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Injuries of 2011 could yield crucial depth

Jimbo Fisher isn't denying the championship aspirations for his team this season.

Entering his third year on the job, he knows he's working with a potentially special group of players, but experience has also taught him that injuries can derail expectations quickly.

"Sometimes the injury bug bites you and sometimes it doesn't," Fisher said. "Sometimes it can't be helped, and last year was one of those times it just did."

The 2011 season was supposed to be a breakthrough one for the Seminoles, but as the injuries mounted, Fisher eventually ran out of answers.

It was a virtual carousel on the offensive line, as one backup after another was given a turn.

The backfield depth was tested, and the defense took its hits. Even quarterback EJ Manuel missed a game-and-a-half with a shoulder injury, and he played through pain for far longer than that.

But as camp nears for the start of the 2012 season, things look a lot different.

It's not that Fisher isn't aware that a fresh crop of injuries could be waiting around any corner though. It's that, this year, he thinks his team is prepared for the inevitable adversity.

"We've got a lot of guys coming back and we've got enough guys for good quality depth if we sustain injuries," Fisher said. "From that standpoint, it's probably the deepest team we've had, and hopefully we'll take advantage of that."

From tailbacks Devonta Freeman and Chris Thompson, both of whom were held out of contact drills this spring, to defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel, the long list of walking wounded should be a lot shorter when camp opens next month.

Fisher has gotten detailed reports from his training staff, and while there are a few players still nursing some bumps and bruises, he said there aren't likely to be any stragglers once drills begin in August.

"We're in good shape now," Fisher said. "We have a few guys with nagging things, but nothing to lead into fall, and we should be healthy across the board."

That's a far cry from where spring practice ended, of course, but the long road back to full health may also have its benefits.

Along with a deep crop of incoming freshmen who could contribute immediately, the extensive experience the reserves got a year ago -- particularly along the offensive line -- has given Fisher and his staff a depth chart littered with potential.

It's taken three years to get to this point, Fisher said, but that depth is often the last piece to the puzzle. But it's a piece that's necessary for a team hoping to win a championship.

"You have to learn to fight through those things," Fisher said. "As you build your program, hopefully you can get enough depth that and you have to enough quality guys behind that understand how to play championship football."