Florida State Seminoles: Lonnie Pryor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When the ACC's preseason all-conference team was announced last week, Rashad Greene finished fourth among wide receivers, which represents both a modest increase in the appreciation he's been afforded by outsiders and a still-marked lack of appreciation of his actual impact on Florida State's offense.

He's good, the ranking suggests, but he's not elite.

The argument is easy enough to make, since Greene finished 16th in the ACC in receiving yards last season, averaging just 53 yards per game. His numbers have been the best Florida State could offer in each of his two seasons with the Seminoles, but they're hardly enough to stand out in a conference that boasts Sammy Watkins, Michael Campanaro, Jamison Crowder and Stefon Diggs.

[+] EnlargeRashad Greene
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesRashad Greene has proven to be dynamic in many different ways on offense.
Appreciating Greene's impact requires nuance, depth. Ranking him among the elite requires context, a more refined argument.

And, of course, Greene has no interest in making that argument.

"He's a humble kid," said Lamarcus Joyner, Greene's teammate since high school. "Rashad comes from a program where you have to make the most of your opportunities because you're surrounded by a bunch of good players. We're Florida State and we have a lot of great guys to pick from."

It's not that Greene revels in the opportunity to toil among the shadows. It's that he understands the value of opportunity, and he's built his career on exploiting each one he gets.

Last year, Greene was targeted 76 times and hauled in 57 catches. His 75-percent completion rate was easily the best among FSU's receivers. His 34 receptions that resulted in first downs were 12 more than the next highest by a Seminole. In his career, he's been given 128 touches and 16 of them have resulted in touchdowns. In other words, one out of every eight times he touches the football he scores, which makes him perhaps the most efficient playmaker in the country.

"It's been like that since high school," Greene said. "At St. Thomas [Aquinas high school], the type of program it was, you don't get too many opportunities to get the ball. When your play got called, either you were going to make the play and make it a big play, or you were going to give up the opportunity. I took that when I came to college. I might not get the opportunities, but I'm going to take advantage of the opportunities I can."

The question now might be whether those opportunities will increase for Greene in his junior season. There are numerous reasons to believe that may be the case.

At quarterback, Florida State will be breaking in a new starter -- likely redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. While his arm strength and decision making have already been praised by coaches, it's clear Jimbo Fisher wants a reliable downfield option who can make life easier for his new quarterback. Greene is the obvious choice.

"It's our job to make him comfortable and be behind him 100 percent," Greene said. "That's our job."

There's still plenty of talent on FSU's depth chart, too, but the receiving corps has been thinned a bit. Senior Greg Dent -- likely the Seminoles' most versatile receiver after Greene -- is suspended indefinitely after an offseason arrest. Speedster Marvin Bracy left the program to pursue a track career. Running backs Chris Thompson and Lonnie Pryor, the two most reliable options out of the backfield a year ago, have graduated. Tight ends Kevin Haplea (knee injury) and Christo Kourtzidis (transfer) are gone, too.

That leaves Greene as the standard bearer of the receiving corps, the established veteran of a passing game in flux.

"He'll get his chances," Fisher said. "He's going to get the ball. … He's very dynamic. He wants it. He accepts that role. He'll take it every time."

It's been rare that Florida State has treated Greene to a heavy dose of targets, but look at the Seminoles' toughest games in 2012 -- NC State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida and Georgia Tech -- and Greene's targets were up in each one.

When the situation calls for a big play, Greene is always a favorable matchup.

"He's a tremendous talent," NC State cornerback Dontae Johnson said. "He's got really great hands, he's got the confidence to run across the middle and catch the ball, he's elusive, good speed on the outside. He's just a great all-around receiver."

While Greene likely deserves a few more of those all-conference votes, it's the respect he's earned from the opposition that likely speaks highest of his ability. They know, better than anyone, where Florida State's junior stands among his peers.

"He's probably one of the fastest guys I've covered," Duke's Russ Cockrell said. "His speed is top-notch, and he should be mentioned alongside Jamison Crowder, Sammy [Watkins], Stefon Diggs. All those guys that are big names in the ACC, he's one of them."

