I am a Florida State graduate. I was right in the middle of the Noles' run through the 1990s. I believe in the idea of playing until the sound of the whistle ends and the 31-31 “victory” at the “Choke in Doak.”
I remember Scott Bentley and Derrick Brooks and some little man named Warrick Dunn, where he and I and Charlie Ward would sit in a study room for hours without saying a word.
I remember the 1999 National Title, holding my son in my arms when he was almost five months old and cheering on our ‘Noles to victory.
And I also remember the lean years, the Chris Rix years and the poor offenses run by Jeff Bowden and Bobby Bowden losing his grip on the program.
But now, another chapter starts, this time without EJ Manuel, Lonnie Prior or Bjoern Werner. Xavier Rhodes and other key players are gone, leaving head coach Jimbo Fisher to pick up the pieces and calculate how he can beat Florida, Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech all in one season.
Last year was supposed to be “the year” for this team. This season, however, is the year to rebuild and re-establish dominance. Can Jimbo Fisher get this team to the next level? That is one of the questions that need to be answered by the 2013 Seminoles, as well as these other questions.
1. This may be a make or break season for Jimbo Fisher: I say this as a fan and a writer. Fisher has been a coach who has spouted off about moving the Noles to the Big 12. This is a coach who has a great recruiting staff. This is a coach who has great talent and cannot win a national title. The draft picks from this team suggest Fisher should be better and this team should be better.
2. Jameis Winston will make people forget EJ Manuel: The freshman was considered the best dual-threat recruit in the country and one of the best prospects in the country at quarterback. Winston is a freshman who can beat a team with his arm and legs and will be counted on to keep the FSU offensive attack balanced.
3. Bjoern Werner will be missed: Werner was the leader of the Seminoles' pass rush. He was the engine that kept going. Even though he was a junior, just the small amount of time he was on campus was a huge boost to the FSU defense.
4. Miami will be much improved: The Noles and the Canes play in the eighth game of the season, which is late compared to years past. The game does not have the same importance it used to, but players from Tallahassee are from the Miami area and vice versa. In my day, it was a huge game. Now, it is just average.
5. No one will beat Clemson: Last year was a blowout once the Noles got their offense in gear. But I seriously doubt anyone will beat the Tigers with Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and the offense Clemson will show off. The Noles destroyed the Tigers chances of a national title.
6. James Wilder could have been a star: Wilder could have been the best runner in FSU history since Sammie Smith. He has had more time in front of judges than he has on the field or in practice.
7. Can Jeremy Pruitt take the defense to a new level? Mark Stoops showed his mettle as the Noles defensive coach. Now, Pruitt will show who is boss. I like the move Fisher made by selecting a coach with an Alabama pedigree to run the defense.
8. Timmy Jernigan is now a starter: And the ACC should be on high alert. Why everyone talks about Jadeveon Clowney, the Seminoles have Jernigan, who I saw play in high school and in my opinion, could be just as good. Jernigan will play on the inside, but he looks like he could run down running backs and quarterbacks.
9. Bobby Hart needs to step up: He needs to take the spot vacated by Menelik Watson. If Hart can show he is as adept at the right side, the line will be solid. If not, it could be a weakness and a problem for this team.
10. Can this team rise above the issues it has? Lots of graduations, players leaving early, changes in the coaching staff. They are key issues. We make a huge deal about the coaching staff. This team needs to rise together and make it happen.