- Mark Schlabach, ESPN Senior Writer
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2011 overall record: 9-4
2011 conference record: 5-3 (t-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1
2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Devonta Freeman* (579 yards)
Passing: EJ Manuel* (2,666 yards)
Receiving: Rashad Greene* (596 yards)
Tackles: Nigel Bradham (86)
Sacks: Brandon Jenkins* (8)
Interceptions: Lamarcus Joyner* (4)
1. Erving steps in: The Seminoles have to replace both starting offensive tackles, but coach Jimbo Fisher believes he has found a future NFL starter in converted defensive tackle Cameron Erving. The 6-foot-5, 304-pound sophomore from Colquitt, Ga., has good feet and long arms. He stepped in at left tackle, and sophomore Bobby Hart and junior Bryan Stork are battling to start at right tackle entering preseason camp.
2. Deep receiving corps: With big-play wideouts such as Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Christian Green coming back, the Seminoles were already loaded on the perimeter. Throw Willie Haulstead and redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin into the mix, and it might be the deepest receiving corps in the country. Haulstead missed all of last season with a concussion, and Benjamin was redshirted. Fisher said the pair might be his team’s best wideouts, which is saying a lot.
3. Defensive line is stocked: Defensive end Bjoern Woerner and tackles Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel missed the spring because of injuries, but their replacements showed FSU will be pretty deep in its defensive front. End Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and nose tackle Anthony McCloud had nice springs.
1. The running game: Florida State struggled to run the ball last season, finishing next-to-last in the ACC at 112.2 yards per game. Injuries were a big part of the problem. The Seminoles didn’t find many answers in the spring. Top returning rushers Devonta Freeman and Chris Thompson missed spring practice because of injuries, and promising sophomore James Wilder Jr. miss a big chunk after he was arrested for resisting arrest in February.
2. Punter: The Seminoles are really going to miss departed punter Shawn Powell, who averaged 47.1 yards per punt and helped FSU’s defense by putting opponents in bad field position. Freshman Cason Beatty, a former high school quarterback, enrolled in classes at FSU in January and participated in spring practice. He struggled with consistency, but FSU coaches like his strong leg and hang time.
3. Backup quarterback: Senior EJ Manuel needs to stay healthy for the Seminoles to reach their potential, but there are a couple good backups behind him. Clint Trickett has added weight and threw the ball well in the spring. He’s still battling redshirt freshman Jacob Coker for the No. 2 job. FSU will also hold its breath to see if highly regarded quarterback recruit Jameis Winston of Hueytown, Ala., enrolls in school or signs a professional baseball contract this summer.