, of which beat-up the Noles twice in Tallahassee during that time.  But this is exactly the type of game that would send this program spiraling out of control for the season because they simply didn’t show-up to play.  The first step in dominating the Atlantic division is beating teams you are supposed to beat, especially at home.  I will be very interested to see if this team has turned the corner and plays with the intensity it needs to play with every single week.  If they do that, FSU should knock-out the Demon Deacons early and keep them on the mat.  If they don’t… it could be another long season in Tallahassee.  Coming off the emotional 1st ever game for Jimbo Fisher, followed by two big time non-conference opponents, the ‘Noles could very well come into the Wake Forest game very flat and unemotional.  That is a scary thought.

Next is the Boston College game.  Miami is right before B.C. and we know the emotional game that will be.  Miami, being right after Wake is another reason the Seminoles may overlook the Deacons.  The second key to winning your division is to beat your divisional rivals, and stated again… especially at home.  Boston College will bring to Doak Campbell Stadium, probably the 2nd best offensive line in the ACC.  But that line will be tired of hearing about FSU’s terrific O-line and will be out to prove that they are the best.  They also bring one of the top 2 running backs, if not arguably, the best runner in the conference in Montrel Harris.  Who, oh by the way, has destroyed the ‘Noles defense the past two years.  They also bring with them, if Mark Herzlich is 100%, probably the best 1-2 punch at linebacker in the ACC.  Since joining the conference the Eagles are also 2-0 at Florida State.  This game is a nightmare scenario if FSU doesn’t play their very best in all 3 phases of the game.  To win the division, this is a must win game. 

Finally, North Carolina is coming to Tallahassee in early November,  probably with everything on the line for both teams.   Last year Christian Ponder torched the UNC defense in Chapel Hill.  But believe me when I say, the Tar Heels have the best individual talent on defense in the entire country.  That defense, that may be the #1 defense as a team, coming into the game will remember 2009 and exactly what the ‘Noles offense did to them in the 2nd half comeback.  It will not be that easy this year.  I guaranty this will be the toughest, hardest hitting game of the season.  Points, even with FSU’s offense, will be few and far between.  Hopefully, for the Seminoles, the FSU defense will be much more comfortable in Mark Stoops’ scheme by November 6th and will be playing instinctively.  As opposed to having to think about every single move they make, as will happen when learning a new defense early in the season.  The FSU defense will have to match the UNC defense blow for blow and keep the Heels off the board.  If Ponder is not in New York City the 2nd Saturday in December, it could very well be because of this game.  Down the stretch, in November, this could very well be a must win game against the nations #1 defense who will have a major chip on their shoulder for the ‘Noles.  That scares the bejesus out of me.

Only 65 days to the first day of college football 2010!  67 to the kick-off of FSU’s season!

June 17, 2010

Rodney Hudson?
By Greg Beckman

Rodney Hudson, left guard on FSU’s offensive line, is on everyone’s pre-season All-American teams.  Deservedly so based on what I saw from going back and reviewing several games.  Not only will he be on everyone’s All-American list he will be on first round NFL draft boards as well. 

There were several things I saw from Hudson that just stand out as absolutely outstanding in terms of technique and ability.  First his technique in run-blocking when the play is coming through his hole is nearly flawless.  Time and time again he gets his butt in the hole and turns his man completely out of the play.  You have to be able to bend at your knees when playing the O-line (some guys are back-benders, NFL scouts don’t like back-benders) to create greater momentum and leverage.  Hudson is a natural at being a knee-bender and driving off the ball.  Never once in the three games I reviewed this week did he allow the D-lineman in front of him make the play when the run was designed to go thru him.  Or away from him for that matter.  This includes the game against North Carolina who has been touted as the best D-Line in the country by many experts. 

Run blocking in-line and in-space are just two of the elements NFL scouts will grade while watching an interior offensive linemen.  Hudson not only would receive a first round grade for in-line blocking, but his ability to climb to the next level and block in-space is even more superior than his in-line ability.  At 6’ 2” 285 pounds, he is not as big as NFL teams will like from their guards, which could see him slide to later in the first round or possibly the early 2nd round, but if he does he will be a steal.  He will put on the needed weight.  A team that runs a system that utilizes lighter, quicker offensive linemen will get an All-Pro in Hudson.  Because of his size he has incredible quickness which allows him to get his hands on linebackers and push them completely out of the play.  I saw one play against NC State where he got to the next level on a reverse and was able to push a strong safety all the way into the endzone 15 yards down field before planting him in the grass.  The play resulted in a touchdown. Granted he should be able to push a smaller defensive back into the endzone, however, he shouldn’t be able to catch that same defensive back in space.  He never failed to reach the next level and destroy the defender.  He has the rare combination of both destroying a lineman in-front of him as well as running in space and dominating linebackers and defensive backs.  This alone will make him a high draft choice next spring.

Two other things that really stuck-out about Hudson are his ability to collapse an entire defensive line to his right when a play is designed to run outside to the left and his ability to recognize stunts and blitzes and make the correct block.  In those three games I watched this week, I counted at least nine times I saw an outside run to the left and the entire defensive line was collapsed to the opposite side starting with Hudson driving his defender through the rest of the defensive line.  Is was an unbelievable sight to see.  Also, he never once missed the correct block when the opposing defense stunted or blitzed.  One play that stood out was against the Tar Heels again.  His man slanted toward the center and the All-American Marvin Austin came around on an inside stunt.  Hudson not only recognized the play, but he completely stoned Austin.  Even when the FSU offensive line was struggling in the first half of that game, Hudson never once allowed a D-linemen into the FSU backfield. 

Most of us when we watch a game either in-person or on television always watch the ball.  Where ever the ball goes is where our eyes go.  This is why I go back and review games so I can watch the rest of the players on the field that are not around the ball.  I encourage you that next time you watch a game keep an eye on #62 in Garnet & Gold.  It is a real pleasure to watch a pro.

