2013 Florida State spring football primer: Dates, players and more to know

Chris Trotman

The Seminoles are the defending ACC champions, but they face some key questions as they prepare for the 2013 season.

Florida State is coming off its most successful season under head coach Jimbo Fisher, but will the Seminoles be able to build on that and get themselves back in the national championship hunt on a regular basis? That's the challenge for Fisher and his staff. While the team was in position for a potential title run in 2012, an early loss to N.C. State (not to mention a November defeat against Florida) put that out of the question.

But the Seminoles did win the ACC — it was their first conference title since 2005 — which qualifies as a breakthrough of sorts. They also won the Orange Bowl handily, finishing the year 12-2. Fisher's recruiting has FSU in a position to win more division and league titles in the coming years, though 2013 doesn't come without some questions.

Florida State replaced a significant portion of its coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, who took the head-coaching job at Kentucky. They have to replace veteran quarterback E.J. Manuel, as well as defensive line standouts Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. How will the new members of the coaching staff integrate? Will the offense struggle with a new quarterback at the helm? And what about the defense, which must replace a significant number of starters? These are some of the big questions FSU faces heading into the spring.

Spring practice start date: March 20

Spring game date, location: April 13

Approximate returning starters: Eight on offense, four on defense. The Seminoles will have to replace quarterback E.J. Manuel, but they do return their top two receivers in Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw. The offensive line also returns intact. On the defensive side, the Seminoles have a lot to replace, including the entire front four. But All-ACC safety Lamarcus Joyner -- who is moving to cornerback -- returns. Joyner had 51 tackles and made one interception last season.

Biggest addition: Linebacker Matthew Thomas out of Booker T. Washington High School in Miami is a consensus five-star prospect in the class of 2013 and the top player FSU signed this year, though he's not an early enrollee and thus won't compete in spring drills.

Biggest loss: From an NFL Draft perspective, it may be defensive end Bjoern Werner, who could end up being a top-10 pick come April. Werner led a deep FSU defensive line with 13 sacks in 2012, which also led the ACC. Only one player in FBS (UGA's Jarvis Jones) finished the season with more sacks.

The Noles also lost a slew of assistant coaches, including successful defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and star recruiter James Coley.

New players?

Linebacker Freddie Stevenson, defensive end DeMarcus Walker and offensive lineman Richy Klepal enrolled early this year, which means they will be able to participate in spring drills. Stevenson is a consensus three-star player, as is Klepal. Walker is a consensus four-star player and is considered one of the top five strong-side defensive ends in the class.

Elite outside linebacker prospect Matthew Thomas, who as mentioned above was the best player FSU signed in 2013, could have an early impact.

New coaches?

Florida State endured a lot of turnover following the 2012 season and has plenty of new faces on its staff. Jeremy Pruitt is the team's new defensive coordinator, Sal Sunseri was brought on board to coach the defensive line, Charles Kelly will coach the linebackers and coordinate special teams, and Randy Sanders will coach the running backs. Billy Napier had been brought on board to coach the tight ends, but he later took a job at Alabama.

New schemes?

Florida State lost both coordinators during the offseason coaching carousel, but may not see any significant scheme changes going forward. Head coach Jimbo Fisher handles the play calling for FSU, which provides continuity. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has never held this position at the collegiate level, which makes him a bit of an unknown.

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