Aug. 1, 2013
No. 12 Florida State may have switched its position coach and lost two starters, but an argument can be made that the Seminoles are overall deeper and more talented at linebacker than they have been in recent memory.
Former linebackers coach Greg Hudson is now the defensive coordinator at Purdue and>Vince Williams and>Nick Moody are competing in NFL training camps but new 'Noles assistant Charles Kelly has a stocked cupboard of talent to mold with his wisdom and experience.
And it all starts with his two senior stars.
Christian Jones is considered by many to be one of the top linebackers in all of college football and has a legitimate chance to play himself into first-round NFL Draft conversations. Jones led the team in tackles a season ago and was second in that category in 2011.
Like teammate Lamarcus Joyner, Jones has started a team-high 27 consecutive games entering the 2013. Also like Joyner, Jones is making the move to a new position for his final year in the garnet and gold; the Winter Park, Fla. native will begin fall camp penciled in as the starting middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's scheme, one year after starting every game at weak side linebacker. The year prior, Jones was the starter at the strong-side spot.
Also making a slight shift at linebacker is that other star senior,>Telvin Smith.
A "1b" option at middle linebacker the past two seasons behind Williams, Smith is now the starter at weak side linebacker where he can use his incredible speed and range to make plays sideline-to-sideline and in the backfield. Like Jones, Smith is an early candidate for the Dick Butkus Award, which is given annually to college football's best linebacker.
Kelly may boast a plethora of talent to work with but the one knock on FSU's 2013 linebacker corps is that it lacks much experience.
Of the 11 scholarship linebackers on the roster, Jones, Smith and>Nigel Terrell -- a reserve that has played in eight total games over the past two seasons -- are the only upperclassmen. Sophomores>Reggie Northrup and>Terrance Smith have experience but they are untested; freshmen>Matthew Thomas,>Ro'Derrick Hoskins,>Tyrell Lyons,>E.J. Levenberry,>Freddie Stevenson and>Ukeme Eligwe are all highly touted prospects but they have never played a single down of college football.
Terrance Smith begins his redshirt sophomore season penciled in as the starter at strong side linebacker. FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher was complimentary of>Terrance Smith as a backup last season and has said on multiple occasions that he could see him becoming a standout player. Northrup showed flashes of his playmaking ability as a rookie on special teams in 2012 and is listed as>Telvin Smith's backup entering camp.
Of FSU's freshmen linebackers, both Eligwe and Stevenson head into camp Aug. 6 on the second team. Eligwe, a big-bodied, athletic redshirt freshman, is>Terrance Smith's backup on the outside and Stevenson, an early enrollee that participated in spring practices, is Jones' backup in the middle.
Where those youngsters and the other four- and five-star prospects that comprise the rest of the group of linebackers wind up will be determined over the next several weeks.
With so many young players that each boast different traits, Kelly should be able to find the perfect nucleus and rotation to make the Florida State linebackers -- led by Jones and>Telvin Smith -- one of the team's strengths in 2013.