The best regular season performance by a Florida State football team since 2003 did not go unnoticed as a league-leading 12 Seminoles were named to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference football team on Monday.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins, one of six repeat first-team All-ACC honorees, is joined by four Seminole defenders on the first team, which was selected by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and strong safety Lamarcus Joyner were also recognized as first-team selections.
Seven Seminoles earned second-team honors, including five on offense, led by quarterback E.J. Manuel. Tailback Chris Thompson, tackle Cameron Erving, guard Tre' Jackson and center Bryan Stork join Manuel. Defensive tackle Everett Dawkins and linebacker Christian Jones were second-team defensive selections.
Four additional Seminoles – defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan and Anthony McCloud, offensive tackle Menelik Watson and linebacker Vince Williams – earned honorable mention recognition, pushing FSU's total to 16 recognized players.
You have to go back to the 2000 Florida State team that played for the national championship to find a more widely honored squad by the ACC.
"I'm very proud of those guys; very happy for them," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Their hard work has paid off. They're accomplishing a lot of individual goals, but they did it within the team concept. No one sacrificed their individual goals. … They're being rewarded for the success that we've had as a team.
"I think they are very deserving. I think we have some other guys that are also deserving; we've got a lot of good young players. That's a sign of the direction our program is going."
The recognized ‘Noles are a blend of both veterans and youth, and directly reflect on the coaching staff's ability to bring talented players into the program and develop them into standouts. FSU's five first-team selections are the most by the school since the 2003 squad, which was the last Seminole team to win 10 regular season games before this season.
Florida State (10-2, 8-1 ACC) won the ACC's Atlantic Division and will face Georgia Tech Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. for the conference championship, thanks in no small part to the production of its All-ACC performers.
Werner, a junior, earned more first-team votes than any defender in the conference. He leads the ACC in sacks (13.0) and is second in tackles for loss (18.0) for the league's top-rated defensive unit. Teaming with Carradine, a senior who leads the ‘Noles in tackles (80) and is second in sacks (11.0) and tackles for loss (13.0), they form the most productive defensive end tandem in the league.
It marks the first time the Seminoles have had both starting defensive ends earn first-team All-ACC honors since the dynamic 1996 tandem of All-Americans Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson.
"They've been great all year," Fisher said. "I saw Boulware and Wilson. I didn't get to coach with them, and I know their numbers might have been a little higher, but these guys are pretty dadgum good themselves."
A pair of junior defensive backs, Rhodes and Joyner, have been instrumental in a Florida State pass defense which ranks fourth nationally in passing efficiency (98.59).
Rhodes shares the team lead in pass break-ups (7), is second in interceptions (2) and has made34 tackles, including 25 solo stops. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider opponents have largely avoided the 2010 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"After one good year when you get numbers, you usually don't get them after that, because they quit throwing at you," Fisher said. "It comes back to the respect and appreciation of how he plays the game and how good of a player he is. To me, when a corner doesn't have big numbers, it's because of the respect other teams have for you."
As the final line of defense, Joyner brings both hard hitting and outstanding on-the-ball skills to the field every day. He has recorded 41 tackles to go along with five pass break-ups and an interception.
"I couldn't be happier for him," Fisher said of Joyner. "He makes me pull my hair out sometimes because of some things, but he's also one of the most favorite guys I've ever coached because he truly loves to play football and compete. Watching him practice every day is one of the best joys in your life."
Hopkins' selection as the repeat first-team kicker is no surprise. Over the course of the senior's final year he has set FSU, ACC and NCAA kick scoring records by converting 24 of 28 field goal attempts, including all five from 50 yards or longer. His 87 career field goals tie him with Billy Bennett for the all-time NCAA FBS lead, while his 456 career points rank currently rank third among all-player scoring in major college football history.
"He's not only one of the great kickers in Florida State history, but also NCAA history as the all-time kick scoring leader," Fisher said of Hopkins, who is a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation's top kicker. "Then the way he represents himself and carries himself with class and dignity; his community service and academic (excellence). You could go on and on, but we're very blessed to have had him here."