June 10, 2010

FOUR MEGA-CONFERENCES?
By Greg Beckman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about possible expansion.  Well, today it has become a reality.  With today’s news about Colorado officially accepting their invitation to join the Pac-Ten and with Nebraska’s seemingly inevitable move to the Big-10, 11, 12, 13…  Talk about college football moving to four Mega-Conferences seems to be more rabid than ever.  So, in-light of all the speculation, how would these four conferences look in my eyes?  How would a national champion be crowned? What happens to all the other teams not in one of these four conferences? 

Well let’s start with the national championship picture.  Going to four super conferences would pave the way for a simple playoff system for all you die-hard playoff enthusiasts.  It would almost have to considering the difficulty in going undefeated this four conference format would pose, as well as which conference is now the best? Or even who do you pick when everyone has at least one loss and probably 3 of the 4 conference champions will have 2 losses.  So simply put, win your conference championship game and play in a four team play-off.    All other deserving teams can play in the exhibitions we call bowl games.  In this playoff system, just automatically have the Western Conference (or Pac-16) play the Mid-West Conference (or the Big-16) (keeping the Pac-Ten vs the Big-Ten Rose Bowl rivalry going) and have the Eastern Conference (or the ACC) versus the Southeastern Conference (Hmm… no name change here) in the two national semi-final games.  The higher ranked team using the current BCS formula would be declared the home team in a neutral playing sight better known as the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.  Three of the four bowls each year get to host a playoff or National Championship game.  Sorry, but one bowl gets the next best two teams one every four years, but I think we can all live with that.  Or whichever bowl lags behind in pay-out money is the one that is on the outs.  Time to anti-up!

So how would these conferences look in my opinion (Knowing if this happens, Notre Dame would have to join a conference)? Well just to satisfy my own personal desires of what I would like to see, here it goes:

PAC-16:                                             BIG-16:
NORTHERN DIVISION                                    WESTERN DIVISION
            Washington                                               Nebraska
            Washington State                                      Iowa
            Oregon                                                      Kansas
            Oregon State                                             Illinios
            Kansas State                                             Northwestern
            Boise State                                                Minnesota
            Utah                                                          Wisconsin
            Brigham Young                                          Missouri

 

SOUTHERN DIVISION                                    EASTERN DIVISION
            Arizona                                                            Penn State
            Arizona State                                                   Pittsburgh
            Colorado                                                          Ohio State
            USC                                                                 Notre Dame
            UCLA                                                               Indiana
            Cal                                                                   Purdue
            Stanford                                                           Michigan
            TCU                                                                  Michigan State

 

ATLANTIC COAST:                                    SOUTHEASTERN:
NORTHERN DIVISION                                    WESTERN DIVISION
            Syracuse                                                    Texas
            Boston College                                            Texas A&M
            Rutgers                                                      Texas Tech
            West Virginia                                               Baylor
            Virginia                                                       LSU
            Virginia Tech                                               Mississippi
            Maryland                                                     Mississippi State
            Wake Forest                                                Arkansas

SOUTHERN DIVISION                                    EASTERN DIVISION
            FLORIDA STATE                                       Florida
            Miami                                                         Alabama
            Georgia Tech                                               Auburn
            Clemson                                                     Georgia
            South Florida                                              Tennessee
            North Carolina                                             Kentucky
            NC State                                                     Vanderbilt
            Duke                                                           South Carolina

 

The poor losers in all this would be the Mountain West conference, who would still be fighting for their rights in Congress. Also, Iowa State is a loser in this scenario.  Cincinnati, Louisville and UConn would also be on the outside looking-in.  A sad state for Cincinnati considering they have played in two straight Orange Bowls.  But the bottom line is this will be driven by football revenue and ratings.  As well as Cincinnati has done the past two seasons, it still is not the traditional program nor does it bring the television market that Rutgers and Syracuse bring.  And West Virginia is a better fit athletically for the ACC across all sports in-terms of competitive programs, tradition and facilities.  My suggestion to the Mountain West is go out and add Iowa State, Fresno State, Nevada, Utah State, UTEP and Houston.  Play your own championship game and some day force a 6-team playoff.  The Mountain West champ gets to go as well as one at-large team.  Top two teams get a week off before the semi-finals.  But that will never happen.  All those second tier bowls will have to be enough for the Mountain West and any other remaining non-AQ’s.  All the other bowls will still have their alliances in-tact.   The Capital One Bowl will be able to pick the 2nd best Big-16 team, the Chick-Fila-Bowl will be able to take their ACC team, so on and so on.

So, how would the schedules work with four mega-conferences?  Simple actually… You play everyone in your division; which equates to seven games.  Then you play 1 game versus the other division.  The team you play each year will be determined by where you finish within your division.  If you finish first, the following year, you play a rematch of the conference championship game.  If you finish last, the following year, you play against the team that finished last in the other division.  This keeps every conference with eight conference games, allowing for four non-conference, mostly home game, money makers.  This schedule format will also keep in-tact the rivalries we love to watch every year as well as eliminate the travel concerns schools and their fans may have. 

It really is a sad state of affairs that this is truly and almost completely driven by money.  It is very hypocritical of the NCAA to punish USC today for players taking money inappropriately when their institutions are doing just that.  In my dream world, the conferences would stay the same with the Pac-10 and Big-10 growing to twelve teams in-order to play their championship games and let’s leave it at that.  But this scenario seems to be just as I described it… A dream world.

June 3, 2010

2010 BREAK-OUT PLAYERS AT FLORIDA STATE
By Greg Beckman

We know about Christian Ponder and how good the offensive line should be this upcoming season at Florida State.  We also hear a lot about Nigel Bradham taking the next step at linebacker and becoming a potential first round pick in next year’s NFL Draft if he decides to leave early.  But who else should we expect to break-out in 2010 for the Seminoles?  Talent in recent years, especially on the defensive side of the ball has been somewhat of a question mark.  However, the cupboard has never been bare and there is still plenty of VHT’s on both sides of the ball.   So which of those VHT’s do I see breaking-out and having a major impact on getting the ‘Noles back to national prominence?

