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2008 Florida State Preview - Offense
Florida State WR Preston Parker
Florida State WR Preston Parker
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 23, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Florida State Seminole Offense

Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Florida State Preview | 2008 Florida State Offense 
- 2008 Florida State Defense | 2008 Florida State Depth Chart 
- 2007 CFN Florida State Preview | 2006 CFN Florida State Preview 

What you need to know: QB Drew Weatherford tore the lateral meniscus in his knee in March, not exactly a good omen for an attack that needs all the veterans it can get. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of the season, when he’ll renew acquaintances with top receivers Greg Carr and Preston Parker. While Carr is one of the ACC’s top long ball threats, Parker is an electrifying playmaker who can also play in the backfield. RB Antone Smith is too gifted to average less than four yards a carry, as he did a year ago. The running game was 91st nationally with the blocking having as many issues as the backs. Last season’s best lineman, Rodney Hudson, is making the move from left guard to left tackle. He’s the brightest bulb in a unit that’s going to struggle all season long.

Returning Leaders
Passing: D. Weatherford
181-318, 2,049 yds, 9 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Antone Smith
192 carries, 819 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Preston Parker
62 catches, 791 yds, 3 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Preston Parker
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior QB Drew Weatherford
Unsung star on the rise
: Redshirt freshman WR Bert Reed
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Greg Carr
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sophomore LT Rodney Hudson , 2) Carr, 3) Parker
Strength of the offense: Talent at the skill positions
Weakness of the offense: The offensive line, converting on third down

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Provided he can hold on to the job and recover from a torn meniscus in his right knee, senior Drew Weatherford gets one more chance to put it all together and make a break from mediocrity. He’s had an up-and-down career, constantly looking over his shoulder and throwing nearly as many career interceptions as touchdowns. At 6-3 and 216 pounds, he has a live arm and can be elusive, but his decision-making is inconsistent and he doesn’t produce enough big plays. Although he was more efficient last season, reducing his interceptions to just three, he ranked 82nd in passing efficiency and threw just nine touchdowns in 318 attempts. If the light doesn’t suddenly go on, Seminole coaches will have a quick hook and point to the future.   

Projected Top Reserves
: Pushing Weatherford for the starting nod is sophomore Christian Ponder, who got most of the reps with the first team in the spring. While he’s at a major disadvantage in terms of experience, he’s a lot more athletic than the incumbent and shows poise and intelligence in the pocket beyond his years. Whether or not it happens this year, the coaches feel Ponder is the type of player the offense can be built around.

While 6-1, 205-pound sophomore D'Vontrey Richardson is the most versatile of the quarterbacks, he’s also raw as a passer, which is why he’s currently No. 3 on the depth chart. A gifted all-around athlete who also plays on the Seminole baseball, he’s been used some at wide receiver and could eventually change positions to get his speed and agility on the field. 

Watch Out For ... the development of true freshman E.J. Manuel. Although it’s doubtful the can’t-miss recruit will scale the depth chart in his debut, he can certainly position himself to win the job in 2009. A phenomenal physical specimen at 6-5 and 215 pounds, he can do it all with the ball in his hands, drawing comparisons to former Jimbo Fisher pupil, JaMarcus Russell.
Strength: Experience. Say what you will about Weatherford’s erratic play, but at least he has 33 starts in the vault. He has played in big games and seen everything in three years, making him one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country.
Weakness: Consistency. Of course, all of that experience has hardly been a panacea for the consistency that’s eluded Seminole quarterbacks since Chris Weinke graduated.  Weatherford rarely strings together quality games and all of his backups are green.
Outlook: The program is desperate for more offensive production, beginning with the play of the quarterbacks. The hope is that Weatherford will blossom now that he’s digested Fisher’s system and Xavier Lee is finally out of the picture. If Weatherford can’t deliver, the Seminoles won’t be bashful about inserting Christian Ponder into the lineup or burning Manuel’s redshirt year.
Rating: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters: A year after being fully integrated into the offense, senior Antone Smith will again be the focal point of the offense. Despite being just 5-9 and 190 pounds, he was a workhorse, carrying 192 times for 819 yards and three touchdowns. He also showed off soft hands, catching 20 passes for 203 yards, and held up well as a pass blocker. One of the fastest players on the team, he’s capable of delivering a big final season, provided he gets more daylight to blow through and a little more help from the passing game.

