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2010 Florida State Preview – Offense
Florida State OG Rodney Hudson
Florida State OG Rodney Hudson
Posted Jun 2, 2010 2010 Preview - Florida State Seminole Offense

Florida State Seminoles

Preview 2010 - Offense

- 2010 Florida State Preview | 2010 Florida State Offense
- 2010 Florida State Defense | 2010 Florida State Depth Chart
- Florida State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

What You Need To Know: Buckle up, Seminole fans. You might be about to witness the most explosive offense this program has had in years. Florida State finally began to turn the corner in 2009, averaging 30 points a game and ranking in the top 4 of the ACC in rushing and passing. From that group return 10 starters, including the entire offensive line and untapped gem Christian Ponder at quarterback. Ponder is the indisputable key. He was just beginning to hit his stride last fall when he went down with a season-ending shoulder injury. However, he played with a sense of purpose in the spring, and is surrounded by enough playmakers, like RB Jermaine Thomas and receivers Jarmon Fortson and Bert Reed, to end his career with an NFL-attracting bang. Led by All-American Rodney Hudson at left guard, the once-green line has a chance to be among the best in the country.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Christian Ponder
227-330, 2,717 yds, 14 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Jermaine Thomas
163 carries, 832 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: Bert Reed
60 catches, 710 yds, 0 TDs

Star of the offense: Senior LG Rodney Hudson
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior WR Jarmon Fortson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Chris Thompson
Best pro prospect: Hudson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Hudson, 2) Senior QB Christian Ponder, 3) Junior LT Andrew Datko
Strength of the offense: The passing game, the offensive line, backfield depth, third down conversions
Weakness of the offense: Receiver depth, turnovers


Projected Starter: Senior Christian Ponder was enjoying a terrific second season as a starter when an injury to his throwing shoulder sidelined him in the ninth game. He enters 2010 looking to pick up where he left off. The 6-3, 217-pound future NFL draft choice wound up going 227-of-330 for 2,717 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, adding 179 yards and two scores on the ground. His completion percentage of 68.8 was the highest by a ‘Nole since Charlie Ward in 1993. More important, he looked fantastic in the spring, showing up in great shape, throwing with extra zip on his passes, and moving very well outside the pocket. He’s also a terrific leader for this offense and a player on the verge of introducing himself to the entire nation this fall.

Projected Top Reserves: The silver lining to Ponder’s injury is that it allowed the program to break the seal on 6-4, 226-pound sophomore E.J. Manuel, the uber-recruit from the 2008 class. A phenomenal physical specimen, he wound up appearing in seven games and earning Gator Bowl MVP honors, but obviously needs to sharpen his passing skills. He finished 69-of-106 for 817 yards, two touchdowns, and seven interceptions, rushing 44 times for 196 yards and two scores. Gushing with raw potential, the staff is hoping to use this year to prepare him to be the franchise beginning in 2011.

While the top two spots are etched in granite, both players have had recent injury issues, meaning No. 3 better be prepared. Redshirt freshman Will Secord directed the scout team last season and has a slight edge in experience. A 6-1, 214-pound southpaw and unpolished gunslinger, he threw for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a high schooler in Texas.

Watch Out For … Ponder to evolve into one of the ACC’s premier quarterbacks. Go back and take a good look at the film of the North Carolina game, which was a couple of weeks before he was lost for the year. Ponder shredded one of the nation’s top defenses for 395 yards and three scores on 33-of-40 passing. It was a preview of his potential, which is about to bubble to the surface.
Strength: Talent. In Ponder and Manuel, the Seminoles have their best one-two punch behind center in years. The former is lurking on the fringe of national recognition, a multi-faceted talent. The latter is chock full of potential, especially after enjoying unexpected reps toward the end of last year.
Weakness: Red zone passing. A year ago, Florida State was No. 2 in the ACC in passing attempts, yet ranked No. 7 with just 16 touchdown passes. In order for the offense to make a step in the right direction, it’s incumbent upon the quarterbacks to maintain their high accuracy rate deep in opposing territory.
Outlook: You could just tell why watching Ponder throughout the offseason that he’s determined to use 2010 as an audition for the NFL. Before getting hurt last year, he was poised for a breakthrough. Instead, it’ll happen this fall, as he guides a potent Seminole offense and improves his 2011 draft grade.
Unit Rating: 8.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: For evidence that change is in the air with the new staff, look no further than the backfield. The Seminoles exited the spring with no clear-cut starter and a possible running game by-committee. By far, the biggest beneficiary has been 5-8, 186-pound sophomore Chris Thompson, a speedster who went for 120 yards and two scores on 23 carries as a reserve in 2009. More of a scatback than a true workhorse, he’ll stop-and-start quicker than any back on the roster and squirt through the smallest crack in the defense. Even if he’s not getting 20 touches a game, it’s become clear that he’s earned a bigger role in 2010.

