ACC: Willie Haulstead

The news was hardly a surprise, but Florida State nevertheless could breathe an immense sigh of relief when Rashad Greene announced he’d be back for his senior season in 2014. There are more talented, more highly regarded players from the Seminoles’ national championship team departing for the NFL, but perhaps no one on the current FSU roster was more crucial in 2014 than Greene. He was practically irreplaceable.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsRashad Green had a team-high 76 catches in 2013, including 9 in the national title game.
The run-up to the start of the 2013 season was a disaster for Florida State’s receiver group. Greg Dent was expected to blossom into a consistent threat, but instead spent the year awaiting a trial for sexual assault. Willie Haulstead figured to return from more than two years saddled with the lingering effects of a concussion, but academics ended his season before it began. Jarred Haggins was poised for a far bigger role, but a knee injury relegated him to the sidelines.

What was left for Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense was essentially a three-man show: Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. Of Winston’s 384 pass attempts in 2013, he targeted his big three receivers 279 times (73 percent), according to ESPN Stats & Info.

The tight rotation actually proved to be a benefit. Greene, Benjamin and Shaw all enjoyed breakout seasons, with the former two topping 1,000 yards for the season. But as Florida State looks to 2014, the lack of established depth at the position means a massive rebuilding project must begin, with Greene providing the foundation.

Shaw is graduating. Benjamin departed early for the NFL. Winston’s top three targets out of the backfield all moved on as well. Aside from Greene, the current Florida State roster accounts for just 44 of Winston’s completions, the bulk of those to tight end Nick O’Leary.

So as the enthusiasm builds for a repeat performance by the Seminoles’ high-flying offense thanks to the return of the Heisman Trophy winner and four-fifths of his offensive line, the obvious question is: Who will be catching all of those throws?

Greene’s 76 catches last season were the second-most in Florida State history. It seems likely that number will increase in 2014. Even with tempting options in Shaw, O’Leary and Benjamin, Winston targeted Greene on more than 30 percent of his throws last year.

Greene was fond of telling the story of Florida State’s receivers meeting last summer to discuss the new quarterback running the offense. It would be up to them, Greene said, to make Winston comfortable, to do their jobs so well it made his job easy. In 2014, Greene’s role will be similar, except he’ll now be mentoring a young group of receivers around him, too.

Kermit Whitfield is electric with the ball in his hands, one of college football’s fastest players. He figures to be a nice fit to replace Shaw as the team’s top slot receiver, but he caught just five passes in 2013 -- none from Winston.

Benjamin’s loss provides an even bigger hole. Receivers who are 6-foot-5, 235 pounds and can run and jump effortlessly are rare gems. Still, tall receivers have been a cornerstone of Florida State’s offense, from Greg Carr to Rodney Smith to Benjamin. The last time the Seminoles didn’t have a receiver taller than 6-4 record at least 30 catches and 400 yards was 2005. That role in 2014 figures to fall to 6-4 Isaiah Jones, who caught just two passes for 31 yards as a freshman last season. And while he offers height similar to Benjamin, he checks in almost 40 pounds lighter and is hardly the same matchup nightmare as his predecessor.

Teammates raved about Jesus Wilson’s work on the practice field in 2013, and he’ll get his share of reps, too. Christian Green will be back again, but after a solid freshman campaign in 2011, he’s all but disappeared in the past two seasons. Haggins returns from the knee injury, too, but since Oct. 13, 2012, his combined stat line looks like this: 1 catch, 1 yard.

All of that is simply to underscore the importance of Greene in FSU’s 2014 passing game. His fellow receivers have potential, but Greene is the established weapon. And while the losses of Shaw and Benjamin are big, it’s worth remembering that Winston’s favorite weapon remains.

On third down last season, Winston targeted Greene 27 times -- nearly twice as often as any other receiver on the team. His 18 third-down catches doubled the next closest receiver, and all 18 went for first downs. Winston’s other returning star, O’Leary, converted 8 of 9 third-down targets, too.

