July 20, 2011
By Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — FSU’s Sept. 3 season-opening date with Louisiana-Monroe is just around the corner and to get you prepared here is an insider’s glance at the season outlook that will be featured in the printed 2011 Florida State Football Almanac.
Today, let’s take a look at the offense. The defense will then be featured on Thursday and the special teams on Friday so be sure to check back for more.
FSU fans that wish to own a copy of the publication can click here to place a pre-order for $20 with shipments slated to take place in mid August.
• EJ Manuel grabs the reins after two years of significant seasoning behind Christian Ponder. Tested and successful on the big stage, the redshirt junior has prepared for the full-time job by compiling a 4-2 record as a starter. A polished passer with a career 67.3 percent completion rate, Manuel is also a threat on the move, with 366 rushing yards over 17 career appearances. His natural leadership skills were further enhanced as he successfully navigated the `Noles through his first healthy spring practice.
• There is little experience behind Manuel, where redshirt sophomore Will Secord and redshirt freshman Clint Trickett continue to compete for the No. 2 spot. While Secord’s three snaps in last season’s opener represent the combined playing experience of the pair, both have complete command of the playbook.
• The Seminoles return their top three rushers in junior tailback Chris Thompson and seniors Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas. In all, 92 percent of FSU’s 2,400 rushing yards return, including the players who accounted for 23 of 27 rushing touchdowns.
• Thompson was the team’s top rusher in 2010, piling up 845 yards at a clip of 6.3 ypc. A home run hitter, Thompson’s breakaway speed led to scoring runs of 90, 83 and 70 yards, which were among his eight plays of 25 or more yards last season. His three 100-yard rushing performances included 147 in his Chick-fil-A Bowl Offensive MVP performance. Thompson also led all backs with 19 receptions, good for 155 yards.
• Jones, the designated power back of the trio, rushed for five TDs, including three in the ACC Championship game against Virginia Tech. He finished 2010 with a career-high 527 yards and a healthy 6.1 ypc average. Jones had a pair of 100-yard rushing performances, including a career-best 108 at NC State on 10 carries.
• Thomas enters his final season as the ACC’s No. 2 active rushing leader with 1,804 yards. He ran for 490 yards and six TD’s as a junior, despite missing three games with a knee sprain. His 18 career rushing touchdowns rank eighth in school history and his six 100-yard games is tops among FSU’s current running backs.
• The potential wildcard contributor in the crowded backfield is true freshman Devonta Freeman, an early enrollee who gained invaluable experience in the spring.
• Junior Lonnie Pryor has spent the past two seasons as FSU’s hybrid fullback. A punishing lead blocker, Pryor is equally skilled as a ball-carrier. He averaged 4.9 ypc and ran for four TD’s, but also produced in the passing game with 12 receptions and three receiving scores.
• Junior Debrale Smiley, a 230-pounder who saw limited action last season, and sophomore Chad Abram, a converted safety, provide depth at the fullback position.
• While there is ample experience – FSU returns three of its top four wideouts who combined for 127 of 250 receptions – the receiving corps is one of the most competitive positions on the club. At one spot, senior Bert Reed and junior Rodney Smith are locked in a battle for the starting nod, while Willie Haulstead, Jarred Haggins and Greg Dent are the front-runners on the opposite side.
• Reed enters his final season as one of FSU’s most productive receivers in school history. Coming off a team-leading 58-catch, 614-yard campaign in 2010, Reed ranks sixth in all-time receptions with 141, while his 1,619 yards rank 19th. He had two game-deciding TD’s in 2010, including a career-long 44-yard reception to beat Maryland.
• Smith came into his own in the second half of his sophomore campaign, grabbing 25 of his 31 receptions over the final eight games The 6-foot-6 target had five plays over 25 yards and posted his first 100-yard game (4-121) against Clemson.
• Haulstead emerged as a big-play threat for the `Noles in 2010, leading the team with six TD catches and a 15.4 ypc average. The junior is coming off a 38-catch, 587-yard season which included a team-high eight plays of 25 or more yards. His 10-reception, 154-yard game against UNC ranks as one of the most productive by an FSU wideout in recent history.
• A host of youngsters, sophomores Jarred Haggins, Kenny Shaw and Greg Dent, cut their teeth in limited action during the 2010 season. They combined for five receptions for 52 yards. Redshirt freshman Christian Green will also factor into the mix after the one-time high school quarterback gained invaluable experience on the scout team.
• Senior Beau Reliford made 10 starts and saw action in 13 games during the 2010 season, collecting a career-high 17 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. More importantly, he began to emerge as an edge blocking force in FSU’s running game.
• Ja’Baris Little returns for his senior season after making four starts in 2010. Primarily utilized as a blocker, especially in short-yardage situations, Little was instrumental in FSU’s running game producing 171.4 yards a game.
• Redshirt freshman Will Tye was one of the team’s most improved performers throughout the spring. Athletic and strong, he figures to play a more prominent role as both a blocker and mid-range target.
• Led by senior offensive tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders, the Seminoles return a core group of linemen who have been instrumental in the program’s improvement over the past three seasons. Senior guard David Spurlock is slated to move from the right to left side, replacing consensus All-American Rodney Hudson, while sophomore guard Bryan Stork is working on the right side after gaining valuable experience in 2010. The veteran quartet brings 105 career starts to the table. JUCO All-American Jacob Fahrenkrug has stepped in to fill the void created at center by four-year starter Ryan McMahon’s graduation.
• Datko is back for his fourth season as the starting left tackle with 36 career starts to his credit. He yielded just one sack last season and posted the team’s second-highest overall grade among linemen. A relentless pass protector, he has been beaten for sacks just three times over the past two seasons, while refining his skills as a run-blocker.
• Sanders brings a unit-high 37 career starts to the table from his right tackle position, but has also stepped in and played well at left tackle when called on. He finished second on the team with 37 knockdown blocks in 2010, which proved to be a breakout campaign for the imposing physical presence.
• Spurlock started the first seven games at right guard before he was sidelined with a concussion and has 28 career starts. A physical force with a mean streak, his agility and relentless approach make him a viable candidate to replace Hudson at left guard.
• Stork stepped in when injuries hit the unit last season and made four starts, including the final three games of the season at right guard, where he’s slated to step into the full-time role.
• Fahrenkrug, a late-bloomer out of high school, was an NJCAA All-American guard at North Dakota State College of Sciences. The nation’s top-rated JUCO linemen is a gifted athlete, which should help him make the transition to center smoothly after working there in the spring.
• Offensive line coach Rick Trickett has built depth and developed versatility within the ranks. Veterans Jacob Stanley (G/C), Henry Orelus (G/T) and Garrett Faircloth (T) have all earned playing time in their careers.