By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2009 season will certainly go down as one of the most memorable in FSU history, not so much for the performance of the team on
the field, but for the closing of the Bobby Bowden Era, as the legendary
coach finished up his distinguished stint at the helm in Tallahassee.
Despite the distraction of Bowden's predicament and a rash of injuries, FSU
earned its 28th straight bowl appearance and thanks to a 33-21 win over West
Virginia in the Gator Bowl, recorded its 33rd consecutive winning season under
It didn't look good for Florida State midway through the season, as the team
dropped four of its first six games, including a heart-breaker in the season-
opener against Miami (38-34). A huge win over nationally-ranked BYU (54-28) in
Provo, was tempered by a home loss to USF (17-7) a week later. The team would
capture five of its last seven in the regular season and more impressively,
took three of its last four with its top QB on the sidelines. The big win over
the Mountaineers in the postseason marked Bowden's 389th career victory and
sent him out on a winning note, making way for longtime collegiate assistant
OFFENSE: There wasn't much wrong with Florida State's offense in 2009, as the
team averaged just over 30 points per game and did so on a balanced 421.4
yards of total offense. This year the team returns nine starters on this side
of the football, including standout QB Christian Ponder. One of the top
signal-callers in the nation, Ponder completed nearly 70 percent of his passes
last year, for 2,717 yards, despite missing the last four games with a
shoulder injury. Ponder will get one more chance to return FSU to football
"I came into this program having high expectations. I wanted to compete at a
national level and I expected to compete at a national level. That's something
that has driven me. I've been given a great opportunity to try and change
that. It's my last year and I'd like to get us back to that level."
The hope was that Ponder would have a slew of talented playmakers on the
outside and while he still will, junior wideout Jarmon Fortson (45 receptions,
for 650 yards, four TDs) was recently released from the team. The cupboard is
far from bare in the receiving corps however, as juniors Bert Reed (60
receptions, 710 yards) and Taiwan Easterling (35 receptions, 442 yards, two
TDs) will try to assuage the loss of Fortson. The ground game should see
similar success in comparison to last year (149.5 ypg), spearheaded by the
rushing exploits of junior Jermaine Thomas (832 yards, 5.1 ypc, nine TDs). A
real strength for FSU is along the offensive line, where all five starters
return, including All-American Rodney Hudson (6-2, 282) at left guard.
DEFENSE: Not only did Bowden call it a career, but so did longtime defensive
coordinator Mickey Andrews. Mark Stoops (formerly at Arizona) takes over this
side of the football and will be charged with getting back to what the FSU
faithful expect from a Seminole defense. They didn't find it a year ago, as
Florida State allowed 30 points per game, while getting gashed for just over
200 yards rushing per outing. Gone are standout defenders like LB Dakoda
Watson and CB Patrick Robinson, but the team's top two tacklers, LBs Nigel
Bradham (93 tackles) and Kendall Smith (85 tackles) provide a nice base for
Stoops to work with. Three starters return along the defensive line, headlined
by DE Markus White (38 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, two sacks). However, the secondary
only returns one starter, that being senior CB Ochuko Jenjie (team-high four
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game returns both specialists from last year in
sophomore placekicker Dustin Hopkins and junior punter Shawn Powell. Hopkins
was just 19-of-27 on the year, but drilled 4-of-5 field-goal attempts in the
bowl win over West Virginia. Powell averaged a steady 41.6 yards on 43 punts.
The real key to FSU's special teams is the return game and no one in the
country did it better last year than freshman Greg Reid. The young cover
corner led the country in 2009 with 18.4 yards per punt return, with one TD,
en route to Freshman All-American honors.
OUTLOOK: There is a lot of excitement in Tallahassee, as there will be a new
man in charge at the top for the first time in 35 years.
Fisher will seize the moment.
"My emotion right now is excitement, but it's all about preparation You have
to prepare to be successful. I can't be happy just to be here. I have the job
now, so what am I going to do with it?"
Fisher's transition should be smooth, as this is one of the most talented
offensive teams in the ACC. The non-conference schedule is certainly daunting,
with Samford, Oklahoma, BYU and Florida on the docket. A lot will be known
about this team by mid-September, following back-to-back slugfests with the
Sooners and Cougars. The team gets the majority of its toughest ACC challenges
at home this season, with Wake Forest. Boston College, North Carolina and
Clemson all coming to town. The road slate consists of Virginia, Miami, NC
State and Maryland, with only the Miami game on October 9th as a possible bump
in the road. The team avoids Coastal Division powerhouse Virginia Tech
altogether. If everything goes according to plan, the two teams will play in
the ACC Championship Game, a nice way to begin the Fisher Era in Tallahassee.