College football never ends. And during the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Florida State Seminoles and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice began: March 20
Spring game: April 20
2012 record: 12-2 overall, 7-1 ACC
Returning starters: 10 (six offense, four defense)
The Least You Should Know about Florida State This Spring
-- The heralded Florida State defense gets a face-lift. The Seminoles have ridden the strength of a top-10 defense for the last two seasons, suffocating opponents with a deep and dominant defensive line with NFL-caliber playmakers in the secondary. The challenge for 2013 will be to continue that success with new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and without seven starters on defense -- including all four on the defensive line.
Under Mark Stoops, the defense frequently allowed the front four to apply pressure while the linebackers and defensive backs were in read-and-react mode. There was no need to commit another player when Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner, Everett Dawkins and Anthony McCloud alone gave coaches nightmares. But Pruitt plans to implement much more blitzing from the linebackers and defensive backs, something that has hard hitting athletes like Christian Jones and Lamarcus Joyner excited about the upcoming season. Pruitt, the former defensive backs coach at Alabama, is installing some of the same pressure schemes that Nick Saban and Kirby Smart use in Tuscaloosa. Florida State is not switching out of its 4-3 multiple look, but the roles are much more specific this year and Pruitt is counting on the back seven to take on a playmaking role.
As for the defensive line, the new starters are familiar names to Florida State fans. Because of the aforementioned depth, defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan, Demonte McAllister (who is out for the spring following offseason shoulder surgery), Eddie Goldman, Nile Lawrence-Stample and Jacobbi McDaniel are all ready to hit the field immediately. The same can be said for Mario Edwards, Jr., but the other defensive end spot is up for grabs this spring. Keep your eye on the eligibility of true freshman Demarcus Walker, who could make or break this position's strength for 2013.
-- Spring practice will serve as orientation for six new assistant coaches. Pruitt is not the only assistant making his debut in Tallahassee this spring. Jimbo Fisher made six hires since December, and the end result is an energetic, vocal group that must earn the players' trust this spring. While the group is new, there is a nice blend of experience and rising stars in the coaching ranks. Longtime coaches like Tim Brewster (tight ends), Sal Sunseri (defensive ends) and Randy Sanders (quarterbacks) can provide a valuable veteran presence while Charles Kelly (special teams/linebackers) and Jay Graham (running backs) round out the new faces on the sideline.
-- Clint Trickett leads a quarterback competition to replace EJ Manuel. One of the headline-stealing stories of spring practice is the four-man quarterback competition to replace EJ Manuel. The No. 1, for now, is redshirt junior Clint Trickett. Trickett, the son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, has the advantage of sharing a meeting room with Manuel, Christian Ponder and Jimbo Fisher for the last three years. Trickett has also played in 16 games and started in two as a redshirt freshman in 2011. Most of his snaps last season were late in games with the outcome determined. Jacob Coker only saw clean-up duty in 2012, appearing in four games as a redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback is a more physical player than Trickett, but he still needs to prove his grasp of the offense to the coaches. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is arguably the most hyped player in the race, but the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2012 is also spending spring as the closer on Florida State's baseball team. Winston has been able to handle both sports so far, but it could play a role in his starting chances for 2013. Sean Maguire, also a redshirt freshman, will likely end up fourth on the depth chart unless there is an injury in spring practice.
-- Who will emerge at what position on the offensive line? This question will likely resurface throughout spring practice and fall camp, but it is worth keeping an eye on early. The line was the weak link in an otherwise talented offense just a few years ago, but the combination of experience and health led to a big step forward in 2012. Cam Erving transitioned well from the defensive side of the ball to offensive tackle while Tre' Jackson and Josue Matias emerged as a dominating interior combo at the guard spot. Because of Fisher's recent issues with offensive line depth, the Seminoles' coach is going to spend spring practice shuffling players around. If health issues arise, players will be ready to fill in at different positions.
Two players to keep an eye on this spring are Bryan Stork and Bobby Hart. Hart started in nine games at tackle as a true freshman in 2011 but moved to a reserve role last season. He is a candidate to replace NFL-bound Menelik Watson at right tackle but could end up playing some guard as well. Stork has played center, guard and tackle at different times for the Seminoles, and there are those who believe he will start at right tackle. If Stork is not playing at center, look for Austin Barron to move up into a starter's role.