Tomahawk Champs or Tomahawk Chumps?

The Seminoles bolster an powerful front seven pass rushing attack, led by Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner.

7. Florida State

2011 Record (ACC): 9-4 (5-3)
Returning Starters (Off/Def/ST): 15 (6/8/1)

Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer

The 2012 edition of the Seminole defense should be particularly nasty. They should have the best pass rush in the country, with more depth on the defensive line than any other team in college football. Leading the way in the front seven are three big-time defensive ends in junior Bjoern Werner and seniors Brandon Jenkins and "Tank" Carradine. They accumulated 21 sacks between the three of them last season, but they won’t be the only three vying for snaps. Redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry will compete for playing time alongside Mario Edwards, who comes in as the top rated prospect in the country. Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud are a pair of experienced run stuffers who should start at tackle, but they have a rotation that runs four deep and includes the nation’s top defensive tackle recruit, Eddie Gouldman. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher feels comfortable playing linebackers Christian Jones, Nick Moody and Telvin Smith anywhere on the field, and all three can make a big impact against both the run and pass. The dismissal of corner Greg Reid hurts the depth in the secondary, but Xavier Rhodes is a complete shut-down guy on the other side. The back four also return safety Lamarcus Joyner, who racked up 54 tackles last season to go along with four interceptions and is the real vocal leader in the group. The defensive unit was already deep and extremely talented last year and the nation’s number one defensive class in 2012 only improves it across the board.

EJ Manuel is one of the most scrutinized quarterback in college football, but he finished 2011 on a high note. Over the final five games, Manuel threw for 890 yards, five touchdowns and no picks. Two of those touchdowns came on an injured leg in the second half of the Seminoles 18-14 bowl win over Notre Dame. If he can stay upright (sacked 33 times despite missing time in three games), Manuel could finally reach his full potential in his senior season. He has four of his top five targets returning from last year, who return a combined 17 touchdown receptions. Sophomore Rashad Greene led the team with nearly 600 yards and seven TDs as a true freshman and should step into an even bigger role in his second season with the team. Florida State’s offense also welcome back Willie Haulstead, who missed all of last season with a concussion after racking up 587 yards and six scores in 2010. The running game should take a step forward this season as well, giving the Seminoles a more balanced attack on the offensive side of the ball. Devonta Freeman (who led the team with 579 yards and eight touchdowns last season) is just a sophomore and senior Chris Thompson can be incredibly explosive, with three touchdowns of 70 yards or more in 2010. Injuries really hurt Florida State’s offense last season, but a healthy 2012 could see them fulfilling the lofty expectations this team carries.

With a very favorable schedule, Florida State has a chance to run the table in 2012. The Seminoles host a tough ACC foe in Clemson on September 22, and road tests against a much-improved NC State club and the Hokies could cause them to stumble along the way. But the game most are circling is a regular season finale against Florida. However, confidence should be high after dealing the Gators a 21-7 loss in The Swamp last year.

BURNING QUESTION: Can they piece together an offensive line?
Things haven’t exactly gone your way when you’re forced to stat four freshmen on the offensive line in a bowl game. Such was the story of Florida State’s 2011 season. They’re offensive line woes had as much to do with injuries as underperformance (three players missed at least five games and several others missed time as well), but there’s nothing acceptable about allowing 41 sacks in a season. Sophomore Cameron Erving has moved over from defensive tackle to protect Manuel’s blindside. Junior-college transfer Daniel Glauser should also provide a boost after earning JC All-America honors with New Mexico Military Institute last season. The line will be young again, but Jimbo Fisher and company are hoping that last years’ experience will make for a marketable improvement.


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