Coming off a 10-win season and the top-ranked recruiting class in the country, Florida State is heavily hyping 2011. The hype is justified as the 'Noles seem to once again have top-10-type talent and are the favorite to win the ACC. But while excited about 2011, those inside the program are downright giddy over the prospects of 2012. The 2012 team should be considerably stronger and the schedule could set up better.
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In an even-numbered year, FSU draws the Florida Gators at home and travels to play the Miami Hurricanes. Given that the Swamp is much more inhospitable than Pro Player Stadium, this is the preferred route. Additionally, the 2012 Miami team is likely to be the worst non-probation Miami team since 2007, and before that, since the 1970s (more on this in a few weeks). There are additional difficult outs on the schedule, including a road trip to an ever-improving N.C. State program, as well as the trip to Blacksburgh to face the Virginia Tech Hokies. Additional road trips include the much- anticipated and foolishly-scheduled return trip to face the South Florida Bulls, which will likely feature more 'Nole fans than Bulls, given the ridiculously cheap ticket prices ($75 for an entire season). FSU will host the Clemson Tigers, the Boston College Eagles, the West Virginia Mountaineers, The Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Murray State Racers, and the Duke Blue Devils. Yes, FSU needs to move either the West Virginia game or the USF game, as playing nine likely bowl teams, plus the ACC Championship game could wipe away a shot at a national championship due to attrition. FSU needs to fix the schedule to add an auto- win in order to work out kinks and or rest players. But the toughest game will likely be against the Gators, and that is at home. In fact, and this is a rarity, this is the type schedule that could see FSU get to the national championship with one loss, provided the loss is an early road loss, allowing the 'Noles to rip off something like nine consecutive wins to finish the year.
The Returning Team
Due to the substantial uptick in recruiting over the last few years, most of the departing seniors on Florida State's roster will be replaced by better players who just weren't quite ready to take over in 2011. Nobody is mistaking Jermaine Thomas or Ty Jones for stars, and Chris Thompson, Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr., and Mario Pender are more talented players. The same goes for the steady but unspectacular receiver duo of Taiwan Easterling and Bert Reed, who should be replaced by Greg Dent, Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, and Christian Green, to say nothing of the existing starters Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead. Guard David Spurlock isn't even a lock to play this year, given his concussions. Tight Ends Beau Reliford and Jabarris Little are decent college players, at best, and Florida State will have more talented players in Red-shirt sophomore Will Tye and true sophomore Nick O'Leary, who was the #1 tight end in the country in the most recent recruiting cycle. The 'Noles suffer no graduation losses on the defensive line and will have a legitimate argument for the best defensive line in the country. Linebacker Nigel Bradham will be missed, but he is a good player and not a superstar. Telvin Smith could replace him immediately and might even represent an upgrade if he continues to work in the weight room. Florida State will lose Nickel corner Mike Harris, who though not a starter, is a very fine player. The 'Noles, however, are hardly in a position to worry about replacing a situational player. Safety Terrance Parks, assuming he starts, would likely not do so in 2012 even if he had eligibility, thanks to Karlos Williams, one of the top safety prospects in memory.
That's not to disparage the departing seniors, many of whom carried the program through the end of the "Lost Decade", but rather to illustrate that the talent coming in is much greater than the talent coming out. Many of the players who will leave to graduation, had they had extra eligibility (theoretically), would be beaten out by younger, more talented players who will be ready to start thanks to an extra year of seasoning. This analysis does not account for the potential of juniors or 3rd-year sophomores leaving early for the NFL draft. Corner Xavier Rhodes has the potential, as does defensive end Brandon Jenkins.
But there is one position where that definitely does not appear to the case: offensive tackle.
