Coach Jimbo Fisher’s first year with Florida State could hardly get any better, but he’s hoping his second will be. Fisher led the Seminoles to their first 10-win season since 2003 and a spot in the ACC title game. This year there are hopes of a trophy in Tallahassee. 16 starters will be returning this year, but a new quarterback will be needed and a good one if they want to keeps there hopes alive in at least matching last year’s.
E.J. Manuel didn’t just start games in his two seasons as Ponder’s backup. He started some big games, including the Gator Bowl as a freshman and last year’s ACC Championship game against Virginia Tech. His ratio of six touchdowns to ten interceptions leaves fans hopeful he can work out the kinks and fast. Running backs? Check. Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas have 17 touchdowns between them last season.
Receiver Willie Haulstead will be the number one guy this year ahead of senior Bert Reed who had fewer yards than the previous year. Rodney Smith is hoping to pick up the other side. Coming off a season where he caught a career-high 43 balls for 551 yards and five touchdowns, Taiwan Easterling will be a factor if he chooses to return for his final season of eligibility in the fall.
The offensive line will be a little more difficult thanks to a rash of injuries this spring that sidelined as many as four potential starters and could keep the FSU staff hopping right up to the season opener. If they all recover and stay healthy eight of them will be return starters.
Eight starters will be also returning to defense and this year should be even tougher with a leading defensive line led by juniors Jacobbi McDaniel and Brandon Jenkins. Xavier Rhodes missed spring practice recovering from surgery to repair a groin injury that bothered him most of the second half of last season and safety Nick Moody is also on the mend from abdominal surgery. Like the offense, injuries and subsequent recoveries could be all the difference between expanding on last year’s success or failing miserably.
Dustin Hopkins returns as kicker and enters the season strong after a 60-yard field goal in the spring game. After a spring back problem, punter Shawn Powell is expected to resume his duties this fall, but Derek Williams and Parker Conley are there as back-up. Greg Reid will be back to return kicks if the opposing team dares to kick in his direction. Last year they started to avoid him.
Florida State 2011 Schedule: (More 2011 College Previews Here)
September 3 — Louisiana-Monroe
September 10 — Charleston Southern
September 17 — Oklahoma
September 24 — @Clemson
October 8 — @Wake Forest
October 15 — @Duke
October 22 — Maryland
October 29 — North Carolina State
November 3 — @Boston College
November 12 — Miami (FL)
November 19 — Virginia
November 26 — @Florida
Fisher has proven to be a good coach after ten wins in his first season. They get the first two games as gimmes before taking on Oklahoma. If all the players stay healthy and the new number one quarterback can gain ground from his past, it’s conceivable to go for eleven in the win category this year, but likely see another ten.