Junior Seddrick Holloway started five games at fullback a year ago, and had the edge coming out of spring.  At 5-10 and 247 pounds, he was a pleasant surprise as a ballcarrier, running for 129 yards on 26 carries and frequently moving the chains in short yardage.    

Projected Top Reserves: In order to bolster depth, redshirt freshman Brandon Paul has been permanently moved from wide receiver to the spot just behind Smith on the depth chart.  A quality athlete at 5-10 and 170 pounds, he has an extra gear and the vision to pop through a hole for a long gainer. 

Lurking behind Holloway at fullback is 6-0, 230-pound junior Marcus Sims, who started four games before getting injured and being lost for the season. More than just your garden variety lead blocker, he’s a skilled runner and pass catcher who could occasionally be use as a powerful change-of-pace to Smith.   

Watch Out For ...
WR Preston Parker to again be used out of the backfield once he returns from suspension. Considering the state of affairs in the backfield and how well he ran in November, the junior is an obvious choice to pick up some carries along the way.
Strength: Speed. Smith can really jet when he has the running room and Paul brings more another dose of flash to the backfield. Both players have dipped below 4.4 in the forty, ranking them among the team’s fastest players.
Weakness: Depth. This became an issue last fall and shows no signs of going away. Paul is completely unproven as a backup and after him is a vast wasteland that includes the likes of senior Pat Davis, a walk-on with limited experience.
Outlook: How in the name of Greg Allen did once-mighty Florida State become so thin in the backfield? The Seminoles are facing a dilemma when it comes to Smith. While they want to maximize his potential, they also need to keep him healthy and fresh as the season progresses.  If he’s lost for any length of time, the program will be forced to turn the running game over to Paul or move Parker into the backfield. 
Rating: 7.5

Receivers

Projected Starters: With three of last year’s top four wide receivers back for another year, the situation is solid. Junior Preston Parker blew past expectations, instantly becoming one of the most elusive and versatile young players in the country. At 6-0 and 190 pounds, he can do it all catching a team-high 62 passes for 791 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 270 yards and two scores, and finishing third in the ACC in punt returns. Unfortunately, he was also active away from the field in the offseason, earning a two-game suspension for carrying a concealed weapon and marijuana possession.

While Parker does most of his damage on the short and intermediate routes, senior Greg Carr is the ‘Noles’ deep threat, averaging 18.6 yards for his career and catching 45 balls a year ago for 795 yards and four touchdowns. Difficult to defend at 6-6 and 210 pounds, he can make plays above defensive backs or glide past them with his long stride. Consistency, however, has eluded him, something he’ll try to address as NFL scouts begin taking a closer look.

The situation at tight end is precarious and unlikely to be resolved until just before the opener with Western Carolina. Junior Caz Piurowski has earned eight starts at the position since becoming a ‘Nole, but at 6-7 and 277 pounds, the coaches continue to flirt with the idea of moving him to tackle. A better blocker than pass catcher, he pulled down five balls for 57 yards, while working on dropping his weight to increase his speed.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Richard Goodman was having his best season on campus before fracturing his fibula and missing almost half the 2007 season. He finished the year with 20 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns. At 6-0 and 186 pounds, he has good hands and the potential to be more of a playmaker if given more chances in this offense.

The wrapping is about to come off 5-11, 165-pound redshirt freshman Bert Reed, a possible home run hitter and one of the fastest players in Tallahassee. While still an unfinished product, he’ll get on the field because with his 4.3 wheels and after a terrific offseason. 

Like Reed, junior Rod Owens is all about the speed, a 4.4 blazer who’s been held back by an injury to his leg. Healthy again, the coaches expect the 6-0, 181-pounder to become a regular in the rotation after catching just 15 passes for 168 and a touchdown in his first two years.

Redshirt freshman Taiwan Easterling did his best impression of Parker in the spring, impressing the staff with his versatility and ability to make plays. At 5-11 and 192 pounds, he has good size and showed an ability in March and April to make tough catches and turn short passes into long gains.

Senior Jonathan Hannah has the tools to be the program’s best tight end, but first he’ll need to meet academic requirements. He wasn’t eligible last year and still isn’t out of the woods from an academic perspective. He’s 6-4 and 250 pounds with the ability to stretch a defense with his speed.

