May 16, 2012
Yesterday, we looked at Florida State's senior class so today let's breakdown the juniors -- a group of student-athletes that features 14 of its 19 scholarship members in roles as starters or part of the two-deep rotation.
After an off-season position change from safety to fullback, Abram didn't see his role change all that much as a sophomore last year. Just like his rookie campaign, the Lakeland native was primarily a special teams player in 2011 and will likely possess those same duties this year.
But Abram's progression is critical in 2012 as fellow fullbacks Lonnie Pryor and Debrale Smiley are set to graduate at season's end. If Abram can crack the rotation and get some touches and extra experience in the backfield, he'll have an even better chance of earning the starting job next spring.
Like Abram, Bright is primarily a special teams player for a Seminoles team that excels in that facet of the game.
The fourth-year safety played in six games on special teams last season and will be focused on earning more playing time once camp begins in August.
Brooks played in 12 of FSU's 13 games last season as a backup safety and special teams player. Now, he's preparing for the most important season of his career in 2012 as he has officially replaced Terrance Parks as the starter at safety.
For an FSU defense that finished in the top five nationally last season and is expected to play in the same dominating fashion this year, the pressure is on Brooks as he is the only first-time starter on the Seminoles' defense (Nick Moody is a first-time starter at linebacker but he has started at safety previously in his career).
Brooks seems ready for the challenge as he drew praise from head coach Jimbo Fisher before spring practices ever began and then lived up to his coach's words by capping off his strong practice period with an interception return for a touchdown in the spring game last month.
Demps did not play last year but is expected to be back in action and ready for special teams duty in 2012. One of several players on the FSU defense from Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga., Demps is yet another capable body on the team's talented special-teams unit.
Dent saw his production increase from just one catch as a freshman to 12 last year as a sophomore and it will be on him to take the next step for year No. 3 in 2012.
Dent is one of several third-year pass catchers on the FSU football team and his progression as well as the progressions of Kenny Shaw and Jarred Haggins are important for a passing attack that was lethal last year and has the chance to be even better this time around.
Dent will likely benefit from additions of big-bodied receivers Willie Haulstead and Kelvin Benjamin, who should draw double teams and safety help thus allowing the 'Noles smaller and shiftier receivers more opportunities to get open underneath or down field this fall.
Faircloth worked his way into the starting lineup at right guard in six of the Seminoles' last eight games last season before an injury sent him to the sidelines for the bowl game and the entire spring.
Tre' Jackson replaced Faircloth at right guard in the win over Notre Dame and maintained that position over the course of spring practices. If Faircloth is healthy once camp begins, the battle will begin between those two for the starting spot at right guard leading up to the Sept. 1 opener.
If Moses McCray is the one defender that can't catch a break in the injury department, Gehres is the offense's version. Blessed with great hands as a wide receiver, Gehres simply hasn't had any opportunities to showcase his ability because of recurring setbacks.
After missing the entire 2011 season with injury, Gehres seemed to be on his way towards more playing time in FSU's deep receiving corps but a leg injury relegated him to the sidelines where h spent most of the spring.
Haggins is another rising junior wide receiver that saw his production increase after catching just one pass as a rookie. But unlike Dent, Haggins' 2011 season was derailed by injury as he only played in seven of the 'Noles' 13 games.
Haggins quickly became one of quarterback EJ Manuel's favorite targets last year, catching a combined 11 passes in the first three games of the season. But after breaking his hand in the loss to Oklahoma, Haggins didn't catch another ball the rest of the year.
Now healthy, can he show that same go-to ability when the 2012 season starts and maintain it throughout the year?
As mentioned above, Haulstead is being added to the aerial attack after a fall-camp concussion forced him out of action and into a medical redshirt last year.
Before the injury, Haulstead was coming off 38-catch, 587-yards season as a sophomore in 2010 -- a season that saw him lead Florida State in touchdown catches with six. Expectations were high for Haulstead before the injury and they are the same this year now that he is back.
FSU didn't struggle to move the ball through the air without Haulstead but his return could make the team even more potent as his ability as a true possession-type receiver and third-down converter will only help the Seminoles' pass-game effectiveness.
Hicks was one of several players to switch positions this off-season and just like his fellow teammates that made moves, he performed well in his new role. A former defensive end, Hicks made the move back to tight end; a position he actually played in high school.
