What you need to know ... The
Seminoles lose a ton of star power with linebackers Ernie Sims
and A.J. Nicholson, linemen Kamerion Wimbley and Brodrick
Bunkley, and safety Pat Watkins to the NFL, but this is Florida
State; there are replacements. The linebacking corps will bounce
back the quickest with several great young prospects playing
around Buster Davis. The secondary gets a big boost from
super-recruit Myron Rolle, who appears to be the real deal,
while the line should be fine if a steady pass rush can be
found to replace many of the 44 sacks from last year's D. To nitpick, there could stand to be more interceptions
and there will be major problems early if there are injuries at
end or corner, but this should still turn out to be one of the ACC's best defenses.
Buster Davis, 91
Lawrence Timmons, 3
Interceptions: Tony Carter, Roger Williams, 1
Star of the defense: Senior LB Buster Davis
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore CB Tony Carter
Best pro prospect: Freshman S Myron Rolle
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Davis, 2) DT Andre
Fluellen, 3) Rolle
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, overall speed
Weakness of the defense:
Proven pass rush, depth at end and corner
It's Florida State, so there will always be
tremendous defensive lineman rising up and producing, but it's still not
a positive to lose top NFL prospects like Kamerion Wimbley and Brodrick
Bunkley. Andre Fluellen appears to be the next great Seminole lineman,
and he needs to be as one of the key players in the middle. Alex Boston,
Darrell Burston, and D.J. Norris are experienced ends who have to prove
they can get to the quarterback on a regular basis.
The key to the unit: Everyone has to stay healthy, especially at end. There
will be a good tackle rotation as the season goes on, but there could be
problems if Alex Boston and/or Darrell Burston goes down for any length
Defensive Line Rating:
- DE Alex Boston, Jr. - 14 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL
Boston stepped in for a little but of duty on the outside when starter
Kamerion Wimbley got hurt. The 264-pound junior has one of the starting
spots sewn up thanks to his size and potential as a pass rusher. He got
much, much better as last year went on and should grow into one of the
new stars of the defense.
- DT Andre Fluellen, Jr. - 26 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL
With the quickness of an end in the body of a 285-pound tackle, Fluellen
is on the verge of a big season. He benefited from having Brodrick
Bunkley right next to him, but Bunkley also got some help with Fluellen
occupying plenty of attention. He's a nice run stopper who's as
consistent as they come.
- NG Kendrick Stewart, RFr.
All Stewart has to do is replace Brodrick Bunkley, who spent half of
last year camped out in opposing backfields. While a bit undersized at
6-2 and 271 pounds, Stewart is a phenomenal athlete who should become a
fantastic interior pass rusher.
- DE Darrell Burston, Sr. - 15 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
Is this the year Burston finally grows into a producer? He's a fast 240
pounds who saw plenty of action last season getting seven starts, but he
didn't make enough plays in the backfield. While tough against the run,
he needs to be hitting quarterbacks.
- NG Paul Griffin, Jr.
The JUCO transfer will get every shot at replacing Brodrick Bunkley on
the nose. At 278 pounds, he's a little bit bigger than Kendrick Stewart,
but not nearly as athletic. He made 45 tackles and four sacks last year
for Butler County CC.
D.J. Norris, Jr. - 20 tackles, 3.5 TFL
While not nearly as talented as some of the other Seminole ends, the
6-3, 252-pound Norris was a nice backup last season playing in every
game and getting a start against Clemson. He's not going to be a
sack-master, but he's tough to run on.
You don't get better by losing Ernie Sims, A.J. Nicholson,
Sam McGrew, and Marcello Church. Buster Davis will be an all-star at
either the middle or the weakside, but there's a big all-around drop-off
in talent from last year's tremendous group. With that said, there are
no reasons to shed any tears for the poor Noles. Geno Hayes has the
potential to grow into a star, and Lawrence Timmons has more than enough
talent on the strongside to be one of the team's leading tacklers.
There's depth, but it'll be a lot better in October than September.
Derek Nicholson is a speedy playmaker, while JUCO transfer Toddrick
Verdell should be one of the team's top newcomers.
The key to the unit: Hold the fort. This group
doesn't have to be last year's disruptive crew, but it can be extremely
productive and turn out to be a major strength.
Linebacker Rating: 8
- Geno Hayes, Soph. - 17 tackles
Hayes has to emerge as a steady starter to allow Buster Davis to stay in
the middle. The 215-pound sophomore is fast and great on special teams,
but he'll have to prove he can be strong against the pass and has to try
to fill the huge void in overall production left by A.J. Nicholson.
- Buster Davis, Sr. - 81 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 broken up passes
Strong enough to play in the middle and fast enough to start on the
weakside, Davis is one of the team's most experienced players and will
move around where needed in the linebacking corps. He hasn't received
anywhere near the acclaim of other Seminole linebackers, but he has been
just as productive as the other stars over the last few seasons with 141
tackles and 18 tackles for loss. He's a fierce tackler who'll be the
intimidator of the D.
