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The Seminoles lost 13 starters and six assistant coaches from last year's ACC championship team.
Courtesy of Florida State
QB Jameis Winston is one of three contenders to replace E.J. Manuel at Florida State.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
For years, the preseason question for Florida State has been whether the Seminoles could produce results commensurate with their robust talent.
They did it last year, going 12-2, beating Georgia Tech for their first ACC title since 2005 and thumping Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.
The question now, though, is foreign to them: Do they actually have enough weaponry to do it again?
No team in the conference lost more than the Seminoles. Not only did 13 starters depart after exhausting their eligibility or entering the NFL draft, but six assistant coaches also left Tallahassee for other jobs.
Among them was defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who accepted the head job at Kentucky after steering FSU to the nation’s No. 2 ranking in total defense. Replacing him is former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt, who becomes just the third FSU defensive coordinator in 28 years.
FSU’s entire defensive line has been overhauled as well — 2012 ACC defensive player of the year Bjoern Werner is the most damaging loss — leading many to believe it’ll be significantly easier to score on the Seminoles this year.
“At the end of the day, there’s nothing I can say that could change someone’s opinion or belief,” said FSU safety Lamarcus Joyner, one of four returning starters on that side on the ball. “All I can do is just tell you that I believe, with this new defensive scheme, that we’re going to be a great defense. We’re going to be an aggressive defense, and it fits the aggressive players that we have.”
The Seminoles also are starting over at quarterback, after 2012 stalwart E.J. Manuel was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. Redshirt freshmen Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire enter fall practice still jockeying for the job.
“I hope some great decisions, a lot of touchdowns and a lot of wins,” said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, when asked what could be expected out of the position. “Whoever wins the job, I think you have two guys that are very talented, very capable, that the team respects very much, that have arm talent, have leg talent and have mental talent. … Hopefully, they’ll be surrounded on the offensive side of the ball by a lot of experience, which I think will make their job easier.”
One unit that should be stout is the offensive line, where FSU returns four starters. Fisher said the group is the biggest and most physical he’s had in four years at the helm.
Winston, who doubled as a relief pitcher and outfielder on FSU’s baseball team this spring, was rated as a five-star recruit by Scout coming out of Hueytown (Ala.) High. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder has dual-threat abilities but no experience.
“You want to talk about a freshman?” Joyner said. “Let’s talk about Johnny Football. So if he can do it, Jameis Winston, I believe he can do it.
“I think we’re very comfortable with Jameis. I saw him on scout team, when he was a redshirt freshman, make throws that Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel, I’ve seen them make in their third year.”
Regardless, there were enough questions this year for FSU to be picked a distant second behind Clemson in the Atlantic Division in the preseason ACC poll. In Tallahassee, though, the expectations haven’t changed.
“I think this team is still talented,” Fisher said. “We have the least amount of starters back in the ACC, but we also have more junior and senior starters than we had a year ago.
“That’s why I talk about being a program. These guys still played significant snaps. They still played a lot of plays in big games.”
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