Joyner has spent the offseason working one-on-one against Greene nearly every day. As a cornerback, he said there's no test in the ACC that will be tougher than what he faces during those practice sessions.

There are other elite receivers in the conference, but Greene stands out.

"He's definitely on that level, but I think he can be better," Joyner said. "To do special things, you need more opportunities. Other receivers that are on the national stage, could they come to Florida State and do the same thing? Maybe not. Maybe they can't do what Rashad does, turning two balls he gets in one game to 60-yard touchdowns. They get the ball thrown to them 12 times."

Still, humility doesn't show up in a box score, and Greene isn't shying away from the obvious.

He's spent the offseason refining his skill set, working against Joyner. He's hit the weight room to add bulk, hoping to open the season nearly 20 pounds heavier than where he ended 2012. He sees the opportunity to make a statement about his game without the need for context, and he never misses an opportunity.

"Just like any other receiver," Greene said, "yeah, I want the ball a lot more."
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
Elsa/Getty ImagesFSU tight end Nick O'Leary needs to focus on doing the little things well.
Next up: No. 24 Nick O'Leary

Position/Class: TE/Junior

What he's done: In two seasons at Florida State, O'Leary has proved to be the most productive tight end the program has had in a while, catching 33 passes for 416 yards and five touchdowns. Of course, given the immense hype he had as a recruit -- the consensus top-rated TE in the country -- those numbers don't exactly match the expectations most fans had. He's been a two-year starter, but never a star. He's made some big plays, but also some ugly ones. He's been good, but he hasn't been great. Despite all his talent, he finished eighth among ACC tight ends in receptions in 2012.

Where he's at: If numerous questions remain about O'Leary's future, one thing that's certain is that he's in no danger of losing his starting job. He may not have worked his way into as big a slice of the offense as many fans had hoped thus far, but his talent continues to make him a potentially significant mismatch for opposing defenses. And while he missed a chunk of spring practice with an injury, he's got little to no competition on the depth chart now that senior Kevin Haplea will sit out the season with a torn ACL. For O'Leary, it's not about establishing a role in 2013, but rather, he'll be trying to expand the boundaries of the one he's already created.

What's to come: O'Leary's numbers haven't been eye-popping through two seasons, but he's steadily expanded the significance of his position group each season. That figures to happen again in 2013, as Jimbo Fisher has made it clear he'll replace departed fullback Lonnie Pryor by using more two-tight end sets and giving O'Leary work at halfback. But if the junior is going to blossom into the star so many predicted he would become, it's less about building a highlight tape and more about doing the little things well. From dropped passes to costly fumbles, O'Leary has made a habit of making mental errors by being too focused on the big play. This season, FSU -- and freshman QB Jameis Winston, in particular -- simply need O'Leary to become an effective safety valve over the middle, and new position coach Tim Brewster will make it a priority to build that foundation. A breakout season may not be in the cards, but it's entirely possible O'Leary could double his numbers from 2012 (21 catches, 252 yards, 3 TDs) simply by doing all the little things more consistently.
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

Next up: No. 27 Chad Abram

Position/Class: FB/Sr.

What he's done: Abram arrived at Florida State as a defensive back, but he made the switch to fullback after his freshman campaign. The move had little immediate impact on his playing time, and for the past two seasons the bulk of his work has come on special teams, where he's been among FSU's most versatile players. As a runner, however, Abram has just six career carries for 25 yards.

Where he's at: After three years toiling in the shadows, Abram's role is about to get a lot bigger. With stalwart fullback Lonnie Pryor gone to the NFL, Abram will step into a role that has disappeared from many offenses around the country but has flourished under Jimbo Fisher. Last year Pryor was a key cog in FSU's game plan, rushing for 376 yards and eight TDs and catching another 13 passes for 117 yards, while earning MVP honors in the Orange Bowl. His departure leaves an immense void for Fisher, and Abram will be asked to pick up the bulk of the slack.

