- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Spring practice arrived with some significant questions, and it ended with at least a slightly clearer indication of some answers. This week, we'll take a look at five of the biggest question marks of the spring and decipher what we learned and how much further the Seminoles have to go before the season kicks off.
Next up: The expectations
The question: The offseason saw six assistant coaches depart and a host of talented veterans head for greener pastures in the NFL. So with so much turnover, can Florida State still be considered a championship contender?
The possibilities: Jimbo Fisher is an optimist by nature, but even he admits this spring was just the start of a significant project. A new starting quarterback, a complete overhaul of the defensive line and a host of new voices running practice doesn't make things easy. But there's still plenty of talent in the coffers, which could mean either a season of growing on the job or, potentially, a year in which FSU's game against Clemson once again decides the conference.
What we learned this spring: From the outset, Fisher has raved about the potential of the team -- which, to be fair, is a distinct difference from a year ago when he unflinchingly declared the Seminoles ready to contend. But just because there's still room for growth with this year's group doesn't mean his expectations for the finished product are any lower.
While that enthusiasm was largely demonstrated in glowing post-practice reviews, perhaps the most jarring and significant moment of the spring came in the final week, when Fisher cut a practice short because he wasn't pleased with the effort level. It was a low point for the team, but it was a perfect chance for Fisher to deliver a message about what he expects going forward.
"What were we, a handful of plays last year from winning every game? Five or six plays?" he said afterward. "How do you know what five or six plays those are? If you don't turn it on in practice every day, how do you know what you're turning on in a game? You don't. ... Turn it up from the first play to the last. Play the whole time."
What's left to decide: No one expected the spring to end with all the loose ends tied up, but the truth is, the few answers found along the way are likely to be replaced with new questions come fall.
Still, there's plenty to be encouraged by. Fisher still hasn't named a quarterback, but he insists he's been impressed by how much all four contenders have grown, and he's not planning on starting anyone who isn't ready to win from Day 1.
"I'm going to play the best guy that I think gives us the best chance to win," Fisher said. "Whoever that will be, we'll shake it out in time."
Lamarcus Joyner's move to cornerback didn't limit his physical play, the offensive line continues to grow, the new coaching staff has quickly acclimated, and the new additions to come this summer can only add talent to an already solid group.
Does that make Florida State a favorite again in 2013? Maybe not, thanks to that road trip to Clemson. But it's clear Fisher and the Seminoles aren't interested in talking about a rebuilding year just yet.
"When we get back to full strength and get our freshmen in, we've got the potential to be a good football team," Fisher said. "We've got to keep working, but we've got a great attitude. I love the team, I love the work ethic, the attitude and the competitiveness."