In the red zone in 2013, Greene was again Winston’s top target (14 throws) and receiver (eight catches), and he and O’Leary accounted for nearly half of Winston’s red-zone targets.

In short, few receivers made more catches when it mattered most. Fifty of Greene’s receptions went for a first down, tied for third among ACC receivers. And no player on Florida State’s offense has been as consistent. Greene has led the team in receiving in each of his first three seasons in Tallahassee. He needs 41 more catches and 1,133 more yards in 2014 to match FSU’s career receiving marks.

Of course, as good as Greene has been, the onus will still fall to his emerging teammates to draw the attention of safeties away from him and provide Winston with a wider variety of weapons at his disposal. That development remains a work in progress for the next seven months, but Greene’s ability to handle double coverage, to make the big plays when it matters most, to set the standard for game day on the practice field during the week -- that makes the jobs of everyone around him much easier.

For an offense that returns so many stars in 2014, Greene will again be the cornerstone.

FSU offense poised to make history

December, 12, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — They know the numbers, but none of Florida State’s offensive playmakers wants to vouch for just how significant 1,000 would be.

The refrain was established even before the season, and it has been repeated again and again each time another Seminoles star gets within striking distance.

“I don’t feel like anyone is really focusing on that,” said Rashad Greene, Florida State’s leading receiver with 981 yards. “We want that crystal ball. That’s the goal, and individual stuff will take care of itself.”

It’s the same answer given by Kenny Shaw, now 71 receiving yards shy of 1,000.

It’s the same answer given by Kelvin Benjamin, who needs 43 receiving yards to crack 1,000.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
AP Photo/Richard ShiroRashad Greene is one of three FSU receivers who's less than 75 yards from the 1,000-yard mark this season.
It’s the same answer given by Devonta Freeman, who can top 1,000 rushing yards with just 57 in the VIZIO BCS Championship Game.

And, of course, the national championship is exactly where their focus should be, but the proximity of all four players to that elusive mark is nothing to shrug off.

At Florida State, getting to 1,000 has been a remarkably rare accomplishment for anyone. In the school’s history, only 12 players have reached that mark, and only once have multiple Seminoles cracked 1,000 in the same season.

For Freeman, getting to 1,000 would end the longest -- and one of the most inexplicable -- streaks in the country. No Florida State back has topped 1,000 yards since 1996 thanks to a confluence of injuries, depth, performance and bad luck. To end the streak in a national championship game would be a perfect conclusion.

“That would be great,” Freeman said. “But we’ve got to win it. We’ve got to win, then get these 1,000 yards.”

Freeman figured to have plenty of competition from his teammates in Florida State’s backfield, but Karlos Williams (705 yards) was developed slowly after moving from safety in Week 2, and James Wilder Jr. (542 yards) was hobbled by injuries in the early season, opening the door just enough for Freeman to approach that elusive mark.

When the season began, the depth at receiver actually appeared to be a concern. Senior Greg Dent was suspended after being charged with sexual assault. Senior Willie Haulstead was ruled academically ineligible. Jarred Haggins suffered a preseason knee injury and was lost for the year, too. That left Florida State with just four veteran receivers, but the lack of depth actually proved to be a blessing.

The tight rotations meant Greene, Shaw and Benjamin were on the field more often, and for Benjamin in particular, that made a marked difference in his performance. In 2012, Benjamin withered down the stretch, but this season, his last two games have been his best. He has caught 14 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns in his last two contests, pulling him into position to crack 1,000 yards, too.

Only once has Florida State had two receivers top 1,000 in a season -- 1995, when E.J. Green and Andre Cooper did it with a combined 9 yards to spare. That Florida State might have three this year would put the Seminoles’ offense in rarefied company.

