Last year, I came up with seven questions for the offseason (defined as recruiting, spring, and preseason) as a means of determining what were the big seven questions for the offseason. The post was nominated for a Tommy, which prompts me to try again (though maybe not harder).
This year, I initially find it harder to come up with seven that determines FSU's fate next season. But in the end, I even came up with a couple of bonus ones.
In no particular order ...
A. Who replaces Rodney Hudson?
Ok, this is a hold over from last year. But it is still a valid question. Last year's offensive line was hit with injuries that kept the question from being fully answered. The questions on the OL next year are well covered on TN. Related to this is the next question ...
2. Will the unit hit with injuries in 2012 be one that can take it?
Actually, in 2012 two units were devastated with injuries, the offensive line and wide receiver. But the receivers had some depth and many 1st and 2nd year players stepped up. Two units on the team seem very vulnerable to injuries - tight ends and linebackers. Only one tight end (Nick O'Leary) who got more than a handful of snaps last season returns, and, admittedly unlike some others, I'm not happy with the depth at linebacker.
Related to this question ...
D. With FSU's depth at numerous positions but less so others, what kind of position changes will happen between now and the fall?
Some positions are more loaded than others, and others will become more loaded this fall. The best athletes/players should get on the field. Possible changes rumored and speculated on include Karlos Williams to running back, James Wilder Jr and/or Nick Moody to linebacker, Giorgio Newberry and/or Derrick Mitchell to OL, etc. Not as publicly speculated moves could be Dan Hicks to TE, bolstering that spot and clearing playing time for the incoming class of defensive ends.
Purple. What's the drop-off with the loss of Shawn Powell?
Powell not only punted but was the holder for a Lou Groza winner and another finalist. Cason Beatty is enrolled early to start prepping taking over for at least the punting duties. Fisher mentioned that Powell's 2011 performance was worthy of consideration of the team MVP award - the loss of Powell could be more significant that is commonly discussed.
5. Will E.J. mature significantly as a QB between his first and second year as a full-time starter?
E.J.'s play was severely criticized down the stretch, and perhaps rightly so. Will he mature? Was Fisher's son's health a factor, meaning E.J. didn't get the coaching he might have had Fisher not had family distractions?
6. Will O'Leary and Kourtzidis make a fearsome tight end pair?
Fisher is all about creating mismatches between his offense and the opposing defense, and one potentially great one (as the New England Patriots have shown) is a double tight end set with good receiving pair of tight ends. More generally, will FSU's arsenal of offensive weapons finally be the combination that Fisher has been recruiting towards, that is, a set of combinations no defense can have the answer for all combinations?
7. Will FSU's defense be the nation's best in 2012?
FSU's was the best defense not in the SEC in 2011, and was arguably top three behind Alabama and LSU (South Carolina finished with fewer yards per game, but FSU yielded fewer yards per play). With more seasoning and much more depth at DE, it just may be. Stoops has to find replacements for Parks, Harris, and Bradham, but the questions are less where do you find the replacements and more who will be the replacement.
8. Who's the second year player who steps up?
In 2011, it was Bjoern Werner, who unexpectantly beat out the 2010 JUCO player of the year for a starting position. In 2010, Xavier Rhodes, as a redshirt freshman, came on to start at corner. What 2011 redshirt or seldom used freshman will emerge? JWJ? Nick Waisome? One of the redshirted OL?
9. Who will be FSU's true freshman of the year in 2012?
This is often a talent meets opportunity question, though one might not have expected Rashad Greene to get the opportunity he did last season. But it came and he made the most of it. Tim Jernigan was the player on the defense who made his opportunity through talent. Starting punter is pretty much Cason Beatty's job to lose, so that's an obvious possibility. The depth at DE isn't the best, so a Mario Edwards Jr or another of FSU's DE class could emerge. Marvin Bracy could emerge as a very special returner, on either kickoffs or punts, or even both. Mario Pender could do well enough in the spring to force JWJ to think of moving to linebacker for more playing time, paving the way for Pender to break out in the fall, especially if CT doesn't fully recover. And it is hard to imagine Eddie Goldman fighting through the depth chart at DT to get enough reps for consideration as a freshman (his sophomore year is more geared for his coming out party), but some bad luck on the interior d-line healthwise could give him opportunity.