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2010 NCAA Football Preview: Florida State Seminoles

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Between now and the September 2nd season kick-off, Danny Hobrock will be previewing all the major college football teams with new teams being released daily.

2009 Season Breakdown

2009 final record (overall, conference): 7-6, 4-4
Bowl Game: Gator Bowl (W 33-21 vs. West Virginia)
Final Ranking (AP, Coaches'): NR, NR
Conference finish: 3rd ACC Atlantic
Offensive rank: 28
Defensive rank: 108

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2009 Individual Statistical Leaders

Rushing: Jermaine Thomas, 832 yards, 9 TD
Passing: Christian Ponder, 2,717 yards, 14 TD, 7 INT
Receiving: Rod Owens, 729 yards, 3 TD; Bert Reed, 710 yards, 0 TD; Jarmon Fortson, 610 yards, 4 TD
Tackles: Nigel Bradham, 93 total tackles; Kendall Smith, 85 total tackles
Sacks: Dekoda Watson, 6.5 sacks (6 solo, 1 assisted); Mister Alexander, 5 sacks (5 solo)
Interceptions: Jamie Robinson, 4 interceptions (1 touchdown); Ochuko Jenije, 4 interceptions

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2010 Season Outlook

Schedule
(* denotes conference game)

Key Matchups

September 11 @ Oklahoma: An early win over Oklahoma would give the Seminoles tons of confidence moving forward. Of course, a win over 7th ranked BYU, who they play in the following week, was thought to be the jumpstart the Seminoles needed to get their season on track last year, but they ended up dropping their next three.

October 9 @ Miami: The annual FSU/Miami matchup has become one of the most watched affairs in all of college football. The Canes won last year's matchup in thrilling fashion, as is how these games are often won. Miami holds the all-time series at 31-23, but since the Canes joined the ACC in 2004, the two are deadlocked at 3-3. Coastal Division opponents Miami and North Carolina will prove key games for the Seminoles in their quest for the ACC crown.

October 16 vs. Boston College/November 13 vs. Clemson: FSU gets their toughest divisional opponents at home and may have to grab both of these if they hope to represent the Atlantic in the ACC title game.

November 27 vs. Florida: Florida has grabbed the last six matchups and holds the all-time series lead 33-19. This will prove an enormous test for FSU on both sides of the ball as far as determining where they stand on a national level. Even with a number of juniors and seniors leaving for the NFL, the Gators are expected to be one of the nation's top teams in 2010.

Preseason Rankings (will not officially be released until August)

AP: N/A

Coaches': N/A

Key Losses

Rod Owens, WR; Dekoda Watson, LB; Patrick Robinson, CB; Jamie Robinson, S

Key Returning Players

Christian Ponder, QB; Jermaine Thomas, RB; Bert Reed, WR; Andrew Datko, OT; Rodney Hudson, G; Ryan McMahon, C; Markus White, DE; Kendall Smith, LB; Nigel Bradham, LB; Ochuko Jenjie, CB; Greg Reid, CB/PR/KR

Offensive Overview

Amid great distress from Seminole fans that quarterback Christian Ponder's November injury would stretch into the spring and affect his performance this fall, Ponder was excellent in spring practice. There's no question that he'll be ready to go once September rolls around at which point he'll be considered one of the way early favorites for the Heisman Trophy. To keep him upright, an offensive line returning all five starters will be called upon. The Seminoles will field one of the best offensive lines in the entire country with tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders, guards Rodney Hudson and David Spurlock and center Ryan McMahon returning. With 142 career starts between them, experience will be a driving force behind their success.

Overall, this team returns ten starters with last year's leading receiver Rod Owens the only departure. Bert Reed is the playmaker in the passing game. He gives the 'Noles real game-breaking ability with Jarmon Fortson as a bigger, stronger threat whose size will be put to good use in the red zone. Taiwan Easterling will be back this fall, to the relief of many Seminole fans who feared he'd leave the program to play professional baseball. He's an athletic specimen who gives FSU another playmaker in their ranks. Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith could figure into the rotation as well, with some even speculating that Greg Reid, a sparkplug of a return man and expected starting cornerback, could line up at times as a slot receiver. Nonetheless, there is a bit of a concern surrounding depth at receiver.

Jermaine Thomas returns this fall after leading the team in rushing with 832 yards and nine touchdowns, but FSU is expected to shift towards a backfield by committee system. At 5'8 and 186 pounds, Chris Thompson played well this spring. So well, in fact, that he sits atop the unofficial depth chart following spring ball. Thompson isn't an every down back, but will be a major player in this year's offense. Lonnie Pryor returns as a fullback, but should once again see his fair share of touches. Ty Jones, Tavares Pressley and Debrale Smiley could also figure into what should be a fierce competition for playing time.

Defensive Overview

Improving the defense is crucial if this team wants to make any noise this season. Last year, the 'Noles ranked 108th in total defense, 108th in rushing defense and 110th in pass efficiency defense. A far cry from the FSU defenses of even a few years ago. First year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops will reportedly use more zone coverages and blitzes in an effort to return the Seminoles D to their once proud form.