I think it has to start with Nigel Carr taking over for Dekoda Watson at SLB.  All indications from the spring and from what Jimbo Fisher and team leaders say about Carr means he will have the type of season we are used to seeing from Florida State linebackers.  Recently Christian Ponder told the media that Carr is up to 240 pounds, yet is just as fast as he has always been.  One of the problems in my opinion with the FSU defense in recent years is the lack of size and strength.  The new strength and conditioning program implemented by new S&C coach Vic Viloria is paying huge dividends for players like Carr who were seen as undersized in the past.  Quite frankly a lot of linebackers the past two years were flat run over or run through (See Montrel Harris at BC) because they simply were not big and strong enough to bring down a charging running back.  At 240 with his speed Carr is no longer undersized and now has the strength to go with the speed that should make him a beast in the mold of past FSU linebackers.  Also, Carr’s off the field maturation has been noted by several coaches and players.  His drastically improved work-ethic in the classroom, weightroom, practice field and film room are all signs pointing to Carr becoming a complete player and the type of prospect that NFL scouts will drool over.  He has always had the intensity and energy you want in a player, now he seems to have everything else.  With Bradham garnering all the attention on the other side, look for Nigel Carr to have a break-out season for the ‘Noles. 

Staying on the defensive side of the ball Florida State desperately needs someone to step-up at the defensive end position and must be able to put consistent pressure on the QB.  Markus White is in his 3rd year now and everyone expects him to finally break-out.  But after 2 disappointing seasons, I don’t expect to see some super-metamorphous transformation from White.  He seems to play the run better than rush the passer, and maybe he will get to 4 or 5 sacks, but consistent pressure will have to come from the other side.  That being said, the player that had the most consistent spring rushing the passer and showed some flashes of ability to get to the QB last season is Brandon Jenkins.  The problem with Jenkins is once again FSU will have to rely on a guy that just isn’t big enough to take a pounding down after down.  He certainly looks the part of an outstanding 3-4 rush OLB, but at 235 pounds let’s hope the summer weight lifting program will get him to over 240 by the time the season opens.  But if any one of the defensive ends is going to step-up and put pressure on the QB and rack up double digit sack numbers is will be Brandon Jenkins.  Personally, I wish Everette Dawkins would have been moved to DE and left there to just go and play.  At 270-275 pounds Dawkins is the perfect size to play the position and could be an absolute monster in both the run game and rushing the passer.  However, playing DT makes him quick insides, but once again, just not big enough to play the spot with consistency.  The D-Line will be the key to the Seminoles getting to double-digit wins for the first time since 2003.

We could stay on the defensive side all day long because so many players have to make an impact to turn the D around.  I look for Nick Moody and Terrance Parks to be major upgrades at the safety spots.  Jacobbi McDaniel should be much improved going into his second year as well.  But time to talk a little offense.  The receivers over the past several years just have not performed with consistency.  Bert Reed seems to have turned the corner on and off the field and should be the #1 go-to guy this year.  But with Jarmon Fortson’s inconsistency still showing-up all spring, Rodney Smith, a 6’ 6” – 220lb, soph, simply needs to show-up and take his game to the next level.  Greg Carr was a great weapon for the ‘Noles, however, he was never really a complete receiver the way Smith can be.  Smith did see the field at times as a frosh, but finished with only 1 catch.  If Christian Ponder is going to be in NYC for the Heisman presentation, Rodney Smith is the guy that has to have a break-out season.  I expect Beau Reliford at the TE spot to be in the 30 catches range this year and with Bert Reed possibly being a 1,000 yard receiver, Smith should have the ability to get open and catch the ball more consistently that Fortson.  Fortson will start and will have his great moments like he always does, but look for Smith to catch 40 balls and make a great impact down in the red-zone with his size.  If he can do that, the Noles may resemble the 2000 offense lead by another Heisman Trophy winner.   

So there you have it.  The three players I believe will have and must have break-out seasons in order for the Seminoles to get back to a BCS bowl and double-digit wins.   91 days to the kick-off of the college football season.  93 days until the Samford game.

May 21, 2010

 

FSU Football - The Good, The Bad, and The Unknowns
By Ken Schneider

FSU


 
Alot of the "Mainstream Media"  seems to be clueless about what is happening at FSU and its football program. From where I sit it's pretty clear, like a foggy day in London.  You know the kind of fog you might sometimes hear referred to as "pea soup".

The Good and there's alot of it for me is as follows:

The succession from Bobby Bowden to Jimbo Fisher has occurred.  That's not to say that Jimbo is the savior of the FSU program, although if you look at what he did on the offensive side of the ball you certainly have to be optimistic.  He's also installing a "Nick Saban" like system at FSU where it's about process and how you build a winning program.  Copying the best program in the nation isn't a bad idea, and in Jimbo, FSU has a guy that knows how to do that.  But success isn't guaranteed and we'll have to see what happens.  But the program has a new direction and a clear leader for the next several years and to that I say AMEN brother, let’s get behind him and see how he does.
There's a new defensive staff in town.  Thanks to Jimbo he cleaned house and the new Defensive Coaching Staff led by Mark Stoops will begin an effort to improve the most abysmal defense in FSU history and on the lived at the bottom of the NCAA in defensive output.
Christian Ponder is back as well as a offensive line that has grown and matured together.  Ponder could in fact be a Heisman hopeful this year if his receivers hang on to the ball.
FSU has the talent to win.  They aren't stocked with 5-stars but they aren't trying to play with walk-ons either.  These kids have talent and with the coaching staff Jimbo has assembled and the changes in strength training and nutrition that have been put in place, these kids are being given the support they sorely needed.

The Bad:

The Bobby Bowden situation was poorly handled.  FSU bears part of the blame but the lion's share goes to Bowden himself.  He refused to let go.  He put a school and a program that he loved in a very difficult position and held them hostage until his demand were met.  Not a selfless act and not the act of a friend that has the programs best interests at heart.
FSU is still stocked with talent from the previous regime.  These kids may or may not buy into the new philosophy.  These kids are not coached for success.  If they buy in things could swing positive quickly.  If they don't, it may be another year before Jimbo's team really begins to emerge.

