It's just week seven of the college football season, but Florida State has already failed to reach any of its goals. Sure, FSU still has to make sure it reaches a bowl game, but that's a requirement at a program with FSU's resources, not a goal.
New goals must be set. And they'll be focused on 2012 -- a real make-or-break year for Jimbo Fisher and company.
Given that, this year needs to be about building confidence for next year. And that's not done with players who won't be around next season, a/k/a the seniors.
As a group, the seniors have failed to lead. On the field, most are playing poorly. Jimbo Fisher has said that the best players will play. At this point, however, I think that is the wrong plan. In this situation, seniors who do not represent a significant upgrade over younger backups should not be starting. I wonder if Fisher is worried about the backlash of a potential additional loss resulting from the increased snaps taken by younger players. Let's go through the ranks to see who should take a seat:
Running Back: With junior Chris Thompson's season (and likely career) over due to a broken back, the running back position is open. Seniors Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas cannot be depended on and are not special players. Neither have a future in pro ball. There might be a drop-off here in terms of scheme mastery and pass protection, but freshmen Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. need to be the guys. They will be the guys in 2012. Why not get them the experience now? They are already physically better than the two disappointing seniors.
Receiver: Bert Reed is FSU's only senior receiver. Freshman Rashad Greene has already outplayed him. This isn't an issue of a coaching decision. Reed just isn't a better player as a now-healthy senior (ankle injury) than Greene is as a freshman.
Offensive Line: Andrew Datko's career at FSU is all but over thanks to the shoulder injury and freshman Bobby Hart has already been inserted at left tackle. Hart struggled against Wake Forest, but has a lot of talent and should improve as the year goes on. This is obviously not a move that would have happened had Datko not had the shoulder issue.
A move should also be made at right guard. David Spurlock was determined to come back from multiple concussions, and he was cleared by a doctor. But he is not the same player that he was in 2008-2010. He's not helping the team right now, and while a freshman or younger player might make more mistakes and be even worse, it'll be worth it in the long run. Oh, and any game Spurlock plays represents some potential for serious repercussions later on in life. He has no future as a pro player and should be sat down. Who should start here is undetermined. Faircloth was the obvious choice, but he's injured as well. Perhaps Josue Matias or Tre Jackson (if healthy).
I'd leave Zebrie Sanders where he is, as he offers some stability.
If the Spurlock move is made, FSU will return four offensive line starters in 2012.
Of course, the staff might be reluctant to make these moves because EJ Manuel's shoulder situation is precarious and he's one hit away from being lost for the season. More young offensive linemen will lead to more mistakes.
Tight End: Both senior tight ends should be sat down as well. Beau Reliford and Ja'Baris Little offer little to nothing and should only be used in goal-line situations, if at all. Either use freshman Nick O'Leary or no tight end at all. Plenty of three, four and five-wide sets can work as well.
Moving to defense, it has to be encouraging that the strength of the defense (the line) has zero seniors.
Linebacker: So let's go to linebacker, where senior Nigel Bradham has not been impressive in the least. Sophomore Jeff Luc needs to see more and more playing time as the year wears on. Now, Bradham will get drafted, and shouldn't lose his spot outright. He should just lose considerable snaps to Luc. And at middle linebacker, the staff must decide if red-shirt junior Vince Williams is in the plans for 2012. If he is not, he should be asked to graduate and the staff should play sophomore Telvin Smith.
Safety: And a move must be made at safety. Terrance Parks was terrible Saturday, and wasn't anything to write home about against Clemson. Parks has no future in the NFL. Sophomore Terrence Brooks or freshman Karlos Williams need to be given this spot. Jimbo Fisher today noted the duties of the safety position with the calls and adjustments, but Parks' play is unacceptable for a senior. A young guy needs to be given this position and FSU needs to deal with the inevitable inconsistencies that accompany the move to youth.