What's to come: It would be a complete shock if Abram managed to even approach Pryor's 2012 production this season, and Fisher has already admitted replacing his longtime fullback will be a team effort. He'll use more two-tight end sets, let James Wilder Jr. work in as a lead blocker at times and use Nick O'Leary as a halfback. But when FSU goes to its bread-and-butter sets, it'll be Abram handling Pryor's old role, and Fisher has steadfastly insisted that the senior is ready for the role. He praised Abram's running ability (which included 43 yards and a TD as a halfback in the spring game) and said Abram may have the best hands of anyone in FSU's backfield. None of that is likely to add up to the same numbers Pryor accumulated last year, but it may mean that the vacancy on FSU's offense won't be quite as significant as many expected.
Each season brings with it new expectations, and a handful of Seminoles will bear the brunt of the pressure to perform in 2013. We're counting down the top 10 Florida State players being counted on the most to help the Seminoles live up to expectations.

No. 9: TE Nick O'Leary

Nick O'Leary
Rob Kinnan/US PresswireFlorida State tight end Nick O'Leary caught 21 passes in 2012.
2012 performance: Those expecting a marked improvement from O'Leary's freshman season in which he caught 12 pass were disappointed as the talented sophomore managed just 21 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns. It's not that those totals were awful -- O'Leary, in fact, enjoyed one of the most productive seasons by an FSU tight end in a while -- but they certainly didn't match rather lofty expectations. O'Leary also seemed to disappear for long stretches.

Pressure point: O'Leary arrived amid much hype, and for good reason. He's got the size to be a solid blocker, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability should make him a major mismatch against linebackers and defensive ends. Through two seasons, however, FSU hasn't enjoyed many fruits of those mismatches. The pressure to find more success as a junior will be ratcheted up even further in 2013. With fullback Lonnie Pryor gone, Jimbo Fisher has said he plans to use O'Leary at halfback and will scheme numerous sets with two tight ends. That's a potentially successful wrinkle to the FSU offense -- but only if O'Leary blossoms into the star he's been projected to become.

If he succeeds: Several potential stumbling blocks for FSU's offense could be instantly solved if O'Leary puts together an all-conference-caliber season. If O'Leary's blocking improves, he could help ease the loss of Menelik Watson on the right side. If he becomes a more consistent threat in the passing game, he could provide a valuable safety valve for a young quarterback. If he can avoid making dumb mistakes -- such as fumbling while trying to hurdle defenders -- he could supply the same type of consistency that made Pryor such a valuable part of FSU's offense. Those are all big ifs at the moment.

If he fails: Fisher raved about the progress of senior Kevin Haplea this spring, and the Penn State transfer at least provides FSU with a solid Plan B at tight end. Haplea will never be the receiving threat O'Leary already is, but after a year in the program, he's at least consistent as a blocker and can do enough in the passing game to be an asset. Still, Haplea is the safe option. O'Leary is the potentially explosive one. If O'Leary fails to develop, FSU misses out on a major weapon who could be even more valuable with a young quarterback running the show. More importantly, struggles from any of FSU's tight ends ties Fisher's hands in terms of scheme.

Projection: The first step in meeting expectations for O'Leary would be to simply stop making so many ugly plays. It's one thing to disappear in the offense (something O'Leary has done at times) but it's another to turn a potentially big play into a disastrous one (something O'Leary has become known for among frustrated fans). New tight ends coach Tim Brewster knows he has a potential gold mine in O'Leary, though, and those struggles in 2012 might have served to light a fire under a player who was No. 20 in the ESPN 150 in the 2011 class. O'Leary will be given plenty of chances to shine, and a solid step forward -- 30 catches, more looks in the red zone -- would be a welcome addition. Anything more, and FSU's offense could become a lot more dynamic than many are projecting.
When summer workouts began a year ago, players like Menelik Watson, Demonte McAllister and Nick Waisome were flying under the radar with little in the way of expectations. By season's end, however, they were among Florida State's most productive players.

It happens every year that a few relatively obscure names find their way into bigger roles, and as the Seminoles get set to start another summer NoleNation is counting down five under-the-radar players who could be in line for breakthrough seasons.

