2011: Fight for Playing Time

Florida State Fans are excited about opening day 2011. In the mean time, they fill the void with pure conjecture.(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What happens when a program starts to have multiple good/great years recruiting? Depth, competition, and a fight to get on the field for a number of talented players. Playing time is a limited resource and each snap is subtracted from an undetermined but finite number. While we are in the doldrums of summer, we are approaching, no matter how slowly it seems, fall camp. It will be the last preseason chance for players to convince their position coaches and Jimbo Fisher that they deserve a share of those limited snaps. 

Inside we'll highlight some players that may not be the presumptive starter but will be hard to keep off the field in 2011.

Unless FSU decides to run 5 wide sets a ton in games, it will be difficult to utilize all the talent in the WR corps. FSU has 3 returning contributing starters in Willie Haulstead, Rodney Smith, and Bert Reed. The future of Taiwan Easterling at this point is unclear as he weighs his options of returning another year or pursuing professional baseball.

Bert Reed was inconsistent at times while playing out of his more natural position in the slot. It took a while for Haulstead and Smith to come into their own, but as the season progressed, it was clear they were becoming more comfortable with the college game. Better routes, and overall more consistent game play. However that leaves an almost glut of talented players that will be called upon to add depth to what an apparently loaded position. Fall camp will determine who gets to play as back ups or even challenge for starting time.

True, many of the young WRs are unproven, but the talent is there. Fans got to see limited glimpses of Kenny Shaw last year and saw Greg Dent reel in 7 catches in this years spring game. Christian Green would have most likely made it on to the field however a preseason injury held him out of competition for playing time. But Green has excellent size and should be the most physical out of the new comers to the position. If he has recovered look for him to earn some snaps.

Current nonstarters most likely to contribute as starter or key back up:

  1. Kenny Shaw
  2. Christian Green
  3. Jared Haggins (reportedly had a great spring)
  4. Greg Dent 
  5. Kelvin Benjamin (two 6'5" plus receivers on the field at the same time? Sure, why not)
  6. Rashad Greene
The battle for snaps in the LB corps looks exciting as well. 'Nole fans were grateful that Nigel Bradham decided to come back for his senior year but after that in will be interesting to see how spring unfolds and who the starting three will be. One would have to think true sophomore Christian Jones has secured his spot but that won't stop others from competing. Does Vince Williams have a secure spot on the first team? 

At MIKE FSU fans got to see prized recruit Jeff Luc in limited action. While physically ready for the game, it was clear that Luc had to work on the mental aspects of LB. He was having a great off season before suffering a knee injury. If Luc is back to being 100 percent healthy and continues improving on the x's and o's part of the game,  look for him to challenge for plenty of playing time this coming year. 

Another exciting prospect at LB is Telvin Smith. FSU fans know him from his bone jarring hits on special teams. He is a tackling rocket that once honed in on his target, is unstoppable. The only draw back to Smith is his size. He is easily the smallest member of the LB corps but has a great nose for the football. He may not need to get to 245 to be a special player. Perhaps at around 225, Smith could be an invaluable addition to the LB  corps. Either way, he needs to keep crushing people on special teams. 

Two other LBs to watch are Holmes Onwukaife and Nigel Terrell. Onwukaife has been rumored to have put on some serious muscle and may have outgrown the standard linebacker size. If that is the case there may still be a place for him on the field just not in a traditional linebacker roll. Terrell, while strong for his size, took a redshirt last year needing to add some size. Look for him to get some clean up duty this year.

Current nonstarters most likely to contribute as starter or key back up in order:

  1. Jeff Luc
  2. Telvin Smith
  3. Holmes Onwukaife
  4. Nigel Terrell
Defensive tackle may be one of the most physically demanding positions on the football field. That is why having quality depth can determine the difference between a great line and an elite line. FSU has made major strides in fixing the defensive line and the difference between this year compared to 2009 should be night and day. 

There should be an excellent battle for the number one positions at tackle and we know that Jacobbi McDaniel and Everette Dawkins will battle it out as well as Anthony McCloud, Demonte McAllister and Cameron Erving. Cameron is only a RS freshman, but after having a huge spring, Erving may very well challenge for a larger roll than quality depth. It will be a slug fest this spring to determine who, out of many will make it onto the field. The question for FSU isn't if there is depth at the DT position but how far down the chart are they willing to go to put fresh legs on the field.

A whopping 3 true freshman could possibly see the field next year in Timmy Jernigan, Nile Lawrence-Stample, and 
Derrick Mitchell. They have the size to contribute immediately like Jaccobi McDaniel did his first season but without the immense responsibility nor the amount of snaps that was required of McDaniel his freshman year. It may be best for these players to redshirt but it will be difficult to keep all three off the field this year.

Current nonstarters most likely to contribute as back ups (don't see any of these players challenging for starting time):
  1. Darious Cummings
  2. Timmy Jernigan
  3. Nile Lawrence-Stample
  4. Derrick Mitchell
Options aren't nearly as plentiful at defensive end. With the one/two guys apparently set, true freshman Georgio Newberry may be called upon for a few snaps, ready or not, as well as Toshman Stevens (you know, maybe). 

Look left or look right, the corners have talent. While not a starter, Mike Harris proved himself to be a fantastic player. He made the most of his limited snaps causing fumbles and picking off passes. Not to mention he is an extremely good tackler. He could challenge Greg Reid for starting time. This is his last year of college football and his last chance to impress the scouts. Look for the talented Nick Waisome to add depth in his freshman debut. 

No position is safe at the safety position either. Incumbent starters Nick Moody and Terrance Parks will have to battle Lamarcus Joyner and true freshman Karlos Williams. If Moody and Parks manage to hold on to their positions, look for Joyner and Williams to make an impact in more than just clean up duty. 

At tight end, look for another true freshman to make an impact in Nick O'Leary. Nick is an extremely talented and smart football player. How quickly he picks up the offense should be the only limit to how much he can get on the field. Incumbent Beau Reliford, if he remains eligible, will likely hold onto the starting spot, but O'Leary will earn snaps in a position that is unproven and not exactly loaded.

Tank Sessions, with his large frame, may prove to be a much needed blocking tight end and could come in handy in goal line situations. It will be interesting to see how Sessions and Will Tye are utilized this year.

Current nonstarters most likely to contribute as starter or key back up in order:
  1. Nick O'Leary
  2. Tank Sessions
  3. Will Tye
Back injury, knee injury (not to mention some driving with lack of non-suspended licence issues), ankle injury. Those are the injuries suffered by FSU trio of running backs in Chris Thompson, Jermaine Thomas, and Ty Jones respectively. While they are still in the mix for snaps, and most likely the starting position, look out for two true freshman to challenge for playing time in James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. Both have the potential to become special players and are physically mature enough to handle their share of snaps at the college level. 

Fall Camp is still a ways off but this is just an early look at the players that will be scrapping it out, hoping to earn their time on the field. Perhaps fall camp will bring some surprises as well. Xavier Rhodes? The converted redshirt freshman WR is really going to be an NFL level DB Fisher? Yeah right. *2010 happens* Oh wow, yeah, he was right. Who is going to be the surprise of the 2011 team? Will there be one? Perhaps an almost forgotten player like Ja'Baris Little or Debrale Smiley. Little is a senior and it may be Smiley's last chance to show he is worth a scholarship. 

If you have a different order for one of the positions let me know. If I left somebody off or have someone too high, make it known and why. 
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