Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has now clearly left his stamp on the program and as he enters year four, there is little doubt that the program is in the best shape it has been since the 1990's.
Here are three questions on defense.
1. Will Karlos Williams be a difference maker on defense?
FSU fans have been treated to only glimpses of Williams unique physical attributes, mostly on special teams. Former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops simply did not trust Karlos and thus he did not log many reps on defense.
Entering his junior season Karlos is in top physical condition and he brings a certain attitude to the defense. In terms of ultimate succes, it is going to come down to how well he covers deep down the field. We know that he will make the big hit and he seems to possess great instincts for finding the football, but the Safety spot is about not making mistakes which lead to easy touchdowns. We hope Karlos is ready for the challenge.
One thing in his favor is that the other starter, Terrence Brooks, is experienced and he should be able to help Karlos get his feet wet.
2. Is Christian Jones going to play in the middle?
Coach Fisher insists that the weak-side LB and the middle linebacker are interchangeable in his defense. We understand that, particularly in the nickel, but Jones is listed as a MLB entering camp.
Can he handle the middle? Only time will tell here, but it is a fairly standard move across the college ranks. Teams tend to like their most experienced linebacker inside and Jones is that for FSU. Working off this line of thinking, what happens to Telvin Smith? Smith has waited his turn and has flashed greatness in his first three years.
The linebacker position is very deep at FSU, it is perhaps the deepest unit on the team, but it is inexperienced. We think there will be quite a bit of movement here as DC Jeremy Pruitt figures out what the best combination is.
3. Can FSU replace the sacks of Werner/Carradine?
The easy answer in the short term is 'no', but long term 'yes'. Both players were drafted with premium draft picks and FSU also lost Brandon Jenkins. This year it seems to be too much to ask to replace that type of production, particularly early in the season.
However that does not mean that there has to be a HUGE drop-off. Mario Edwards, Chris Casher, Newberry, Hicks, Demarcus Walker, and Desmond Hollin are a talented group with a ton of upside. Five of the six will return for 2014 and we expect this group to improve weekly. By the end of the season there is a good chance that this group is playing at a very high level. Edwards is the key as he appears to be the most ready of the youngsters.