Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will look to build off a 10-win season in 2010 as they enter the 2011 season ranked 5th in the country. If they can take care of Oklahoma at home their next likely game against a Top 25 team will be against Florida in the last week of the season. Florida State has a trio of great running backs and one of the nation’s best defenses. If quarterback EJ Manuel can play up to his potential, the Seminoles will have a shot to play for the National Championship.
Florida State has one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Chris Thompson, Ty Jones, and Jermaine Thomas give the Seminoles great depth at running back. Thompson will lead the way for Florida State as he is small, shifty back who possesses great speed and quickness. Thompson is one cut away from taking it to the barn every time he carries the ball. In 2010, Thompson rushed for 846 yards and 6 touchdowns, while averaging 6.4 yards per carry (three touchdown runs of over 70 yards). Jones and Thomas are the more hard-nosed, between the tackle types of runners as they both tip the scales at over 200 pounds and love contact. The two had very similar numbers last season as they combined for 1,017 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fisher will have the running game going early and often this season. A team that relies on running the football is not something we see much in college football, and Florida State will go back to the basics and be successful at it.
EJ Manuel will take Christian Ponder’s spot as the Seminoles’ starting quarterback. Manuel was the nation’s top rated quarterback coming out of high school and possesses every tool a quarterback needs to become a star. At 6’5 245, Manuel has both tremendous size and a rocket for an arm. Last season, Manuel threw for 861 yards and 4 touchdowns, while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Those are quite impressive numbers for a backup quarterback who saw limited action.
Manuel’s abilities don’t stop with his arm as he also has great speed for a quarterback and can make things happen with his feet. He isn’t going to wow you with long runs, but he is mobile. Manuel can make throws on the run and can be effective running the ball on passing downs. Despite it being Manuel’s first year starting, the Seminoles have nothing to worry about as this kid has the makings to be the next star.
Manuel will have one of the best wide receiving corps to work with as Florida State returns its top four wide outs from last season. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling are the two speedsters of the bunch as both are under 6’0 tall and run sub 4.40 40-yard dashes. Reed led the team in receptions (58) and yards (614) last season. Florida State also has two big targets and Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith, and both will provide Manuel with great red zone threats, as they combined for 9 touchdowns in 2010.
The Seminoles offense will be awfully impressive and their defense is even better. Mark Stoops will look to improve off a year in which his defense allowed just 19.6 points per game. Florida State returns nine starters on defense. Watch for First Team All American defensive end Brandon Jenkins to have a huge year as Jenkins was one of the nation’s best pass rushers in 2010, recording 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He will give opposing quarterbacks nightmares all season long as he is one of the most talented players in the country and will likely be a top 10 NFL draft pick.
Florida State’s secondary will be led by sophomore Xavier Rhodes, who established himself as one of the most well-respected defensive backs in the country. Rhodes led the team with 4 interceptions and 12 pass break ups a year ago. Opposing quarterbacks will have a tough time against the Seminoles as they feature one of the nation’s best secondaries.
Florida State has potential All-Americans at each and every position. They are one of the most well-rounded teams heading into the 2011 season and, based upon their schedule is, the Seminoles have to be one of the favorites to hoist the crystal ball.
Written By: Jay Louis
Edited By: Jeff Keim