The ACC’s best rivalry

The ACC’s best rivalry

Football

The ACC’s best rivalry

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By Ed McGranahan.

By Ed McGranahan

When Florida State joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1992, the Seminoles raised the bar, and Clemson fans anticipated a long, exhilarating rivalry.

But it really didn’t come to fruition until a decade of Bowden Bowls. Since 2003, the Tigers have beat FSU six times in those 10 meetings, including five straight in Death Valley.

Now the Seminoles are Clemson’s perennial adversary in the ACC Atlantic, and having this season’s game at home adds to the growing anticipation for 2013.

Though the Seminoles lost their quarterback, a ton of talent off one of the nation’s best defenses and six members of Coach Jimbo Fisher’s staff, they should be able to reload quickly.

“We really like the development of our program, and excited for the future,” Fisher said. “I think we’ve come a long way in the last few years.”

The vision from the fringe seems to reaffirm his point of view with FSU being listed in the top 15 in most preseason rankings.

FLORIDA STATE

Oct.19 @ Death Valley

2012: 12-2 overall including a win over Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, No. 10 AP, No. 8 USA Today

ACC: 7-1, 1st in the Atlantic Division.

The series: Seminoles lead 18-8.

New guns on offense

Returning starters: 6

QB: Who knew that EJ Manuel would be the only quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft? Then, when Clint Trickett opted for a transfer to WVU, suddenly the quarterback job was wide open. Though redshirt freshman Jameis Winston looked like the winner despite splitting time with the baseball team after completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, Fisher was not prepared to concede the job to him, insisting sophomore Jacob Coker, who practiced with a broken foot, and redshirt freshman and Sean McGuire are still in the mix.

RB:  The bulk of the load falls to juniors Devonta Freeman (660 yds.) and James Wilder, Jr. (635) though redshirt freshman Mario Pender brings the home run potential lost with Chris Thompson, perhaps even more.

WR: Perhaps as deep here as the offensive line, FSU returns its leader in receptions, yards and touchdown catches for two years in Rashad Greene. In addition, Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent, Willie Haulstead and Kelvin Bejamin have combined for  more than 200 catches and more than 2,000 yards. The wildcard may be sprinter Marvin Bracy.

TE: Grandson of Jack Nicklaus, as a golfer Nick O’Leary is a pretty fair tight end. His impact should be more pronounced as a junior with help from sophomore Nick Kourtzidis andPennState transfer Kevin Haplea.

OL: Senior center Bryan Stork anchors a line of four returning starters that also includes guards Josue Matias and Tre Jackson and tackle Cameron Erving. Junior Bobby Hart started nine games as a 17-year-old freshman in 2011 and could replace Menelik Watson at right tackle. There’s also a chance Stork could slide to tackle for junior Austin Barron.

Huge holes on defense

Returning starters: 4

LB: New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, a former Alabama assistant, installed a scheme that bears striking resemblance to the Tide’s and inherited players like Televin Smith, who slides into a fulltime role at middle linebacker. Senior Christian Jones chose to return, so he’ll be the sage in the room. And strongside candidates are sophomores Terrance Smith and Reggie Northrup. Watch to see how redshirt freshman Ukeme Eligwe is deployed.

DL: Hardest hit by attrition, don’t shed any tears. Fisher said they prepared for the inevitability so there’s plenty of experience. Tackles Tim Jernigan, Eddie Goldman, Justin Shanks and Nile Lawrence-Stemple are in the mix. If Jacobbi McDaniel is full recovered from an ankle injury and Demonte McAllister recovers from a shoulder nick, the Noles should be deep. Sophomores Giorgio Newbery and Mario Edwards Jr. projected as the starters at end with converted tight end Dan Hicks, Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker in place.

DB: The secondary took a huge hit with injuries to corner Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby and nickel back Tyler Hunter, so Lamarcus Joyner moved from safety to corner. Karlos Williams, once a consideration at linebacker, will remain at safety with Terrence Brooks. (all-acc) and Terrence Brooks. The three injured players are likely for the fall but in the meantime, Pruitt is looking for the best place to use P.J. Williams.

Special teams

Returning starters: 1

PK: Filling probably the biggest set of shoes on the roster, former top prospect Roberto Aguayo replaces Dustin Hopkins, the NCAA career leader in kick scoring and field goals.

 P: Cason Beatty grew into a weapon as a freshman, finishing on the Ray Guy

Award watch list. Only eight of his 47 punts were returned with 23 landing inside the 20-yard line.

Bottom line: Everybody seemed to want to imply there was a crack in Fisher’s program after three seasons when his staff began to migrate, but the Seminoles continued to recruit well and with experience on the offensive line, running back and linebacker, this could be more of a smash-mouth team.

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