Monday, August 6, 2007
Florida State Preview
2006 Results: 7-6 overall, 3-5 ACC (5th Atlantic Division); beat UCLA 44-27 in the Emerald Bowl
Offense: What a difference 9 months and $537,000 makes. The departures of Jeff Bowden, QB coach Darryl Dickey, OL coach Mark McHale and RB coach Billy Sexton ushered in the most sweeping change of the Bobby Bowden era (more on that later). While the new coaches are instilling new schemes and shuffling around personnel, it's the previously wasted talent in Tallahassee that will still make the biggest difference. The QB duo of Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee did little to distinguish themselves in the spring game, although Weatherford is listed as the starter on the depth chart. The OL loses two starters from last year's horrendous unit, although everyone on the two-deep has game experience. The RB position is in the very capable hands of the small but bruising Antone Smith, with the sturdy Marcus Sims listed as his backup. The extremely talented WR corps is back with renewed vigor, headed up by Greg Carr and DeCody Fagg.
Defense: Scary good. The front seven - decimated by injuries last year - returns thirteen players with starting experience. And despite the injuries, the Noles still finished 18th nationally in total defense in 2006. The losses of Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons to the private sector will surely be felt, but for years under Chuck Amato and Kevin Steele, FSU replaced linebacking talent with relative ease. The secondary was more fortunate in the health department in '06, and returns all 4 starters, led by the too-good-to-be-true Myron Rolle and superb corner Tony Carter. And as an added bonus, the second-stringers at corner and safety all played significantly last year, thanks to the continuous substitution patterns of that chronic sunflower-seed spitter, Mickey Andrews.
Special teams: The mercurial Gary Cismesia returns yet again, along with punter Graham Gano who did not impress in 2006. With the departure of Chris Davis (just 8.6 yards per return last year), punt returns should improve a notch with Patrick Robinson, while kickoffs will be fielded by cornerback and track star Michael Ray Garvin for the second straight year.
Coaching: The non-stop gushing among Seminole Nation since January over new OC Jimbo Fisher (from LSU), OL coach Rick Trickett (from West Virginia), and position coaches Lawrence Dawsey (WR) and Dexter Carter (RB) has yet to subside, and it's tough to blame the FSU faithful for such unabashed enthusiasm. After half a dozen years of embarrassing, kicking-holes-in-the-drywall (don't ask) ineptitude on the offensive staff, not only does competent and sound coaching return to Doak Campbell, but actual, proven excellence. Moreso than at offensive coordinator, Fisher's role as QB coach will likely make the quickest difference, while the drill sergeant mentality of Trickett in shaping up the offensive line may be the most important job of the offseason. The defensive coaches had a less active spring and summer, losing LB coach Kevin Steele to Alabama, but replacing him with old stalwart Chuck Amato, fresh off his up-and-down seven year stint in Raleigh. And last but not least, the reinvigorated Bobby Bowden is back to oversee his empire from his watchtower...in between naps, of course.
For What It's Worth: Eight of the Seminoles' thirteen games last year were decided by a TD or less, with FSU going 3-5 in those matchups....cause and effect - FSU won the turnover battle just three times in their 13 games last year, and all three games resulted in blowout victories (Rice, Virginia, UCLA)....Know thy enemy - new Seminole OC Jimbo Fisher held the same title under Nick Saban at LSU, and the Tide's new DC Kevin Steele was Executive Head Coach and LB coach at FSU for the last five years; the teams meet on Sept. 29....last year's Emerald Bowl victory was Florida State's first pre-January bowl game since 1990, breaking a string of 15 straight post-New Year's Day bowl appearances
Schedule Analysis: A double-edged sword, to put it mildly. These new look Seminoles will have all the opportunity in the world to prove they really are "back", if they can somehow manage to get 9 or more wins out of this gauntlet. All in all, the Noles get just five games at Doak Campbell, an increasingly hot-ticket game vs. Alabama in Jacksonville, and then six road games, including the Labor Day opener with Clemson and a particularly cruel November with trips to Boston College, Virginia Tech and Florida. Needless to say, a hot start (say 7-1) heading into that last month is critical.
Projected Wins- UAB, @Colorado, N.C. State, @Wake Forest, Miami, Duke, Maryland
Projected Losses- @Virginia Tech, @Florida
Toss-Ups- @Clemson, vs. Alabama, @Boston College
For More Opinionated, Yet Delightful, Seminole Insight: Tomahawk Nation, Chant Rant
Blast-From-The-Past, Feel-Good YouTube:
"Oh my word..."