Florida State Spring Game: What Did We Learn?

Florida State's Spring game was an overwhelming success because there were no major injuries.  Nothing was going to be gained yesterday on the field, but there was potential for much to be lost.  FSU also hosted a lot of elite recruits, and the fans showed up to the tune of an announced 53, 818 crowd.

Let's evaluate the Florida State Spring game from the angle I provided last Wednesday.

Spring games like this really don't serve as great indicators of anything, so forming strong opinions after you watch the Florida State Spring Game Saturday would be unwise. Generally, I only take the feel of the game and look for fundamentals in looking at specific players or positions, but here are just a few things I'm going to be paying attention to this weekend. Watching whole units really doesn't make sense, as they will be out of sync due to players missing the game with injury.

I was correct.  The offense looked awful, as should be expected with zero returning offensive line starters from 2010 against a good (or very good?) defensive front.  

It is very tough to win a game when you're being dominated up front.  FSU did it last year against Clemson, thanks to some dumb decisions by Dabo Swinney and CU's departed offensive coordinator.

Overall Offense

The offense didn't do anything to make me think it will be anything other than very good again.  That is, if it gets its guys back healthy.  If not, stylistic changes will have to be made.  The defense absolutely knew what was coming and the defensive players said so after the game, as did EJ.

QB  EJ Manuel looked to have a stronger arm this year, though he was pressing in trying to force some things into coverage.  I don't see much reason to worry about EJ.  EJ cannot be brought down by one-hand touch in a real game setting, and I think it is telling that he bulked to 235ish pounds.  FSU is going to run him, as is prudent to do in the college game.  He has to get better touch on the deep balls and really learn to throw with his newfound arm strength.  He looked like a different QB out there.  Never before had I seen EJ throw the bubble like he did yesterday.  It was accurate and crisp, in a position where the receivers could get it and go.  Prepare to see some 2008 concepts this year, as teams have to fear his legs and will try to hedge the edges, thus opening up the bubbles.

Clint Trickett pretty clearly gets it, though they didn't ask him or Will Secord to do very much.  Trickett's future at FSU, if he is to start, is clearly as a game manager in 2013 behind a very strong offensive line and run game.  I am not sure what Secord's future is.  Garnet certainly had a lot more sprint-outs, which helped the young QBs.  Here's Coley Harvey's thoughts on the backup QB situation.

RB  What can you really say about the backs?  They didn't have the holes to run through.  Jermaine looked a bit quicker.  Freeman looked pretty good.  

WR  Jarred Haggins dinged a knee, but he had a great Spring.  Really wanted to see more of him.  Christian Green looked very athletic.  I came into the year thinking there was no doubt FSU would have a better receiving corps this year than last, and I still believe that.  Didn't expect anything from Haulstead as he was only back to Spring ball for a single day before the game (shoulder injury).  Rodney Smith looked ok, though finding him on deep routes is tough when there isn't time for the routes to develop due to protection.  Smith needs to play with more consistent intensity.  Sad to see Josh Gehres lost for the Season due to his knee injury a few days ago.  He is only one year from graduating, and it would surprise me if he ever played for FSU again.

OL  Fahrenkrug looked pretty good at times, and at times showed that he still has a long way to go with his footwork and understanding of the scheme.  The snaps were not great, but were not bad.  That's encouraging.  Jordan Prestwood showed good athleticism in pass protection a few times.  Bryan Stork is always pretty athletic.

Defensive Overall

Offense is going to be very tough to come by if the defense can sit in cover two and cover four while the front seven dominates the offensive line.  I thought it was a little unbelievable that Stoops had the defense stemm into an 8-man box late in the count, giving the offense no chance.  Last year I said it would be a big victory for the defense to go from 81st to around 40th.  Mission accomplished.  Cutting the rank in half again this year, say to 20th, seems quite doable now.  I don't conclude that because of what I saw today, but rather the continued maturation of the defense, and a second year in the new system.  

DE  Tank Carradine really hustles.  He may not always know what he is doing, but he really does get after it.  That is something you can't teach.  Mark my words, he will cause a turnover or save a play this year because of his hustling.  But at this point he has very little in the way of pass rushing moves.  Bjeorn Werner is an absolute beast and it is quite telling that he won the defensive MVP of the entire Spring.  Brandon Jenkins looked pretty good, considering he was coming off the injury.  And Dan Hicks is a very, very good backup on a college team.  All of them looked to play with decent discipline.

DT  Cameron Erving has better explosion than I thought, though don't get carried away as he was facing a tiny walk-on for much of the game.  Some thought he would never play at Florida State.  It seems now that he will have a role on the team, perhaps 100+ snaps.  Did you know he doesn't turn 19 until August 23rd?  That's quite young for a 2nd-year player.  Expect him to continue to grow into his body and potentially end up at nose.  Amp McCloud looks like he gained weight in the mid-section.  He didn't play poorly, but that was disappointing.  I was impressed with Everett Dawkins' quickness.  He is really, really quick.  Darious Cummings also showed good agility stunting.  In a sad note, where does Moses McCray fit in if he ever gets back healthy?

LB  Aside from the safeties, linebackers may be the second-biggest question on the defense.  They definitely looked better coached yesterday.  Nigel Bradham and Vince Williams looked to be more agile, which is a credit to the S&C program.  Christian Jones is a freak, and looked good in coverage.  Telvin Smith is incredibly instinctive, and if FSU does it right, can be a good middle linebacker.  Terrance Smith looks like he will see some snaps this year, and the seldom-discussed Nigel Terrell also looked decent.  Credit to coach Hudson here for really improving.

CB  Greg Reid had the highlight play, but Mike Harris and Avis Commack both played pretty well upon further review.  Commack is just incredibly physical.  FSU is loaded at the corner position and the top corner in the ACC, Xavier Rhodes, was not even on the field!.  Harris will play NFL ball.  Keep in mind, however, that the corners didn't need to cover for long periods due to the tremendous pressure up front.

S  Lamarcus Joyner showed impressive range, and Parks looked comfortable at Nick Moody's spot.  Joyner has such range that whomever is asked to play the free safety (really a traditional strong safety) will have to do less.  It gives me confidence that Parks or Moody can likely handle it.  Terrence Brooks looked pretty good in coverage, and could start in 2012 if Joyner moves back to corner.  I think Chad Abram blew the deep coverage on the long Rodney Smith catch.  Justin Bright can't play for FSU at his current level.  

Kicker  What can you say?  Dustin Hopkins came in as the top kicker in the country and has improved each of the last two seasons.


Other Thoughts

There are some guys on FSU's roster who would not be recruited in 2012.  They were flyers taken for depth purposes in 2009 and 2010, after FSU was in really bad shape as a program, with three six-loss seasons in four years.  A few turnout, but many will not.  I'm not sure how long some of those guys will stick around.  I don't want to name names, but you have to wonder about upperclassmen who were healthy and yet didn't get in the game.  How long before they are fed up and transfer elsewhere to get playing time?  The talent isn't getting weaker.

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