In 6-0, 209-pound sophomore Lonnie Pryor, Florida State has a versatile fullback, who can block or handle the ball like a tailback. The only true freshman on offense to play all 13 games, he ran 27 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns, adding 10 receptions for 132 yards and another score. While not quite the masher Marcus Sims was last year, he brings a physical presence and a change-of-pace to the running attack.

Projected Top Reserves: A year ago, 5-11, 190-pound junior Jermaine Thomas was riding high, starting 10 games and becoming the first Seminole in seven years to author three straight 100 games. He finished with 832 yards and nine scores on 163 carries, adding 16 receptions for 120 yards and another touchdown. The job is his, right? Not quite. He sort of drifted back to the pack in the spring and will have a battle for reps in the summer. A bona fide breakaway back, he has outstanding speed and vision, and the natural running instincts to cut back and pop through holes that don’t appear to exist. Now that he’s been challenged, it’ll be interesting to see how he responds.

The third member of the backfield trio battling for snaps is 5-10, 211-pound junior Ty Jones. An enigma, he has the desired mix of speed and power, but has been hampered by a lack of consistency and fumbling problems in the past. Although he played in just six games and started three, he was inactive for half the year, finishing with 251 yards and five scores on 51 carries. A new staff could give him the fresh start he’s been after.

Watch Out For … the competition to be intense throughout the summer and the fall. All of the backs went at it hard in the spring, which shows no sign of stopping in August or September. When it became clear that Thomas’ hold on the starting job had loosened, there was a feeding frenzy that could wind up benefitting everyone involved.
Strength: Depth. Florida State has no fewer than four backs the program believes is capable of carrying the load, including Pryor at fullback. Thomas and Jones had 100-yard games last season, yet both are currently running behind Thompson, an indication of the talent level at the position.
Weakness: The finer points. New assistant Eddie Gran is insisting that his backs excel at ball security and blocking above all else. It could take some time for a collection of very talented backs, who have had issues with the little things during their stay in Tallahassee.
Outlook: While there’s no doubting the talent in the backfield, the uncertainty surrounding the pecking order will make it a hot spot over the next few months. The rotation is deep and the legs will be fresh, provided the coaches can keep everyone happy. Thomas played like an all-star at times in 2009, but now faces a serious challenge for snaps in 2010.
Unit Rating: 8


Projected Starters: Junior Bert Reed continues to leave no doubt that he’s Florida State’s best weapon at “X” receiver. Fresh off a breakout year, he caught 60 passes for 710 yards, adding his only two touchdowns and another 94 yards on 18 carries. A legit 4.3 burner, he can stretch a defense and get behind the secondary, yet is also becoming more skilled as a total receiver. While not very thick at 5-10 and 167 pounds, his size won’t prevent the ‘Noles from seeking new and inventive ways to get him the ball, preferably in open space.

Serving as an ideal complement to the diminutive Reed at “Y” receiver is 6-3, 221-pound junior Jarmon Fortson, a physical receiver in the Terrell Owens mold. Despite starting just six games, he still finished third on the team with 45 grabs for 610 yards and four touchdowns. He plays with the physicality of a linebacker, and has the length and catch radius to be a major force for Christian Ponder, especially near the end zone.

After laying a nice foundation, 6-6, 253-pound junior TE Beau Reliford plans to build on it this fall. An unexpected starter over the final five games, he wound up with 11 receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. He’s made great use of his offseason, adding considerable muscle and moving a step quicker. Although the upside as a pass-catcher is evident, to stay out of the dog house, he has to do the little things better, like blocking and running the right routes.

Projected Top Reserves: Depth at wide receiver is going to be a concern. Behind Reed at the “X” is 6-3, 215-pound sophomore Willie Haulstead, a big and physical pass-catcher in the Fortson mold. Mostly a special teamer in his debut, he displayed his toughness by making 10 tackles, tops for offensive players. He has the big hands and strong upper body to be especially effective near the end zone.

The caddy for Fortson at this time is 6-6, 220-pound sophomore Rodney Smith. Like Haulstead, he earned a letter and got his feet wet on special teams, making just a single grab. Naturally, he has the length and enormous catch radius to cause all kinds of match up problems, but needs to become more consistent at beating the jams and watching the ball into his hands.

Not long ago considered the future at tight end for the program, 6-3, 238-pound junior Ja’Baris Little has ground to make up on Reliford. A little slow to evolve as a weapon in the passing game, he’s mostly been used in blocking situations, managing just one career reception in 20 games.

