Coming into the 2008 football season Florida State was facing something they haven't really seen since the 1970's: a team where young players, especially freshmen, would have to play a significant role for the Seminoles this year. Part of that was due to the early suspensions, but the other was due to the fact that the young players on this team are some of the best playmakers the Seminoles have had this decade. 8 redshirt freshmen from the 2007 class either started or made major contributions to the team, and 23 signees from the 2008 recruiting class played major minutes or saw time in week 1.
2007's recruiting class for the Seminoles wasn't highly rated, leaving fans wondering what impact, if any, the players from this class will make on the team. Many of the players from this class saw their first college action against Western Carolina after coming off good off-seasons. While the level of competition in Western Carolina isn't Clemson or Florida, if the game was any indication players like Bert Reed, Taiwan Easterling, Will Furlong and Antwane Greenlee will be contributors for the Seminoles.
Bert Reed is one of the fastest guys on the team, and he showed that taking a screen pass 41 yards for a score. Overall Reed showed his versatility as he had 77 receiving yards and 1 rush for 13 yards. If he can get more consistent catching the ball there is no reason why Bert won't be a top-tier playmaker for FSU. Easterling played major minutes for the Seminoles also. While he didn't put up the stats that Reed put up, he showed the capability to get open and the shiftiness to make things happen when the ball was in his hands.
Antwane Greenlee got the start at right tackle for the Noles while Furlong was a key cog in the rotation for Coach Trickett's line. Trickett commented on both players saying how much he liked their play this past week, especially the play from the big tackle in Greenlee. He pinpointed him out saying, "I really like Greenlee right now." As long as he continues getting over the neck injury he should be the lineman people thought he'd be coming out of high school.
Coach Trickett praised Greenlee after the Western Carolina Game.
While the contributions from the 2007 class were important, the players from the 2008 class made their impact felt all over the field at many of the positions. 17 true freshmen played along with 3 JUCO transfers in Corey Surrency, Markus White and Joe Tonga.
On offense guard David Spurlock got his first start in his first career game at FSU, and offensive tackles Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko saw significant minutes throughout the game. While Sanders had his highs and lows, Datko receive high praise for his heady and consistent play.
The youth movement was especially seen at the skill positions for the Noles. Corey Surrency, Jarmon Fortson, Bo Reliford. Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas all made significant plays to help keep the offense moving the ball down the field. Corey Surrency only had 2 catches for 14 yards and a score, but it as his dominating blocks that sprung his teammates for at least 3 touchdowns. Jermaine Thomas may have had the best game of any of the new players as he rushed for 91 yards on 13 carries and scoring two times. Jermaine was one of the top playmakers in the 2008 class. While FSU fans knew what they were getting in the dynamic runner, he showed the nation that he'll be a big-time back on this level.
The suspensions from the academic scandal had the most impact on the front seven of the defense, thus many of the freshmen were thrown into the fire, so to speak. Defensive tackle Moses McCray got his first start for the Seminoles. The experience he's gaining while Paul Griffin, Justin Mincey and Budd Thacker sit out is going to pay off McCray later in the year. While Markus White didn't get the start, he could be seen running all over the field trying to make plays for his team. White is a hustler and a big effort guy. He's going to be a dominating force for FSU when they're at full strength. Finally, Toshmon Stevens, a guy everyone had pegged for a redshirt, had 2 tackles, a TFL and was in on a sack that forced a fumble.
The highlight of the defense may have been the play of the young linebackers in Nigel Bradham, Vince Williams and Nigel Carr. Bradham was in on almost every special teams play, setting the tone for things to come on the opening kick-off. Whereas Jermaine Thomas was the top freshman on offense, Vince Williams may have been the surprise on defense. His two tackles earned him the Hit Stick for the most devastating hit of the week, and he showed his ability to fill the hole on running plays.
The coaches have flipped the roster at FSU and they're depending on the youth of this team to be contributors this season. The players are confident they can get the job done, and their play shows that they can do what's asked. The experience they'll have the first few games will help them as the Noles head into the meat of their schedule. The movement to the youth is here and fans should be excited about the future of this program.