Who was the biggest surprise of the spring and the biggest disappointment?
Biggest surprise = David Overymyer - With the arrival of Shannon Boatman and his readiness to contribute immediately, the fact that Overmyer's switch from right tackle to right guard went as smoothly as it did has to bode well for the offensive line as it prepares for the upcoming season. The best part about it is that Overmyer will continue to get better at the position with the more reps he receives. Not too bad for a guy who many thought would be the odd man out with the arrival of some new faces.
Biggest disappointment = Kenny O'Neal - Granted, the California speedster split time with the track team this spring and the offensive gameplan didn't call for much passing, but is at least one long ball to No. 4 out of the question? Nobody doubts his speed so why not give the guy a chance to make a play one-on-one with a cornerback? He needs the reps as he went underutilized last season. Having said all that … the bright side is that O'Neal will return a kick return for a touchdown this season. It will happen.
Biggest surprise = Tommy Keane and Everette Brown – With Xavier Lee missing action and Christian Ponder slowly being acclimated to the college game, Keane didn't disappoint from his second-string signal caller spot. He made some throws that warrant him getting at least some opportunity this fall in mop-up work. Also, if I am not mistaken - I think that he threw for more touchdowns than Drew Weatherford. As for Brown, despite his lack of experience the North Carolina native was easily the most dominant pass rusher for Mickey Andrews' defense. I expect big things from him this coming season and an eventual starting role. It's no wonder coaches didn't want to pull his redshirt towards the end of last season to make up for the defensive end depth problems.
Biggest disappointment = The offensive gameplan – I know that coaches set out to establish a renewed rushing attack this spring and that there were only a selected script of plays to be run but why is Jeff Bowden so obsessed with the reverse to a wide receiver? Whether it was either a fake or through an actual handoff, the offense must have ran that play 60 percent of the time. Use that play on a limited basis and please reverse it to O'Neal and not a possession receiver like Greg Carr or Joslin Shaw.
Biggest surprise = Pat Davis - In the process of achieving their goal of establishing the run, walk-on running back Davis was able to showcase his power and speed when handed the ball. Davis was named the top non-scholarship athlete on the offense. The runner, who Bobby Bowden referred to as being "tough as nails" may have earned a chance to perform in the fall. Other players might have been more dominant but were not nearly as surprising if you knew what they were capable of.
Biggest surprise = Korey Mangum and Russell Ball - I was skeptical of Mangum's ability at first. A few practices into the spring and quarterback Drew Weatherford was having his way with the secondary. But Mangum started to pick up his coverage and quickly became one of the only defensive backs to control Greg Carr. That's a surprising accomplishment in itself. It's not often that you hear of a fourth-string running back making an impact, but Russell Ball did. Not far removed from a knee injury that kept him sidelined for several months, Ball was consistent all spring, topped all tailbacks during the Garnet and Gold game, and displayed an ability to break big runs. The fact that he did most of his running behind an average second-string offensive line makes his performance even more impressive. Unfortunately, it now looks as though Ball is lost for the year with a torn ACL.
Biggest disappointment = Special teams - Just when things were starting to look up for Gary Cismesia, Graham Gano, Brent Moody, et al., the field goal kickers combined to go 4-for-9 overall, and 3-for-6 from within 40 yards during the spring game. They had been better in other scrimmages, but they still lack consistency. With the problems this program has had in the past several years with consistent field goal kicking, especially in clutch situations, there's no evidence to suggest this upcoming season will be any different. With the progression that Moody made, I do feel a little better about punting, but it?s still not near where it needs to be. Florida State may once again have a dominating defense, but without an equal punting game, you'll never win the field position battle.
What is the major concern going into fall?
Depth along the offensive line – As I just mentioned, Overmyer's surprising play, Boatman's readiness and the talent that is coming in are all plusses for Mark McHale's unit. But with so many new faces that are going to be asked to contribute this season on the second team offensive line, the question about all the new player's adaptability to the college game will remain a mystery until Sept. 4 rolls around.
The running game – Antone Smith had his amazing runs and Lorenzo Booker was strong as expected (despite not playing in the spring game) but the jury is still out on the renewed focus of the running game. Will the offensive coaches abandon the run if Miami shuts them down in the first half of the opening game? We shall see.
The offensive line - It still does not have much depth although it's greatly improved from last year with a number of new recruits.