Only four other teams in college football history have had three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. Three of those teams -- 2009 Houston, 2007 Hawaii and 2003 Texas Tech -- hardly offer apt comparisons. They combined to throw the ball on 69 percent of their plays. Florida State, meanwhile, has thrown just 46 percent of the time this season.

The 2007 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes are really the only good comparison to what Florida State has done on offense this year. They had a 50-50 split on play-calling, and they are the only team in the last 10 years to have four players top 1,000 yards in one season.

It’s not a record that established Tulsa as an all-time great, of course. It’s simply just an interesting bit of trivia. And that’s why Florida State’s mantra is so significant.

One thousand yards would mean something. Four players topping 1,000 would mean even more. But four 1,000-yard players sharing a national championship would assure the Seminoles of their place in history.

“To me, if it’s in the context of winning and being successful, then it’s a great accomplishment,” Jimbo Fisher said. “Still, 1,000 yards is 1,000 yards, and that means a lot.”

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 12, 2013
Happy Monday, folks. Get your week started with some ACC reading.
For once, Andrea Adelson and I are on the same page. Both of us think this is the year Florida State will live up to the hype. Shocking, I know.

Our opinions differ, though, on exactly how they need to do that.

Will the offensive line and running game be the key? Or will it be quarterback EJ Manuel and the development of his receivers?

[+] EnlargeEJ Manuel
AP Photo/Phil SearsEJ Manuel is going to require a lot of help from his offensive line to his receiving corps in order to get FSU some wins this season.
Depends, of course, on who you ask ...

Heather Dinich: It’s a good thing Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett is a Harley Davidson-driving, cigar-gnawing, old-school, kick-in-the-pants kind of coach -- because Florida State’s offensive line couldn’t afford anything less this summer.

If the No. 7-ranked Seminoles are going to stay in the top 10 -- if they’re going to win the ACC and aim for something even higher -- the offensive line must go from the weak link in 2011 to one of the team’s greatest strengths in 2012. The running game must improve, and it all starts up front with a group that introduced four freshmen in the starting lineup against Notre Dame last year in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Last year, Florida State’s running game finished No. 104 in the country. The Noles tied for No. 110 in sacks allowed. And the linemen didn’t create enough holes for the running backs, who also had too many mental errors.

Does that sound like a top-10 team? Well, that’s why it wasn’t. The Noles sank to No. 23 last year in the final Associated Press Top 25 after starting out No. 6 in the preseason poll.

Florida State can’t possibly expect to change that with only 95 total yards of offense against Florida again. It can’t possibly win its first ACC title since 2005 with only 63 rushing yards against Miami. And it certainly can’t be taken seriously as a national title contender with only 41 rushing yards against Notre Dame.

Florida State’s defense and its super special teams were the difference for the Noles last year. If the offensive line and ground game could match that, Florida State would be seemingly unstoppable.

It’s getting closer.

The experience sophomore guards Josue Matias and Tre’ Jackson got in the bowl game last year was priceless, and they continued that progress this summer. Cameron Erving’s seamless transition from defensive tackle to left tackle was one of the top story lines in Tallahassee, and all three have likely earned starting jobs for the season opener against Murray State. The questions continue at center and right tackle, though, and the competition could, too. During fall camp, Austin Barron and Bryan Stork were the frontrunners at center, and junior-college transfers Menelik Watson and Daniel Glauser were the leaders at right tackle.

Overall, the Noles’ offensive line has gotten bigger and stronger, but it still needs to prove that it has also gotten better.

Andrea Adelson: We have heard plenty already this preseason about the depth Florida State has at wide receiver.

Depth is an excellent commodity to have. But here is my question -- how about playmakers? Do the Seminoles have a game-breaker at receiver who will be able to help Manuel carry this offense from good to championship caliber?

I grew up in South Florida, and have watched every Miami-Florida State game going back to the early 1980s. During the heyday of both programs, you could always count on at least one receiver that made you, well, nervous. Florida State had them in spades, between guys like Lawrence Dawsey, Tamarick Vanover, Peter Warrick, Laveranues Coles, Snoop Minnis, E.G. Green, Anquan Boldin and the like.

