Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Florida State future power rankings
By David M. Hale
ESPN is examining each of the nation's top college football programs and projecting what the next few seasons might have in store. We've accounted for Florida State's coaching, talent, recruiting, stability and program clout to find out how the Seminoles stack up, with ESPN's experts ranking FSU seventh in their Future Power Rankings.
Here's a quick look at what could change those numbers, for better and for worse:
For Florida State's redshirt freshman, the expectations are already so high that he might never fully reach them, but that's not the standard he should be worried about. When E.J. Manuel made an early push for the Heisman a year ago, Jimbo Fisher famously referred to his quarterback as a "hunting dog" rather than a "show dog," and that's exactly what he'll want from Winston, too.
But while Manuel arrived with an impressive track record and lofty expectations, too, there is something different about Winston, who is already being pegged by some as a future No. 1 overall draft pick. He's got a big arm, good speed and tremendous confidence that sets him apart.
For all his talent, Winston still needs some time to develop on the job, and Fisher's offense isn't designed to allow him to post huge numbers from Day 1. For FSU, the key is for Winston to keep moving forward, and if he does, the next three years could be a turning point for the program.
A lot of other things will have to fall into place, too, if FSU is to take the next step, but Winston will be at the forefront for good reason. After all, in the Seminoles' two previous national championship seasons, they had eventual Heisman winners Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke running the show.
The Seminoles will fall if: The stability Fisher has built falls apart.
There are more than a few fans eager to point out the flaws in Fisher's first three years on the job, and indeed, ugly losses to teams such as Wake Forest and Virginia in 2011 and NC State in 2012 derailed otherwise promising seasons. But while Fisher hasn't quite fulfilled mammoth expectations, he has managed a major overhaul of the organization by implementing a strict plan for recruiting, coaching and running the program.
Essentially Fisher has tried to follow in Nick Saban's footsteps by not simply coaching the Xs and Os, but working to refine even the most minor aspects of the program. But 2013 brings the first major challenge to that routine, with six new assistant coaches joining the ranks, the departure of a vast amount of NFL talent (11 players picked in 2013's draft), an increasingly arduous schedule on the horizon and a search for a new athletics director looming.
For three years, Fisher has been the captain of a relatively stable ship, but new challenges have arisen. Fisher went outside the box with his hiring of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. His refusal to give up play-calling duties led his offensive coordinator and top recruiter, James Coley, to bolt for ACC rival Miami. He faces recruiting challenges from SEC programs with more resources in a time when FSU is trying to find a new leader for its athletics department. Whether Fisher can keep the program on the right path and follow Saban's blueprint for building a champion will be a major question during the next few seasons.