Nick O'Leary is the starter at tight end but FSU's offensive identity may be changing a bit with Hicks also at the position. The Seminoles' used more two tight-end sets during spring practice than in recent memory and the production from the position will be something to play close attention to this season.
The next in a long line of great FSU linebackers, Jones gets the opportunity to emerge from Nigel Bradham's shadow and take over as the team's top player at the position.
A former strongside linebacker, Jones has moved into Bradham's old role as the weakside 'backer -- a job that helped Bradham register more tackles than any other Seminole in each of the last three years. Jones' tackle totals -- and impact -- are expected to increase dramatically in 2012.
What can you say about Joyner? Pound-for-pound he is arguably the most talented player on FSU's roster and he showed as a first-time starter at safety last year that his lack of height doesn't prevent him from making game-changing plays in the 'Noles' secondary.
A consistent force at safety, Joyner has taken on a new role this year of being a veteran leader and he will be expected to set the tone for FSU's world-class defense.
Without injured defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel in the lineup during the spring, McAllister had the best opportunity of his career to show the coaches what he could do and he made the most of that chance.
After gaining around 35 pounds since enrolling at FSU, McAllister's strong spring and increased workload has him poised for a breakout 2012 season despite the fact that there are only a few snaps to go around for such a deep corps of defensive tackles.
After missing the 2011 season with injury, Orelus used the spring practice period to get back into shape and work himself into the rotation with Rick Trickett's group.
He won't enter the fall with a starting job but the versatile linemen -- when healthy -- is capable of playing multiple positions in the trenches -- a trait that was sorely missed last season when the 'Noles struggled with injuries and inconsistency on the offensive line.
It didn't take long for the 2013 NFL mock drafts to start flooding the Internet after the conclusion of this year's selection process and it didn't take long for the buzz surrounding the pro future of Rhodes to pick up either.
While he still has two years of eligibility of left, Rhodes and the FSU coaches will enter the 2012 season knowing that the Miami native has the talent, skill, size and ability of a first-round NFL cornerback. Of course there are no guarantees about his future but if Rhodes can continue to show the flashes of shut-down dominance that he has displayed in his first two years, opposing offenses will continue to avoid his side of the field in passing situations.
Rhodes injured himself in the bowl-game victory and missed the spring but is expected to return fully healthy for the start of camp.
After registering three catches as a rookie in 2010, Shaw became one of the most consistent offensive players on FSU's roster last year by grabbing a team third-best 34 passes for 418 yards and four touchdowns.
He followed up that year-long production with even more positive output, grabbing a game-best seven catches for 53 yards in the Seminoles' spring game.
Expect Shaw to remain one of Manuel's most trustworthy targets in 2012.
He may have only started one game as a sophomore but Smith's role is that of someone in the starting lineup. As the "1B" option at middle linebacker along with "1A" Vince Williams, Smith finished 2011 with the eighth-most tackles on the team with 42. He also had one of the highest tackles-for-loss totals among Seminoles with 8 1/2.
Smith's incredible speed provided FSU linebackers coach Greg Hudson an extra weapon on passing situations and in pressuring the quarterback. It's that role, mixed with Williams' strong ability to stuff the run, that makes the 'Noles' one-two punch at middle linebacker so important and it will be the same this season.
Stork is the veteran on Florida State's offensive line and he took over starting right tackle duties this spring after playing center and guard through the first part of his collegiate career.
Stork should enter the fall as the starter on the right side and will be in a battle with Bobby Hart, who started eight games at right tackle as a 17 year-old freshman last year. Should sophomores Josue Matias, Tre' Jackson and Austin Barron get injured or not work out in the middle of the line, Stork could easily slide in and replace any one of those three in the starting lineup thus making him one of the most important players in Trickett's group.
He may have missed the spring with a shoulder injury but that won't stop Werner from entering the fall regarded as one of the top defensive ends in the nation.
Werner had a breakout sophomore season in 2011 as he posted 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks -- totals that were second only to superstar defensive end teammate Brandon Jenkins. Together, the duo forms one of college football's best defensive end tandems and Werner's increased reputation should draw some of the attention and double teams away from his counterpart.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a breakdown of FSU's sophomore class.