To that point -- FSU had one receiver on the ACC first team between 1993 and 2000. Since then, the Noles have had just one -- Craphonso Thorpe in 2003. There are a variety of reasons this program has hit a major dip in recent years. One of them has been a lack of some major talent at the skill positions.

The lack of a 1,000-yard rusher (none since 1996) or 1,000-yard receiver (none since 2002) are proof. So is the fact that Florida State has not had a receiver drafted since Willie Davis in 2007. For a program in talent-rich Florida, it is almost inexcusable for there to be a dearth of game-changers at either running back or receiver. A player like Sammy Watkins? He used to be found at Florida State.

The Noles have an opportunity to change that this season given some of the talent that is returning. What FSU fans will tell you is Manuel has been good at spreading the ball around to his various receivers, and that has been nearly as good as having one go-to guy emerge. Three players had 30 or more catches last season -- Rashad Greene, Rodney Smith and Kenny Shaw.

They all return.

Willie Haulstead also is back after sitting out last season. Christian Green and Greg Dent each averaged over 17 yards a catch last season. They are back, too.

Expectations are high for redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin to emerge as a game-changer. Florida State also has true freshman Marvin Bracy, a player with world class speed who may not even see the field this year. That is a testament to the depth at the position, something that is not in dispute.

But what the Noles truly need is a dynamic presence at receiver to put fear into the opposition, the way they used to do. To me, that is going to be a deciding factor in whether the Seminoles live up to all the preseason hype.

NoleNation links: Joyner's tough lesson

August, 27, 2012
David M. Hale writes: It took a damaging hit on a teammate for Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner to realize his aggressive energy, which pushes the defensive unit, needs to be controlled. Seminoles WR Willie Haulstead lost the 2011 season to aftereffects of a concussion that didn’t seem bad at the time.

Corey Dowlar writes: Insider 2014 LB Tre Williams, the latest target inside Alabama for FSU recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig, plans his visit to Tallahassee.

Hale: Insider OL Menelik Watson, an unusually athletic big man who’s short on experience despite being a juco transfer, is today’s subject in NoleNation’s Carrying the Spear series of player profiles.

Also, check back this afternoon with NoleNation as David M. Hale attends Jimbo Fisher's news conference, as well as Seminoles afternoon practice.

Walter Camp watch list announced

July, 20, 2012
The Walter Camp Football Foundation has announced the names of 50 players to watch for its 2012 Player of the Year award. Here are your ACC representatives:

Walter Camp Award (Presented to the nation’s most outstanding player by the Walter Camp Football Foundation)

The Walter Camp Award watch list was the final watch list scheduled to be announced by the National College Football Awards Association. As promised, I have been keeping a running list of your ACC players who are up for awards this year. Here is a compliation of the awards released over the past two weeks. Best of luck to those who were nominated:

Doak Walker Award (Presented to the nation's premier running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum)
Davey O'Brien Award (Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation)
Biletnikoff Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation)
Butkus Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation)
Rotary Lombardi Award (Presented to the college lineman of the year by the Rotary Club of Houston)

Jim Thorpe Award (Presented to the nation's best defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club)
Outland Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America)
Lou Groza Award (Presented to the nation's top place-kicker by the Palm Beach County [Fla.] Sports Commission)
Ray Guy Award (Presented to the nation's best punter by the Augusta [Ga.] Sports Council)
Mackey Award (Presented to the nation’s most outstanding tight end by the Nassau County [N.Y.] Sports Commission)
Rimington Trophy (Presented to the nation’s premier center by the Boomer Esiason Foundation)
Bednarik Award (Presented to the college defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club)
Maxwell Award (Presented to the college player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club)

NoleNation links: FSU camp standouts

July, 20, 2012
Craig Haubert and Corey Long discuss: A handful of players stood out in making some of the best impressions made during Jimbo Fisher Camp.

