May 15, 2013
In a tradition that dates all the way back to last May (hey, it's a new tradition), I am here to help you cope with the long football-less months of summer by talking about what else? Football.
May 15 of last year I kicked off a four-day class-by-class breakdown of Florida State's returning scholarship players, and in pushing this tradition forward I am back to do the same thing with the 2013 squad.
Today we look at the senior class, which will be integral in the Seminoles' success this year. While the team is set to have an inexperienced quarterback under center and is regrouping after losing a whopping 14 players to the NFL, the senior class isn't short on talent and that should help make up for some of the inexperience and losses that currently define the team.
The only fullback on Florida State's roster, Abram is coming off a strong showing in spring practices in which he flashed excellent hands as a receiver out of the backfield and the ability to carry the load as a runner since there were no healthy scholarship running backs in the spring game. FSU needs Abram to continue to play well as the program has to fill the void left by Lonnie Pryor, who excelled as a jack-of-all trades at fullback for the past four seasons.
Abram's experience at fullback is limited -- he was a reserve safety for two years before playing sparingly behind Pryor last year -- but he has the size, strength and determination to be a key component of the 'Noles' ground game in 2013.
Brooks moved from his nickel cornerback position to a starting safety job last year and finished his junior campaign with a defensive back's-best 52 total tackles. After starting all 14 games, Brooks is one of the most experienced players on the Seminoles' defense and will help lead a new scheme under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt that revolves around multiple blitz packages and an emphasis on turnover generation.
Brooks has three career interceptions to his credit and adding to that total in 2013 would certainly help FSU achieve its goals of being more opportunistic defensively. Brooks has played in 36 total games in his career.
A reserve safety, Demps provides quality depth in the secondary and an experienced, capable player on special teams. As a junior a year ago, Demps played in all 12 games on punt and kick coverage.
One of four senior wide receivers on the roster, Dent has proven to be one of the most consistent FSU pass catchers the past few seasons and consistently earns rave reviews from head coach Jimbo Fisher for his practice-field production. A speedy receiver with home-run ability, Dent is coming off a junior year that was his most productive to date as he grabbed 27 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns.
With one year of eligibility left, Dent has the opportunity to take that proverbial "next step" in 2013 and become the legitimate every-game big-play receiver that he is capable of becoming. With an experienced quarterback guaranteed to be under center, it certainly wouldn't hurt for Dent to become even more dangerous from that "X-receiver" position.
Fahrenkrug is aiming for a return to full health in 2013 after sustaining an injury that cost him 10 games in 2012 and every spring practice earlier this year. A reserve interior lineman, a healthy Fahrenkrug provides valuable depth for an offensive line that boasts immense talent at its starting positions but not much experience beyond the predicted starting five. Fahrenkrug has experience at both guard and center.
Another veteran at wide receiver, Haggins missed all of spring with an injury but should be ready in time for camp this fall. With 20 career catches for 206 yards to his credit, Haggins has never posted eye-popping numbers but instead makes his impact as a leader and tremendous blocker.
Haplea was behind the curve last year after joining the team late in the summer in the wake of his transfer from Penn State. With a full season and off-season to his credit, Haplea should surely benefit from the increased experience in FSU's offense as he enters his senior season as Nick O'Leary's primary backup at tight end.
Haplea is best known for his blocking but he has the ability to catch the football, too, and could find a role as a safety valve in the passing game for FSU's young quarterbacks.
Haulstead caught just three passes as a redshirt junior in 2012 but his production wasn't what was important. What was key was that the Titusville, Fla. native stayed healthy. After a fall-camp concussion sidelined him for the entire 2011 season, Haulstead worked his way back into the lineup and appeared in 12 of 14 games last year.
The question now is, can Haulstead regain his 2010 form? His sophomore season saw him snare a team-high six touchdowns while adding 587 combined receiving yards as a breakout star. If Haulstead can build off his return last year and find that same recipe for success this season, FSU's already potent and balanced passing attack would become even tougher to defend.
Hicks is back on the defensive line after spending the 2012 campaign as an injured tight end and new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri is pleased to have him as part of his pass-rushing arsenal. Sunseri was very complimentary of Hicks at his introductory press conference this past spring and FSU will benefit from his experience and athleticism as it moves on from the Cornellius Carradine-Bjoern Werner-Brandon Jenkins era.
With so much lost production at that defensive end spot, the fact that Hicks performed well in his spring return to the defensive side of the ball bodes well for the 'Noles, who lack much depth and experience at that position. Hicks could potentially be a starter opposite sophomore Mario Edwards, Jr. when fall camp kicks off in August.
Even though he led the entire team in tackles a season ago, Jones still may be on the verge of a what could be referred to as a breakout year entering his senior campaign. With a new position coach in Charles Kelly that boasts a track record of getting the most out of his linebackers and a new defensive coordinator in Pruitt that loves to blitz his playmakers, Jones may see his production dramatically increase.
The 6-foot-4, 232-pound weakside linebacker will in all likelihood have more opportunities to use his uniqye size and speed combination to rush the passer this year, which will not only help him generate tackles for loss and sacks but it will help force opponents into mistakes and turnovers. With a big year, Jones has a chance to play himself into first-round NFL Draft consideration.
One of the top safeties in the ACC a year ago, Joyner made the off-season decision to switch to cornerback and he spent the duration of spring practices at his new spot. Joyner had a few growing pains here and there with his position transition in the spring but should have no problem taking command of his new role come fall camp. Joyner spoke highly of his relationship with Pruitt in the spring and his new coach's track record of producing NFL-caliber cornerbacks should translate to his new protege.
Joyner has started 27 consecutive games at safety entering the 2013 season and very likely could see that 28th consecutive start be at cornerback for the Labor Day game at Pittsburgh this September.
Perhaps no current player has improved more over the course of his career at FSU than McAllister. A talented defensive tackle, McAllister missed all of spring practices while rehabilitating an injury but should be ready to provide a much needed leadership and playmaking role this fall. With Everette Dawkins and Anthony McCloud now playing for the Minnesota Vikings, McAllister should see even more playing time this year after finishing second among interior linemen in tackles a year ago.
McDaniel is slated to make his triumphant return to action this fall after an ankle injury at Duke in 2011 cost him the remainder of that season and all of 2012. McDaniel showed no signs of the devastating injury during spring practices and is expected to push for extended playing time this August with McAllister, Timmy Jernigan and a host of young up-and-coming defensive tackles.
Prior to his injury, McDaniel was considered a gap-controlling specialist thanks to his low center of gravity and tremendous strength. His return will help bolster the 'Noles' point of attack in the middle and help free up pass rushers on the outside.
One of the most consistent players on the team and a certified technician at running routes from his receiver position, Shaw has been a quarterback favorite the past three seasons. Now more than ever Shaw's detailed and precise route running will be a valuable commodity for the passing game as the Seminoles break in a new quarterback.
Shaw has the ability to play in the slot or on the outside and his versatility, speed and big-play potential make him one of the most important offensive players on the roster.
FSU's new full-time starter at middle linebacker, Smith will undoubtedly see his production increase in his senior year since he no longer has to share snaps with Vince Williams. Perhaps one of the fastest linebackers in the nation, the manner in which Kelly utilizes Smith's skill set will be particularly interesting to watch this season as he could be used all over the football field.
The most experienced of a veteran and talented offensive line, Stork has the ability to play any position in the front five but seems to have entrenched himself as the team's center. His relationship with the quarterbacks will be critical this fall as he helps call out blocking assignments and delivers clean, mistake-free snaps. Stork could be considered one of the top centers in the entire ACC.
Stay tuned Friday for a look at FSU's junior class