Next up: Kevin Haplea (Sr./TE)

Career arc: Florida State ended up No. 2 among Haplea's college choices coming out of high school, and the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end landed instead at Penn State. After the NCAA sanctions that rocked the Penn State program, however, the doors were opened for players to transfer, and Haplea decided to give FSU another look.

Why he's overlooked: Haplea arrived in Tallahassee just days before the start of fall camp last season, and what followed was a whirlwind. An injury to Dan Hicks opened the door for Haplea to get on the field routinely, but he was never an integral part of the offense. Haplea's blocking was solid, but he caught just three passes for 15 yards.

Why he'll produce: For the past four years, Lonnie Pryor has been a fixture of FSU's offensive game plan at fullback, but his departure after the 2012 season likely opens the door to some different looks, and Jimbo Fisher said he's planning on employing more two tight end sets this season. That's good news for Haplea, who might already be FSU's best blocking tight end. But while the grunt work was always a solid niche for Haplea, he showed some athleticism during the spring, becoming a regular target in passing situations, too.

Projection: After a full year in the program, Haplea has clearly made some major strides, and Fisher raved about his spring performance. While Nick O'Leary and Christo Kourtzidis battled injuries, Haplea kept producing. It's unlikely he'll ever be the offensive weapon that O'Leary could be, but Haplea's consistency at the little things should earn him a hefty slice of playing time in 2013.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There weren't many mock drafts that pegged EJ Manuel as the top quarterback available, but Jimbo Fisher had a hunch his guy would impress a few teams.

Manuel's athleticism made him a popular prospect for teams looking to exploit the option offense, and his strong arm and experience in Fisher's pro-style scheme made him a viable option in more traditional sets. In the end, that was enough to convince the Buffalo Bills to take Manuel with the 16th overall selection in Thursday's NFL draft -- the first quarterback taken.

"You think about the journey, when I was a little kid, the ups and down," Manuel said after the selection. "I'm just so happy."

[+] EnlargeE.J. Manuel
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Bills selected Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel with the 16th pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Manuel's emotions were held in check throughout a rocky 2012 season in which he led Florida State to its first ACC championship in seven years. Throughout the season, Manuel's mother was battling breast cancer, missing several of his games late in the season, but she was on hand Thursday in New York as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name.

"I knew she was doing what she had to do to get better," Manuel said before the draft. "Football is a special part of my life, but having my mom for a lot longer, that's what's really important to me. I'm just happy she'll be there."

Manuel's surprising early selection is another boon for Fisher, too, who has become a guru for creating NFL quarterbacks. Manuel's predecessor, Christian Ponder, went 12th overall in the 2011 draft, and former protege at LSU, JaMarcus Russell, was a top overall selection in 2007.

"I'm extremely happy for EJ," Fisher said in a statement released by the school. “He’s a tremendous young man who has been a great representative of Florida State University. He’s worked extremely hard to get to this goal. He’s one of the main reasons that this program has been able to get back to national prominence because of the sacrifices he’s made through his career as well as his development as a player. I’m extremely happy for him and his family. This couldn’t have happen to a better group of people.”

Florida State's return to national prominence was on display throughout the first round of Thursday's draft, even after Manuel was selected.

Defensive tackle Bjoern Werner went 25th overall to the Indianapolis Colts, while the Minnesota Vikings took cornerback Xavier Rhodes with the 26th pick. Both players were juniors who departed FSU a year early.

Werner was pegged as a potential top-five selection late in the season after leading the ACC with 13 sacks, but his stock dipped slightly following an underwhelming performance at the combine.

Rhodes, who came to FSU as a wide receiver before Fisher convinced him to switch to cornerback, might have been a first-round pick a year ago had a bowl-game injury not derailed his plans. He returned for 2012 and helped Florida State's secondary to a No. 1 ranking in the nation in pass defense.

"We were laughing about the day when he didn't want to move over to corner," Fisher said. "He was mad at me for a couple of months. But it's funny how you go back and reminisce when things work out like that."

The three first-round selections were the most for Florida State since 2006, when four Seminoles were taken. They had just three first rounders in the six drafts since.

FSU figures to have at least two more players go in tonight's second round. Right tackle Menelik Watson and defensive end Cornelius Carradine are widely projected as early second-round talent.

