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Posted: Monday August 16, 2010 10:58AM ; Updated: Monday August 16, 2010 2:03PM

Top 25 Team Previews

AthlonSports.com
21
Florida State Seminoles

Top 25 Athlon Team Previews: Florida State Seminoles

2009 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in ACC)
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Greg Reid :: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
2010 Schedule
Sept. 4Samford
Sept. 11at Oklahoma
Sept. 18BYU
Sept. 25Wake Forest
Oct. 2at Virginia
Oct. 9at Miami
Oct. 16Boston College
Oct. 28at NC State
Nov. 6North Carolina
Nov. 13Clemson
Nov. 20at Maryland
Nov. 27Florida
2009 Results
Sept. 7MiamiL34-38
Sept. 12Jacksonville StateW19- 9
Sept. 19at BYUW54-28
Sept. 26South FloridaL7-17
Oct. 3at Boston CollegeL21-28
Oct. 10Georgia TechL44-49
Oct. 22at North CarolinaW30-27
Oct. 31NC StateW45-42
Nov. 7at ClemsonL24-40
Nov. 14at Wake ForestW41-28
Nov. 21MarylandW29-26
Nov. 28at FloridaL10-37
Jan. 1West Virginia (Gator Bowl)W33-21
2009 Rankings
OFFENSEPER GAMEACCNAT'L
Scoring30.1 ppg632
Rushing149.5 ypg459
Passing271.9 ypg325
Total421.4 ypg228
DEFENSEPER GAMEACCNAT'L
Scoring30.0 ppg1094
Rushing204.6 ypg12108
Passing230.0 ypg1177
Total434.6 ypg12108
TO MARGINPER GAMEACCNAT'L
+1+0.08658
2010 Projected Rosters
OFFENSE
WRBert Reed (Jr.)Willie Haulstead (So.)
WRRodney Smith (So.)Josh Gehres (Fr.)
LTAndrew Datko (Jr.)Rhonne Sanderson (So.)
LGRodney Hudson (Sr.)Blake Snider (So.)
CRyan McMahon (Sr.)A.J. Ganguzza (Jr.)
RGDavid Spurlock (Jr.)Bryan Stork (Fr.)
RTZebrie Sanders (Jr.)Henry Orelus (Fr.)
TEBeau Reliford (Jr.)Ja'Baris Little (Jr.)
QBChristian Ponder (Sr.)EJ Manuel (So.)
FBLonnie Pryor (So.)Debrale Smiley (So.)
RBChris Thompson (So.)Jermaine Thomas (Jr.)
DEFENSE
DEMarkus White (Sr.)Toshmon Stevens (So.)
DTMoses McCray (Jr.)Everett Dawkins (So.)
DTJacobbi McDaniel (So.)Anthony McCloud (So.)
DEBrandon Jenkins (So.)Dan Hicks (Fr.)
SLBNigel Carr (Jr.)Mister Alexander (Sr.)
MLBKendall Smith (Sr.)Jeff Luc (Fr.)
WLBNigel Bradham (Jr.)Vince Williams (So.)
CBGreg Reid (So.)Dionte Allen (Jr.)
CBOchuko Jenije (Sr.)Xavier Rhodes (Fr.)
SSNick Moody (So.)Gerald Demps (Fr.)
FSTerrance Parks (So.)Jajuan Harley (So.)
SPECIAL TEAMS
1Dustin Hopkins (So.)KRGreg Reid (So.)
1Shawn Powell (Jr.)PRGreg Reid (So.)
RETURNING LEADERS
Passing: Christian Ponder (2,717 yards, 14 TDs, 7 INTs)
Rushing: Jermaine Thomas (163 car, 832 yds, 9 TDs)
Receiving: Bert Reed (60 rec, 710 yds, 0 TD)
Tackles: Nigel Bradham (93, 61 solo)
Sacks: Mister Alexander (5)
Interceptions: Ochuko Jenije (4 for 54 yds)
MORE FROM ATHLON
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PLAYERS TO WATCH

Christian Ponder, QB: He's easily the Seminoles' best quarterback since 2000 Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.

Rodney Hudson, G: He dominated opponents despite playing with an injured foot last season.

Greg Reid, CB: The explosive athlete could be team's most talented player.

IMPORTANT LOSSES

Patrick Robinson, CB: He might have been the lone bright spot on a weak defense.

Rod Owens, WR: The leading receiver was not explosive, but was very consistent.

Caz Piurowski, TE: He was an exceptional blocker and a threat in the passing game.

NUMBERS GAME

4: As a group, Florida State's defensive ends recorded four sacks last season. For perspective, there were 19 players in the ACC who finished with at least four sacks by themselves.

OFFENSE

It was an unfortunate decision after an ill-advised pass, but it might have been the best thing that could have happened to the 2010 Seminoles. When Christian Ponder lowered his shoulder to deliver a hit on Clemson defensive back DeAndre McDaniel following a fourth quarter interception last November, the then-junior quarterback still was weighing his NFL options.

At the time of his injury, Ponder had established himself as one of the nation's top quarterbacks -- he was averaging more than 300 passing yards per game and completing 68.8 percent of his passes. But the painful injury and subsequent surgery convinced him to return for his senior season, and there are indications it could be a year to remember.

First-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, who has sent a number of quarterbacks to the NFL, said Ponder has a chance to be the best he has ever coached. And the senior will be surrounded by a wealth of talent and experience. The Seminoles bring back their entire offensive line, every running back and nearly every wide receiver from a unit that was the most balanced in the ACC last season.

DEFENSE

Fisher hopes a revamped defensive coaching staff, led by new coordinator Mark Stoops, can salvage a Seminoles defense that was among the worst in the country last season. The Seminoles couldn't stop the run or the pass in 2009; they allowed each of their final nine opponents to score at least 21 points. And they were downright blistered by Miami (38 points), Georgia Tech (49), NC State (42), Clemson (40) and Florida (37).

Former coordinator Mickey Andrews has since retired, and Fisher didn't waste any time dismissing assistants Chuck Amato and Jody Allen. They were replaced with former East Carolina coordinator Greg Hudson and former Rice assistant D.J. Eliot.

Fisher believes he has the talent to win on defense, but the question will be how quickly FSU's players can gain a firm grasp of Stoops' diverse schemes. The Seminoles also have the issue of few proven defensive linemen.

SPECIALISTS

With quality starters across the board, it's tough to imagine many teams having as much confidence in their special teams as Florida State. The Seminoles love strong-legged placekicker Dustin Hopkins (long of 52 as a freshman) and punter Shawn Powell (41.6-yard average). "They can be special weapons," Fisher said. But the jewel of this unit is sophomore return specialist Greg Reid, who recorded a 68-yard punt return for a score and a 68-yard kickoff return.

FINAL ANALYSIS

It's never easy to replace a legend such as Bobby Bowden, but Fisher believes his two-year apprenticeship as FSU's head coach-in-waiting gave him a running start. "I feel like I know the players and they know what I'm going to demand," Fisher said. "I already know what the problems are. That's the advantage to that whole coach-in-waiting deal."

Facing a schedule that includes early road trips to Oklahoma and Miami and a challenging home slate (BYU, Clemson, North Carolina and Florida, among others), Fisher might need that head start.

The Seminoles are coming off their third 7-6 campaign in the past four years, and the talent level isn't anywhere near what it was in Bowden's heyday. But if Stoops can turn the defense around in short order, Fisher's first squad might again be back in the championship hunt -- at least in the ACC.

 
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