Scouting Florida State

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Today is the day the bulk of the teams in the ACC begin practice, so to make sure I hit everybody, I'll do a quick take on each team, as well as three issues they'll face this summer. We'll start with Florida State.

The Noles are on the brink of being good -- very good. In fact, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has already had a hard time containing his excitement about the possibilities for 2010. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. FSU needs to take it to another level quickly. The Noles have the talent to win the Atlantic Division, and the ongoing appeal against the NCAA won't change that.

Quarterback Christian Ponder should be better in his second full season as starter, but needs to make better decisions. The running game should thrive behind what could become one of the best offensive lines in the country, and eventually, the passing game will develop some consistency. The good news there is that many of the off-field legal distractions the receivers have faced have come to a close. Most of the questions are on defense, and we'll get to those, but players like Markus White and Dekoda Watson should help overcome some of the losses.

Here are three pressing issues facing FSU this summer:

1. How will FSU overcome the loss of six starters on defense? First, meet the Robinsons. Free safety Jamie Robinson and cornerback Patrick Robinson will be the leaders in the secondary. The rest of the defense will have to rebuild around defensive tackles Budd Thacker and Kendrick Stewart, and Watson. Watson will be key, as the defense graduated its top two tacklers in Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell. White will have the unenviable task of taking over for Everette Brown at defensive end.

2. How will the Noles replace Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano? It's possible FSU's specialists suffered the biggest loss of any of the position groups when Gano graduated. Entering this season, no one on the roster has ever attempted a college field goal. James Esco handled all of the kicking duties this spring, but he'll get some competition this summer from the nation's No. 1 kicking prospect, true freshman Dustin Hopkins. Shawn Powell, who started the first seven games of the season as the team's punter, will take over full-time duties for Gano, and that should be a seamless transition.

3. Will this be Bobby Bowden's last year? No. No, he didn't call me up and tell me his plans. It's just a guess. FSU has the chance to be good this year and great next year. For as long as he's hung in there, why would he cut himself short a year when he could stick around for possibly even bigger and better things? Bowden is a competitor. He cares about winning (otherwise he wouldn't be able to tell you exactly how many wins he got at Samford and South Georgia Junior College). He's made it this far, so if the team is winning -- and winning big -- I think it would make it even harder for him to say goodbye.

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