The least you should know about the 2011 Seminoles. Part of ACC Week.
• Seminole renaissance. It's not hyperbole to say this year's Florida State team has the power to make fans feel like they're in the 1990s again. Remember those days? When 10, 11 and 12-win seasons were the norm and competing for a national championship was expected?
The 2011 Seminoles have the potential to be that good.
But "potential" is the key word.
After last year's 10-4 campaign, Florida Sate fans started to believe again. While it did have close losses against North Carolina State and North Carolina, the team -- more or less -- lived up to expectations and that confidence will serve it well as it heads into yet another tough schedule.
We'll know a lot about Florida State early as it faces Oklahoma — a team many are predicting will start the season No. 1 — at home during the third week. Warm up games against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern will allow the Seminoles to dumb down their playbook a bit before they unleash the potential of an offense that returns eight starters, including one of the most underrated running games in the ACC. The defense returns nine starters, including rush end Brandon Jenkins, who had 13.5 sacks a year ago, and Chick-fil-A defensive MVP Greg Reid and 2010 freshman All-American Xavier Rhodes in the secondary.
There are still a few questions (I'll note those as you keep reading), but if Florida State can get past Oklahoma, they could write their own ticket back to national prominence.
ACC Week How-to Manuel. E.J. Manuel takes over the reins of the Florida State offense after spending the past three seasons learning under veteran Christian Ponder. He's also stepped in at key times when Ponder was injured. He led the Seminoles to a Gator Bowl victory in 2010 and guided them to a Chick-fil-A Bowl win after Ponder couldn't finish the game. Manuel is 4-2 as a starter and has shown quite a bit of arm strength and poise during his 11 total appearances. Many might consider Manuel a high risk-high reward quarterback because of his interception to touchdown ration (10-6), but he's also thrown for an average of 2.5 yards more per pass than Ponder.
Manuel has the benefit of three of the top four receivers returning, three top running backs and almost the entire offensive line.
• Building for the future. Both of coach Jimbo Fisher's recruiting classes have ranked in the top 10 nationally and this year's class ranked second by Rivals.com. Not only does the future look very bright, the Seminoles should start to see the fruits of those recruiting classes beginning this year. Five-star recruits from 2010, such as linebacker Christian Jones and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner should play more prominent roles as should receiver Kenny Shaw, especially with Taiwan Easterling opting to play baseball instead of football. If Fisher's classes can live up to their hype, the idea of bringing Florida State back to the consistency it once had might not be so far off.
• Not just good, scary good. As good as the offense might be for Florida State, the defense is going to be downright nasty. As mentioned above, Jenkins returns and either German exchange student Bjoern Werner or junior college transfer Tank Carradine will compliment him on the other side of the line. Florida State ranked third nationally in sacks a year ago with 3.43 and 21st in tackles for loss with 6.79. Overall, the Seminoles have the ability to be one of the most formidable defenses in the country. There were some lapses early on, including Oklahoma's Landry Jones throwing for more than 300 yards in the first half, but the defense definitely got better as the season progressed and with few personnel losses, should be able to pick up right where it left off.