One is special teams, which I already expanded on. The other, and probably larger, concern is the thin offensive line. Florida State is in the same predicament it was last season. The five starters along the offensive front are adequate enough to get the job done. But once you move past that starting line, you start to realize that there's a significant drop off in talent and experience. If the Seminoles have a rash of injuries, or if one position gets hit exceptionally hard, the team could be in for trouble again. Still, there's also a chance that they will get through the season relatively healthy. The injuries last year were a bit of an aberration. And if they do survive unscathed, things could go well. The addition of Matt Hardrick and Daron Rose in the fall will help, but even coaches acknowledge they're still a year away from having comfortable depth at all five positions.
Did FSU accomplish its goal of establishing the run?
This question is an easy one: Yes. It may not have been too exciting for those that watched the poor showing by the rushing attack in the spring game, but fear not as the three tailback rotation of Booker, Smith and Jamaal Edwards is going to be very strong this year. Many may doubt Jeff Bowden and some may even question Bobby Bowden but you have to realize that both of those men are not going to allow a repeat of last year's lopsided offensive showing. If you aren't satisfied with that logic, than remember No. 23. Smith is unlike any tailback I have ever seen in person and college football fans across the country are fixing to know his name.
As you can see from my previous two comments, I am still skeptical of the FSU offense – namely the running game. However, I do think that the proper strides were made this spring to develop something for the fall. Booker is special – we all know that – and Smith is quite possibly like no other runner FSU has ever had. I would have liked to see more variety of running plays this spring but I know that the coaches were just working on some certain things in particular. It is a real shame that Ball tore his ACL at the conclusion of the Garnet & Gold game. I would have liked to see if he could continue his impressive play into the regular season.
They certainly did during the spring, but will that continue in the fall when it really matters? I wouldn't be surprised to see this offense shift back towards a pass heavy scheme again with Jeff Bowden at the helm. But if McHale gets an equitable amount of input, which I think he will, then the run/pass ratio should stay the same when the season begins. What you will likely see is something in between, with the run/pass ratio being split 50/50. That's better than it was in 2005, and it will need to remain that way if the Seminoles want to avoid the pitfalls of last season. Florida State's running backs all showed this spring that they're capable of turning long runs if the coaches are patient. However, there's still some concern with how effective the Seminoles' running game can be if injuries pile up along the offensive line.
Will Xavier Lee have a chance to win the job in the fall?
As many of you may know from following some of my opinion-based writings, I am an Xavier Lee fan. I have always thought that Lee could be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever put on a Seminole uniform – but that hasn't happened … yet. Doesn't it bring a smile to your face to think about Lee giving a stiff arm to a certain Gator player or two before heaving it 60 yards down the field for a touchdown? Having said all that, I would be shocked if he was even given an opportunity to earn the starting nod this spring. It's no secret that both Bowdens (Bobby and Jeff) love Weatherford. The offensive coaches stuck with Weatherford last season while he made some mistakes only to put in Lee when the game was too far out of reach so what is their motivation to change that philosophy this year?
Unfortunately for Lee, missing the spring practice period does not help in his bid to unseat Weatherford as the starter. Missing that much time after struggling in his first season of limited play means that he will only have a few weeks during two-a-days to do something that is so incredible that it shakes up the quarterback depth chart. It is very unlikely that will happen as he will be obviously rusty after missing so much live action.
Weatherford seemed to answer all doubters by the end of spring. Throughout the month, he only threw one interception. For now Weatherford is without a doubt the starter and leader of this team but one bad performance and fans will be calling on Xavier Lee who excites the fans with his speed and playmaking ability.
Unfortunately, Lee's injury, though in no way his fault, allowed Weatherford to further his gap. Unless Weatherford suffers an injury or a serious collapse on the field, he'll retain the starting position for the remainder of his career. Once the coaches on this staff lock into a starting quarterback, it's very difficult for him to become unseated. That said, Lee will find his way into the offense, or at least should, more in the next season than he did last year. The kid is a weapon, and when he's on the bench it's a waste. At the very least, Lee should be brought in from time to time to use his speed, mobility and powerful arm.
Is Myron Rolle the real deal and will he start come Sept. 4th?