As many as a half-dozen more Florida State players could fill out the later rounds of the draft, including fullback Lonnie Pryor, linebacker Vince Williams, kicker Dustin Hopkins and defensive end Brandon Jenkins.

That would mark a massive shift in Florida State's NFL prospects after a dry spell in recent years. FSU has had just 11 players selected in all in the last four drafts prior to this year.

"Hopefully we can do that every year as we establish ourselves as a program," Fisher said. "We've revamped the type of recruiting we're doing and identified certain types of athletes we thought were difference makers and great kids. We've come a long way."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- With the departure of stalwart fullback Lonnie Pryor, Florida State's offense might rely a bit more on the tight ends in 2013, and that could be a boon for Kevin Haplea.

The senior, who transferred from Penn State just days before the start of fall camp last season, has impressed new tight ends coach Tim Brewster with his ability to do all the little things necessary at the line of scrimmage.

Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsKevin Haplea had to adjust to Florida State's offense on the fly last year after transferring from Penn State.
"Haplea has a little thump to him," Brewster said. "He's the type of guy that I think can become a post player, and we're looking for a post player -- a guy that can dominate on the line of scrimmage. Because one thing we're going to do is, we're going to run the football."

While Chad Abram looks to have the fullback spot locked up, he may not offer the same versatility that Pryor brought to the FSU offense a year ago, and Jimbo Fisher has hinted that he could look to use starting tight end Nick O'Leary as a halfback and potentially run a lot more two- and three-tight end sets.

That could mean a good bit more work for Haplea, who is finding his footing in Year 2 with the program. Fisher said Haplea has caught more passes during the past few days of practice than he did all of last season.

O'Leary is still the starter at the position, and he's outpaces his competition in terms of potential by a strong margin. But while Haplea has excelled at the fundamentals, O'Leary is still working on the nuance of his position and hoping to overcome some ugly mistakes he made in 2012.

"He's a guy that's got tremendous talent, but he needs to understand that the details of the game are very important," Brewster said. "The fundamental aspects of tight end play, all the little things are important. It's not about the big picture, it's about seeing the little picture, the little things involved in every play."

Fisher said O'Leary continues to mature, and he hopes to see the junior tight end blossom into a dominant force this season. There have been some encouraging signs this spring, but O'Leary remains a work in progress.

"If he gets those little things, he's really tough to handle," Fisher said. "The details are more refined, and that's the challenge for him right now."

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State of the Noles: Running Backs 

February, 26, 2013
NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now, and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

Up next, a position that was a disaster in 2011 but the foundation of last season's offense: Running Backs

2013 Spring Preview: Running Backs

February, 15, 2013
From the impending quarterback competition to finding replacements for departing juniors, Jimbo Fisher will have his work cut out for him during the next few months as he lays the groundwork for 2013.

With that in mind, we're going to go position by position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.

Previously: Cornerback, Wide Receivers and Tight Ends, Defensive Tackles

[+] EnlargeJames Wilder Jr.
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireCan talented RB James Wilder Jr. make the leap to superstardom in 2013?
Next up: Running backs

2012 recap: It's tough to overstate how much Florida State's ground game improved from 2011, with the Seminoles nearly doubling their total rushing yards and finishing the season with five players who averaged better than 5 yards per carry. Overall, Florida State finished fourth nationally, averaging 5.62 yards per rush. Chris Thompson was well on his way to becoming the first FSU runner to top 1,000 yards since 1996, but his season ended in Week 9 with a torn ACL. James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman teamed up to handle the job the rest of the way -- usually successfully -- and figure to do the same again in 2013.

Departures: Thompson toyed with the idea of appealing the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility after his Week 9 injury, but he eventually abandoned that plan and is focused on rehabbing his knee and making a go of it in the NFL. His loss is big, but Freeman and Wilder proved to be able substitutes. At fullback, things aren't quite so clear cut. Lonnie Pryor departs after four seasons as a starter, and there's no obvious replacement waiting in the wings.

