Florida State might finally be turning the edge and putting itself in position to finally make an ACC title game appearance. However there are bigger issues that will affect the Seminoles on and off the field.
The biggest story is the 14 vacated wins from using ineligible players which is currently being appealed by FSU. The reason this is bigger then Alabama’s recent vacated wins from text book fraud is because now Bobby Bowden is currently one game behind Penn State’s Joe Paterno.
If the wins are vacated then Bowden will see his chance to end his career as the all time wins leader fall short. Currently Florida State has a buyout that Florida State would have to pay current offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, 5 million dollars, if he is not head coach in January of 2011.
Now to the actual players fielding the team in 2009, well sort of, wide receiver Corey Surrency was denied an extra year of eligibility because of an obscure rule where he lost a year of eligibility because he played in a semi-pro football team — Florida Kings –after he turned 21 and before heading to a junior college.
Now the top returning receivers have nearly as many yards and catches, but Surrency had the potential to be a break out star for the ‘Noles. The quarterback play needs to better then last year, and lucky for FSU is that they return Christian Ponder who was decent last year. Ponder never had a break out game and his best was against North Carolina State with 257 yards and one score.
Another problem was the pass protection because they gave up 19 sacks, now that is not terrible but the 2009 depth chart is filled with youngsters but all five starters are back. This unit has a very good chance to be the best in the ACC, and that will help against the rush and improve off an all ready stellar running attack.
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The strength of offensive line is what can make or break a team, and with FSU bringing back experience on the line that usually translates into more wins and overall better team. Experience is also within the quarterback position which is the other key spot when to look how good teams will be. Now for the newbies — or non-starters from 2009 — come from the wide receivers and running back spots.
Running back Jermanie Thomas had an impressive 7.0 yards per carry last year, and will now be the feature back in the offense. Odds are he will not keep up that average, but if Thomas is patient with his reads in rushing lanes he has potential to be all ACC. The big guys up front will help Thomas do well, oh and that great talent he is and only a Sophomore. A cool stat from ESPN is that he averaged of 9.1 yards in the second and third quarters which ranked second in the nation among backs with at least 20 combined carries.
This especially helps because Ponder is a so-so passer, so the running back strength should help the overall pass attack. The receiving corp lost all their starters last year and the leading receiver is Taiwan Easterling, also a Sophomore, who caught 30 catches, but the thing going for the Seminoles had depth at that position.
The offense and defense were above average and in the top third in the nation, and only was blown out in one game which was the Florida game, but as it is with most close losses it is the turnover margin that hurts them. On the year Florida State was even, but in their four loses they were minus nine in the turnover margin and had three in each lose; the Wake Forest game was the worst with seven turnovers.
The defense last year gave up 20 points per game, but they return only five players in total. It is Florida State and their last two recruiting classes were in the top ten, so the talent should be there. Also, the losses on defense are spread around so no single position will be marching out all new players.
Overall, this Florida State team should be a top 25 team and has the potential to win the ACC which they have not done since realignment happened in 2005.