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Dr. Saturday

Spring football 25: Florida State Seminoles

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Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Dr. Saturday will be looking at the 25 most interesting teams headed into spring football through March, examining which programs have the biggest questions, the most expectations and the best storylines. This isn’t the 25 best going into the spring, just the 25 we’re keeping the closest eye on. Previously: Northern Illinois

FLORIDA STATE

What happened in 2012
The Seminoles' conference doesn't help their profile anymore. Florida State came into the season with national title aspirations, but needed to be perfect to get that shot.

One loss, to N.C. State, effectively ended their chance to play for a title. A loss to Florida late in the season added to the disappointment.

Florida State otherwise had a great season. The Seminoles won 12 games, a conference championship and the Orange Bowl. But aside from a win against Clemson the victories didn't come against elite competition, including the bowl win against an overmatched Northern Illinois team. That's unfortunate because Florida State had the talent to beat some very good teams. It's also what made the late slip-up at N.C. State so frustrating.

What makes them interesting in 2013

Florida State still has the talent to win the ACC this year but probably are not be the favorite. The Seminoles lost three potential NFL first-round picks, and that doesn't count quarterback E.J. Manuel, who was hugely important to the Seminoles (and might end up being a good find for some NFL team).

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive ends Bjoern Werner and "Tank" Carradine will have their names called early in the NFL draft. Florida State will have a tough time replacing them on a defense that was as good as any in college football last year.

But even with the departures, Florida State still has a good roster. Its game against talented Clemson on Oct. 19 should determine who wins the ACC's Atlantic Division.

What needs to happen this spring
Florida State has a lot of spots to fill. That's what happens when only 10 starters return,
according to PhilSteele.com. The key battle will be at quarterback, of course, but others matter too, especially on defense.

Christian Jones, a linebacker who led the Seminoles with 95 tackles, decided against going to the NFL and will be back. That's great news, but there are seven starting spots to fill and almost the entire front seven needs to be rebuilt. Replacing the pass-rush talent of Werner and Carradine will not be easy. Florida State should end up with a solid defense, but there's a lot of work to do.

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FSU RB James Wilder (USA Today Sports Images)

Gamechangers
Devonta Freeman and James Wilder are back for Florida State, and that's tremendous news for the Seminoles.

With the team not having a proven commodity at quarterback following Manuel's graduation, the running game will be key. Freeman had 660 yards with a 5.9-yard average last year and seven of his eight touchdowns came in Florida State's final seven games. Wilder had 635 yards, averaged 5.8 yards per carry and had 11 touchdowns last season. The running game should be very good for Florida State.

Wild cards
Clint Trickett presumably is the favorite to start at quarterback. He was the backup last year, and in 2011 had a 336-yard, three-touchdown game against Clemson that has to count in his favor. But the staff says the job is up for grabs, and there are some good players who have a chance to get the job.

Jacob Coker has a little experience (including a touchdown pass last season) and is physically impressive at 6-6, 227 pounds. Jameis Winston was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback according to Rivals in the 2012 class. He obviously can't be discounted. Sean Maguire might also factor into the race.

[Also: Top-rated QB Gunner Kiel leaves Notre Dame after one season]

Depending on which quarterback wins the job, the offensive play-calling will have to adjust. There are some interesting candidates here. Florida State should end up with a really good quarterback, it's just tough to predict who it will be or how that quarterback will do right away in his first extended college experience.

Key games
Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Nov. 2 vs. Miami
Nov. 30 at Florida

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Check out Dr. Saturday's other spring previews: Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, Stanford, South Carolina , Baylor, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Clemson, West Virginia, Missouri , Tulsa, Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Louisville.

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