A look at the 2010 Florida State football team, coached by Jimbo Fisher.
NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Christian Ponder, sr., QB
Ponder’s name has been bantered about as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
He’ll need to be if the Seminoles are going to return to the national spotlight.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt new head coach Jimbo Fisher that Ponder’s had two seasons under his belt as the Noles’ starting quarterback.
Two years ago, Ponder threw for 2,006 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 423 yards.
Then his 2009 campaign was an improvement to the FSU passing game, where he was headed for arguably the best season since the Heisman trophy winning year Chris Weinke put together in 2000.
Ponder was laid out in a vicious hit late in last year’s game against Clemson, which forced Ponder into season-ending surgery to repair his separated shoulder.
Despite that, he still amassed 2,717 passing yards and cut down his interception total from 13 in ‘08 to seven picks in ‘09.
His return in the spring game drew rave reviews and the Noles will need him to live up to the preseason hype if they want to return to their proud roots.
FILLING THE VOID: Jimbo Fisher, head coach
You can’t really replace a legend like Bobby Bowden, but that’s the case in Tallahassee this year as Fisher takes the reins from the long-time Noles head coach.
Fisher was an assistant under Bowden, so he enters his first season as FSU’s head coach with a familiarity of how things operate, which should help make a smooth transition for the returning players.
Bowden amassed more wins than anyone would care to replace. And Fisher will be scrutinized in every facet of his coaching. So, he’ll have to block out analysis and focus on leaving his own imprint on the Noles’ program.
IMPACT FRESHMAN: Lamarcus Joyner, DB
The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder is the No. 1 rated defensive back prospect according to ESPN’s rankings. And the Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas standout is expected to fight for the starting gig occupied by senior Ochuko Jenije. Along with freshman linebacker Jeff Luc, the Noles have a talented class that should provide stability to a porous defensive unit from the ‘09 season.
COACH QUANDARY: The Unknown. Nobody truly will know if the Noles will play better in 2010 until they step on the field. Now while Samford isn’t going to test FSU, the following two games will provide a clear answer for the fans. The Noles travel to Oklahoma before facing BYU at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mix in the annual rivalry game that takes place at Miami in early October, and FSU has a formidable schedule out of the blocks in 2010.
CAMP STOCK UP: Ponder has skyrocketed up the Heisman Trophy watchlist, despite not playing a regular season game since his season-ending injury in ‘09. Yet he’s there for all the skills and talent he possesses. All the stuff that had him debating whether he’d jump to the NFL or not after his junior year, but the injury ended that debate as he’s returned with an experienced offense.
DOWN: How many Noles will make it to the opener? It seems like everyday there’s someone else getting kicked off the team or voluntarily leaving. Defensive back Dionte Allen, a junior, was granted his release from the team so he could explore transfer options. Nigel Carr was suspended for his checkered off-field activities that include three felony charges stemming from two car burglaries. Then there’s wide receiver Jarmon Forston, who was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, according to ESPN.
DEEP AT: OL. It’s a strong and experienced line, with just about everyone returning. It’s a recipe that should protect Ponder and could help running back Jermaine Thomas produce a 1,000-yard season, something the Noles haven’t had since Warrick Dunn’s 1996 campaign.
THIN AT: WR. Fortson’s dismissal has left a gaping hole in the receiving corps. Last season, Fortson tallied 45 catches for 610 yards and four scores. That type of production will need filling, with Ponder’s dependable options looking on the slim side. Bert Reed, a junior, does provide some stability after was second on the team last year with 710 receiving yards.
KEY GAME: Sept. 11 at Oklahoma
A very important early non-conference road test in the Fisher era. The last meeting between these two traditional powers was the 2000 Orange Bowl, which marked Bob Stoops and the Sooner’s return to prominence. FSU would like to return the favor as they attempt to return to its glory days with Stoops’ brother, Mark, beginning his tenure as the Noles’ defensive coordinator.
Sept. 4 SAMFORD
Sept. 11 at Oklahoma
Sept. 18 BYU
Sept. 25 WAKE FOREST
Oct. 2 at Virginia
Oct. 9 at Miami
Oct. 16 BOSTON COLLEGE
Oct. 28 at NC State
Nov. 6 NORTH CAROLINA
Nov. 13 CLEMSON
Nov. 20 at Maryland
Nov. 27 FLORIDA
Home games in ALL CAPS
MIAMI L, 34-38
JACKSONVILLE STATE W, 19-9
at BYU W, 54-28
SOUTH FLORIDA L, 17-7
at Boston College L, 28-21
GEORGIA TECH L, 49-44
at North Carolina W, 30-27
NC STATE W, 45-42
at Clemson L, 40-24
at Wake Forest W, 41-28
MARYLAND W, 41-28
at Florida L, 37-10
West Virginia *W, 33-21
* — Gator Bowl
BY THE NUMBERS:
375 – number of wins Bobby Bowden retired with, compared to the zero Fisher has as a head coach.
21 — Each of the Noles’ last nine opponents scored at least this many points.
6 – consecutive losses to instate rival Florida.
HEAD COACH: Jimbo Fisher, first season.