Florida State's offense has been a lot like Miami's in recent years -- good at times, OK at times, and really bad at times. The Noles finished 51st nationally in total offense a year ago and while they return their starting quarterback and pretty much all of their offensive linemen, they do have a few holes to fill as three of their top offensive performers from a year ago are gone (Antone Smith, Greg Carr, and Preston Parker). While they have a chance to be just as good running the ball, it'll be interesting to see if they can get some receivers to step up and pick up where Carr/Parker left off. Lets take a closer look, by position.
Junior Christian Ponder was a three-star prospect out of Texas when he inked with the Noles. In his first season as a starter last year, he played very well at times. He finished the year by completing 56-percent of his passes for 2,006 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 13 picks. While he went through some struggles early, as all young quarterbacks in major college football do, he also played very well at times. He turned in one of his best performances against Miami, when he threw for 159 yards, ran for 144, and threw for a touchdown. His best performance came in the last game of the season against Wisconsin and Florida State should be excited about having one of the better quarterbacks coming back in the ACC. Former five-star E.J. Manuel, who has never made a college throw, is his backup.
Smith is gone but the Noles are excited about former three-star Jermaine Thomas (6-1/180), who ran for 482 yards and three scores on 69 carries a year ago. He played very well at times, including a 130-yard performance against Georgia Tech that really put his name on the map. He had a long run against Miami last season and is expected to have a breakout season for the Noles running behind a very solid offensive line. Carlton Jones (5-11/215) had just 11 carries for 99 yards last season but had 55 against Wisconsin in the bowl game and will provide depth behind Thomas. Fullbacks Marcus Sims and Seddrick Holloway have transferred so there's not much depth there.
With Carr (graduated) and Parker (transferred) gone, FSU will be trying to replace the top two receivers from last season. They combined for 79 catches for 914 yards and six scores a year ago (46-percent of Ponder's passing yardage total). The two starters appear to be sophomores Taiwan Easterling and Bert Reed. A former two-star player, Easterling has really emerged in Tallahassee after a 30-catch, 322-yard performance a season ago. He had three catches for 41 yards against Miami last season so he'll be looked upon to make things happen in the passing game. Reed, a former four-star player, finished last season with 23 catches for 295 yards and three scores. He also carried it nine times for 61 yards so the FSU coaches like getting him the ball in other ways as well. He caught three for 43 against Miami last season. Senior Rod Owens, a former three-star player, finished the season with 15 catches for 183 yards and will provide depth along with senior Richard Goodman, sophomore Jarmon Forston (8-137-1 in 08), and Cameron Wade. Also keep an eye on the most heavily recruited player of the bunch, sophomore Avis Commack. He's a 6-4 target who has a lot of promise but hasn't done anything yet.
Senior Caz Piurowski will be the starter at tight end again for the Noles. Known primarily as a blocker (in fact, he's played along the O-Line at times), Caz has just 20 career catches and one touchdown so he's not a major threat in the passing game. Sophomores Bo Reliford (1 career catch) and Jabari Little will hope to be more involved this season as they provide a little more athleticism in the passing game. Still, there are no proven playmakers at this position.
Considered the youngest O-Line unit in the entire country last season, this group really came together and started playing well in the second half of last season. And they got pretty much everyone back. Leading the way is junior center Ryan McMahon, who will be entering his third season as a starter. Left guard Rodney Hudson was a freshman All-American in 2007 and was a first team All-ACC performer a year ago. Sophomore tackles Andrew Datko (left) and Zebrie Sanders (right) were both recruited by Miami coming out of high school but never landed scholarship offers from the Canes. Datko is a returning starter while Sanders played a lot early on last season. They're both young and athletic tackle prospects. The second unit is very young as well and played in a total of 21 games last season so they're still looking to gain some experience. While Sanders and especially Datko appear to be solid at the tackle spots, the anchors here are McMahon at center and Hudson at left guard.