The Unknowns:

Defense!!!!!!!  Mark Stoops can and will turn this defense around, the question is when.  Is it this year or next?  Who knows?  Oklahoma will offer the first real grade on FSU's defensive revival so put 9/11 on your calendar for another reason.  Remember those that died in NY but also hope for a revival that lifts the FSU defense from the ashes.
Christian Ponder.  Is that arm 100%?  He sure looked good this spring.  How will he look this fall?
Offensive Playmakers.  Who steps up to be FSU's featured back.  Eddie Gran's not saying, but somebody has to and the same question can be asked of the wideouts.

Overall I'm very optimistic.  Can FSU contend for the ACC Title?  Yes!  Can they be a top 10 program this year?  Maybe!!!  Could they also finish at 7-5?  Yes.  Will they?  I don't think so.   I'm also extremely bullish on what is happening in Tallahassee.  If any of the Mainstream Media would get out of their chairs and make the trip to Tallahassee, I think they would be also.

May 20, 2010

FSU’S MOST UNDER-APPRECIATED DEFENSIVE TEAM:
By Greg Beckman

Last week I gave you my All Under-Appreciated Offensive team in the history of Florida State football.  Now, as promised, here is the defense.  Florida State, over the past 30 years has been known for producing top notch cornerbacks and defensive ends.  Deon, Butler and Boulware to name a few. 

Let’s start with the defensive end position.  The 1999 National Championship team had several outstanding defensive ends that we don’t hear much about anymore.  The best of those ends was Jamal Reynolds.  With all the attention on the offense with guys like Peter Warrick and Chris Weinke and a deep and experienced linebacking core in 1999, Reynolds to me was the cog that made that defense’s engine run.  Reynolds had 3 sacks in the National Championship game on Michael Vick and was the tenth overall pick by the Packers in the 2001 draft.  It was Reynolds’ pressure, along with David Warren and Roland Seymour that allowed Mickey Andrews to drop his linebackers in coverage instead of always having to blitz to supply pressure.  Tommy Polley and Kendyll Pope were known for being great at dropping into coverage and one of the main reasons why is because of Jamal Reynolds.

The other defensive end I’m going to list here is Reinard Wilson.  I almost went with Willie Jones here.  But decided on Wilson.  I know Wilson has a much more high profile name than most of the guys on the list, however, I don’t think we appreciate how great he really was at FSU.  His running mate on the other side was Peter Boulware and because of Boulware’s stellar NFL career and his NCAA record 20 sack season for the Noles in 1996, Wilson seems to have always played second fiddle to him.  And yes, Boulware was the better of the two, but Wilson himself had two double-digit sack seasons, including 13.5 in ’96.  He also had a 35.5 career sacks.  He was named 1st Team All-American by the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association and Walter Camp.  He was also an NCAA consensus All-American.  Reinard played 6 full-seasons in the NFL and finished with 24 sacks, including a career high of nine in 2001 with the Bengals.  As a side note, did you know that the last FSU president, T.K. Wetherell was a 185 pound defensive end for the Noles in the mid-60’s?

The defensive tackle position is probably the toughest position to pick because there are so many of them.  Plus, for the most of the Bowden tenure at FSU, people forget that the Noles played mostly a 3-4 defensive scheme so essentially, all the defensive linemen were nose guards or defensive tackles.  I am going with Alphonso Carreker and Jerry Johnson.   I picked Carreker not only because of his stellar career at FSU.  Posting 21 career sacks from the DT position. But most people forget what a solid NFL career he had as well.  24 career sacks from the interior of the defensive line over seven NFL seasons is a very solid number.  He also made the 1984 All-Rookie team as a member of the Green Bay Packers.  Carreker garnered All-American honors in 1983 from both the AP and Football News.  Jerry Johnson was a true 3-technique interior lineman.  Even playing inside he ended his career with 53 tackles for loss.  An amazing number to me that seems to have gotten lost in FSU history.  Among those tackles for loss were 10 career sacks.  Johnson just had a knack for controlling the line of scrimmage and letting a guy like Darryl Bush thrive at the middle linebacker spot. 

I am sure most FSU fans will remember a guy by the name of Todd Rebol.  At middle linebacker the names Marvin Jones and Kirk Carruthers usually surface first.  Rebol didn’t have all the awards those two guys have, nor the overall stats.  However, to me it was Rebol that was always flying around and making plays for the Noles on the inside from 1993-1995.  He replaced Jones in the middle and with Derrick Brooks on the outside, the Seminoles went on to win their first National Championship.  But it was Todd Rebol that brought stability to a defense that was in question at his position following the loss of Marvin Jones.  Do you remember that Ken Alexander was the other ILB on the ’93 NC team?

On the outside I start with Howard Dinkins.  Another one of those undersized, speed guys that seem to always play linebacker at FSU.  Dinkins finished his career in Tallahassee in 1991.  His signature play came in the 1991 game at Michigan.  With the Wolverines on the goal line in a tight game at the time, it was Dinkins that made a spectacularly athletic interception in the end zone to keep Michigan from scoring.  But also, Dinkins had a career total of 30 tackle for loss, including 14 sacks.  Dinkins was just a very consistent performer for the Noles all four years he played. 

Some old school die-hards should remember the name Garth Jax.  Jax played outside linebacker for the Noles from 1982-1985.  Some solid, but not spectacular years for FSU football.  Bowl years yes, but after the Orange Bowls of the early 80’s and before the unprecedented 14 year run from 1987-2000.  Jax barely played his first two years on campus, but had solid junior and senior years collecting 9 sacks and another 12 tackles for loss in those two seasons.  Who would have thought a supposed role player at FSU would go on to play ten full seasons in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals?  Jax was such a special teams stalwart that allowed him to parlay an average college career into a decade in the NFL. 

