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Monday, March 4, 2013
State of the Noles: Keys to the future

By David M. Hale

NoleNation looked at the state of the Seminoles, going position by position to review the depth on the current roster and determine FSU's strengths and weaknesses going forward. And while a lot can change in the next few seasons, a few players figure to be front and center in Florida State's future success. Here's a look at the players who should play the biggest roles in determining FSU's fate in each of the next three seasons.
Jameis Winston
The impact of the QB battle that begins this spring between Jameis Winston (pictured), Jacob Coker and Clint Trickett will be felt for several years,
2013

Devonta Freeman -- The running game made huge strides in 2012, and Freeman was solid down the stretch after Chris Thompson's injury. Consistency was the bigger issue, and with a first-year starter at quarterback in 2013, FSU's offense will need to rely on Freeman every week.

Mario Edwards Jr. -- There's no doubting Edwards' potential, and he certainly looked the part of a future star in his two-game trial run as FSU's starting defensive end last season. But things will be different in 2013 as Edwards won't have the luxury of Bjoern Werner commanding double teams on the other side of the line. He'll need to step up and become the centerpiece of FSU's pass rush.

Bobby Hart -- Jimbo Fisher has some options at right tackle, so it's not as if the offensive line's success or failure will all fall on Hart's shoulders, but life could be made a lot easier -- both in the short term and down the road -- if Hart could maximize his enormous potential in 2013 and be a suitable replacement for Menelik Watson.

2014

Matthew Thomas -- The highly touted recruit figures to get some playing time in 2013 as a freshman, but by his sophomore season, he'll be a centerpiece. FSU has just two linebackers on its roster with significant playing time, and both will be gone before the 2014 season begins. That means it'll be up to Thomas to make some quick strides.

Eddie Goldman -- The middle of the defensive line has been a source of consistent production for years at FSU, but if Timmy Jernigan leaves early for the NFL, as many expect, 2014 could be a season of significant transition at the position. Goldman looks to be the most likely candidate to step into a bigger role. He got his feet wet in 2012 and should see more work in 2013. By 2014, FSU will be looking to Goldman as a fixture at defensive tackle.

Jameis Winston or Jacob Coker -- Regardless of which quarterback wins the starting job, 2013 is going to be a learning experience. Coker has only a handful of snaps under his belt at the college level, and Winston has yet to see game action. By 2014 though, the training wheels will be off, and whomever has the job will be expected to carry the offense and, given FSU fans' penchant for dreaming big, the standards for success will be high.

2015

Ryan Green -- By 2015, FSU figures to have established its quarterback situation with either Winston or Coker. But the running game could be a question mark. Freeman and James Wilder Jr. will have both moved on, leaving Green as the most likely torch bearer at the position. He's got the dynamic speed and agility to blossom into a star.

Ira Denson and Wilson Bell -- The wave of young offensive linemen that led the rebuilding efforts in 2011 and 2012 will be gone, and there's not a lot of depth currently on the roster ready to step in as replacements. That means there is no wiggle room for Denson and Bell, who need to develop into reliable starters by 2015 or FSU will be in bad shape up front.

P.J. Williams -- Florida State has plenty of depth in the secondary at the moment, but as Karlos Williams, Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks move on in the next two seasons, there are questions about who will pick up the slack at safety. P.J. Williams is probably the most logical candidate on the current roster, and while the bulk of his work so far has been at corner and nickel, he figures to start getting his feet wet at safety in 2013.