Corey Dowlar writes: Insider ESPN 300 RB Alex Collins, a Miami commit, dons FSU gear for a session of camp – saying he’s still committed to the Canes but keeping his options open.

David Hale writes: Insider WR Willie Haulstead, who has the height at 6-foot-3 to be a threat in the red zone, is today’s subject of NoleNation’s Carrying The Spear series of player profiles.

Dowlar: Insider ESPN 300 DL Jordan Sherit lands an FSU offer during Jimbo Fisher Camp.

Long: Insider ESPN 150 DB Marcell Harris makes a last-minute trip to run a few drills at camp.

Derek Tyson writes: Insider Four-star OL Denver Kirkland runs camp drills looking to raise his game “another notch.”

Biletnikoff Award watch list announced

July, 17, 2012
Before reading this list: Clemson standout receiver Sammy Watkins is NOT on it, and it's because he was arrested this summer. If Watkins has a good season on and off the field, he can play his way back into consideration, and he should -- Watkins is one of the best receivers in the country.

Here are your other ACC reps:

Biletnikoff Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation)
You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: If Florida State wants to return to be part of the nation's elite this season, the Seminoles' offensive line will have to step up.

The latest to examine FSU's protection is K.C. Joyner, also known as "The Football Scientist."

Joyner points out that, Insider during the golden era of Bobby Bowden's teams (1987-2000), the Seminoles' formula was to score 38 points per game and hold the opposition to 15. FSU's offense, which averaged 30.6 points per game last season, fell short.

Joyner says that the talent is there at the skill positions to close the gap this season.
It starts with the fact the Seminoles racked up 8.7 yards per pass attempt (YPA) last season, a total that was tied for seventh in the FBS. To put this another way, the Florida State passing offense was tied with an Andrew Luck-led Stanford Cardinal offense in this category and finished ahead of such powerhouse passing teams as the Boise State Broncos, West Virginia Mountaineers, Arkansas Razorbacks and USC Trojans.

A repeat of this performance looks to be very possible given that this unit will return starting quarterback EJ Manuel, as well as all but one of the Seminoles who posted double-digit receptions in 2011.

Florida State will also have the services of Willie Haulstead, a talented receiver who ranked seventh in the ACC in yards per reception in 2010 but missed the 2011 season with a concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-foot-6, 242-pound redshirt freshman wideout who was described in his ESPN recruiting profile as a "one-on-one nightmare on fades, red zone shots and underneath slants and crossing routes."

The key, of course, is the offensive line, which was tied for 112th in the nation last season in sacks allowed. But Joyner says that the run-blocking was better than last season's numbers would have indicated.

Improvements up front are obviously key, but the offense still averaged more than 30 points per game last season. Better luck and performance up front could be the key for FSU to take the next step this season.

Florida State spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
2011 overall record: 9-4
2011 conference record: 5-3 (t-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:
QB EJ Manuel, CB Greg Reid, LB Telvin Smith, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner, WR Rashad Greene

Key losses:
T Zebrie Sanders, WR Bert Reed, LB Nigel Bradham

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)

Spring answers

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.

Fall questions

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.

FSU's Haulstead happy to be back

April, 12, 2012
Florida State receiver Willie Haulstead never got the chance last season to build off a promising sophomore campaign. A preseason concussion ended up costing Halstead the entire 2011 season, forcing him to redshirt and delaying his return to the field until this spring.

"I had a smile from ear-to-ear, knowing I'm out there playing football, the game that I love," Haulstead said of his return this spring.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State's Willie Haulstead
John David Mercer/US PRESSWIREFlorida State's Willie Haulstead missed last season after making 38 catches for 587 yards in 2010.
Haulstead had 38 catches for 587 yards in 2010, and his six touchdown receptions and 15.4 yards per catch were team-bests. He was able to practice a little bit in the lead-up to the Seminoles' Champs Sports Bowl win over Notre Dame in December, but that was as close as he got to rejoining the Seminoles last season.