Defensive backs are loaded with names and I am sure we all know them.  But two cornerbacks that stick out to me that are rarely mentioned these days are two guys that had outstanding NFL careers.  The other Butler, Bobby Butler, was a first round pick in 1981 by the Atlanta Falcons.  He played 12 seasons in the NFL and was selected to numerous Pro-Bowls.  He ended his NFL career with 27 interceptions. At Florida State, Bobby didn’t see much action as a freshman, but in his final three years he collected 11 interceptions and blocked 6 kicks on special teams.  He was named 3rd team All-American by the AP following the 1980 season.  The other NFL corner is J.T. Thomas.  Owner of four Super Bowl rings as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  As a member of the famed Steel-Curtain defense, he hauled-in 20 career interceptions.  Thomas played at FSU before freshmen were allowed to participate.  But he still finished with 10 career picks.  In his first game ever in 1970 Thomas blocked two field goals.  Later in his sophomore year he intercepted 3 passes in one game.  He was an honorable mention All-American in 1971 for both the AP and UPI.  The following season College & Pro Football Weekly as well as Time Magazine named him 1st Team All-American.  Thomas was also the first ever African-American to play at Florida State.

At one safety spot, I am going with Stan Shiver.  Shiver did become an honorable mention All-American by AP in 1988 and was a very good pass defender, who finished with 9 career interceptions.  (Did you know he also had 9 career sacks from the safety position?) But what I love most about Shiver is I remember him as a nasty, very physical player who just loved to hit people.  I will take a guy like that any day on my team.  He was just fun to watch. The other safety, in my opinion, would be Shevin Smith.  Here is a guy you never heard too much about.  He wasn’t an All-American.  He wasn’t a first round draft pick.  He was just the heart of the Seminoles secondary in the mid-90’s.  He finished with 8 career interceptions.  But unlike recent FSU safeties, he just never seemed to be out-of-position.  Just a solid player who never got enough credit for his overall contributions to the Noles defense. 

Well, I made a big mistake last week by leaving off the most under-appreciated tight end!  Oops.  I guess like most years until 2009, I forgot the Seminoles actually played with a tight end.  Maybe that is why I forgot the position.  But here it goes…  Ed Beckman.  Hey, had to go with my namesake.  Ed played 8 years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1977-1984.  He had a career high 13 receptions in 1983.  From 1973-1976 Beckman caught 70 passes as a Nole tight end.  Can you imagine that today?  FSU tight ends catching 70 passes in a career?  He was a 1976 AP honorable mention All-American.   

So there you have it.  The offense and the defense.  There were so many names I could have used.  Especially for the offensive line.  But these are just a few that don’t seem to be remembered as much as the bigger names in FSU history.  105 days until the kick-off of the College Football season!

May 11, 2010

FSU’S MOST UNDER-APPRECIATED OFFENSIVE TEAM:
By Greg Beckman

There have been plenty of great Seminoles over the years.  Fred Biletnikoff has an award named after him.  Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward were both Heisman winners.  Deon Sanders is probably the greatest Seminole football player of all-time.  There have been many media publications and websites that have done their “All-Time” FSU football team.  Today I want to write about the most under-rated and under-appreciated Seminoles of all time on the offensive side of the ball (next week we will focus on the defense).  Those players that donned the Garnet & Gold and had great college careers but never seem to make that All-Time team or even get mentioned much anymore in any context.

Let’s start with quarterback.  To me the one guy that never gets enough credit for what he did was Thad Busby.  Busby started for two seasons in 1996 and 1997.  All he did was go 21-2 as the started.  He will probably be remembered for not beating Florida in the rematch Sugar Bowl following the ’96 season and again, as big favorites and the clear number one team in the country at the end of the 1997 regular season.  But in both those games Thad more than held his own.  Both defenses failed to show-up in those games and allowed Florida a combined 91 points!  He also threw for more yards in one season (3,317) than any other QB in FSU history before Chris Weinke’s Heisman season. 

At Running Back, where has Greg Allen’s name gone in FSU lore?  We all know about Warrick Dunn and he may be the greatest running back in FSU history, I think he is.  But let’s remember it was Greg Allen in the backfield when FSU football was really getting on the map of national prominence for the first time.  1981 Freshman All-American, UPI & AP Honorable Mention All-American; 1982 UPI & AP Honorable Mention All-American and scored 20 TD’s in 1982; 1983 UPI 1st team All-American & AP 3rd team All-American; 1984 UPI 2nd team All-American & AP 3rd team All-American.  He ended with 43 career touchdowns.

Also at Running Back, how about Travis Minor?  He never ran for 1,000 yards in a season, but he provided the Seminoles the balance they needed at times to win some tough games.  The one game that comes to mind is the 1999 game at Clemson.  The first Bowden Bowl was probably the toughest game of the season in terms of hard-hitting action that left the Seminoles trailing by double digits.  It was Travis Minor that took the team upon his shoulders in the 2nd half and ran for so many tough yards to pull the game out 17-14.  If not for that performance by Minor, the Noles would not have gone undefeated in ’99 and possibly would have missed-out on playing for the National Championship.

Any self-respecting Seminole can tell you all about the Fab-4 when it comes to receivers.  They know all about Fred Biletnikoff.  They can tell you about Country beats Reggae.  They can tell you about players like Peter Warrick, Kez McCorvey and Tamarick Vanover.  But a couple of names you rarely hear about are Jesse Hester and Ron Dugans.  Hester in the early to mid-80’s caught over 100 passes for over 2000 yards including 21 for touchdowns during a time when Bobby Bowden was still an I-Formation, run first offensive coach.  He garnered honorable mention All-American status following his senior season in 1984 and played 10 seasons in the NFL.  In the NFL he caught more than 50 passes in a season four different times and caught 30 or more 3 different times.  That is seven productive NFL seasons that most Seminole fans and football fans in general never seem to remember.  Dugans on the other hand was never a go to guy at FSU.  He was always that 3rd receiver that was productive but never the star.  The thing I remember most about Ron Dugans is in 1999 when Laverneus Coles was dismissed from the team due to the shopping spree incident, it was Dugans that stepped-up and became the go to guy opposite Peter Warrick.  Because of his consistent and many times stellar play teams could not completely take away Peter Warrick.  When Warrick struggled in the Clemson game in 1999 with drops in the first half, it was Dugans that came-up with 7 catches for 83 yards.  Warrick recovered in the game, but Dugans provided some stability until that point.  It was also Dugans that caught the game winning pass that sealed the 1998 victory over Florida to advance to the first ever BCS Champsionship game in the Fiesta Bowl. There have been a lot of great Seminole receivers.  Barry Smith and Dennis McKinnon to name a couple more.  But the two I mention I think just do not get enough recognition for their contribution to the history of Florida State football.

