Top 25 team preview: No. 13 Florida State Seminoles

Wednesday August 14th, 2013

Redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston turned heads at Florida State with his performance this spring.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Florida State's 2013 schedule
Sept. 2at Pittsburgh
Sept. 14vs. Nevada
Sept. 21vs. Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 28at Boston College
Oct. 5vs. Maryland
Oct. 19at Clemson
Oct. 26vs. NC State
Nov. 2vs. Miami
Nov. 9at Wake Forest
Nov. 16vs. Syracuse
Nov. 23vs. Idaho
Nov. 30at Florida

The ACC title game is Dec. 7 in Charlotte.

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Can Alabama make a run at a third straight national title? Can Ohio State replicate last year's 12-0 campaign? Can Oregon maintain its standard of success under new leadership? With the college football season approaching, Sports Illustrated unveils its preseason Top 25.

For more college football preview content, check out SI's 2013 schedule guide, four teams that can beat Alabama package, preseason All-America Team, media roundtable and much more.

The case for

Despite big losses to the NFL, including quarterback E.J. Manuel, the Seminoles have plenty of veterans. Four starters return on the offensive line, along with 12 players who combined for 2,797 receiving yards in 2012. Florida State should gain plenty on the ground as well. Junior backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. could be the best one-two punch in the ACC. The spring game performance of 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston had Tallahassee buzzing, but coach Jimbo Fisher is also considering 6-5 sophomore Jacob Coker for the starting job. The D, which ranked No. 6 in the nation in points per game (14.7), has standouts such as middle linebacker Christian Jones. A talented group of linemen waited its turn in '12 behind NFL-bound Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine; now former role players such as junior tackle Timmy Jernigan and sophomore end Mario Edwards Jr. can establish themselves as stars.

The case against

While the Seminoles have plenty of experience overall, they'll have an untested quarterback. And they still haven't shown they can win all the games they are supposed to win. In 2011, FSU lost to Wake Forest; in '12, to NC State. There's no excuse for losing to a team with inferior talent this year.

Schedule analysis

The Seminoles will be challenged immediately, opening the season on Labor Day at Pittsburgh. FSU has an open date before the Oct. 19 showdown at Clemson, which will likely decide the ACC Atlantic. That game kicks off a tough three-week stretch that includes visits from NC State and Miami.

Key stat

108: The number of combined career starts by Florida State's returning defensive players, in spite of the fact that six FSU defenders were drafted in April.

Breakout player

QB Jameis Winston: The redshirt freshman's first pass in Florida State's spring game was a 58-yard touchdown. Winston wound up completing 12-of-15 attempts for 205 yards and established himself as the frontrunner to win the starting quarterback job. Winston split time in the spring between the football team and Florida State's baseball team. Remember the last two-sport athletes to start at quarterback for the Seminoles? Charlie Ward (football, basketball) and Chris Weinke (minor league baseball, then football) each won the Heisman Trophy.

Freshman to watch

DE DeMarcus Walker: The 'Noles had three defensive ends drafted in April, so rotation spots are available. Walker will have to compete with Mario Edwards Jr., Dan Hicks, Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher, but he'll have an opportunity in preseason camp to earn playing time.


CB Lamarcus Joyner: After 27 straight starts at strong safety, Joyner has moved to cornerback for his senior season. Though he's just 5-8 and 190 pounds, he is a ferocious hitter; he'll use that physicality to jam receivers at the line.

2013 stat projections (By

QB Jameis Winston: 2,850 passing yards, 20 TDs; 415 rushing yards, 5 TDs

RB James Wilder Jr.: 900 rushing yards, 12 TDs; 160 receiving yards, 1 TD

WR Rashad Greene: 770 receiving yards, 8 TDs; 30 rushing yards

Coach speak: Jimbo Fisher

SI: You haven't decided whether Jameis Winston or Jacob Coker will start at quarterback. Why?

JF: I want to see how they handle fall camp. I've seen springtime heroes and when fall comes, it doesn't work that way. I think both guys will continue to progress, but I want to see who can stay consistent.

SI: How did winning the program's first ACC title since 2005 affect the players?

JF: Nobody on this team had won a championship. You win a championship, you think different. You act different. You understand what it's about. We have a rule: You don't wear hats in the [football complex]. They wouldn't take their ACC championship hats off. They'd walk in my office with them knowing I was going to get on them. You know what? I didn't make them take them off.

SI: You had 11 players drafted from last year's team. Do you worry about replacing them?

JF: Our offense last year was very sophomore-oriented. We'll have more junior and senior starters in 2013 than we had last year.

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