Spring Practice Primer: Florida State
EJ Manuel steps under center for his final year at Florida State. Can the Seminoles finally recapture the ACC Championship for the first time since 2005?
Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Florida State.
Spring Practice Starts: March 19
Spring Game: Saturday, April 14
Three things to look for:
1. EJ Manuel's last spring under center. Manuel says his leg feels healthy headed into spring practice, a recent concern after it was revealed that he played much of the Champs Sports Bowl with a fractured fibula. Even though the Semnioles' season opener will be his 27th appearance, Manuel did not assume total control of the offense until last season. The senior finished the season completing 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,666 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions. Manuel's lengthy career at Florida State has been a mixed bag of promise and setbacks, but things appear to be trending up heading into his final year. Florida State once again has ACC title expectations heading into the fall, and Manuel's legacy at Florida State will likely be defined in 2012.
2. Lack of depth at running back. Florida State may have opened 2011 fall camp with a full stable of running backs, but they open spring practice with the exact opposite. Leading rusher Devonte Freeman will miss spring workouts with a back injury, similar to the same one that is keeping senior running back Chris Thompson on the sideline for spring drills as well. Freeman's fellow sophomore running back James Wilder Jr. is also out of workouts for now, currently dealing with off-field legal issues. Head coach Jimbo Fisher told reporters Wilder Jr. will not rejoin the team until the situation has been resolved, and there is no timetable for when that might happen. That leaves early enrollee freshman Mario Pender with a great opportunity to impress the coaching staff this spring.
3. Talent-laden defense with something to prove. With Brandon Jenkins, Xavier Rhodes, and Greg Reid all deciding to forego opportunities in the NFL draft, defensive coordinator Mark Stoops will have one of the most talented defensive units in recent years this fall. Jaccobi McDaniel, Bjoern Werner , and Rhodes will be out or limited this spring, but the rest of the 10 regular rotation players on defense in 2011 will be back on the field. Florida State led the ACC in total defense (275.0 ypg) and scoring defense (15.1) a season ago, and bringing everyone back should lead to a high level of play starting now in spring practice.
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