After what seems like a lifetime of mediocrity and underachieving, it seems that the Florida State football program is on its way back to prominence. Jimbo Fisher has put together an excellent crop of players for the Seminoles, and has build this program into a top ten unit heading into the 2011 season.
Despite losing quarterback Christian Ponder to the NFL, FSU appears to be poised for a potential BCS Title run, and they are the clear front-runners for the ACC as of right now. With a switch at quarterback and a supremely talented roster, the ‘Noles look like they could be dangerous, and for a long time to come.
3 E.J. Manuel (Junior), QB, 6’4″ 234
Manuel enters his first season as the unquestioned number one quarterback on the Florida State roster, and he could be poised for a big season. Has been tweaking and perfecting his mechanics and footwork for the last couple of years, to the point where head coach Jimbo Fisher has indicated he should see significant improvements in accuracy and arm strength, and has decreased his chances of re-injuring his shoulder (which he has had problems with in the past). Perhaps not a candidate to leave early because he is so raw, but he should be the focal point of the FSU offense this year, and could be poised for a huge season. Fans will want to see him make great strides in his touchdown/interception ratio, which last year was 1:1, even though he only threw 93 passes overall. Big, rangy athlete with a strong arm and solid vision down the field. A threat to move the chains any time he touches the ball because of his ability to scramble. To this point, has been more of a thrower than a passer, which has resulted in some poor throws and interceptions. Still, his completion percentage has always been high. When he sets his feet correctly, his accuracy down the field is dead on, and he has a strong enough arm to complete any and every NFL throw. Look for this kid to really break out in 2011 and potentially vault himself into first round discussion with a solid year as a first time starter.
38 Jermaine Thomas (Senior), RB, 5’11″ 187
Has some minor off-field issues as well as some injury history, which could contribute to why he is not currently the top RB on the FSU depth chart. However, he is a tough change of pace back with a ton of speed who can be very productive if he makes it to the right situation. Had only one game last year where he ran for over 100 yards, and never really showed his true form last year, though he did average just under six yards per carry. His best year came as a sophomore where he ran the ball 163 times for 832 yards and nine touchdowns. As a sophomore, also had one of the most incredible personal efforts you will see when he ran into a wall on the right sideline, reversed field completely, and gained about 25 yards the other direction. Needs to work on his overall strength, but he definitely has a ton of speed.
33 Ty Jones (Senior), RB, 5’10″ 211
Compactly built and powerful runner who is a long-strider and enters the summer as the top back on the depth chart. Really tough to bring down on first contact, but doesn’t have a ton of speed. Could be the ideal one-cut, zone type of running back. Always fighting for the extra yards, and always knows the situation. Last year finished the season with 527 yards, a 6.1 yard average, and five touchdowns. Not a polished receiver out of the backfield, but has shown some ability in that area. It almost looks like he runs the ball as though every carry is his last.
83 Bert Reed (RS Senior), WR, 5’10″ 175
They call him “Speed” because any time this guy touches the ball, he is gone in a flash. One of the fastest players in all of college football, and is a guy who will absolutely turn heads at the Scouting Combine. Solid route runner who will be a great fit in the slot in the NFL. The bottom line here is–you have to find a way to get Bert Reed the ball. They don’t call him “Speed” for no reason–this guy can run, and he can ball. Despite his size, he is definitely not afraid to make plays deep over the middle, though that could change in the NFL. Doesn’t have to slow down very much at all to get out of his breaks, which can absolutely kill defensive backs. Not a physical player by any means, but doesn’t play like he’s 175 pounds. Reed is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and his game reminds me of a mix between Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson, but not quite to that caliber. I have to wonder why the ‘Noles are not using this guy in the return game. Capable of making defenders miss in the open field with ease.
67 Andrew Datko (Senior), OT, 6’6″ 303
Big offensive tackle who started 25 straight games to start his collegiate career, and suffered a couple of nagging injuries in 2010, limiting his development. I think he likely could have come out this year and been a late first or early second round pick had he not had the injuries, but that is just the way the game goes sometimes. Big, strong offensive tackle with a work ethic that coaches love. He should have a long, successful NFL career if he can stay healthy, and I would expect him to be in the first round discussion until proven otherwise.
49 Brandon Jenkins (Junior), DE, 6’3″ 258
First team All ACC as a sophomore with 55 tackles and 13.5 sacks along with 16 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Really emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the country, and one of the top defensive ends overall. Slightly undersized with upside potentially as a rush linebacker in the NFL. Jenkins has great burst off the line, and doesn’t let anything get past him. Uses his great arm length and upper body strength to beat offensive tackles, and also has good speed off the edge. Very, very good form tackler, and made Denver Broncos second round pick Orlando Franklin look like he was standing still as he bent around the edge and sacked the Miami QB. Absolutely relentless with advanced technique for his age, and played RE almost exclusively for the Seminoles. Never gives up on a play. Also saw action on special teams, and his like a ton of bricks. One of my favorite defensive end prospects for next year or 2013, whenever he opts to go to the NFL. Absolutely a top of the line pass rushing prospect, and could be a top five talent.
13 Nigel Bradham (Senior), LB, 6’2″ 240
Instinctive linebacker who should have a very productive NFL career, most likely as an inside linebacker. At times will over-pursue plays, but has been extremely effective for Florida State. Had 92 tackles and five sacks last year to complement a junior campaign where he had 88 tackles, a sack, and an interception. Good closing speed and solid instincts, but like I said before, tends to over-pursue and make incorrect reads. If he can show more consistency this season, he should be a 2nd or 3rd round pick based on his upside and overall production at a major institution. Good athlete as well.
84 Rodney Smith (Junior), WR, 6’6″ 216
Big, tall receiver who made strides as a sophomore. I think he will go back for a senior year barring a huge breakout season in 2010, but he has all the skill in the world to make an impact in the NFL. Tough to cover because of his size, and you can use him in a variety of different ways in the passing game. Had 31 receptions for 448 yards and three touchdowns in 2010, showing that his status as a top of the line recruit was warranted. Not a fast receiver, really, but definitely has a second gear and can create mismatches down the field. Really knows how to get separation, and has good body control. Definitely a name to watch going forward.
82 Willie Haulstead (Junior), WR, 6’3″ 210
Another big play receiver who really broke out in 2010 with 38 receptions for 587 yards and six touchdowns. Lengthy receiver who can go up and get the ball in traffic, and make plays down the field. Big, strong hands and capable of making the tough receptions. Decent route runner with definite room for improvement in that area, but he’s still fairly raw. Not afraid to take a big hit in traffic, and could add 10 pounds of muscle and not lose any of his speed. Excellent red zone target because of his length and leaping ability. Good ability to track the ball on go routes, and really has good body control. FSU has a group of WR’s that will make highlight reel plays game after game, and this guy might be the most exciting of all of them.
8 Taiwan Easterling (Senior), WR, 5’11″ 200
Strong, physical receiver who is tough to bring down, and might be a model for toughness in general. Missed some time before the 2009 season with a torn Achilles tendon, and came back to play 13 games and start six after such a serious injury. Not to mention, Easterling doubles as an outfielder for the Seminoles, which is why you don’t see him on the team’s current depth chart. Two sport athlete who has a lot of ability on the field and set career highs last year with 43 catches for 551 yards and five touchdowns while starting 13 of 14 games. Not a speed demon, but can change direction on a dime, and knows how to make plays after the catch. Always keeps his legs moving, and might be one of my favorite sleeper receivers in the draft next year.
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