May 28, 2013
Florida State's 2013 season is officially less than 100 days away but our summertime breakdown of the returning scholarship players meets its end today with a look at the freshmen.
The Seminoles return a bevy of talented upperclassmen and second-year players that will all prove vital to the team's success this year. But FSU also brings back eight redshirt freshmen that will all be expected to contribute -- some even in starting roles -- and two true freshmen that have been enrolled since January.
Aguayo is charged with the tall task of replacing the golden-footed one, Dustin Hopkins. And while it's a lot of pressure to step in for one of the most successful kickers in the history of college football, Aguayo has a redshirt year that he learned from Hopkins and a strong spring that should help the transition.
Over the course of the spring, Aguayo displayed a booming right leg that bodes well for the future of FSU's special teams efforts when faced with kicking field goals from long distances. For the Mascotte, Fla. native, his biggest hurdle will be mastering the art of accuracy. Hopkins did a good job of showing Aguayo the proper manner to prepare physically and mentally for the rigors and pressures of handling the kicking duties at Florida State and coupled with his hard work over the summer and into fall camp, Aguayo should be ready to step in as the new full-time kicker for the next four seasons.
A tall, high-potential defensive back, Blake will get his first taste of college football this season after injuries kept him on the sidelines as a redshirt last year. Blake adds terrific depth to the cornerback rotation and will do his best to push for playing time behind established players like Lamarcus Joyner, Ronald Darby and Nick Waisome. The San Antonio, Texas native should expect to see immediate playing time on special teams to start the year.
Mario Edwards, Jr. received a lot of justifiable hype as the nation's top high school defensive end in the 2012 class but Casher was right there with him, considered to be one of the top five players at the position nationally as well. An injury sidelined the talented pass rusher after he played in the first two games of the season and forced a redshirt year. Now healthy and coming off a good first spring in Tallahassee, Casher will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job on a depleted depth chart following the off-season losses of Brandon Jenkins, Tank Carradine, Toshmon Stevens and Bjoern Werner.
An extremely athletic linebacker, Eligwe was one of the top prep linebackers in the 2012 class before being forced into a redshirt season with a hang injury. Eligwe, who made the off-season jersey-number switch from 16 to 52, will now have the chance to use his range and athleticism in the competition for playing time in a linebacker corps that lost Nick Moody and Vince Williams to the NFL. Eligwe looks like a prototypical middle linebacker but has the ability to earn playing time at any of the three positions under Charles Kelly's command.
Maguire is often the forgotten man in FSU's quarterback competition because the New Jersey native wasn't as hyped as fellow classmate Jameis Winston coming out of high school last year. But Maguire has talent, and should not be overlooked in the three-player battle for the starting job this fall. Head coach Jimbo Fsher has said multiple times since spring ended that Maguire displayed perhaps the most improvement of FSU's returning quarterbacks this spring.
Pender probably wouldn't have played much last year in a running back rotation that featured Chris Thompson, James Wilder, Jr., Devonta Freeman and Lonnie Pryor but the speedy tailback never even got a chance to compete for playing time because of an injury. Fully healed from the sports hernia that cost him the 2012 season, Pender provides the speedy punch to FSU's backfield that it lost when Chris Thompson went down with a season- and FSU-career-ending injury at Miami last fall. Pender is known for his explosiveness and speed and will add that nice dimension to the FSU running game.
Shanks used his redshirt last season to find the right balance necessary to get his body in optimum shape for competition in the trenches of the middle of the defensive line. A true run stuffer, Shanks gives FSU defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins another option to turn to as he works out a rotation that keeps his linemen fresh over the course of a four-quarters game. Shanks was considered one of the best defensive tackles in the nation as a 2012 recruit and could be the next in a long line of NFL caliber defensive tackles at Florida State.
An early enrollee in January, Stevenson was immediately thrown into the fire this past spring as part of a new-look defense under the direction of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Stevenson will be joined by several other freshmen linebackers this summer and the competition for playing time among FSU's young 'backers will be fierce once camp gets started in August.
Another early enrollee, Walker was unfortunately forced to miss all of spring practices while awaiting NCAA clearance. He has since been cleared and his official addition to the team provides much-needed depth to the defensive ends in the wake of those key off-season losses. Walker should expect to see lots of playing time this fall.
Chances are strong you've heard of Winston, even if the dual-sport 'Noles youngster has yet to play a down of college football. The hype surrounding Winston as he enters the 2013 is undeniable, and whether you agree with it or not, the Hueyville, Ala. native hasn't done anything on the field to slow down that train. Whether it was his memorable performance in the spring game in which he tossed a 57-yard touchdown on his first play from scrimmage or the fact that he routinely shows off perhaps college baseball's biggest arm, the first half of 2013 has been a good one for Winston. And if he can officially win the starting quarterback job this fall, FSU fans hope that the second part of his 2013 will be even better.