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Florida State spring wrap

4/25/2011

FLORIDA STATE

2010 overall record: 10-4

2010 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB EJ Manuel, WR Bert Reed, WR Taiwan Easterling, LT Andrew Datko, RG David Spurlock, RT Zebrie Sanders, RB Chris Thompson, RB Jermaine Thomas, DE Brandon Jenkins, DT Jacobi McDaniel, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, PK Dustin Hopkins, P Shawn Powell

Key losses

LG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, QB Christian Ponder, DE Markus White, LB Kendall Smith, LB Mister Alexander

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Thompson* (845 yards)

Passing: Ponder (2,044 yds)

Receiving: Reed* (614 yds)

Tackles: Bradham* (98)

Sacks: Jenkins* (13.5)

Interceptions: Rhodes* and Mike Harris* (4)

Spring answers

1. Depth on both sides. Florida State returns all three leading rushers from last year, each of whom had at least 400 rushing yards in 2010. All of the Noles’ top receivers are back, but coach Jimbo Fisher was also pleased with young receivers like Jared Haggins and Greg Dent. The defensive line is deep, and the staff learned that Lamarcus Joyner can play safety at the collegiate level. The kicking game will be a strength, as FSU might have the best punter/kicker combo in the country. Dustin Hopkins booted a 60-yard field goal in the spring game.

2. Defensive improvement: The defense really made some strides in terms of knowing what it has to do, and has become more comfortable in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles found more depth on defense, as playmakers emerged even with players sidelined with injuries. The young linebackers were a particularly promising group.

3. It’s EJ’s offense now. In what was the first spring session he was healthy enough to participate in, quarterback EJ Manuel emerged as a leader heading into his first season as a full-time starter. He showed he can take command of the offense and goes into summer camp with nobody looking over his shoulder. He’s 4-2 as a starter and was able to take another step forward this spring.

Fall questions

1. Backup quarterbacks: Clint Trickett and Will Secord will take their competition into the summer, but Trickett got more opportunities in the spring game and made the most of them. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards. Secord completed 3 of 9 passes for 25 yards, but a clear No. 2 has yet to be named.

2. What will the offensive line really look like? It was a patchwork group this spring, as left tackle Andrew Datko was out with a shoulder injury, right tackle Zebrie Sanders was out after abdominal surgery, and left guard David Spurlock, who started the first seven games of 2010 before suffering a concussion, was only about 50 percent because of a hand/wrist injury. Key reserves like Rhonne Sanderson (foot injury) and Blake Snider (ankle injury) were missing. Jacob Fahrenkrug was supposed to take over at left guard, but finished the spring starting at center. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of LT Datko, LG Bryan Stork or Spurlock, C Fahrenkrug, RG Spurlock or Stork, RT Sanders. Despite the losses of Hudson and McMahon, there is experience up front, but building depth remains an issue.

3. How good is the defensive line? There’s no doubting Florida State’s defensive line will be good, but with the offensive line riddled with injuries, it was impossible to tell how good it can be. Newcomer Tank Carradine didn’t get a chance to go against Sanders or Datko, leaving for an unfair assessment.