2010 Season: 10-4 (6-2)
By: Danny O’Donnell
With Bobby Bowden parting ways with the FSU football program, the Seminoles were prepared for the long wait to return to glory… that wait last about four months. In his first year with the team, Jimbo Fisher won 10 games (hadn’t happened since 2003), swept instate rivals Florida and Miami (hadn’t happened since 1999), and took FSU to their first ACC title appearance since 2005. Fisher, according to the aforementioned accomplishments, was arguably the greatest collegiate hire in the last few years. And the Seminoles are prepared for a replica season in 2011.
The Seminole offense could be one of the most talented group in seasons past. First year starter, and preseason second-team All-ACC pick, EJ Manuel has all the buzz around him after former quarterback Christian Ponder (12th overall draft pick) left for the NFL. They are returning eight players and five of those will be starting for their senior season. Left tackle Andrew Datko, right guard David Spurlock, and right tackle Zebrie Sanders will be the leaders for the offensive line. Florida State finished fourth in the ACC in rushing yards but will look to the boys up front, as well as returning rusher Chris Thompson (845 yards, 6 TDs) to move them towards a top tier running core. FSU will be bringing back their top three rushers and their top four receivers this fall. Senior wide receiver Bert Reed (614 yards, 2 TDs) is a deep threat and could put up serious numbers for his final season.
The defense finished middle of the pack in 2010 but will be returning nine of their players from last fall and look to capitalize on their experience. Florida State will be starting just two sophomores without playing experience from 2011. Spur linebacker Christian Jones had an impressive freshman year but will need to learn from returning linebacker Nigel Bradham (tackling leader in 2010 with 98) to keep the defense afloat. The defensive backs will return all four of their starters and will be hoping for better numbers than last year. The group finished seventh in the ACC after giving up 225 yards per game last season. Cornerback Greg Reid is coming off a notable sophomore season and a Chick-fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP performance.
Weakness: Defensive Line. The group can do great things this year according to Fisher, but since the rest of the team seems to have a solid reputation, the line will be under the spotlight until they prove otherwise. Returning three of four starters, FSU will need Brandon Jenkins (last year leader in sacks, 13.5) to teach fellow defensive end sophomore Bjoern Werner the ropes to make them a feared crowd.
Strength: Defensive Backs. Greg Reid is expected to shine, Xavier Rhodes was a 2010 freshman All-American, and Nick Moody will compete with Lamarcus Joyner (recently moved from corner) for the strong safety position; either way its a win win for the Seminoles. If the team matures like they’re expected, don’t be surprise if they finish as a top three defensive backfield in the conference.
2010 Team Rankings
Scoring: 31.4 ppg (4th ACC, 33rd National)
Rushing: 171.4 ypg (4th ACC, 39th National)
Passing: 209.9 ypg (7th ACC, 68th National)
Scoring: 19.6 ppg (3rd ACC, 20th National)
Rushing: 128.7 ypg (6th ACC, 29th National)
Passing: 225.0 ypg (7th ACC, 71st National)
The running backs, this season, are overflowing with depth and talent. Chris Thompson heads the depth chart but will have capable backups in Ty Jones (527 yards, 5 TDs) and Jermaine Thomas (490 yards, 6 TDs.) Thomas could see equal playing time with Thompson after a strong showing in spring practices. Thomas was a dynamic player in 2010 until being suspended by the university (driving with a suspended license.)
Big Man on Campus: EJ Manuel, QB. Manuel was a backup to a future first round draft pick quarterback but still managed to throw for almost 900 yards and four touchdowns last fall. By returning all of his receivers, Manuel could reach 1,500 yards passing and 20 TDs in 2011.
On the Rise: Willie Haulstead, WR. Haulstead could upset junior Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling for the starting position. Both were starters last season but Haulstead finished ahead of Smith and Easterling with 587 receving yards last season.
Breakout Freshman: James Wilder Jr., RB. Wilder will have to sit behind a few experience starters, but will be thrown in the mix especially if the Seminoles take early leads. A blue chip prospect, Wilder was ranked the No. 2 running back in the country and the No. 11 overall prospect in the nation.
The schedule is favorable to say the least. All of their difficult games are spaced out between one game at least. FSU will welcome in Oklahoma week three and that game will be a contributing factor to whether or not the ‘Noles go undefeated. They will take on instate rival Miami at home and finish the season with a battle against an above-average Florida Gator squad. The Atlantic division should be a cake walk for the Seminoles; NC State, Maryland, and Clemson will all fight for second.