Arrivals: FSU figures to finally get its first look at Mario Pender, who redshirted in 2012 after undergoing groin surgery at the start of fall practice. Pender's rehab went smoothly, but he still won't be a regular practice participant until spring workouts get going. Meanwhile, FSU added another dynamic weapon to its backfield on national signing day with four-star athlete Ryan Green. Like Thompson, Green is a home-run threat with great speed. In what should be something of an unsettled backfield, he could see action immediately.

Biggest question mark: There are no questions about Wilder's ability, but it's still unclear whether he'll ever blossom as a superstar runner. Wilder had a productive 2012 season, rushing for 652 yards and 11 touchdowns, but even after Thompson's injury, he didn't emerge as an every down back. Wilder's size and strength make him a weapon, particularly in short-yardage situations, but his affinity for contact also means the bumps and bruises can accumulate over the course of the season. Add a myriad of off-field issues, and the question marks continue to pile up. The most likely scenario for 2013 is that Wilder again splits time with Freeman as co-starters, but there's also the chance that Wilder blossoms into a star -- and maybe even managed to put an end to that ongoing drought of 1,000-yard backs.

Breakout star: The backfield is probably a bit too crowded for any one runner to become a superstar, but Wilder may be the best bet to make the leap. Of course, Freeman has had two straight solid seasons and won't have to worry about taking a backseat to Thompson this time around, while Pender and Green certainly possess the talent to take the job and run with it, too. In other words, there's a ton of talent, but just one football to go around.

Projected 2013 starter: Freeman and Wilder

State of the Noles: Tight Ends 

February, 13, 2013
Florida StateRobert Mayer/US PresswireFlorida State ight end Nick O'Leary is the clear starter for the next two seasons.

When it comes to recruiting, coaches must think long-term. It's not just about which holes must be filled immediately, but rather where the needs might be in two or three years.

With that in mind, NoleNation writers David Hale and Corey Dowlar are going position by position, looking at what FSU has on its roster now and who might provide reinforcements down the line, projecting starters and evaluating the depth through 2015.

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FSU's biggest 2013 holes to fill

January, 30, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. A year ago, there wasn't a lot of mystery looming over spring practice at Florida State. Signing day brought another crop of highly regarded talent, and spring practice storylines included more injuries than marquee position battles.

That won't be the case this year as a rash of departures from both assistant coaches and underclassmen mean the signing class is still in flux and the depth chart has plenty of spots up for grabs.

So, as the Seminoles' spring kicks into high gear, here are the five departures that have left the biggest voids that will need to be filled over the next few months.

1. Quarterback

[+] EnlargeFlorida State
AP Photo/Phil SearsJacob Coker's size and athletic ability will be big factors in FSU's QB competition.
Going: EJ Manuel ended a five-year tenure in Tallahassee with a mixed reputation among the fans. Among NFL scouts, however, things seem a bit more uniform. Manuel starred at last week's Senior Bowl, and with NFL teams increasingly interested in versatile quarterbacks capable of running the read option, Manuel's pro prospects look brighter.

Coming: FSU has a deep reserve of QB talent in Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. The question is which one of them can take over the job on a full-time basis. Trickett enters spring practice atop the depth chart, but Coker and Winston have too much talent to cede the job without a fight.

2. Right tackle

Going: Menelik Watson's time at Florida State amounted to only about eight months, but he made his presence felt. The junior college transfer anchored FSU's offensive line in 2012, and since announcing his intentions to enter the NFL draft -- something of a surprise to FSU coaches -- his profile has steadily increased. Several recent mock drafts have Watson as a first-round selection.

Coming: The obvious answer at right tackle would be Bobby Hart, who started eight games there as a freshman before being relegated to a reserve role last season. Hart's maturity, attitude and relationship with line coach Rick Trickett have all been called into question at times, however, making him anything but a safe bet to win the job. Further complicating matters, FSU lost one of its top recruits in Austin Golson, leaving just two commitments in what was supposed to be a big offensive line class.