Things are looking good at the cornerback position with Ochuko Jenjie returning to the starting lineup and big things expected out of Greg Reid, who some predict will be an All-American in some capacity before he's done at FSU. Dionte Allen adds valuable depth and should see significant playing time. FSU must replace both safeties, as Jamie Robinson and Korey Mangum are gone. Nick Moodey and Terrance Parks are expected to get the starts, but a lack of experience is worrisome.

Nigel Bradham led the team with 93 tackles a year ago and will assume leadership duties with Dekoda Watson now plying his trade in the NFL. Kendall Smith also returns to the starting lineup in the middle after finishing second in tackles with 85. Nigel Carr is expected to get the starting job at strongside linebacker. Mister Alexander, Vince Williams and freshman Jeff Luc could prove valuable in the Seminoles resurgence as well.

Markus White recorded two sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season. If he and Brandon Jenkins, expected to get the start opposite White, can put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, a relatively inexperienced secondary would be all the better. Moses McCray and Everett Dawkins will battle for the defensive tackle spot, while Jacobbi McDaniel should get the go at nose guard. Anthony McCloud could also see time in the middle.

Special Teams Overview

Dustin Hopkins went 19 for 27 in field goals with a long of 52 against Miami. He hit 40 of 44 extra points and stands to improve in his sophomore season. He missed five field goals from beyond 40 yards, but once he starts hitting those long range field goals more consistently he is expected to blossom into one of the nation's top kickers. Also returning is punter Shawn Powell, who averaged 41.6 yards per punt last season.

Greg Reid is one of the top return men in the nation. He led the entire country in punt return average with an 18.4 yard average. He even returned one for a score. Reid was also great in the kick return game, returning 26 kicks for 664 yards—a 25.5 average.

Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher

How Florida State treated Bobby Bowden was abhorrent. Without Bowden, there's no certainty that the Seminoles would have 12 ACC championships, two national championships and one of the most storied programs of the modern era to claim. There's no telling how much revenue Bowden's success brought the school, either. Bowden is one of a handful of coaches who should have been afforded the right to walk away when they felt it was time. Going away in the manner that he did was an embarrassment not only to Bowden, but those who forced his resignation.

Enough about that, though. This is about Jimbo Fisher, who has been very well-received by Seminoles fans as their first new head coach since Bowden took over in 1976. Fisher was named head coach in waiting behind Bowden after the 2007 season. Prior to joining the Seminoles, Fisher served as offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000 to 2006.

Upon his hiring, Fisher remarked, according to the St. Petersburg Times, "My goal is to get the structure, the staff and the support resources in place to facilitate a winning plan and get players into the structure and start affecting change. Now." He would go on, "As an old guy used to tell me, the secret to success is there is no secret. The secret to success is hard work; have your plan, be yourself, do what you think is right, do what got you here. That won a guy 389 games. Hopefully it'll win me a bunch."

Fisher has shown a commitment to upgrading FSU's player housing and practice facilities to get a leg up on his in-state rivals. From a Miami-Herald article dated June 20, 2010:

UM and UF are clearly in the back of Fisher's mind. Fisher told fans in Broward he wants to raise money to build dorms to house all football players and to build an indoor practice facility ``so we can get a jump on the Gators and Hurricanes. They don't have those things.'' He said he's using ``the difference between my salary'' ($1.8 million annually) and Bowden's ($2.5 million) to help finance other upgrades.

``We have to do things differently,'' Fisher said. ``Are you worried about changing tradition? No, I'm not. The definition of insanity is keep doing things the same way and expecting different results. The whole infrastructure, we were behind.''

Top 2011 Draft Prospects

Christian Ponder, QB; Rodney Hudson, G; Rodney McMahon, C; Markus White, DE; Kendall Smith, LB

Season Prediction

1st ACC Atlantic

With conference matchups against Coastal opponents Miami and North Carolina, Atlantic matchups with Clemson and Boston College and three heavy out of conference matchups, it's possible the Seminoles represent the Atlantic in the ACC Championship with a 7-5 overall record, or worse. However they get there, though, how fun would a Florida State/Miami ACC Championship be? These two teams have been all but counted out after several seasons of mediocrity, but both appear poised to reenter the BCS picture.

There are still those who continue to count the Seminoles (and Canes) out of the national collegiate landscape, and with a 7-5 overall record they wouldn't make much noise in the national title picture, but a Heisman candidate for a quarterback, arguably the best offensive line in the nation, skill players all over the field and what promises to be a defense much improved from last season could catapult the Seminoles right back into the national spotlight.

FSU will battle Clemson and Boston College for the right to play for the ACC crown, and would then have to take on Miami, Virginia Tech, North Carolina or Georgia Tech in the championship game for the right to advance to a BCS bowl. The climb will be steep, but the Seminoles are in a good position to restore their program's glory for the first time in several years.

Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

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