Coach:Bobby Bowden (300-87-4 in 32 seasons; 373-119-4 overall in 42 seasons) | Staff In 2007:7-6 overall, 4-4 in the ACC (fourth in ACC Atlantic).
Returning starters: Offense: 5. Defense: 7. Special teams: 1 | Depth Chart Key losses: Offense—T/G Shannon Boatman, G Jacky Claude, WR DeCody Fagg, T David Overmyer. Defense—T Andre Fluellen, T Letroy Guion, LB Geno Hayes, FS Roger Williams. Special teams—K Gary Cismesia.
Final 2007 Rivals.com ranking: 46th | Complete Final 2007 Rankings
THE SCHEME: Last season's transition from Jeff Bowden to new coordinator Jimbo Fisher didn't result in too many schematic changes. Florida State still runs a pro-set offense with two backs most of the time, though an H-back has started replacing a fullback on occasion.
STAR POWER: Senior tailback Antone Smith and senior wide receiver Greg Carr have shown plenty of star potential during their careers, but neither has produced consistently enough to warrant superstar status. Junior wide receiver Preston Parker showed the most big-play ability last season. Parker caught 62 passes for 791 yards and also ran for 270 yards on 52 carries. By the end of the season, Parker had developed into a poor man's version of Florida's Percy Harvin. The bad news for the Seminoles is that Parker must sit out the first two games of the season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon. He should be back in the lineup in time for the Sept. 20 ACC opener against Wake Forest.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Wide receiver Corey Surrency is expected to move directly from El Camino (Calif.) Community College into a featured role in Florida State's receiving corps. Surrency, a four-star prospect, needs to develop into a reliable third receiver behind Parker and Carr. Surrency could capitalize on Parker's suspension by making a major impact in early season games against Division I-AA teams Western Carolina and Chattanooga.
IT'S HIS TIME: This marks Smith's last chance to deliver on the great expectations that accompanied him out of Pahokee (Fla.) High. Smith rushed for a career-high 819 yards last season, but he also averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. And he has reached the end zone just 11 times in his first three seasons. While Florida State's porous line deserves part of the blame, the Seminoles must get more production out of Smith. Their chances of contending for an ACC title depend on whether Smith becomes Florida State's first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996.
STRONGEST AREA: Florida State boasts quality receivers in Carr and Parker. Carr's 6-foot-6 frame makes him dangerous in the red zone, and he has 25 career touchdown receptions. Parker was named the Seminoles' offensive MVP last season. The return of Richard Goodman and the additions of Surrency and Rivals 100 freshman Jarmon Fortson could make the Seminoles even more dangerous at receiver this season.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: Last season's arrival of line coach Rick Trickett and his no-nonsense approach gave Florida State fans plenty of reason for optimism, but it's going to take some time for the Seminoles to have the kind of success Trickett enjoyed at West Virginia. FSU's starting line probably will consist entirely of freshmen and sophomores now that junior tackle Daron Rose has been declared academically ineligible. Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon moved into the starting lineup as freshmen last season and had big years. Hudson is moving from guard to tackle this season. The Seminoles can only hope a couple of first-year players make similar contributions this season. FSU also has reason to worry at tight end. Junior Caz Piurowski has shown promise, but he has only 12 career catches and is expected to sit out the first three games as part of the Seminoles' academic-related suspensions. The 'Noles don't have much experience behind him.
That's Florida State's record in ACC games in the past two seasons. The Seminoles were 102-11 in league play in their previous 14 seasons as an ACC member.
OVERVIEW: Florida State overhauled its coaching staff last year, but the Seminoles still broke the 30-point mark just once and finished 91st in the nation in scoring. Perhaps the Seminoles will have a breakthrough now that they've adjusted to Fisher's system. Fisher's biggest task this summer is choosing a starting quarterback. Drew Weatherford is back after starting 33 games the past three seasons, but he could have trouble beating out sophomore Christian Ponder for the job. Ponder got a chance to make his case while Weatherford missed much of spring practice with a knee injury. Florida State looks strong in the other offensive skill positions with Smith in the backfield and Parker and Carr at wide receiver. The question is whether the line will block well enough to let these skill-position guys make the most of their talents.
THE SCHEME: There are no surprises here. The Seminoles run the same 4-3 defense that has proved so successful under longtime coordinator Mickey Andrews, who is entering his 25th season at Florida State.
