What are the main differences from this year and last?
From what I saw, this year there was a sense of urgency. I talked to several players after the spring game that said having Miami first up instead of a North Carolina or a UAB really lit a fire, especially given last season's pair of losses to the 'Canes. Guys were fired up in 11-on-11s. There was a lot of talk, even a few scuffles. It might not have been real evident in the Garnet and Gold game, but there was more intensity than last spring.
Who looks to be the go to guys on offense?
It was hard to tell. With so many injuries in the offensive side of the ball, the defense was dominant during most sessions. Many times, when the offense was able to scrape something together, a wideout would drop a pass or Sexton or Rix would misfire. One guy that did stand out was Booker. He's ten pounds heavier and jacked. And he seems quicker than ever. They ran a lot of flares, screens and five-yard out patterns for him and it looks like he'll be a weapon as a runner and a receiver. Obviously they couldn't do it this spring with Leon out, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bowden got Washington and Booker in the lineup at the same time in a split set ala' Jones and Maddox a few years ago. Chauncey Stovall also made several nice grabs during the spring. That – combined with his late-season surge – made it evident that he's ready to step in as the No. 2 threat.
Has Rix improved?
Also hard to tell. He was working with several walk-ons behind a banged up line against the defensive first-teamers. He also stepped aside much of the time to let Sexton get some reps under his belt. Chris Rix is the best QB, take him or leave him. As has been the case the last three seasons, his play will go along way in dictating how the team fares.
How good can this team be?
On defense, this team has all the talent in the world but not a whole lot of experience top to bottom. The seniority on offense should provide some balance. It was evident that the D has a chance to be as good – if not better – than last year's edition. They just have to take it to game situations. This team will be at its best when the defense can shut down the opponent and allow the offense to control the game. A lot was made about short routes, using the tight end and running the ball.
Can they finally beat Miami?
Yes. But as we all know anything goes in this series. You can totally dominate Miami, have a few lapses down the stretch and lose 28-27 on a missed FG. Miami has to reload on D and as QB issues, though they were somewhat resolved when Berlin played well late in the spring game. Without gamebreakers at WR and RB, FSU's defense should be able to lock down. The question is: how many points and Rix and company manage? I look for another 16-14 type game, hopefully in favor of the visitors.
How special will the defense be?
Awesome. A.J. Nicholson was amazing this spring. I know its cliché, but A.J. really does have a nose for the ball. He's not the fastest, not the quickest, but he was always in position to tip a pass or make a stop. Ernie Sims was making open-filed tackles on Booker. The secondary is deep – on what other team would Antonio Cromartie have to battle for time on? The one thing these guys will have to develop is a consistent pass rush. That'd make the LBs and DBs that much more of a force.
What will be the strength of the team?
As I mentioned before, I think this team will be able to control games. Seniors as QB and WR and two solid running threats will provide a stable of options. Hopefully, the OL can stay healthy and allow these guys to make plays. (Make plays without making turnovers.) Deep and talented, the defense should have the ability to play 18-19 guys to stay fresh.
Who will be the surprises and what young players have impressed you?
Bradwell and Dickson really got after it late in the spring. I know these guys were going against a second-team OL that actually had a few walk-ons in there, but they really made life difficult for the offense. When Watkins and Cromartie rotate in, the secondary won't miss a beat.
On offense, I think Lorne Sam can make some waves. Maybe not right away, though. He had some problems with his hamstring and drops this spring but those are easily correctable. There's always PT for an athlete of his caliber and its evident his coaches and teammates respect his ability.
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