May 17, 2012
Even though he was a surprise signee as a two-star recruit in the 2011 class, Barron used the chip on his shoulder formed by his lack of recruiting attention and work ethic to earn a spot in FSU's starting lineup at center.
By season's end, Barron had started three of the final five games in the heart of the Seminoles' offensive line and maintained that position throughout his first spring in Tallahassee earlier this year. Like Ryan McMahon before him, Barron has the chance to serve as the 'Noles' starting center for four consecutive seasons if he continues to progress and develop under Rick Trickett's tutelage.
There wasn't a bigger storyline during Florida State's spring practices than Erving's successful switch from defensive tackle to offensive line. Despite never playing on offense before, Erving began the spring as the starter at left tackle and played well enough to hold on to that spot by spring's end.
Helping Erving in his transition was the fact that he was forced to match up against All-America candidate Brandon Jenkins every day at practice -- a task that will pay dividends when he has to face elite pass rushers throughout the 2012 season.
Erving was recently labeled by ESPN as FSU's most important player entering the season.
Head coach Jimbo Fisher has always said that the best players will play no matter how long they've been in the program. That proved true last season when Freeman moved past then-seniors Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas on the depth chart and started the final seven games of the season after Chris Thompson went down with a season-ending injury.
Unfortunately for Freeman, he didn't get a chance to build off that rookie-season playing time in the spring as a back injury has sidelined him this off-season. When he is healthy, Freeman will likely return to the top of the starting lineup in 2012 where he will compete with Thompson, Mario Pender and James Wilder, Jr. for the most snaps in the backfield.
Foose played in just three games last year and will continue to develop and learn the system as a reserve offensive linemen.
If he can continue to progress, Foose will have a chance to increase his playing time and perhaps push for a starting role on FSU's youthful offensive line.
Green was one of two freshman wide receivers to stand out in 2011 (the other being Rashad Greene). Green finished his redshirt freshman campaign with 26 catches for 450 yards -- the third most of anyone on the team.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound pass catcher seemed to be a big play waiting to happen last season but he surprisingly was never able to find the endzone. That should change this year as he attempts to take the next step in his development and production much like teammates Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent and Rodney Smith did when they advanced to their second year on the gridiron.
It's hard to have a better freshman season than Greene did in 2011. The only thing that would have made it better would be if he hadn't missed four games with an injury.
Despite not being in the lineup for a third of FSU's games, Greene still managed to lead the team in receptions (38), yards (596) and touchdowns (seven) as he became one of the biggest threats in the Atlantic Coast Coast Conference.
Imagine what Greene can do this year if he stays healthy.
Hart was one of several freshmen to play on the offensive line in 2011 but despite being only 17 years old he started the most games of any of FSU's rookies. After Andrew Datko went down with a season-ending injury and Zebrie Sanders moved from right tackle to left, Hart stepped in and started the final nine games of the season.
He had his ups and downs as a new player but the experience of playing in so many big games will only help Hart as he continues to battle Bryan Stork for the starting job at right tackle when fall camp starts in August.
After playing in 11 games as a true freshman primarily on special teams, Hunter now has the opportunity to step up and replace Mike Harris as the Seminoles' nickel corner -- an important position that draws the task of matching up with speedy opposing receivers in the slot.
Hunter looked good in his first spring at FSU in that new role while also working into the rotation at safety behind incumbent starter Lamarcus Joyner. FSU needs to have consistency at its third cornerback spot behind Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes and Hunter will be faced with that meeting that objective when the team returns to action in a few months.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was high on Jackson before the season started and admitted that the then-freshman would have played more early in the year if not for injury. After returning to full health, Jackson played in the team's final eight games and even started at right guard in the bowl-game win over Notre Dame.
Jackson used a strong second-half performance in that victory to propel himself into a starting position when spring practices began an he stayed in that spot at its end. He will enter fall camp looking to maintain his perch atop the depth chart.
Greene was FSU's offensive rookie of the year and Jernigan earned those honors on the defensive side of the ball. The talented defensive tackle picked up right where he left off in high school, disrupting opposing offensive linemen and harassing ball carriers and quarterbacks alike.
Jernigan finished his rookie campaign with 30 tackles, six tackles for loss, 2 1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery before a knee injury sidelined him for the spring.
When he returns to full health, Jernigan will be in position to earn a starting job at defensive tackle and perhaps become a nationally-known college football star at some point in 2012.
Lovelady is coming off a true freshman season that saw him play spot duty and some special teams work. Lovelady will enter his second season with the Seminoles with the intent of pushing his fellow classmates for playing time and increasing the competition on the interior of FSU's offensive line.
Matias was like Lovelady in that his rookie year was spent gaining experience as a reserve. But because of injury, Matias started the first game of his career in the Champs Sports Bowl and -- like Jackson -- held on to that job throughout spring camp.
Matias has the opportunity to capture the starting left guard job for good when practices resume in early August and if he, Barron and Jackson can all continue to improve FSU will have some much-needed stability for the next several years in the heart of its line.
As a redshirt freshman, Terrell played sparingly on defense and earned some special teams work. This year, he will once again be a reserve player but with more on the line as the second-team strongside linebacker behind converted safety Nick Moody.
Terrell will be expected to contribute and be ready for a starter's role this year should Moody sustain an injury.
Fans and critics alike have taken issue with FSU's lack of presence at the tight end position for years but that may be on the verge of changing. O'Leary has the skill-set and ability to put up big catch numbers at tight end and this spring saw the offensive gameplan shift towards getting the ball.
Throughout the spring, O'Leary could be seen lining up in the backfield or going in pre-snap motion with the intent of being freed from defenders and therefore becoming more dangerous as a potential target for EJ Manuel. FSU's second-year tight end has the opportunity to have a breakout season for the Seminoles if that mentality and play-calling method doesn't change.
Trickett looked a lot like a seasoned veteran when he led his Garnet Team to victory in FSU's annual spring game as the redshirt sophomore further showed that he can handle the quarterback duties should he be called into action.
The competition between Trickett and redshirt freshman Jacob Coker for the No. 2 spot under center will continue into the fall after strong springs by both. That competition will continue throughout the season and into next year, making for a very interesting spring of 2013.
With Dan Hicks' move from defensive end to tight end and O'Leary's hype, Tye isn't talked about much. That shouldn't be the case as the athletic but raw Tye has the chance to give FSU a dynamic trio at the position in 2012.
While Hunter worked himself into the nickel back role this spring, fellow sophomore Waisome was doing the same at one of the outside cornerback positions. The rising second-year player will be counted on to provide quality depth in 2012 as he improves and gets ready to fight for a starting job in 2013.
FSU was dangerously thin at tailback through most of spring as Freeman was out with an injury, Thompson was limited and Wilder was away from the team while dealing with legal issues.
But after the bruising 'back returned to action in the latter part of the spring practice period, Wilder showed no rust and gave coaches hope that he can be someone to count on this season. Wilder played sparingly as a rookie but that could all change in 2012.
Even though Freeman closed out 2011 as the starter, Wilder has the chance to earn the starting job when camp begins.
The hard-hitting safety contemplated a move to offense this off-season but decided to remain on defense after spending his first season in Tallahassee learning Mark Stoops' playbook. Now, Williams will be expected to push Terrence Brooks for the starting job at safety.
While he's doing that, though, all eyes will be on special teams where Williams is a touchdown waiting to happen on any kick off.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a breakdown of FSU's freshman class.