The 6-foot-3, 233-pounder had suffered a concussion a year earlier as well, and he even admitted Wednesday to suffering from post-concussive symptoms as recently as weeks before this spring season, though he is happy to be back on the field.

"I didn't feel like I had anything to prove," Haulstead said. "I just felt like I had to go out there and do the same things I had done before."

The Titusville, Fla., native's absence allowed newcomers like Rashad Greene to step up, as the true freshman notched 38 catches for 596 yards and seven scores in 2011, which ended with him taking home MVP honors in the bowl game victory.

Haulstead said he hasn't let the deeper talent pool at receiver affect his mentality since his return.

"I didn't feel like I had anything to prove," he said. "I just felt like I had to go out there and do the same things I had done before."

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher thinks Haulstead is not back to his normal self just yet, though he is happy with the receiver's progress through the spring.

"He's starting to get better," Fisher said. "He still needs to lose some weight; he got a little big. If not I'm going to move him to middle linebacker. … He hurt his heel right off the bat [in spring ball] which hindered him. He's playing better, moving better. He had a nice catch and run for a long touchdown the other day. He's progressing. He needs to have a great summer to get back in shape and get back to that old form."
EJ ManuelAP Photo/John RaouxQuarterback EJ Manuel and the Seminoles will focus on more offensive versatility this season.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If Florida State is going to return to the upper echelon of college football in 2012, which it has been trying to do for more than a decade, the Seminoles are going to have to be more explosive on offense.

Last season, FSU ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per game, and ranked among the top 10 in net punting and kickoff returns.

The Seminoles were explosive on defense and special teams during a 9-4 season in 2011, but their offense, because of inexperience and injuries, was far from potent. FSU ranked 39th in scoring (30.6 points per game), 77th in total offense (369.1 yards), 33rd in passing (257 yards) and 104th in rushing (112.1 yards).

“When you’re a great football team, you’ve got to be great in all three phases,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “There are days on offense when you’re not going to score 35 points. You’ve got to be good in all three phases in case that happens.”

Fisher believes the pieces are in place for FSU to be better on offense this coming season. Quarterback EJ Manuel, who was plagued by shoulder and leg injuries in 2011, is back for his senior season. FSU’s offensive line will be stronger and more experienced after four freshmen started in its 18-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl. Tailback Chris Thompson is back after missing most of last season with a back injury, and the Seminoles will bring back one of the country’s deepest and most talented receiver corps.

As long as the Seminoles stay healthy, Fisher expects his offense to be better in 2012.

“Everything that could have gone wrong on offense last year went wrong,” Fisher said.

FSU’s problems started in spring practice, when it lost starting offensive tackle Andrew Datko to shoulder injuries. Manuel injured his left shoulder in FSU’s 23-13 loss to Oklahoma on Sept. 17 and missed the next game, a 35-30 loss at Clemson. Thompson broke two vertebrae in his back in a 35-30 loss at Wake Forest the next week and missed the rest of the season. Without Thompson, FSU’s running game was never able to get going.

Fisher believes Manuel is the kind of quarterback that can lead FSU to an ACC championship and BCS bowl game. Manuel completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 2,666 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions and ranked No. 18 nationally in pass efficiency (151.2 rating) last season.

“I don’t know if he played great, but he played pretty well,” Fisher said. “He was banged up. Staying healthy is going to be critical for him this year.”

Manuel, from Virginia Beach, Va., played most of the Champs Sports Bowl after breaking the fibula in his left leg. The injury hasn’t completely healed, but Manuel is expected to participate in most of spring practice.

“It will be fine,” Manuel said. “It really doesn’t hurt much because it’s not a weight-bearing bone. It was really painful when I was hurt, but I didn’t know it was broken. I thought it was like a deep thigh bruise.”