Watch Out For ... junior Charlie Graham. He started 10 games and caught 11 balls as Florida State’s most productive tight end, but spent the spring semester at Tallahassee Community College trying to get reinstated. Of greater concern, when he learned he made grades, he celebrated by partying and firing multiple gunshots into the air. His return to the team remains in question.
Strength: The one-two combo of Parker and Carr, one of the most dangerous duos in the country.  Parker’s knack for making yards after the catch and Carr’s long ball ability give Florida State a complimentary pair of receivers capable of burning opposing defenses for big plays.
Weakness: Tight end. The tight ends on the roster are marginal pass catchers, none of whom can stretch a defense or be counted on as a reliable target. Academics are taking a toll, as Piurowski will have to sit out the first three games, and Hannah and Graham have struggled to qualify.
Outlook: As long as the quarterback does his job, the Seminoles have the makings of one of the ACC’s best receiving corps. Once Parker and Carr get back on the field together, they’ll form a dangerous pair, and freshmen Reed and Easterling are oozing with potential.
Rating
: 8

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: It’s been too long since Florida State was home to a front wall that dominated at the point of attack. Way too long. This year’s group doesn’t have the bodies to change that trend. Rays of hope can be found in sophomores Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, the line leaders despite having just a season experience. The 6-2, 283-pound Hudson is moving from right guard to left tackle, where his technique and pass blocking will be assets when the quarterback drops back to pass. In his first season, he earned Freshman All-America honors, posting the best grade among the linemen and failing to commit a penalty all season. It’s early, but some around the program feel he could develop into one of the best blockers to ever play in Tallahassee.

McMahon was a revelation a year ago, going from a defensive lineman to one of the nation’s promising young centers. The only underclassmen at the position to play every offensive snap in 2007, he wasn’t flagged for a penalty all year and was particularly effective in pass protection. At 6-3 and 274 pounds, he has the agility and footwork the staff looks for in its linemen.

After projected starter Daron Rose was declared academically ineligible in the spring, redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee slid into the starting lineup at right tackle. A prized recruit from a year ago, he might have played as a true freshman had it not been for a cervical sprain. At 6-6 and 302 pounds, he’s a mauler who’ll be better as a run blocker in the early going than he is at pass protection. When Rose returns next spring, he’ll have a hard time winning his old job back.

The new starters at guard will be 6-4, 296-pound sophomore Evan Bellamy and 6-5, 262-pound redshirt freshman Will Furlong on the left and right side, respectively. Bellamy lettered in his first season, even starting the Music City Bowl versus Kentucky.  He’s strong at the point of attack and does a solid job in pass protection from his days as a tackle.  He could switch outside if needed, but is a better fit playing guard.

While Furlong still needs to add some weight and muscle as his career develops, he has the frame and fundamentals to be fine in time.  A good athlete, he can get to the second level in a hurry and has good burst off the snap.  He has a lot to prove as a freshman starter, but he’ll be growing along with linemates who don’t have much more experience.       

Projected Top Reserves: Depth on the offensive line will be perilously thin all year and dependent on freshmen and walk-ons. At right guard, sophomore Brandon Davis played in four games a year ago, making him the veteran of the reserves. A more fit 6-2 and 272 pounds since he arrived in Tallahassee, he provides depth on the interior and almost certainly will be a part of the Seminole rotation.

At tackle, sophomore Josh Tate is a walk-on who the coaches believe can be molded into a reliable player on either side of the line. A pet project of line coach Rick Trickett, he’s 6-5 and 310 pounds with the long reach to eventually grow into a productive player and a perennial letterman.

Watch Out For ... true freshman tackle Zebrie Sanders. Considering the state of the Seminole line, Sanders won’t just have a chance to crack the two-deep. He’s being counted on to do it.  The best of a deep group of line recruits, he has a great future with Florida State and uncommon agility for a 6-5, 275-pound teenager.
Strength: Athleticism. By design, the program has begun developing smaller, faster offensive linemen who can get off the snap in an instant and won’t be winded late in the second half. The starters average well below 300 pounds, which they plan to use to their advantage.
Weakness: Talent and depth. After Hudson and McMahon, the starting five is wrought with inexperience and uncertainty. The second team will be fine as long as it only makes appearances in blowouts. Of the eight linemen on the spring roster, not one was older than a sophomore.
Outlook: Trickett is one of the nation’s renowned line coaches, but he’ll have his hands full trying to get this unit ready to compete in the ACC. Painfully short of depth and top-end talent, this group will again make it difficult for the offense to get out of the starting blocks. The right side, in particular, could get schooled by some of the tougher defensive front fours.
Rating: 6.5