By Paxton Delany
Coach Jimbo Fisher finished his second season with the Florida State Seminoles by leading them to a win over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl (18-14). Prior to the bowl kickoff, Fisher’s contract was extended to 2016 and he hopes to lead his Seminoles to more victories over the coming seasons.
Florida State ended its 2011 season 5-3 in the ACC and 9-4 overall – that’s not terrible but there is always room for improvement. The three ACC losses were to eventual ACC Champion Clemson (35-30), Wake Forest (35-30), and finally Virginia, who snuck by the Seminoles 14-13 for the win. Big 12 foe Oklahoma proved to be the first loss of the season 23-13. The Seminoles’ best run of the season came in the middle when they took five ACC wins against Duke (41-16), Maryland (41-16), North Carolina State (34-0), Boston College (38-7) and Miami (23-19). After the heartbreaking loss to Virginia, Florida State came back and defeated the Gators in the last game of the season (21-7). Finally, the Noles ended their season with the aforementioned Champs Sports Bowl win over the Irish.
The 2012 season brings new teams to FSU’s schedule as Murray State and Savannah State will replace Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern for the Seminoles first two games. Oklahoma will be replaced with South Florida and instead of the Virginia Cavaliers, the Seminoles will play the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Also for 2012, the Seminoles expect to gain some depth created from their 2011 freshmen. Many of the redshirted freshmen are stepping up and could prove to be important players to the Noles. Punter Cason Beatty and Kelvin Benjamin also look to start their college football careers. Fullback Eric Beverly is not expected to make a huge impact but will be used as depth on the bench. Lamarcus Brutus is also looking at a depth position on the bench at safety. Ruben Carter is ready to play for the offensive line after a year on the sidelines; Jacob Carter will add depth to the quarterback position. Derrick Mitchell and Giorgio Newberry will be looking for snaps as defensive tackles. Mario Pender came in halfway through the 2011 season and will have much experience under his belt as a running back. Keelin Smith, similar to Pender, played a bit in 2011 and hopes to help out as much as possible at cornerback. Tery Pettis is a redshirt rookie looking to play offensively, while Nile Lawrence-Stample will look to do the same defensively.
Those not returning for the 2012 Florida State team include linebacker Nigel Bradham, who was picked up in by the Buffalo Bills in the NFL Draft’s fourth round. Similarly, Zebrie Sanders was picked up by the Buffalo Bills. Another key loss to the lineup will be Mike Harris, who was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Lastly, FSU lost Andrew Datko, who was picked up the by Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the draft.
The Seminoles have several strong players returning to carry on their college careers, though. That includes senior quarterback EJ Manuel. Manuel suffered a fractured fibula during the Seminoles’ bowl game but is said to be in action for spring training. Sophomore quarterback Clint Trickett is also returning. Team leading running back Devonta Freeman (sophomore) as well as wide receivers Rashad Greene and Rodney Smith are all returning too. Florida State also returns an important redshirted sophomore as cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who said that part of his decision came upon hearing of the return of fellow teammates Brandon Jenkins and Greg Reid, who will both be returning to finish their senior years at FSU. Other returnees include running back Chris Thompson, kicker Dustin Hopkins, linebacker Nick Moody, who steps in to replace Bradham, and a junior college basketball player Menelik Watson (OL).
March 19 marked the beginning of spring training for the Seminoles. Coach Fisher commented after practice and said: “Mentality was good, knowing what to do was good. I was pleased with guys that switched positions and moved around and you can tell that they’ve been looking at some things and studying on their own.”
April 14 marked the Seminoles’ Spring Game (Garnet vs. Gold), where the Garnet defeated Gold 35-20. Trickett led the Garnet team to its win over Gold with 173 passing yards and 2 TDs on 12-of-23 passing. Wide receiver Rashad Gholston took two passes in for touchdowns. Another one of Trickett’s passes found Greg Dent, who ran 75 yards for a touchdown. For the Gold, Manuel went 28 for 51 and 255 yards; Manuel had 2 touchdowns and 2 turnovers. Freshman Kelvin Benjamin caught four passes for 46 yards.
On the defensive side, linebacker Telvin Smith had 8 tackles for the Gold team, while Keelin Smith followed up with 7 tackles. Additionally for the Garnet, senior Cornellius Carradine had 7 stops. “We’ve got a good foundation built. Now it just matters what we do between now and the first ball game,” Coach Fisher said after the game.
Florida State opens its season against Murray State on Sept. 1. FSU opens ACC play with Wake Forrest on Sept. 15, followed by Clemson on the 22nd. Other ACC games include North Carolina (Oct. 8), Boston College (Oct. 13), Miami (Oct. 20), Duke (Oct. 27), Virginia Tech (Nov. 8 ) and Maryland (Nov. 17).