Review The Preview: Grading College Football News' Assessment Of Florida State

As College Football News rolls out their various season previews of all 12 ACC programs, each ACC Roundtable blogger has agreed to review and critique these reviews. The hope is that we can get the most accurate picture of ACC teams going into the summer. Here is our critique of their Florida State preview.

Sister SBN site BCInterruption.has its review up of the Boston College preview.

One of College Football News' first preview of an ACC school happens to be ours. There's not much in there that we don't already know about this team, but on the whole, they do a really good job of previewing the Noles for the uninitiated.  The author for FSU's preview is Richard Cirminiello.

CFN's 2010 FSU Preview
2010 FSU Offense Preview
2010 FSU Defense Preview
2010 FSU Depth Chart

As always, I give national writers a lot of leeway because it's impossible to nail every intricate detail about every team.  If I miss anything, let me know.  

Richard does a good job re-capping the past few seasons, the conditions that led to the change to Jimbo Fisher, and outlines just how far FSU has to go:

The season will be a success if ... Florida State wins the Atlantic Division for the first time since 2005. In yet another sign of cracks in the Seminole foundation, the program has been relegated to also-ran status in the league's weaker division. That has to change, beginning this year. Man-for-man, who is better in this half of the ACC? Clemson? [This was published before Parker went pro]. Maybe, but the Tigers must travel to Doak Campbell Stadium on Nov. 13 in a pivotal game for both programs.

You can tell Cirminiello has done his research.  He accurately hits on Christian Ponder, the skill guys, and the offensive line.  He says this could be the best offense FSU has had in years.  I agree that this offense could be as good as the Charlie Wars '93 offense, but it was already as good as the Chris Weinke led attack.

Cirminiello gets points from me for actually paying attention to Christian Ponder in spring.  Many national writers have said there are serious questions about his ability to bounce back from shoulder surgery.  Cirminiello correctly notes that Ponder took every snap in Spring and even had extra zip on his passes.  

One issue I did have with his QB evaluation was this:  

Weakness: Red zone passing. A year ago, Florida State was No. 2 in the ACC in passing attempts, yet ranked No. 7 with just 16 touchdown passes. In order for the offense to make a step in the right direction, it's incumbent upon the quarterbacks to maintain their high accuracy rate deep in opposing territory.

FSU scored the most points per red zone trip in the ACC.  FSU doesn't need to throw the ball more often in the red zone.  The 'Noles rushed for 27 touchdowns last year and their QBs were plenty efficient.  

Overall:  good evaluation.  But why only an 8.5?  FSU has arguably the best QB in the country and no team with a QB the quality of Ponder has a backup approaching E.J. Manuel.

On to the running backs.  Cirminiello gets credit for paying attention to Spring ball (with a new staff, that's the best possible source).  He correctly notes that Chris Thompson has a good shot to start this season.  The rest of the preview looks great except for this one point:

... Jermaine Thomas... A bona fide breakaway back, he has outstanding speed...

Jermaine Thomas isn't slow, but he definitely doesn't have breakaway speed.  He's been caught from behind many times and seems to lack that extra gear.  Perhaps that changes a bit this year with FSU's new strength and speed coaching, along with the tutelage of RB coach Eddie Gran.  Cirminiello nails Thomas' other attributes.

I would, however, like to see Cirminiello mention the excellent receiving talents of Thomas, Thompson, and Pryor- all of whom have tremendous hands and have played some receiver.  And he neglects to mention Debrale Smiley and Tavares Pressley, though I don't think many expect them to be major contributors.  The error is minor.

Keep reading for the rest of the review!

I think Richard is accurate in his individual assessments of the wide receivers.  I like that he notes the position labels (Bert Reed as the "X", Jarmon Fortson at the "Y").  And he's paid enough attention to note that Beau Reliford needs to improve his blocking and route running.  

But while his individual assessments are detailed and accurate, I think he misdiagnoses the "weakness" of the unit.  Though that is not entirely his fault.  

Weakness: The backups. Particularly if Easterling has played his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State is going to be dangerously thin at wide receiver beyond the starters. Haulstead and Smith might be good ones down the road, but right now, they're a couple of kids with two career catches between them.

I can't agree with this.  FSU returns the 3rd most catches in the ACC (behind Miami and NC State).  Haulstead and Smith didn't play much last season not because they weren't good enough or weren't ready, but because FSU had players in front of them.  Expecting performance from the pair isn't unrealistic.  Both are extremely talented and reports of their development are quite positive.  Remember that Fortson, Reed, and Easterling were all sophomores last season, just as Smith and Haulstead are this season.  I really don't think FSU, which is not a spread team, has concerns about depth at the receiver position.  

I also don't see how Richard can rate this unit as a 7.5 and rate the RBs as an 8.  FSU's receivers are not worse than its backs.

Moving to the offensive line, this is what separates the pretenders from the quality writers.  And Cirminiello nailed it.  I like how he tracks the timeline and progression of youngest offensive line ('08) to best OLine in the ACC (09) to one of if not the best offensive line in the country.  Further, Cirminiello actually got the blocking gradeout %s.  I hadn't seen anyone publish those yet and it adds incredible depth to this preview.   Just a very good job.



Evaluating this defense is a very tough task for many writers covering FSU and it's even tougher for national writers.  I think Richard does a commendable job.  And I think he nails it with this line:

Progress is a certainty, but a complete turnaround with this group is asking too much.

My first issue with RIchard's defensive review is this:

The Seminoles will be looking to rebuild a defensive line that ... and loses three key players from the rotation.

I'm not quite sure who those three players are.  I do know that none were drafted or even sniffed the NFL (despite the contentions of one's family member that he would be a second round draft choice at first).  FSU lost 4 defensive linemen and none of them played very well throughout the entire year.  None are major losses.  I won't go as far as some and say that FSU gained by their leaving the team, but I'm not entirely sure that is far off.    

Other than that, I think Cirminiello did a nice job with the defensive line.  Most people I trust agree this defense is a year away from recovering from the recruiting mistakes and lack of development under the previous staff.

On to linebackers where I think the preview is perfect, except for the rating.  The Linebackers should not have the same rating as the defensive line.  They are much better as a group.

As for the secondary, I think he is accurate in his individual play assessments, but listing Korey Mangum as a loss is a major error.  He's probably too high on Greg Reid's coverage skills at this point.  Everyone expects him to be a superstar defender, but he hasn't done anything yet on defense.  Also, including Justin Bright (unlikely to see the field) and omitting Xavier Rhodes (who Fisher said will play in the NFL).  I also think there needed to be a substantial mention of the change to zone coverage from man coverage.  

Overall Grade:  A    If Cirminiello was a local writer I'd probably give this a B+, but for the best team preview to date to have come from a national writer is pretty surprising.  This is excellent work and I recommend you read through the full 4-page preview.  He even nailed the depth chart to a reasonable certainty.  

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