To save some time and space, I will list the offensive linemen here.  As always the poor O-line doesn’t get the big write up or publicity.  One liners certainly don’t do them justice, but I think Seminole fans will know who they are and what they did at FSU.

C- Kevin Long: After the departure of Clay Shiver, the Noles were very concerned about the center position.  Long stepped right in and provided unexpected stability to the position and the entire line.  Very under-rated following in the footsteps of possibly the best center FSU has ever had.

G – Greg Futch:  Most people don’t realize how good this guy was.  The AP did by recognizing him as an honorable mention All-American in 1980.

G – Patrick McNeil:  Can you imagine McNeil and Shiver next to each other on the same line?  McNeil was named freshman All-American by Football News in 1991.  He was also named 1st team All-American by Football News in 1992 & 3rd team in 1993.  He was also named AP honorable mention All-American following his senior year of 1994.   Yet you never seem to hear his name mentioned much.

T – Ken Lanier: Lanier may have been the best ever tackle at FSU.  He played 14 seasons in the NFL.  Yet you never hear him mentioned with guys like Alex Barron, Walter Jones and Tre Thomas.  Following his senior year in 1980 he was named 2nd team All-American by the Associated Press

T – Todd Fordham: Does anyone realize Todd played 10 season in the NFL?  He didn’t receive any awards like Pat Tomberlin or Brett Williams.  He was just a solid, consistent player at a prime position every year he was at Florida State.  To have a decade in the NFL tells you how good he was.

Well, next week I will continue this with the most under-appreciated defensive players in the history of Florida State football.   114 days until the kick-off of College Football season. 

May 5, 2010

EXPANSION TALK, PLUS FSU’s SPOT IN POTENTIAL EXPANSION:
By Greg Beckman

 

Oy! Expansion everywhere it seems.  Why?  Money, money, money.  The Pac Ten and Big Ten expanding make a lot of sense.  If the NCAA is going to require 12 teams to play a championship game, then both those conferences should do it.  The Pac Twelve and the Big Ten plus Two make a lot of sense.  But then the ripple effect means the Big East and Mountain West would probably have to expand as well.  I can say this, it is my opinion that no one conference should ever carry more than 12 teams and every school should have to play a minimum of 9 conference games within 12 team leagues.  I love the fact that the Pac-Ten plays everyone once.  Anything less than 9 in a 12 team conference truly dilutes the true champion. 

So how would the conferences look in my perfect college football world?  The Big Ten would add Pittsburgh.  The addition of Pittsburgh would allow the conference to close the gap between Penn State and Ohio State, as well as revive one of the greatest former rivalries in College Football, Pitt vs Penn State – Marino vs Blackledge – those games were just as heated as any rivalry in the country.   Bring it back.   Pittsburgh also adds more consistency in all their sports on the field compared to Rutgers (the other school mostly mentioned in Big 10 expansion talks).  Any revenue discrepancy should be off-set by the payroll a Big Ten championship game would generate. 

This would leave the Big East with only seven teams.  Do they expand or does the NCAA seriously consider removing their status of an automatic BCS bid conference?  Quite frankly, do we want to see Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl again?  Outside of West Virginia, Pittsburgh or Syracuse, do we care to watch a BCS Bowl with anyone else from this conference?  Who would rather have seen a 9-4 Nebraska team take on Florida in the Sugar Bowl?  I know the Sugar Bowl folks would have loved to see a sea of Red flooding New Orleans.  I would have liked to have seen Suh vs Tebow and that Florida Offense.    This is hypothetical, I know, but my point is… outside of the BCS championship game, the other games are just exhibitions.  Why not get to see the best and most fun match-ups of traditional schools?  Granted you have to earn the right to play there, but every year a better team with a higher profile will be left out because of the Big East’s automatic bid.  If they lose a team or multiple teams to expansion, there is zero reason to keep that automatic bid.  The school that continually gets the raw deal in all this is West Virginia.  They annually are a football power and now have added basketball to their accolades.  They would make the most competitive athletic program for any conference.  If you have ever been to Morgantown, you know they also have outstanding facilities.  Yet, we never seem to hear their name when it comes to joining the Big Ten, ACC or SEC.

What about the Pac-Ten?  They have many more choices that make a lot of sense.  Boise State and Fresno State from the WAC have made it their habit to beat Pac-Ten teams.  But what about BYU and Utah?  They bring more to the table across all athletics as well as money.  It makes sense to me to add BYU and Utah and then have the Mountain West add Fresno State and Boise State.  This would keep in tact the Utah – BYU rivalry and add to progams that compete every year for NCAA Basketball Tournament births as well. 

So what about the southern conferences?  Is Arkansas going to leave and go to the Big 12?  Why all the talk about Florida State and Miami leaving for the SEC?  Quite honestly, why would the SEC bring in Miami?  Outside of football they just don’t bring the cash to the table needed to raise the bar in the SEC.  Yes they are one of the best all-time in baseball too, but baseball is not a revenue generator.  Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson are really the only 3 that make sense for the SEC both geographically and athletically.  But Tech doesn’t make sense in so many other areas, including what they bring in money wise for the other schools in the SEC.   Florida State benefits in so many other ways by staying put in the ACC.  This includes being looked upon in a greater light come NCAA Tournament time by playing an ACC basketball schedule, the opportunity to win more automatic bids in football, creating higher pay-outs bowl wise and academically being in the ACC does enhance the stature of the university.   Vanderbilt is really the only top level school in the SEC.  Duke, UNC, Virginia, Boston College, and Georgia Tech elevate the conference well above the SEC when it comes to academics.   But it all comes down to money and in the long run, maybe the SEC revenue sharing would boost the FSU athletic budget.  The Seminoles have never been afraid to play a tough non-conference schedule, if this continues under Jimbo Fisher (he has stated possibly playing a lighter schedule) then the Noles don’t need the supposed toughest schedule by conference in the country.   Therefore, it is in my humble opinion, for what its worth, that the Seminoles are best staying exactly where they are.  The ACC will be looked upon as an elite football conference when FSU and Miami are both back in the Top 10 consistently and playing each other every year in the ACC Championship game.  This is the whole reason the ACC Divisions were designed the way they were.  It’s just a national fact.  It is the way everyone outside of the ACC perceives it.  Sorry Clemson, sorry Va. Tech, sorry Ramblin Wreck… it is the truth.   When that happens and it will happen and it will happen under both current head coaches… then the ACC will be looked upon as the SEC and Big Twelve are today. 