Fisher said Manuel earned the respect of his teammates by playing with a broken leg in the bowl game.

“He’s very tough and very competitive,” Fisher said. “He plays with pain really well. The team always comes before ‘me’ with him, which is a great quality.”

Manuel will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. The Seminoles’ top four receivers – Rashad Greene, Rodney Smith, Christian Green and Kenny Shaw each caught more than 25 passes last season – are coming back. Fisher said junior Willie Haulstead, who missed last season with a concussion, and redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin might be as good as any of FSU’s returning receivers. Benjamin, from Belle Glade, Fla., is 6 feet 6 and 242 pounds.

“I’m extremely excited about these freshmen we have coming in,” Manuel said. “Guys that were young last year like Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw are going to be better. Our offensive line is going to be more experienced and it needs to get stronger, which they’re doing.”

Finding depth at tailback and solidifying the offensive line are FSU’s priorities this spring. Thompson is expected to participate in spring practice, and sophomore Devonta Freeman is working his way back from a lower back injury. Freshman tailback Mario Pender, of Cape Coral, Fla., enrolled at FSU in January and will also compete in spring practice.

Keeping Manuel healthy will be FSU’s priority when the season begins.

“Last year was frustrating, but I think it’s something you build character from,” Manuel said. “Injuries are a part of the game. You’re never going to be healthy. You’ve got to play whether you’re 80 or 90 percent or 20 percent. If you’re going to play, you have to go out there with the mindset to win.”

FSU bowl injury report

December, 28, 2011
Here is Florida State's injury report for the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame:


WR Bert Reed (hamstring)


OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)

WR Jarred Haggins (quadriceps)


OT Andrew Datko (shoulder)

DT Darious Cummings (hand)

WR Willie Haulstead (head)

DT Moses McCray (knee)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

OL Henry Orelus (head)

LB Terrance Smith (foot)

OL Jacob Stanley (knee)

RB Chris Thompson (back)

S Karlos Williams (wrist)

ACC injury reports: Week 12

November, 18, 2011
Here are this week's injury reports from the schools that released them:



DE Joe Gore (knee)
LB Tony Steward (knee)
OT Philip Price (knee)


WR Sammy Watkins (shoulder)


CB Darius Robinson (hamstring)



WR Brandon Braxton (upper body)
OT Takoby Cofield (upper body)
CB Zach Greene (leg)
WR Conner Vernon (leg)


LB Kelby Brown (leg)
WR Jamison Crowder (leg)
WR Tyree Watkins (leg)


DE Justin Foxx (leg)
LB C.J. France (upper body)
LB Kevin Rojas (lower body)
CB Johnny Williams (upper body)


S Lee Butler (leg)
QB Brandon Connette (upper body)
DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo (leg)
C Brian Moore (upper body)

Out for season

DE Kenny Anunike (leg)
TE Jack Farrell (leg)
OT Kyle Hill (shoulder)



Willie Haulstead (head)
Henry Orelus (head)
Darious Cummings (hand)
Andrew Datko (shoulder)
Moses McCray (knee)

Out for season

Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)
Chris Thompson (back)



LB Morgan Carter
AB Orwin Smith

Out for season

S Fred Holton
DL Jimmie Kitchen
S Lance Richardson


Out for season

WR Tyrek Cheeseboro
DB Makinton Dorleant
OL Andrew Gonnella
DB Avery Graham
LB Garrett Lederman
QB Danny O'Brien
DB Matt Robinson
DL Isaiah Ross
TE Dave Stinebaugh
LB Kenny Tate


LB Alex Twine


OL Bennett Fulper


OL Max Garcia
RB Justus Pickett
RB Jeremiah Wilson



Marcus Robinson (upper extremity)


Luther Robinson (lower extremity)
Rashawn Scott (upper extremity)
Jordan Futch (upper extremity)
Lee Chambers (upper extremity)
Davon Johnson (lower extremity)

