14 September 2011
In the world of College Football, it can be downright impossible to get the general population of a fanbase to temper their excitement for a big time recruiting class. That task becomes even more difficult when your school brings in what is widely considered as the #1 recruiting class in the country, as Florida State did in 2011. Often times, people will associate their expectations for the coming year with the team's most recent crop of talented young players. Typically there is a bit more of an acclimation period necessary for young freshman, regardless of talent, than people realize.
Fortunately, the Seminoles' level of recruiting over the most recent cycles (dating back to 2008), have all gotten progressively better. Leaving the 2011 team in a position in which none of their superstar caliber freshman are asked to shoulder some unfathomable amount of responsibility as has been the case in years past.
Still, the talent in the 2011 class is worth being a bit giddy over if you have garnet and gold blood coursing through your veins. Whether the impact is made now or later, it will be felt in a big way before this class graduates. Several of the big names from a class stocked full of elite talent have already made some major noise early on this season. Stud Safety Karlos Williams has been one of the more noticeable features on a very athletic special teams unit, coming downfield and blowing up wedges, seemingly being involved on every kick off tackle in the Noles' first two games. The popular physical specimen that is 6'2, 225 lbs. James Wilder Jr. had his first opportunity last week as he broke out for 76 yards on 10 carries with a 41 yard scamper sprinkled in there. Nick O'Leary, who is believed to be the tight end that Florida State has been waiting for and is most certainly FSU's tight end of the future, has shown early signs of his savvy both in blocking and route running in the first two weeks. Early returns on this class, much like Florida State's 2010 class, have been pretty stellar and the stock shows signs of rising. The aforementioned players and their classmates are simply getting their feet wet in the world of college football and have yet to see the type of competition they will normally square up against each week.
Of all the talented and promising young players to suit up in garnet and gold for the first time this season, there are three that seem to be making a case to be consistent contributors within the regular gameplan this season. Usually, it is not all that difficult to identify a special player when they touch the field and that is the case with these three freshmen, who all made sure to hit the ground running in the first two weeks.
First, you have to take a look at RB Devonta Freeman and realize the potential he has. Early on, the Seminole running game has been much less than impressive for reasons that we will discuss later in the week. One of the few bright spots, despite not having flashy ground numbers, has been Freeman. The 5'8, 200 pounder runs with a purpose that you expect out of all your ball carriers. He has shown enough flashes of brilliance when given opportunities to have the buzz he created in the Spring and Fall camps carry over to gamedays. One aspect of his game that has really turned heads is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. The numbers will come for Freeman because what has been shown thus far is that the coaching staff and his teammates trust him. He will continue to see the field, despite operating in a rather crowded backfield. Now that the competition is going to take a significant leap, we will find out a lot more about Devonta Freeman and the rest of the FSU run game.
The next player making a big splash early is freshman WR Rashad Greene. It is difficult to describe Greene's early performance as anything other than outstanding. He turned heads in week one, when his first career reception went for a 28 yard touchdown. The next week he came back around and added two more receptions, one for 29 yards, the other for 69 yards . . . both reaching paydirt. That's right, Rashad Greene opened his college career with three receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns. The three touchdowns are tied for the team high with RS senior Bert Reed, the 126 yards is good for second best behind junior Rodney Smith and the 42 yards per catch average is best on the squad. As if that isn't impressive enough, Greene also showed his stuff on special teams in the absence of All-American return man Greg Reid, who served a one game suspension in week two. Greene had a 70 yard punt return for touchdown called back due to a fluke holding call, in which a teammate's hand was caught in the opponent's helmet. For quite some time now, the Seminole faithful have been waiting for this type of fluid and explosive playmaker. While it is still very early in his young career, it's tough not to be excited about what #80 has brought to the field of play and how it will develop over the next few years.
(Photo Credit: Steve Chase, Chase Photography)
The other big impact has been felt on the defensive side of the ball. When I say big, don't take that lightly. We're talking about the absolute physical monster that is DT Tim Jernigan. If you have not made it a point to watch #8 on the defensive line from start to finish on several plays, you are cheating yourself out of an experience. This has to be prefaced by clarifying that very rarely do you see a true freshman interior lineman come in and be very effective, let alone dominant. Jernigan is making his presence felt in a major way after two weeks and we will find out very soon whether or not the coaches feel he can continue to shoulder this type of playing time and production. Jernigan is incredibly explosive off the ball, routinely putting the poor offensive linemen placed in front of him two to three yards into the backfield as soon as the ball is snapped. His value is two fold, because aside from being able to rush the passer and stuff the run, he does an incredible job of keeping blockers from reaching the linebackers. Florida State's talented LB corps will greatly appreciate the free reign a guy like Jernigan will provide in his time in Tallahassee, rest assured. At 6'3, 300 lbs with a truly violent playing style, this kid will cause fits in the ACC this season and at the very least provide much needed relief for the veteran tackles ahead of him. One particular package to keep a close eye on is one that involves RS freshman Cam Erving at nose tackle and Jernigan at 3-tech. It provides a pretty interesting look for opposing offenses to deal with.
Are there any young players from the 2010 and 2011 recruiting classes that you expect to bloom later in the season? Which of the young stars on either side of the ball have impressed you the most thus far? Share your thoughts, we would love to hear them!