September 4, 2009

Miami @ Florida State preview
By: Alexander Salazar


 
Miami will open against FSU on Labor Day night. Below are my thoughts on the position units and who I think has the edge:
 
 
QB: FSU returns starter and redshirt junior Christian Ponder, who ran for 144 yards against Miami last year. Miami returns sophomore Jacory Harris, who despite playing in every games last year, only started 2. TLabor Day will only be the 3rd start in Harris’s career as a Hurricane QB, so Ponder definitely has the edge in experience. However, Ponder was inconsistent last year, looking both good and bad at time, throwing more interceptions than TDs. Harris was impressive as a true freshman, throwing 12 TDs to 7 picks on a 60% completion %, but was in limited action. Overall with questions remaining for both QBs, I consider this to be a relatively even position, but will give the edge to Ponder due to experience and expected improvement:
 
EDGE: FSU
 
OL: this unit is not nearly as close for both sides. FSU returns all their starters off of what turned out to be a decent line last season, and should have one of the best offensive lines in the country, one which particularly excels at run blocking. Miami does return 3 upperclassmen starters but fielded a much less effective OL last year, and had to move RG AJ Trump to center, while replacing their RT duo of Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood with Matt Pipho, who had previously played OG and C most of his career. Pipho is a big question mark at RT heading into the season. All American candidates Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon highlight a unit that clearly gives FSU the advantage.
 
EDGE: FSU
 
 
WR: Miami returns 4 of their 5 top WRs in terms of yardage and 5 in terms of receptions, while FSU returns 2 of 5 in yardage and 3 of 5 in rec. Miami may have the most talented WR corps in the ACC this year and has a good combination of both size/possession WRs and smaller, quicker, and faster WRs that can make plays in space.
 
EDGE: MIAMI
 
 
RB: Miami returns starter jr Graig Cooper and previous starter and senior Javarris James. Redshirt sophomore Lee Chambers, who played well in the Emerald Bowl, has impressed in camp and likely will see some PT as well. Cooper will likely see his role changed some with James healthy now. Asked to carry the load last year, he may see his carries decrease so that he can be better utilized in the passing game and on STs as a return man. FSU loses starter Antone Smith, who will be replaced by Jermaine Thomas, who looked excellent as a freshman last season, averaging 7 yards per carry on the year. I expect Thomas to fill in smoothly for Smith’s role, and could even prove to be better. Overall though I feel Miami has a stronger and deeper rotation, and give the edge to them:
 
EDGE: MIAMI

 
 
TE: this is almost not a fair comparison, as Miami has traditionally used, and likely will continue to use the TE position in their offense differently from FSU. This would be an=2 0easy edge to Miami had last year’s starter Dedrick Epps not torn his ACL in practices leading up to the Emerald Bowl. Prior to the injury many felt Epps would be poised for a breakout season in 2009 after showing flashes in 2008. Unfortunately the injury sent Miami scrambling to find depth at the TE position, pushing lightly used sr Richard Gordon to the forefront, and  eventually calling on former UM basketball player Jimmy Graham to play TE this year for the football team. While Epps has returned from the injury and Graham has impressed in practice, its still unknown what Miami will get out of its starter. FSU returns Caz Purowski, who is a good TE in his own right but has been under-utilized in the passing game, being relied on primarily for his excellent blocking. Expect his role to increase in the passing game for FSU this year, perhaps along with sophomore Bo Reliford. Overall, this is one of the few occasions one can’t say for sure that Miami will have the edge due to the unknowns of Epps and Graham.
 
EDGE: EVEN
 
 
 
DEFENSE
 
DL: While many thought this unit would be a clear edge for Miami before the season, the recent injuries to both starting DEs Eric Moncur and Adewale Ojomo leave both out for the game on Labor Day. Moncur had begun the ’08 seasona s a starter but was injured early in the year and granted a 6th year. Miami does return previous starters in Marcus Robinson and Steven Wesley however, while true freshman Olivier Vernon has been impressing since his arrival in spring. At DT, Miami is fairly loaded despite losing seniors Antonio Dixon and Dwayne Hendricks, after moving DE Allen Bailey over to the starting DT spot alongside sr Joe Joseph. Behind them are highly touted soph Marcus Forston and jr Josh Holmes. FSU lsot several key players to graduation and the draft, most notably star DE Everrett Brown, who will be difficult to replace. The Noles will look to highly touted JUCO transfer Markus White to fill the void left by Brown. Opposite him will be surprise walk on Craig Yarborough. FSU will likely rotate in Brandon Jenkins and Toshmon Stephens as well. Depth at DT is rather thin and unproven. Kendrick Stewart and Moses McCray will get the starting nod but expect freshman Jacobi McDaniel, who many considered to be the best DT coming out of HS last year, to play a major role as well. Overall, while I do expect FSU to field a good DL as they always do, and while Miami has certainly taken a hit due to the injuries to its  DEs, I give Miami the slight edge due to returning experience.
 
