By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Rashad Greene refused to concede the job to one over the other, but whether it’s Jacob Coker or Jameis Winston at quarterback when Florida State begins the season, he’ll have plenty of help.
From their Atlantic Coast Conference championship team, the Seminoles return four starters on the offensive line (and a fifth with plenty of experience), five of the six top pass catchers, two of the top three rushers and the tight end.
The defense has plenty of experience, too, despite the matriculation of seven starters.
“We have the least number of starters returning, but we have a lot of guys who have played,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher. “I think we’re a very talented team.”
Missing will be E.J. Manuel, the only quarterback taken in the first round of the NFL Draft this past April. Winston, a freshman, seemed to emerge from spring practice as the heir, but nobody was ready to knight him during the ACC Football Kickoff last week. Coker, a redshirt sophomore, practiced on a broken foot.
“Whoever starts has a group of guys around him who will do what they’re supposed to do,” Fisher said. “With a young quarterback, that’s what concerns you as a coach.”
Fisher said they are more similar than not, tall and athletic. “Both can throw the heck out of it,” he said.
Winston attracted attention as a key member of the FSU baseball team, which Fisher believes should help him handle the attention on and off the field.
Junior running backs Devonta Freeman (660 yds.) and James Wilder, Jr. (635) are the top returning rushers. Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent, Willie Haulstead and Kelvin Bejamin have combined for more than 200 catches and more than 2,000 yards. Nick O’Leary is the tight end.
“You can eliminate a lot of mistakes with experienced guys around you,” Fisher said.
With 95 catches for 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career, Greene wants to get the ball more and Fisher intends to get it to him. Greene reported as a 160-pound freshman, but has added 20 pounds since.
“Remember, if you’re 170 pounds it’s hard. You get banged and bruised,” Fisher said. “He didn’t practice a lot in certain situations.
“He’s very dynamic. He wants it. He accepts that role.”
Florida State seems to have a degree of its swagger back. Fisher replaced six members of last year’s staff with coaches he knows well so he isn’t worried about that being a factor.
Safety-turned-corner Lamarcus Joyner said his transition was a “business decision,” one he initiated, and it gives FSU a dynamic personality on the corner.
At 5-8, 190 he was an all-conference safety, a bit small, “but I’d rather be an undersized corner than an undersized safety.”
Both Greene and Joyner seemed indifferent to taking a backseat to Clemson in preseason. FSU was picked second in the Atlantic Division, but could easily be a top 15 team when the first poll rolls out in August.
“I’m excited about the ceiling we got,” Joyner said. “The way people are dogging us, they give so much room to climb that ladder as far as all the expectations.”