Here's your answer to the first part of that question: A resounding yes. Another yes. And then one more yes after that. You don't come into your first semester of college (six months ahead of schedule we must not forget) and dominate the way that he did by accident. Five interceptions in total this spring and a national coming out party in the Garnet & Gold game via a 64-yard interception return for a score – all followed up with a high-five to Coach Bowden? He's the real deal. And the thing is, he is still making mistakes. I saw Rolle get chewed out by Andrews several times for missing an assignment or for not using the proper technique and he was still the most dominating player on the field. If he's this good now – with this little bit of experience – imagine what type of menace is going to be roaming the defensive backfield in the years to come. Despite all those accolades, however, I don't expect him to start on opening night because of Andrews' devotion to the older players but I can assure you that you will see more of Rolle at rover than the starter in the game against the Hurricanes. The starting spot is his after that.
Anybody who saw Rolle in person this spring knows that he is going to be a special player in the garnet and gold. Not only does he physically look like a returning veteran starter but he showed flashes of that mentally as well. His standout play this spring will leave defensive coaches eager to insert him in to the ballgame early against the Hurricanes in Miami but he will not start. That honor will come down the road.
He is the real deal but might not find himself in a starting role Sept. 4. Darius McClure should be named the starter opposite Roger Williams. Rolle may not start just so the coaches ensure that he does not become cocky and overly confident. Rolle will take over the starting role but probably not until after the Miami game. He still should have a major impact in that game though.
Rolle is probably the most impressive true freshman that I've seen in a long time. He's physically ready to compete at this level and he's doing everything you could ask for to catch up in the mental aspects of the game. He's grounded with a strong work ethic, and he's open to criticism even though he's never really faced it before. Will he start against Miami? I'm leaning towards no. I wish I wasn't. You have to reward the effort that Rolle is putting in this spring and will continue to put forward this fall. How else do you reinforce what he's doing? Now Rolle probably doesn't need that reinforcement, but it's a good way to show the rest of the players, incomers in particular, that hard work pays off. Anthony Houllis will probably be on the field for the first defensive snap of the opener against Miami, but Rolle should see significant minutes.
What FSU players have a chance to be All-ACC?
Realistically, I think that three (maybe four) players have an opportunity for some postseason hardware this year. I like Weatherford's chances because of the lack of proven veterans and playmakers at that position across the conference and you know he is going to put up touchdowns because of the next player I mention. Yes, I am talking about Carr. After hitting the national spotlight last season as a freshman, the Redick native still has had to deal with questions surrounding the completeness of his game. His so-called "one-dimensional" receiving skills were not on display this spring because when he did get the ball it was on crossing routes and out-patterns. Also, if you saw him lay out Roger Williams in the spring game, the 6-foot-6 player has a nasty side to him too. He will be a very nice compliment to both Chris Davis and De'Cody Fagg (both possession receivers) this year. Finally, I have to mention Buster Davis. With both spotlight stealers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson gone, the linebacker corps – and the defense – is Buster's. He was the most complete and consistent player this spring and that won't change come regular season. The wild card: Booker. Does the man who spurned Notre Dame in 2002 to go play for his childhood favorite team end his career in Tallahassee in the most fitting way possible? A thousand yards rushing, some Heisman chatter and date with an NFL team in the early selections of the 2007 draft seem about right for the undisputed leader of the Florida State Seminole football team. We shall see.
To me, guys like Buster Davis, Carr and Lawrence Timmons all stand out as likely selections for conference honors. With a season under his belt, Carr continues to get better and better and more confident with the college game so his selection is almost a guarantee. Who can prevent him from grabbing double-digit touchdowns to lead the conference? Timmons will benefit from Sims departure to soon-to-be first round draft selection into the NFL. Timmons hits like Sims and has shown flashes of some of the same playmaking ability as the former No. 34. He is also bigger. As for Davis, the leader of the defense will finally hit the national spotlight.
Players such as Weatherford, Booker, Carr, Timmons, Tony Carter and Williams all should be named to the All ACC team among possibly many others. Williams has solidified his place as a starter for the Florida State secondary this spring.
(Note: This is first-team only) Here are my nominees: Timmons, Carr, Fagg, and Weatherford. Freshman nominee: Rolle. Either Carr or Fagg has a shot at All-ACC depending upon who becomes Weatherford's favorite target. It could go either way. I don't think you'll see a running back make All-ACC since Booker and Smith will split most of the work, though with the increased emphasis on running the ball that may change and this two-back system could produce both a first and second team player. Then again, Booker and Leon Washington looked capable of that feat before 2005.
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