Watch Out For … the whereabouts of 5-11, 192-pound Taiwan Easterling. He might be too good of an athlete for ‘Nole football fans, who couldn’t be happy seeing him spend the spring with the baseball team. No one seems to know what his future holds for the junior, a shame since he had a career-best 35 receptions for 442 yards and two touchdowns a year ago.
Strength: Diversity on the first team. If the quarterback wants a dynamic long ball hitter who can stretch the field, he can look for No. 83. If, instead, he’s looking to exploit a mismatch, especially in traffic, he can look for No. 80. Reed and Fortson give the Seminole passing attack two very unique receivers, each with something different to offer the offense.
Weakness: The backups. Particularly if Easterling has played his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State is going to be dangerously thin at wide receiver beyond the starters. Haulstead and Smith might be good ones down the road, but right now, they’re a couple of kids with two career catches between them.
Outlook: If nothing else, Florida State has taken a step in the right direction at receiver. Reed and Fortson are solid starters, with the potential to land on the All-ACC squad. At tight end, Reliford is an interesting option, who could see his numbers skyrocket. The Seminoles, however, better hope they don’t have to dig too deep because the reserves are still at least a year away.
Unit Rating:

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: In 2008, the Seminoles had one of the nation’s youngest offensive lines. In 2010, they’ll boast a front wall that returns five starters, who have combined for 142 career starts. The leading man will once again be 6-2, 282-pound senior Rodney Hudson, the star at left guard. A fourth-year starter, he’s been All-ACC over the last three seasons, earning the league’s Jacobs Blocking Award and a spot on the All-American team in 2009. Versatile, athletic, and technically flawless, he doesn’t make mistakes and graded out at a pristine 88% a year ago.

Next to Hudson at left tackle will be 6-6, 303-pound junior Andrew Datko, a rising star at the position. A starter in 25 consecutive games, he’s added considerable muscle without losing the good feet and athleticism that have made him an instant success. A year ago, he allowed just a pair of sacks, grading out at 79% and shutting out All-ACC standouts Derrick Morgan, Robert Quinn, and Willie Young. Just halfway through his career, he’s going to be something special if he continues to evolve.

At the pivot will be cagey veteran Ryan McMahon, a one-time defensive tackle who has started all 39 games of his collegiate career and graded out at 80% a year ago. Durable, reliable, and generally mistake-free, he’s a whistle-to-whistle blocker, with a tireless motor. A perennial candidate for the Rimington Award, he doesn’t intimidate at 6-1 and 284 pounds, but gives the program every ounce of effort and is a positive influence to his teammates.

Holding down the right tackle job for a third consecutive season will be 6-6, 288-pound junior Zebrie Sanders. Although he missed the spring with a hip injury, he is expected to be back in time for the start of the season. Light on his feet and extremely fit by linemen standards, he slides well in pass protection, yet also possesses the upper body strength to lead last year’s squad with 39 knockdown blocks.

At right guard will be 6-4, 286-pound junior David Spurlock, who has started 20 straight games and was second on the team with 36 knockdowns last season. He grew increasingly dominant as the season progressed, wearing down opponents with his physical style and posting a solid 78% blocking grade. The most overlooked of the starters, he has quietly blossomed into a terrific interior blocker.

Projected Top Reserves: One of the most experienced members of a green second unit will be 6-3, 281-pound sophomore Rhonne Sanderson, the No. 2 left tackle. He started for the first time versus South Florida last year, gaining valuable experience along the way. Small, athletic, and quick off the snap, he’s a good fit for a system that values mobile blockers.

Over at left guard, 6-4, 284-pound redshirt freshman Bryan Stork is trying to use this season to convince the staff that he’s the heir apparent to Hudson. A former blocking tight end in high school, he used his first season on campus to get significantly bigger and stronger. He has a healthy upside as a north-south blocker, provided he spends the next few months learning everything he possibly can from one of the nation’s best technicians.

Watch Out For … the status of 6-6, 307-pound junior Antwane Greenlee. It’s no secret that the Seminoles could be facing depth issues in 2010, which the tackle is capable of addressing … if he’s healthy. A one-time rising star, he missed all of last season and this latest spring with a knee injury. Even if he’s ready for action in August, he’ll have a few layers of rust to shake off.
Strength: Chemistry. Great offensive lines are always more than just individual parts. They’re cohesive units that operate as one. Florida State has that continuity and familiarity by the bushel. This will be the third consecutive year together for this ensemble, a luxury very few programs will enjoy this season.
Weakness: Depth. This is not nit-picking, rather a legitimate concern heading into the season. Even if Greenlee recaptures his old form, this is going to be an inexperienced B team that came out of spring comprised of four underclassmen and a junior, with one combined start among them.
Outlook: Having built for this moment over the past few seasons, Florida State is on the verge of rolling out one of its best offensive lines in school history. Not only is Hudson an all-time great and five starters return, but ace line coach Rick Trickett is getting on board for his third season. The ‘Noles won’t maul opponents, but they will protect the pocket, pull in an instant, and make a ton of blocks way downfield.
Unit Rating: 9

- 2010 Florida State Preview | 2010 Florida State Offense
- 2010 Florida State Defense | 2010 Florida State Depth Chart
- Florida State Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006