Surgery/Out for season

Blake Ayles (upper extremity)
Ramon Buchanan (lower extremity)
Marcus Forston (lower extremity)
Erik Lichter (upper extremity)
Corey White (lower extremity)


Out for season

CB Jarvis Byrd, (knee)
FB Taylor Gentry (foot)
LB D.J. Green (foot)
HB Mustafa Greene (foot)
LB Sterling Lucas (knee)
DE Jeff Rieskamp (shoulder)


DT Markus Kuhn (abdomen)



Pablo Alvarez (upper extremity)
David Marrs (lower extremity)
Charlie Richards (upper extremity)
E.J. Scott (medical)
Bobby Smith (lower extremity)
Tyler Smith (lower extremity)
Matt Snyder (lower extremity)
Michael Terrell (lower extremity)
Joseph Williams (lower extremity)


Kyle McCartin (upper extremity)


Rodney McLeod (lower extremity)
Kevin Parks (lower extremity)
Colter Phillips (lower extremity)



RB Josh Harris (hamstring)


DT John Gallagher (back)


OT Dylan Heartsil (back)
CB Dominique Tate (knee)
LB Kyle Jarrett (hip)
WR Airyn Willis (shoulder)

Week 11 injury reports

November, 11, 2011
Here are your injury reports for the schools that reported them in Week 11:



WR Ifeanyi Momah (knee)
DB CJ Jones (knee)
DT Connor Wujciak (shoulder)
RB Montel Harris (knee)
DT Kaleb Ramsey (foot)
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis (leg)
DB Jim Noel (ankle)
LN Nick Clancy (knee)


DE Dan Williams (shoulder)
DB Spenser Rositano (leg)


RB Andre Williams (abdomen)
RB Tahj Kimble (head)


Joe Gore, DE, Knee
Tony Steward, LB, Knee

Spencer Benton, PK, shoulder

Will play
Andre Ellington, RB, ankle



DE Justin Foxx (leg)
CB Zach Greene (leg)
CB Johnny Williams (leg)


LB Kelby Brown (leg)


WR Jamison Crowder (leg)


S Lee Butler (leg)
QB Brandon Connette (upper body)
C Brian Moore (upper body)

Out for season

TE Jack Farrell (leg)
DE Kenny Anunike (leg)



Andrew Datko (shoulder)
Willie Haulstead (head)
Henry Orelus (head)
Darious Cummings (hand)

Out for season

Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)
Chris Thompson (back)


David Spurlock (knee)
Rashad Greene (ankle)
Bryan Stork (head)



Luther Robinson-Lower Extremity
Curtis Porter-Upper Extremity
Rashawn Scott-Upper Extremity
Jordan Futch-Upper Extremity

Surgery/Out for season

Marcus Forston-Lower Extremity
Ramon Buchanan-Lower Extremity
Corey White-Lower Extremity
Erik Lichter-Upper Extremity
Blake Ayles-Upper Extremity


Out for season

Jarvis Byrd, CB - Knee
D.J. Green, LB- Foot
Mustafa Greene, HB - Foot
Sterling Lucas, LB - Knee
Jeff Rieskamp, DE- Shoulder

Out for game

Taylor Gentry, FB - Foot
Jake Kahut, DE - Knee
Brandon Pittman, LB- Hamstring


R.J. Mattes, OT - Ankle


Pablo Alvarez, (upper extremity)
Charlie Richards, (upper extremity)
E.J. Scott, (medical)
Bobby Smith, (lower extremity)
Tyler Smith, (lower extremity)
Matt Snyder, (lower extremity)
Michael Terrell, (lower extremity)
W.J. Williams, (lower extremity)


Luke Bowanko (upper extremity)
Thompson Brown (medical)
Cam Johnson (lower extremity)
Rodney McLeod (lower extremity)
Colter Phillips (lower extremity)
Draquan Romero (lower extremity)