2012 Program Preview - Florida St.

Can Florida St. CB Xavier Rhodes go wire to wire as a 1st round prospect to a 1st round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft?

It's been an interesting offseason for the Seminoles. There was Big XII Hullabalooza, Jeff Luc's transfer, and that recruiting class...sweet Kurt Warner's haircut, it's impressive. And it all boils down to two dominant themes:

1.) Was the conventional wisdom a year early in heralding the return of FSU last year?

2.) How good can this defense be?

And now with the conventional wisdom polling the 'Noles in the high single digits (though Phil Steele has them winning the BCS Championship) those questions have national title implications.

After the jump, we'll go through the prospects and games that will give us answers to those questions.

References

Tomahawk Nation (SBN Florida St. community), SB Nation team page, official team site, Dane Brugler's preview for CBSSports

Notable offensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
E.J. Manuel
QB
RS Sr.
6
Clint Trickett
QB
RS Soph.
6
Devonta Freeman
RB
Soph.
N/A
Nick O'Leary
TE Soph. N/A
Rashad Greene
WR
Soph. N/A


Notable defensive prospects

Name POS Yr. Early projected Rd (notes)
Brandon Jenkins DE/3-4 OLB
Sr.
1
Greg Reid CB
Sr.
3
Cornellius Carradine
DE
Sr.
7
Everett Dawkins
DT
RS Sr.
UD
Xavier Rhodes
CB
RS Jr.
1
Bjoern Werner
DE
Jr.
1-2
Lamarcus Joyner
FS
Jr.
5
Demonte McAllister
DT
RS Jr.
UD
Timmy Jernigan
DT
Soph.
N/A


Summary

Yes, the defense is legit. Nine returning starters, led all of FBS football in yards per rush defense, and fourth in points allowed per game. The D-line is talented and deep, the secondary blends speed (Reid), size (Karlos Williams) and the combination of both (Rhodes).

There's little reason to believe this won't be one of the best defenses in the country, and one that can help propel FSU to the ACC Conference Championship. But will the O-line grow as a unit and provide sufficient protection for E.J. Manuel? Against Oklahoma last year, the O-line looked horrible; Manuel hurt his shoulder in the 3rd and young Trickett was hardly prepared for the situation (though he played well for his experience level, and had a good game against Clemson the next week before falling apart against Wake).

If the Seminoles are serious about returning to national prominence, that just can't happen. They'll be a defense-first team, but the offense has to take advantage of the field position that D will provide often enough to get to Charlotte.

Key games

Clemson (home) - Week 4 (Sat., Sept. 22 - TBD)

Florida State should be 3-0 going into this game, the last of a four-game homestand to open the season, after warming up against Murray St., Savannah St. and Wake Forest. With a solid South Florida beckoning, the Seminoles can't afford to overlook this game, despite Clemson's imperfections. The Tigers have enough weapons (namely Sammy Watkins and Andre Ellington) to steal one from any team.

Virginia Tech (away) - Week 11 (Thu., Nov. 8 - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Odd factor for this one - Va. Tech plays on Thursday the week before as well, so they get a full week of rest in between. Florida State gets even more with a bye week in between this game and the Duke game, Oct. 27. With Logan Thomas, quite the prospect himself, leading a quality VT team, this could be where Florida State's dream dies.

Florida (home) - Week 13 (Sat., Nov. 24 - TBD)

Note from the author: DO NOT TAKE YOUR KIDS TO FLORIDA FOR THANKSGIVING. STAY OUT OF THE STATE FROM NOVEMBER 15TH THROUGH DECEMBER 10TH. IF SOMEONE YOU KNOW WANTS TO GO TO THE BEACH THAT BADLY, POUR A COUPLE BUCKETS OF SAND IN THEIR BACKYARD, PUT A SPEAKER ON THE PATIO AND JUST PLAY THIS.

This is set up to be a monster game. If Florida can stay in contention in the SEC East (which is entirely possible) and Florida State gets to the game with one loss or less, this goes from being a very good game to Homeland Security-monitored insanefest. Seriously though, if you know anyone going to this game that isn't from the state of Florida, you might wanna check who you keep company with.

Key matchups

CB Xavier Rhodes v. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, Week 4 - Sat., Sept. 22

This was my top matchup from my Clemson preview. If they're both healthy, this is as good a matchup for draftniks as any in the country.

WR Rashad Greene v. North Carolina St. CB David Amerson, Week 4 - Sat., Sept. 22

Is this necessarily going to happen? No. FSU's WR corps isn't entirely locked out, and NC State's assignment could well be a gametime decision. I'm not saying that's how I'd do it, but...ayo, Tom O'Brien, if you need help playing your cards...

That being the case, it's difficult to see what kind of passing game the Seminoles have this year. Between Greene, Rodney Smith and Kenny Shaw, there's too much youth to predict confidently. You could say that about much of the team, given the caliber given their last two recruiting classes (that means they were good).

Florida St. interior O-line v. Florida interior D-line, Week 13 - Sat., Nov. 24

By the time this game is being played, we'll know how good, or not, FSU's offensive line is. Facing off against some combination of Sharrif Floyd (one of my potential big risers of 2012 along with Werner and Reid), Omar Hunter and Leon Orr in the middle of Florida's D-line will be of paramount importance. If the Gators can control the middle of the trenches, it could mean tough going for the Seminoles in what could be the most important game for them since the 2003 or 2000 seasons.

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