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17 posts from January 2013

January 04, 2013

FSU Outfielder Recovering From Skydiving Accident

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Florida State received some truly terrible news on Sunday when they learned that senior outfielder Stephen Spradling had suffered a potentially life-threatening injuries after a skydiving accident.

The former Juco transfer was skydiving near Melbourne, Florida on Sunday when he had to tug his parachute hard to avoid a mid-air collision about 100 feet above the ground. Had he collided with the other skydiver it would have likely proved fatal, so Spradling pulled hard on his shoot and accelerated towards the ground where he landed with a sickening thud.

He was immediately rushed to a hospital where he was diagnosed with broken hips, a broken pelvis, broken ribs and a broken bone in his back. Spradling is in for a long recovery, he will likely be in a wheelchair for the next several months, but doctors are optimistic he will walk again and eventually make a full recovery.

His baseball career, however, is likely over.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Stephen and his family," said FSU Head Coach Mike Martin via a Florida State press release.  "I was truly scared for him when I heard the news. How many people live to tell a story of a skydiving accident?  We are all very thankful that he is still alive.  I just thank God that he is ok and is pointed in a direction of a full recovery.  His entire Seminole family is thinking about him and we hope and pray for Stephen to make a full recovery.

“Regarding his playing career at Florida State, right now our major concern is being there for Stephen and his family during his recovery period.”

 

Follow Patrik Nohe on twitter for all the latest Florida State Seminoles news and updates.

January 03, 2013

Lamarcus Joyner to Return to Florida State for his Senior Season

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Lamarcus Joyner will be back prowling the Florida State secondary again in 2013. The talented junior safety from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas has opted to return to Florida State for his senior season. 

Joyner was considering his options after the Orange Bowl, he had formed an especially close relationship with former defensive coordinator Mark Stoops who left before the Seminoles 31-10 win over NIU to assume the head coaching job at Kentucky. 

Some thought Stoops departure could push Joyner to turn pro early.

But Joyner mentioned that Florida State's new defensive coordinator, former Alabama DB's coach Jeremy Pruitt, had already reached out to him in weeks leading up to the Orange Bowl. Pruitt comes from Nick Saban's staff and has turned out some of the top defensive backs in the past few NFL drafts. After three years under the coach who mentored Ed Reed and Sean Taylor, Joyner will have the benefit of a year of coaching from Pruitt, who was responsible for players like Mark Barron (7th overall in the 2012 Draft) at Alabama.

Apparently the chance to improve under Pruitt and potentially raise his draft stock- and the desire to finish what he started at Florida State- was too good to pass up.

“Coach Fisher and I aren’t finished with what we started here,” Joyner said via Florida State press release. “He said from day one I was going to be one of those guys that was going to help turn this program around. We’ve started down the right path so far but we’re still not finished. This wasn’t a decision I could make just for myself but for my family in order to help them down the road, which is why I’m going to stay at Florida State for my last season.”

Added Jimbo Fisher: “I’m very excited that Lamarcus is going to return for his senior season. He’s such a great leader and ambassador for our university and football program. He still has some goals that he wants to accomplish, and I can’t express how happy I am that he’s going to be here at Florida State for another year. He’s one of the guys that has been a major part of our success the last three years. For him to want to stay and continue to help build this program, really shows his character as a person.”

Joyner was a first-team all-ACC selection this past season and is notorious for big kickoff returns and brutal collisions with receivers and backs down the sidelines and up the seams of the Florida State defense. 

With Joyner back, Florida State should have a talented tandem of safeties patrolling the back end of their defense. Terrence Brooks also returns and aside from losing Xavier Rhodes a year early, the entire secondary could be a strong suit for what looks to be a very good FSU defense in 2013.

 

Follow Patrik Nohe on twitter for all the latest Florida State Seminoles news and updates.

It's Official, FSU DE Bjoern Werner to Turn Pro

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In potentially the least surprising bit of news to come out after the Orange Bowl, Florida State junior DE Bjoern Werner will reportedly leave college early and enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

Werner is currently pegged to be a top-5 draft choice and is rated the top defensive end in the country by many draft experts, including Mel Kiper. ESPN initially reported the news via sources close to Werner, who later confirmed the news himself.

"I'm grateful to Coach Fisher and Florida State for giving me the opportunity to be a Seminole and play for one of the top college football programs in the country," Werner said to Seminoles.com. "I've learned so much from the coaches especially Coach [D.J.] Eliot and have been able to play with some of the best players in the country. After sitting down with my wife, Denise, and gathering as much information, I've decided to move on and enter the NFL draft. I've enjoyed my time at FSU and will cherish the time I spent as a Seminole."

Werner had told reporters he'd come to a decision weeks before Florida State's 31-10 Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois, but wanted to take his time before announcing it. It isn't surprising he would opt to leave though. Werner pointed to DE Brandon Jenkins' decision to return for his senior year when he gave reporters a reason for delaying his own. But Jenkins also missed the entire year after suffering a Lisfranc fracture during the season opener and potentially hurt his draft stock with the decision.

What likely sealed the decision was when Jenkins' replacement tore his ACL against UF in the regular season finale. After coming from out of no where, Tank Carradine was being projected as a first round NFL draft pick himself before tearing up his knee late in the game agaisnt the Gators. Watching two potential first rounders at his own position suffer injuries that could cost them millions in April's draft was likely enough to push Werner to turn pro now and take the considerable pay-day that comes with being selected at the top of the first round.

