May 15, 2012
There's good news and bad news.
The bad news? As of May 15, there were still 109 days until Florida State's first football game of the 2012 season.
The good news? When the off-season does mercifully come to its end, the Seminoles will enter the new year with a roster that is deeper and more balanced than it has been in recent memory.
Let's take a look at what FSU has returning and what it will add later this summer with a class-by-class breakdown of the team. Today, we look at what to expect from each of the FSU seniors in 2012.
Because Bjoern Werner and fellow senior Brandon Jenkins are so dominant, "Tank" Carradine doesn't get as much national attention as he probably deserves. But that's not to say that opposing coaches aren't aware of the problems the talented defensive end can cause when he comes off the bench.
In his first season in Tallahassee in 2011, Carradine showed his ability to adapt to major college football after running roughshod on offensive linemen in the JUCO ranks. But it wasn't as easy as he made it look.
"Just learning the system [at Butler Community College] and then coming to Florida State having to learn a whole new system [was tough]," Carradine said. "So it took about a year but going through the season and in the end I started catching on and everything started falling into place."
As Carradine's play improved over the course of the season, so too did his importance to Mark Stoops' defense as part of that Jenkins-Werner-Carradine trio of terror at defensive end. Carradine finished his junior year with 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks and will be expected to add to those numbers in his final year as he and his counterparts make up what is perhaps the nation's top three-man pass-rushing threat.
As a soon-to-be three-year starter at long snapper for the Seminoles, Dellenbach has served as a steady force for Eddie Gran's special teams unit. And 2012 is going to be the most important of his collegiate career.
With Shawn Powell now in Buffalo playing for the Bills, Dellenbach will be snapping to a freshman punter this fall (either Cason Beatty or Dillon Kidd) and his consistency and leadership will be tested as those two youngsters take over what was a position of immense strength for the Seminoles last year.
No other player on FSU's roster has played as many games as Dawkins and the fifth-year defensive tackle will lead a deep and talented group in 2012.
Dawkins was second only to freshman phenom Timmy Jernigan among defensive tackles last year in total tackles with 25. He also added three tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception while starting all 13 games.
Darious Cummings is the only player at the position that won't return this year so earning snaps at such a strong spot on the defense is the challenge for veterans and youngsters alike. But Dawkins has something that can't be taught or coached up: experience.
The former JUCO standout drew head coach Jimbo Fisher's praise during the spring of 2011 after he had enrolled in classes and began competing as a Seminole. Fahrenkrug went on to start 12 of the Seminoles' 13 games in his first season with the team before being sidelined for the bowl game.
After missing the spring with an injury, Fahrenkrug's spot in the starting lineup may no longer be available as rising sophomores Josue Matias and Austin Barron appeared to do enough to warrant No. 1 spots at left guard and center, respectively.
Fahrenkrug will enter the fall focused on regaining his place on the depth chart at either of those two positions.
Like Fahrenkrug, Glauser came to FSU from junior college and used his first spring in Tallahassee to adjust and get acclimated to offensive line coach Rick Trickett's in-your-face style.
Glauser concluded spring practices behind Cameron Erving at left tackle, a position he will likely maintain when fall camp begins. As it was during the spring, the battle between Erving and Glauser for the starting left tackle job will be key for an FSU team that is hoping for improved play along the offensive line in 2012.
It's kind of hard to believe that Hopkins is already a senior but the reality set in earlier this month when one of the first NFL mock drafts came out and the 'Noles' strong-legged kicker was labeled the nation's top player at his position.
Hopkins certainly has a future on Sundays but right now he gears up for what will be the conclusion of a four-year career as the Seminoles' starting kicker. Hopkins finished as a finalist for the Lou Groza Award as a junior and will be in position to win the most coveted trophy for college-football kickers in 2012.
Without Powell, Hopkins will have a new holder this season as Chris Revell takes over.
If Hopkins is widely viewed as one of the nation's best players at his position, the same is certainly true for Jenkins. The Tallahassee native flirted with the idea of turning pro this off-season but elected to suit up one last time for Florida State -- a decision that bolstered the Seminoles' already potent defense while only delaying his NFL career by a year.
"At one point I was gone," Jenkins said during the spring. "It was back and forth. One person would tell me this and then one person would tell me this. It came down to my family and the people I was close with."
After a breakout sophomore campaign in which he garnered 21 1/2 tackles for loss and 13 1/2 sacks, Jenkins saw his production dip in 2011 as teams game-planned against him. But with the emergence of Werner as a nearly-equal threat on the opposite side, Jenkins could be poised for a 2010-like season this year -- much to the delight of his coaches, FSU fans and NFL personnel.
Of all the players on FSU's 2012 roster, Manuel has the most to prove.
