Entering into the 2013 season, the Florida State Seminoles have higher expectations than in the previous three seasons under Jimbo Fisher. Coming off an Orange Bowl victory in 2012, the Seminoles have to defend their ACC crown.
After a 12-win season, Tallahassee is buzzing with excitement at the possibility of winning their first national title since 1999. EJ Manuel has gone away to the NFL, but even losing one of the best starting quarterbacks to step foot on campus in years won’t be enough to keep them from being serious contenders for a conference and national title.
This could end up being the best Seminole team since 2000 when they finished in the AP and coaches top-five overall. The offense looks to be electric with a freshman quarterback sensation taking the reigns — or so it looks — and a solid returning defense.
Let’s see how the Seminoles stack up against the competition in 2013.
While Manuel is gone, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston has all the hype surrounding him and the offense he will soon be running. The young gunslinger has been named one of the best up-and-coming players in the nation, even before playing a single down at the collegiate level. This kid could end up being the next Johnny Manziel without the problems off the field.
Junior wide out Rashad Greene will be one of the top offensive weapons on the team as he was the leading receiver last season. He could take a lot of pressure off an inexperienced quarterback and help the rushing game out as well.
Leading tackler from 2012, linebacker Christian Jones, looks to be a top draft prospect in 2014. The senior defensive leader had 95 tackles last season and started every game.
As I mentioned before, Winston will be a big piece to the championship puzzle. This team has invested nearly the entire offseason into getting him touches as the first team quarterback, and the coaches and fellow players are quite impressed with the former high school star. He has the talent and the personality to become the next Heisman favorite.
The running back situation should be fairly settled as well. Although the Seminoles will be without leading rusher from 2012, Chris Thompson, they will have 1,295 yards and 19 touchdowns returning in James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman.
Greene is the top returning receiver from last season, and he’s not the only top talent returning from last year’s squad at the wide out position. Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Nick O’Leary will be there to ensure Winston will have some solid targets to lean on.
The defense was one of the best in the nation in 2012, ranking in the top-10 in most major categories and sixth nationally in points against per game. Defense wins championships, and they might be a prime example in 2013 as they were great in 2012 and won a conference title along with a BCS bowl game.
Returning top linebacker, Christian Jones, will be a huge help to the defense with a couple key pieces moving on from last year’s team. Leading the team in tackles and just overall leadership in 2012, Jones will likely be a top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Two returning defensive backs will likely be key to a strong secondary. Seniors Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks combined for 103 tackles and three interceptions last season while playing in every single game.
Losing Cornellius Carradine and Bjoern Werner were two of the biggest losses on defense, combining for 24 sacks and 122 tackles last season. While some key pieces are no longer part of the team, they will still be a formidable group this season.
The schedule will not be an easy one as they face two top-10 opponents on the road, but there is no reason the Seminoles shouldn’t finish the season with a perfect record at home.
With a stellar offense and ever more stellar defense, this team will be tough to derail as the teams in the ACC will definitely be aiming for the top spot — one the Seminoles own.
By playing up to their complete and total potential, the in-state rival Florida Gators could be the only obstacle in their way of a perfect record and national title berth when the season winds down. I believe the Seminoles will finish 11-1 with yet another ACC title and a serious run at a national title.