What to do at offensive tackle in 2012? Florida State loses both Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders, two guys who started just about every game for the 'Noles at left and right tackle over the last four years. Both are likely to be NFL players, though health and performance this season will determine where. So who will replace these guys? There isn't a clear answer right now. Florida State will look to this group to find the answers (projected sizes):
Henry Orelus Rs-Jr 6'2" 305
Garrett Faircloth Rs-Jr 6'6" 305
Dan Foose Rs-So 6'5" 290
Jordan Prestwood Rs-Fr or Soph 6'6" 295
Josue Matias Rs-Fr or Soph 6'5" 310
Tre Jackson Rs-Fr or Soph 6'5" 305
Bobby Hart Rs-Fr 6'4" 305 (Hart will just be turning 18 for the 2012 season)
That's not a bad group, and there are certainly some talented players in that group who will one day make a lot of money in the NFL. But the most-talented guys are the second- year players. They might not be ready to step in and start after only one year of strength development and learning from the bench and or limited play late in games. The older guys have some experience and knowledge of the system, but nobody will confuse them with superstars. It's not that FSU can't find two capable or excellent starters from this group. It would not require a miracle to do so. But probability dictates that things would be easier if FSU only had to draw one starter from this group as opposed to two. And offensive line is a contact-intensive position, meaning that having only two starting-level offensive tackles is not likely to get a team through a season.
Why Does This Issue Exist?
Three names: Jon Prior, Aubrey Phillips, and Atnwane Greenlee. Florida State was counting on those three being 6'4'+ and 300 pounds+ as juniors or seniors in 2012. But Prior had to leave the program due to a family tragedy. Phillips story is here (he was also bounced from Auburn, though has now been re-admitted). And Greenlee was a lock to get a 6th year in 2012, but serious back and knee injuries stole his ability to play at a Florida State level. Those three talented tackles were supposed to be starting for the 'Noles in 2013. They will not.
Yes, Florida State knew about the problem before this season. And yes, they did try to address the problem. But you have to remember what was going on during that time. Bobby Bowden was the head coach. Elite offensive line recruits weren't signing on that dotted line, particularly not when the 'Noles had lost six games three times in four seasons. When Fisher took over in January 2010, there weren't any elite offensive tackle recruits to steal. Both Chaz Green andIan Silberman, the only FSU-quality offensive tackles in the Sunshine state, signed with Florida as the Gators were coming off a 13-1 season.FSU did address the problem in Jimbo's first full recruiting class as a head coach, signing the top offensive line class in the country. But while Prestwood, Matias, Hart, and Jackson are all excellent prospects, they might not be ready to start after only a year in the program. Ideally, FSU would prefer to allow those kids to sit and lift heavily for two seasons while learning in the backup role.
The Solution (If One Is Needed)
When Florida State realized it may have a 2011 problem with guard Blake Snider's development put on hold due to a nasty ankle injury, and guard/ center David Spurlock's severe concussion issues, it went out and signed the #1 JUCO interior lineman in the country, Jacob Fahrenkrug. Smart move. Spurlock's concussion issues have flared again and Fahrenkrug moved to center. He's played great there. Who knows where the Florida State offensive line would be without him?
Florida State's 2012 tackle situation is not as dire, but the 'Noles may elect to go out and get a JUCO offensive tackle to remedy the situation. He may not necessarily start, but the player would need to be good enough to potentially start. If he gets beat out by a talented young phenom, so be it, he'll add greater depth. But if the young guys don't come along the fast track, he could lock down a starting position.
Is that Player Out There?
Perhaps. JUCO scouting is reserved almost exclusively to scouting services (not rivals) that market to schools, not fans. One player quickly gaining interest is Daniel Glauser, from the New Mexico Military Institute. He's a December graduate, meaning he'll enroll in January. That's vital if a player wants to quickly learn the system. He stands 6'5" or 6'6" and about 320 pounds. And he's from Rheinfelden, Switzerland. Rivals reports an FSU offer on his player page. I often do not trust those lists, but this is too random for it to be faked. He was a member of the Swiss junior/adult national team. I can also confirm that he knows Bjoern Werner, perhaps through one of the European teams. He is a criminal justice major, something that FSU is well known for. He attended high school in Walton, New York. Glauser is 23 years old.
From Rivals (free)
New Mexico Military Institute is better known for being the place where Roger Staubach started his football career before heading to [Navy], where he later won the Heisman Trophy before an illustrious career with the Dallas Cowboys. That will all change in 2011 as one offensive tackle for the Broncos will likely end up being the first player from Switzerland to ever sign with a DI program.
You want tape? We got tape. From least recent to most recent:
With double-digit offers this recruit is not a lock to come to Florida State, and there is no guarantee that FSU would take him without working him out in person, but the possibility certainly exists and he is one to watch. I do know that he was extremely excited with his FSU offer. Additionally, the military connection with Trickett is quite hard to ignore.
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