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FSU loaded as it looks to repeat / August 27, 2014

Consensus no. 1 Florida State enters every game with a target on its back, and there’s no question Oklahoma State would like to start the current FBS college football season by making a major splash.

The Noles, the defending national champions, and unranked OSU meet Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

How loaded is FSU?

FSU returns 15 starters from the national championship team, including seven on offense. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston is listed on four significant awards lists. 14 FSU players are on 26 different national college football awards association watch lists.

The Seminoles had nine players named to the preseason All-ACC team. Duke was the next closest, with four. These resurgent Blue Devils are dealing with some significant preseason injury issues.

FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said he has some concerns about the development of some of the younger Noles, especially at linebacker, the secondary and young backup talent on the defensive line.

But Fisher has positives, too. The depth on the offensive line is the best it’s been in the Fisher era.

Fisher is also pleased with the Noles preseason focus. “Every time we asked them to address an issue and do something, it seemed to get done,” Fisher noted.

Fisher is pleased with the identity of this year’s team.

“I think it’s a very-tight group. I think it’s a group that knows how to work. It’s a group that can be very physical, but at the same time be very skilled. That to me is the epitome of how you want to play football,” said Fisher.

FSU had an extremely strong defense a year ago in its national title run.

Since 2010, FSU’s points allowed have declined each season. FSU allowed 19.6 ppg in 2010 and only 12.1 points in 2013.

FSU had a tough, physical shutdown defense, allowing a nation-low seven rushing touchdowns last season. The Noles also had an outstanding secondary, allowing a national best 156.6 yards passing in 2013.

Opposing offenses have converted less than 50 percent of their third down opportunities in 35 of their last 37 games, including a 7-for-20 egg for Auburn in the 2013 title game.

“You look at their backup roles. You go deep into the film to judge their athletic roles. You know they’re going to play to win and they’re going to play hard. They’re going to be sound and do things the right way. You have research, you may have high school film, you may have a (report) of athletic ability from people who knew them and you research as much as you can. …Those freshmen are very dynamic,” Fisher said of this year’s defense.

It was noted in Tallahassee that many FSU veterans are impressed with the size of some of the freshmen defenders. Two newcomers who drew considerable praise are defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas.

The depth chart on defense as of Monday showed ten freshmen or sophomores.

FSU will be favored across the board in all of its regular season games, and the Noles have an abundance of talent following exciting recruiting efforts in the Fisher era.

FSU’s stockpile is rich on the offensive side of the ball. Winston’s last pass with the two-yard, game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left that locked up the BCS championship against Auburn.

Karlos Williams is back to anchor the rush attack. Williams is the Noles leading returning rusher from last season (730 yards, 11 touchdowns).

Senior Rashad Greene is the leader of the receiving corps. He had nine catches for 147 yards in the BCS championship game win over Auburn. Christian Green is a gifted athlete with elusiveness and speed. Kermit Whitfield is a sophomore wideout, and he led the nation and set an ACC record for kick return average last year (36.4).

Fisher said the FSU wide receivers have had a standout preseason camp.

“(They) understand how to get open versus man, we play against the press, two-deep, three-deep, getting in the holes, how to sit in the holes, how to separate, how to rub off each other - whatever it is to create space in certain coverages where the ball is going to be thrown.”

FSU is the favorite to return to the new playoff semifinals, but there are potential minefields in the 2014 schedule. And there’s the pressure to repeat.

But this FSU team has the potential to carry the torch for the ACC again, cracking enough holes to successfully battle through the new college football playoff structure.

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