In his first season as the Seminoles' starting quarterback, Manuel battled injury and inconsistency en route to throwing for 2,666 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Manuel's struggle to stay healthy -- he was knocked out of the Oklahoma game, missed the loss to Clemson and then came on in "emergency" relief in the loss at Wake Forest -- coupled with FSU's offensive line woes prevented the Virginia Beach, Va. from having the type of season many envisioned he could have after replacing Christian Ponder.
After being sacked 33 times last year, any offensive line improvement will be welcomed as Manuel closed out the 2011 season with five consecutive games without throwing an interception and earned a gritty win against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Like Dawkins, McCloud is another senior stalwart on the interior of FSU's defensive front seven. McCloud has blossomed into a solid, run-stuffing force for the Seminoles -- a skill-set that will be much needed in 2012 as part of the rotation at defensive tackle.
McCray has battled a myriad of injuries but is like McCloud in that the has the ability to not just be a leader in the middle but a gap-stopper on the inside.
The key to McCray's final season in Tallahassee is staying healthy, which is a goal that has eluded him throughout his career. To put it in into perspective, while fellow redshirt senior Dawkins has played 43 games in his career, McCray has played in just 24 in the same span of time.
While McCray is looking to avoid injury, McDaniel is trying to bounce back from one.
McDaniel sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the win at Duke and has been out of action ever since. After missing the entire spring while rehabilitating the injury, McDaniel will put his handwork to the test this fall when he makes his predicted return to full contact.
From all indications, Moody's move from safety to linebacker is one that will pay off immensely for the Seminoles as they look to replace Nigel Bradham at outside linebacker.
Moody seemed to pick up the schemes and duties associated with his new position this spring as he manned the strongside spot and Christian Jones switched from that role to the weakside. Moody struggled throughout his career in coverage as a safety but seemed to always excel when dropping down into the box in run support.
If he can maintain that ability while also using his experience in the secondary to match up against pesky receiving tight ends, the 'Noles might not miss Bradham and his three consecutive seasons of team-leading tackle totals as much as originally thought.
A high school tailback, Pyror selflessly switched to fullback early in his career and has never griped about having to do the dirty work associated with being a lead blocker and extra quarterback defender.
This spring, though, Pryor got the chance to put his running-back shoes back on as he carried much of the load for a depleted backfield. With Devonta Freeman's healthy return, James Wilder, Jr.'s continued improvement and early enrollee Mario Pender's development, those same opportunities might not be there for Pryor this spring but that doesn't mean he won't get his chances.
As a sophomore, Pryor was more of an offensive weapon than he was last season and perhaps his final year in the garnet and gold will see him become an offensive focal point once again.
Reid enters his last season at FSU as part of a cornerback duo (alongside Xavier Rhodes) that is one of the best in the nation. But for everything that the Valdosta, Ga. native is on defense, he is even more so as a punt returner where Reid has the opportunity in 2012 to knock off one FSU's and college football's all-time greats.
With 1,117 punt return yards, Reid is just 312 yards from tying Deion Sanders' school record of 1,429 career yards on punt returns -- an achievement that he is expected to earn after averaging 372.3 punt return yards per season the last three years.
The punt returns can come and go but I do whatever I do to help out my team," Reid said. "It would mean a lot though if it happens like that I would mean a lot to me."
As the backup to Pryor at fullback, Smiley's touches and opportunities have been limited in his two seasons at FSU. Could that change this year? It's possible as the Thomasville, Ga. native had his most productive spring while working into the depleted tailback rotation.
Smiley probably won't steal any carries from FSU's true tailbacks but he may have showed the 'Noles coaches enough to warrant a few more "at-bats" in 2012.
Smith was FSU's most consistent reciver last year as a junior, playing in all 13 games and finishing second on the team in yards (561) and catches (36). Smith has shown the ability to go over the middle and to go deep and stretch the defense in his three-year career and that shouldn't change in 2012.
Stevens has been primarily a special teams player during his career and a good one at that. But as a reserve defensive end behind such a talented group of first team players, Stevens hasn't had much of a role. That could change this year as he is expected to have more opportunities as a pass-rushing linebacker-type player.
A bulked up Stevens had more chances to use his athleticism and speed this spring and he could have similar spot duty this fall.
How healthy is Thompson after sustaining two fractured vertebrae last season at Duke? Healthy enough to remarkably return for spring practice, for one. But how healthy is he, really? Thompson may have been back for off-season work but he was held out of contact and not subjected to the pounding that a running back typically takes.
How much of a role and how many carries FSU's soft-spoken leader will get in 2012 remains to be seen and might not be known until the regular season starts. With him as a question mark, that means FSU's only certainties at tailback are three underclassmen: Freeman, Wilder and Pender.
Williams didn't get to play in his final spring game after sustaining a late-spring broken leg. The setback isn't expected to interrupt his senior season, though, where he will continue to provide a one-two punch at middle linebacker with Telvin Smith.
Williams enters 2012 as the only senior linebacker on the roster at what is FSU's thinnest position depth wise.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a breakdown of FSU's junior class.