As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.
Team: Florida State Seminoles
Spring Practice Start Date: March 20
Spring Game Date:
Florida State was effectively “back” in 2012, but with the spoils of success comes a lot of change heading into 2013. Seven assistants left for greener pastures during the offseason, and the team only returns 10 starters. So this spring is just as much about getting to know all the new faces around the program, as it is establishing an early depth chart for next season.
Offensively, the top priority is replacing departed senior QB EJ Manuel, who’s held down the position for three-plus seasons. While there’s certainly some expected drop-off without Manuel, the team has a big decision to make: established backup who will likely jump right in to run the offense, or promote a less established player who may need more time to take the reins. In one corner, you have the former, Clint Trickett, who will be a junior next season. In the other, the ‘Noles can choose from rising sophomore Jacob Coker and star 2012 QB recruit Jameis Winston. All have their respective merits, but without a settled option at offensive coordinator right now, it’ll be hard to truly get a read on what the assistants are looking for. One would assume head coach Jimbo Fisher will be aiming not to rock the boat, adapting his coaching hire and system to the best quarterback available on the roster. But an all-out quarterback competition looks to be in the offing, and it may not even be settled until well into August.
Over on defense, the team introduces new faces at seven different spots, returning just four starters from last season. In previous years, this was a group that relied on a strong pass-rush, but with veterans along the line all graduated, it may be the defensive backs that truly run the show now. Spring practice will obviously help sort some of that out, though. Senior LaMarcus Joyner will be back in action, but he’ll switch from the cornerback position to safety. The no.1-rated player in the class of 2012, DE Mario Edwards Jr., showed glimmers of excellence in limited action last year, and now he’ll be called upon to do so much more as a featured member of the line. New D-coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brings with him three years at the major college level, all as a secondary coach with Alabama. Since the Tide ranked among the top 13 passing defenses each of the past three seasons, it’s no wonder FSU’s so excited to bring Pruitt aboard, and so likely to possess a strong secondary this year. The system may take time, but again, that’s what spring practices are for. On the bright side for the Seminoles, they’re replacing so many starters and coaches, it may not be that bad.
Florida State’s pulled in top-10 recruiting classes each of the last four seasons (according to Rivals), and now’s the time to see just how deep that talent pipeline’s gotten. While plenty of players left Tallahassee after last season’s successful campaign, there’s still enough left — both established and developing — to duplicate that sort of performance. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, ends up being the offense; how do you proceed during the spring without an offensive coordinator, and a clear message on your system for next season? Knowing Jimbo Fisher’s way of doing things, they’ll manage just fine. But the Seminoles’ spring practice figures to be among the more intriguing in the conference (if not the country).