STAR POWER: Junior end Everette Brown looked like a rising star while recording three sacks during a two-game stretch against Colorado and Alabama last season. Brown slowed late in the season, but he still finished with a team-high 6.5 sacks. Florida State spent most of the 1990s producing outstanding ends (Jamal Reynolds, Andre Wadsworth, Reinard Wilson, Peter Boulware) who went on to get drafted in the first round, but the pipeline has dried recently. Maybe Brown can resume that tradition.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: The Seminoles don't have much depth at end once you get past Brown. That's where junior college transfer Markus White fits in. White, a five-star prospect who signed with Rutgers out of high school, set a school record with 24.5 sacks and also forced six fumbles last year while helping Butler (Kan.) Community College go 12-0 with four shutouts. He should be in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season as Florida State deals with academic-related suspensions.
IT'S HIS TIME: Junior strong safety Myron Rolle arrived at Florida State as a five-star prospect, but he hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Rolle has started 23 consecutive games over the past two seasons but hasn't delivered a whole lot of big plays. Rolle enters his junior season with one career interception, two fumble recoveries and seven tackles for loss.
STRONGEST AREA: Florida State boasts plenty of experience in the secondary, including perhaps the ACC's top cornerback tandem in Tony Carter and Patrick Robinson - though Robinson could open the season on an academic-related suspension that also knocked him out of last season's Music City Bowl. Carter has started 20 consecutive games over the past three seasons, while Robinson picked off six passes a year ago. Depth at cornerback is good, too.
BIGGEST PROBLEM: Suspensions could force Florida State to open the season without three of its top players: Robinson, linebacker Dekoda Watson and nose tackle Budd Thacker. Those suspensions will underscore the lack of depth the Seminoles have at tackle now that Andre Fluellen and Letroy Guion have moved on to the NFL.
OVERVIEW: Even as its offense has slumbered through most of the 21st century, Florida State's defense generally has remained as fearsome as it was during that stretch of 14 consecutive top-five finishes from 1987-2000. That changed last season. The Seminoles gave up 80 points during a two-game losing streak that ended the season and finished the year ranked just 43rd in the nation in total defense and 35th in scoring defense. Florida State ought to rebound this year once it gets back to full strength after those early season suspensions. The Seminoles lack a dominant tackle, but they have plenty of talent at linebacker and in the secondary. This might not be a top-10 defense, but it should be good enough to rank in the top 20.
Kicker Gary Cismesia has departed after an exceptional season, which means punter Graham Gano may add field-goal kicking to his duties. Gano would be the first Florida State player ever to handle the kicking and punting chores at the same time. Gano is the top returning punter in the ACC and ranked 17th in the nation last year with his average of 43.4 yards per attempt. Gano already served as Florida State's kickoff man, and he kicked a state-record 65-yard field goal his senior year at Gonzalez (Fla.) Tate High. Parker averaged 10.6 yards per punt return last year, while backup cornerback Michael Ray Garvin set a school record with 697 yards in kickoff returns.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden deserves an A-plus for career achievement, but he probably only merits a C-minus for how his teams have performed the past three seasons. The staff as a whole earns a much better grade because of the changes that were made before the 2007 season. Although Florida State's '07 performance didn't reflect it, the Seminoles should perform much better on offense now that Fisher and Trickett have come aboard. Fisher earned a reputation as a quarterback guru for the way he helped former LSU star JaMarcus Russell develop into the top overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Trickett's work with former West Virginia standout center Dan Mozes showed he could turn lightly recruited linemen into All-Americans. Trickett's work with former three-star prospects Hudson and McMahon last season shows he hasn't lost his magic touch. On the other side of the ball, Andrews continues to churn out first-round picks on a regular basis.
Colorado at Jacksonville
at N.C. State
at Georgia Tech
If Florida State plays up to expectations, its schedule could allow the Seminoles to knock off favored Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division title. The Seminoles' three toughest ACC opponents – Clemson, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest – must travel to Tallahassee. The Seminoles also have set up their schedule so that all those early season suspensions shouldn't cause too much damage. FSU begins the year against Division I-AA foes Western Carolina and Chattanooga before hosting Wake Forest in its ACC opener. The test comes afterward when FSU leaves home for a three-game stretch: Colorado in Jacksonville, at Miami and at North Carolina State.
All those changes Florida State made to its coaching staff before the '07 season might start to pay off this season now that the players have had a year to adapt. Those academic suspensions will hurt, but FSU's soft early season schedule should minimize the damage. However, it's still tough to imagine the Seminoles reaching the ACC Championship Game. It's not a fluke that Clemson has beaten Florida State three consecutive times. The 1990s are over. Right now, Clemson boasts more talent on both sides of the ball. There's also a reason Wake Forest has beaten Florida State twice in a row. The Seminoles may have more depth, but Wake Forest probably has a better starting lineup. The Seminoles are taking steps in the right direction to get out of their current funk, but it could take another season or two before they're ready to challenge for a conference title. Right now, a 9-4 or 8-5 season looks more realistic.