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Top Florida State recruit sleepers 

January, 22, 2013
NoleNation takes a look back at a few recruiting sleepers for the Seminoles from recent history:

Bjoern Werner: Though he was a four-star recruit according to ESPN, he was only the 24th-ranked defensive end in the Class of 2010. What Werner turned into will possibly be the highest draft choice at the position this spring in the NFL draft. Werner, known for his ability to play against the run as well as the pass, has NFL general managers jostling for a shot at him. He''s almost certain be the highest-drafted player from Germany.

Xavier Rhodes: Rhodes, the nation's No. 61 wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2009, didn't even end up at the position once at Florida State. Moved to cornerback, Rhodes enjoyed a nice career for himself as one of the ACC's top cornerbacks thanks to his combination of size and speed. Rhodes recently declared he will forgo his senior season and head to the NFL.

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Coley highlights FSU's weekend visitors 

January, 18, 2013
Florida State will host their second crop of January official visitors beginning on Friday. While it isn't as large or as important of a weekend as the previous one, some of these visitors could likely end up in the haul on national signing day.

Here’s a look at those who are scheduled to be in Tallahassee.

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FSU's emerging stars for 2013

January, 10, 2013
In the months before spring football begins, there will no doubt be plenty of talk about all the talent Florida State lost -- from senior leaders like Lonnie Pryor and Everett Dawkins to talented juniors like Xavier Rhodes and Bjoern Werner.

[+] EnlargeDemonte McAllister
Kim Klement/US PresswireFSU's Demonte McAllister is emerging into a force.
Those discussions will inevitably be countered by enthusiasm about the future, too. Freshman Ronald Darby had an exceptional year in 2012 and is poised to blossom into a star. Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. got a crack at the starting role in the final two games of the season and delivered strong performances. Karlos Williams' star has been on the rise for two full seasons now, and he appears ready for a breakthrough. And, of course, the questions of who will take over at quarterback will be ubiquitous.

But as the sun sets on 2012 and the preparations for 2013 begin, here are five more players who didn't exactly earn raves last season but could prove to be significant contributors for Florida State in the season to come.

Kelvin Benjamin (So./WR)

Background: It's somewhat odd that, after more than a year of continuous hype, Benjamin appears to be flying a bit below the radar now. Chalk it up to a rather disappointing finish to 2012. After racking up 25 touches for 476 yards and four TDs in his first nine games, Benjamin mustered just seven catches for 52 yards and no scores over the final five.

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5 decisions that defined 2012

January, 7, 2013
From Jimbo Fisher decision to start four freshmen linemen in the bowl game a year ago to Brandon Jenkins returning and Greg Reid leaving before their senior seasons, the storylines that seemed the biggest at the time actually had relatively little impact on 2012 for FSU. As it turned out, only two of those young linemen saw significant playing time this season, Jenkins season ended in Week 1, and the secondary improved without Reid.

Sometimes, the biggest decisions float under the radar at the time, and it's only in retrospect that we figure out what really defined the season. With that in mind, here are the five decisions that probably made the biggest impact on the 2012 ACC champions.

1. West Virginia waves goodbye

The rumors started last December and by February it was official: West Virginia backed out of its scheduled non-conference trip to Tallahassee, leaving FSU scrambling for an opponent. The result was a horrific game against lowly Savannah State -- one that mercifully wasn't played to completion due to weather -- and months of bemoaning a weak schedule.

Thanks to two games against FCS foes and another down season in the ACC, the Seminoles were lambasted as untested and its conference title (and 12 wins) felt somewhat hollow, given that only Clemson and Florida provided legitimate obstacles in the minds of many fans.

2. Moving Cameron Erving, benching Bobby Hart

When the 2011 season ended, Erving was a prospect on the defensive line and Hart was ensconced as the starter at right tackle. By the end of spring practice, a lot had changed.

The young and talented Hart found himself in line coach Rick Trickett's doghouse, and by the time fall practice began, he had been moved inside to guard and was working with the second-team offense. That opened up room for Menelik Watson, a junior college transfer who blossomed into a star.

Erving was swapped from offense to defense -- with a little convincing -- and although he had his ups and downs this season, he provided a marked improvement in protecting EJ Manuel's blind side.

With Erving and Watson working the edges, FSU shaved 14 sacks off its total from 2011 and kept Manuel healthy enough to start all 14 games.

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