- Lawrence Timmons, Jr. - 36 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL
Timmons saw plenty of action last season backing up Ernie Sims on the
strongside, and now he'll hit the ground running as the new starter. At
230 pounds, he's bigger than Sims with 4.6 speed. It'll mainly be his
job to hold up against the run, but he'll also be needed to become a top
- Derek Nicholson, Soph. - 21 tackles, 1.5 TFL
The younger brother of former Seminole star, A.J., Derek will get a lot
of playing time in the middle when Buster Davis occasionally moves to
the outside. The 223-pound true sophomore saw time in every game last
year playing mostly on special teams, and now he'll be the main backup
and shine as one of the new all-around playmakers of the defense.
- Toddrick Verdell, Soph.
A safety at Butler County CC last season, the 6-3, 215-pound sophomore
will move to outside linebacker and should become an instant factor as a
backup on the strongside. He's a great open field tackler and excellent
against the pass.
- Jae Thaxton, Soph. - 4 tackles
Thaxton saw time in three games before getting hurt and taking a
redshirt season. He's an elite special teams playmaker who'll see a
little time in the middle.
While the secondary loses a few big names, Pat
Watkins is the only one who'll truly be missed. The loss of Antonio
Cromartie to a preseason knee injury last year will turn out to be a
blessing now as it allowed some of the young corners to see time. Tony
Carter will be the new top coverman, while J.R. Bryant and Michael Ray
Garvin will make more than their share of big plays. The real excitement
is at safety where Roger Williams is expected to emerge as a top
playmaker and superstar recruit Myron Rolle should be an All-ACC talent
right off the bat.
The key to the unit: More interceptions. The Noles
only picked off 12 passes last season and could stand to make more big
Secondary Rating: 7.5
- CB Tony Carter, Soph. - 41 tackles, 1 sack, 1
interception, 12 broken up passes
Carter got picked on early and often last year, but he came up with a
nice season leading the team in broken up passes after taking over for
an injured Antonio Cromartie. He's not big at only 5-9 and 160 pounds,
and he's not as fast as the other FSU defensive backs, but he's very
- FS Roger Williams, Jr. - 39 tackles, 3 broken up passes
The 200-pound Williams has been a nice reserve of the last two seasons
making 63 tackles as a backup behind Pat Watkins. He has a few starts
under his belt and proved to be a strong tackler. He has to be more of a
player against the pass, but that should come with more starting
- SS Myron Rolle, Fr.
Call it an educated projection that Rolle will start the season despite
being listed behind Anthony Houllis. One of the nation's top recruits
was the talk of spring ball proving to be every bit as good as his prep
hype. He's 6-2 and 214 pounds with phenomenal speed that'll get him
next-level notice right off the bat. What'll get him the most
recognition right away is his huge hitting ability. It's not insane to
consider him the team's best pro prospect even though he's a true
- CB J.R. Bryant, Jr. - 38 tackles, 3 broken up passes
Bryant took over a starting role halfway through last season and turned
into a nice fill-in. His 6-1, 172-pound size and 4.5 speed makes him a
great prospect, and his experience should lead the way to more big
- SS Anthony Houllis, Jr. - 12 tackles
A defensive backup and special teams star over his first
two seasons, Houllis was listed as the starting strong safety coming out
of spring ball. While he's big and can hit, he won't last in the
starting mix long, if at all, with superstar freshman Myron Rolle ready
to take over.
- CB Michael Ray Garvin, Soph. - 16 tackles, 1 broken
up pass, 1 sack
It takes special speed to be considered the fastest player on Florida
State, and the sprinter on the track team can absolutely fly. He'll get
a few looks at a starting spot this fall, but mostly he'll be a key
reserve behind Tony Carter.
- FS Darius McClure, Soph. - 14 tackles
A special teams standout last season, McClure is versatile enough to
play either safety position. He'll start out behind Roger Williams at
free safety and should make most of his big plays again as a special
The kicking game will be just fine with Graham Gano taking
over at punter for Chris Hall and Gary Cismesia looking to bounce back
from a tough Orange Bowl finish to be one of the ACC's best kickers.
Finding a replacement for spark-plug kick returner Willie Reid will be
the big issue. Chris Davis will get the first chance at returning punts,
while lighting fast Kenny O'Neal will handle the kickoff returns.
The key to the unit: Graham Gano has to be a steady
punter right away, while the kick return game has to keep exploding
without Willie Reid.
Special Teams Rating: 7.5
- PK Gary Cismesia, Jr. - 17-24 FGs, 42-43 extra points
Cismesia had a tremendous season showing fantastic range and clutch
ability, but no one will remember his six of nine field goals from
beyond 40 yards, or his 48-yard strike in the Orange Bowl to sent the
game into overtime. The two missed field goals in OT against Penn State
put a sour note on the year, but he's an All-ACC caliber talent who
should be a weapon.
- P Graham Gano, Soph.
Mostly a kickoff specialist so far, the sophomore has a big leg and
should add more blast to the punting game than Chris Hall, who averaged
only 38.6 yards per kick but put 24 inside the 20.