EDGE: MIAMI
 
 
LB: The LB position should be a strength for both defenses this year. Miami returns freshman all-American and ACC defensive rookie of the year Sean Spence, of whom big things are expected this year. He will start at the strongside, alongside senior MLB Daryl Sharpton. Sharpton is athletically gifted but has been somewhat  inconsistent at times.  He replaces departing senior Glenn Cook. Huge for Miami was the return of weakside LB Colin McCarthy, who missed most of last season after being injured against UNC early in the season. McCarthy is a veteran and playmaker, and will provide a big boost to Miami’s run defense in particular. Miami’s depth at the position is somewhat young but talent, highlighted by sophmores Ramon Buchanan and Arthur Brown. FSU returns sophomore Nigel Bradham, who had a very successful campaign as a true freshman last season. Alongside him will be 2 very solid players in senior Dakota Watson and jr Kendal Smith. Similar to Miami, depth is young but talented, highlighted by sophomore Nigel Carr. As I said before, I expect LB to be a strong point for both defenses, and think they are about equal in this respect heading into the season:
 
EDGE: EVEN
 
DB: Easily Miami’s weakest position on defense, Miami lacks proven players across its secondary. Miami’s CBs struggled in last year scheme and lose senior starter Bruce Johnson . They do return a starter in Brandon Harris and previous starters Demarcus Van Dyke and Chavez Grant. Look for converted WR Sam Shields to play a major role at CB this year. At safety Miami returns senior Randy Phillips after missing most of last season with an injury. Next to him Miami will either start redshirt freshman Vaughn Telemaque or junior Joe Nicolas. Nicolas has20disappointed, while Telemaque is unproven. Backups are thin and primarily consist of freshmen. FSU must replace starter Myron Rolle, and will start Korey Magnum and Jamie Robinson,who should be solid. At CB, Ochuko Jenije will get the start along with another good player in senior Patrick Robinson. Like Miami, depth is a concern with freshmen dotting the backup roles. Overall though Miami returns more unknowns at the starting spots from a unit that only had 3 interceptions last year, maybe the worst year for a Miami secondary ever.
 
EDGE: FSU
 
 
What I expect to happen:

 
On paper both teams are fairly evenly matched and still have a lot left to prove, and both are still fairly young teams. But while FSU needs to find some playmakers at WR and show its defensive line is up to the task, I feel that Miami has more questionmarks heading into this matchup. Perhaps the most important issue is that Miami will be starting the season with both new offensive and defensive schemes brought by 2 new coord inators in OC Mark Whipple and DC John Lovett. FSU returns longtime great Mickey Andrews at DC , while OC Jimbo Fisher is entering his third season in Tallahassee. The result is that both units for FSU are very sound in their scheme and less likely to make early mistakes or be struggling with playbooks than Miami’s players may be. The one advantage to this for Miami will be that there will be a small element of surprise involved in terms of what they’ll be looking to do schematically. Another factor that I consider to be over-riding is the strength of FSU’s offensive line, which should easily be the best in the ACC and one of the best in the entire country. While Miami’s defensive line should be improved, the loss of Moncur and Ojomo hurts them hard. I think FSU will wind up winning this matchup at the end of the day, having already dominated Miami’s DL in last year’s game in Miami. This brings up another issue, which is that the game will be played in a packed Doak Campbell stadium, a major road test for the young Miami squad.  I expect Miami’s offense to struggle to score points, though probably starting the game slower than they finish.
 
The game will be close, much closer than last year’s matchup whose final score was misleading (FSU outgained Miami in total yardage by a large margin), and could come down to the wire, but in the end I expect FSU’s OL and run game to carry the day.
 
FSU – 24
Miami - 17

July 28, 2009

A Florida State Breakdown
By: Tomahawk Nation

First, Senior Fullback Seddrick Holloway and RsJr fullback Marcus Sims have left the team.  FSU doesn’t prefer to use a fullback in its new scheme, and their timetable for phasing out the position has been moved up.  The loss is a moderate blow for the ‘Noles.

The Seminoles got a break when 24 year old Matt Dunham returned to the team from a Junior College.  Dunham will compete at the “H-Back” position (think a smaller tight end).  He was a VHT coming out of school.  http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/5/11/871907/h-back-matt-dunham-returns-to-fsu

Phil believes that the loss of RB Antone Smith will hurt the ‘Noles this year, however our research says different.  http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/7/15/949719/jermaine-thomas-the-next-warrick  Jermaine Thomas was a vastly underrated runner out of the Jacksonville area (major controversy over the recruiting analyst who allegedly evaluated him having no idea who he was when questioned).  Thomas played a lot of wide receiver in high school (great hands), and his 2008 season was by far the best by an FSU freshman since Warrick Dunn.  Thomas put up his big numbers against defenses such as Clemson and Georgia Tech.  He averaged over 7 yards per carry.  http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/7/15/949719/jermaine-thomas-the-next-warrick

Further, as explained in this nationally acclaimed piece http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/6/9/900288/understanding-zone-blocking-and , Thomas fits what FSU is looking for in a back, where Smith did not, as Smith failed to run within the scheme.  

Highly touted freshman Guard Aubrey Phillips left the team after showing up massively overweight.  He will attempt to transfer to Auburn.  The impact is minimal, as FSU returns all five offensive line starters.  http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/7/20/955864/aubrey-phillips-eats-his-way-out  

Finally, a very underreported issue with the ‘Noles has been their lack of size on defense leading to struggles against spread offenses which utilize the mobile quarterback.  We wrote this piece which has received over 50,000 views http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/3/11/737204/strategy-session-size-does and added a follow up http://www.tomahawknation.com/2009/5/11/871567/size-matters-part-deux-evaluating discussing why classifying sacks as run plays in college is misleading.  FSU projects to be 75lbs bigger in their front 7 (defensive line and linebackers) this year which could help to solve some of those problems.

Phil classified Jacobbi McDaniel as a defensive end, however he is a defensive tackle.  

Guard Will Furlong is no longer on the team.

FSU is much younger than Phil’s experience chart suggests.  The ‘Noles breakdown looks like this

Starters (2-deep)

Seniors:  6 (4)
Juniors:  6 (2)
Sophomores:  9 (8)
Freshmen:  1 (8)

Additionally, no team played more true freshmen in 2008 than the ‘Noles (22).