"I'd like to congratulate Bjoern on his decision to enter the NFL draft," said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher. "It's the best decision for him and his family. Not only is he a great football player but he's an unbelievable person. His leadership on and off the field will impact this program for years to come. I wish him nothing but the best and he will always be remembered as one of the great players in FSU history."

For his career Werner had 23.5 sacks, including an ACC-leading 13 this season. He is considered a top talent as both a pass-rusher and a run-stuffer and could potentially go as high as second to Jacksonville come April.

Werner joins Xavier Rhodes as Seminole juniors who will forgo their senior seasons. Christian Jones and a few others could also decide in the coming days to make the jump, or could return to Florida State's defense in 2013. Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) is returning in 2013 to work with former Alabama DB-coach and new FSU Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. 

 

Follow Patrik Nohe on twitter for all the latest Florida State Seminoles news and updates.

January 02, 2013

Rapid Reaction: Florida State 31 Northern Illinois 10

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Florida State gave their fans- and the rest of the ACC- a bit of a start at the beginning of the second half on Tuesday night during their Orange Bowl victory. After going into the tunnel up 14-3, Florida State took the ball on the opening drive of the second half and drove it down to Northern Illinois two yard-line before their offense stalled out and they had to settle for a field goal. 

While the kick gave Dustin Hopkins to all-time record for field goals converted by an NCAA kicker, it also gave Northern Illinois a bit of life.

On their ensuing drive, trailing by just 14 instead of down three scores, NIU drove 87 yards on six plays and got within a touchdown. Then they recovered an onside kick and the whole world started to wonder if Florida State was going to lose to the first one-loss non-AQ school to ever bust into the BCS.

Fortunately for Florida State their defense stepped up. With Northern Illinois on the FSU side of the 50 Terrence Brooks stepped in front of a poorly thrown ball from NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and ended the Huskies' threat. 

From there Florida State's offense finally began to roll and the Seminoles pulled away from NIU in the fourth quarter.

Lonnie Pryor won MVP honors. He waited until his last game as a Florida State Seminole to finally break 100 yards but he sure picked one heck of a time to do it. Pryor connected on a 60-yard touchdown run in the first half and followed up with about 10 and a half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to seal things out on a 37-yard touchdown. He finished the game with 130 yards on four carries, including the two long TD runs. 

Overall though, the final score probably wasn't indicative of close this thing was for the first two and a half quarters. Florida State pulled away in the end- ironically when Jordan Lynch predicted they would be buckling- but they never fired on all cylinders like their fans undoubtedly hoped they would headed into the game.

After listening to NIU chirp all week during the events leading up to the Orange Bowl, FSU fans undoubtedly wanted to crush the Huskies. And while the final score looked good, it wasn't the sort of beatdown most FSU fans probably went to bed dreaming of the night before.

Not to take anything away from Florida State, NIU gave them their best shot and it's not as if the Huskies weren't a solid team, but if the Seminoles had just hit on a few more plays they could have blown the doors off Sun Life Stadium and they didn't.

They did however shut down Jordan Lynch. Lynch was quite confident he was going to run around on the Florida State defense like he was playing on a game of NCAA Football on Playstation. That couldn't have been any further from the truth tonight though.

Lynch ended the day 15/41 for 176 yards, a TD and a pick, he also ran 23 times for 44 yards. Not his best game.

After making the boldest, brashest statement of the entire week, he heads back to DeKalb, Illinois with an important lesson in humility. Jordan Lynch actually is a very talented quarterback, one game doesn't change that. But he probably should have kept quiet last week, Florida State was aiming for him all day and made his life very difficult.

The Seminoles, meanwhile, will head back to Tallahassee having capped off just the third 12-win season in the program's storied history. They won their first ACC title in seven years, their first BCS bowl in 12 (just the second BCS win in school history). And they started off what Florida State fans hope will be a successful 2013 on the right foot with a win.

 

I'm going to head down to the field and lockerroom to get quotes and reactions. Keep checking back on the Herald FSU blog tonight for more updates, coverage and analysis. And Happy New Year!

January 01, 2013

Halftime: Florida State 14 Northern Illinois 3

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We're through a half at Sun Life Stadium and Florida State's defense has definitely come to play. The Seminoles won the opening coin toss and deferred so they could introduce themselves to Jordan Lynch. It didn't take long either, despite the NIU offense going three-and-out on their opening possession Florida State still managed to lay a good lick on him and Florida State linebacker Vince Williams wasted little time getting in Lynch's face.

Since then FSU has absolutely abused the Huskies' quarterback. He's currently 4/15 for 52 yards. He's run 12 times for 24 yards. And FSU is teeing off on him.

The Florida State offense on the other hand has yet to find a consistent rhythm. There are moments when the offense shows a glimmer of its potential, but aside from a touchdown on their second possession and right before the half, they found ways to squander most of their possessions despite moving the ball pretty well.

In the Seminoles' game against Miami here at Sun Life Stadium in October, Nick O'Leary fumbled trying to do too much on the opening drive. He did the same thing on Florida State's opening possession in the Orange Bowl too. After a good playfake that caught the NIU defense flat-footed, O'Leary caught a ball in the flat, got the first down and then put his shoulder down to challenge an NIU DB. He ended up fumbling the ball forward and the Huskies recovered. 

The Seminoles would score on their second drive when Lonnie Pryor broke a 60-yard touchdown run, but followed that score up with a punt on their third possession and then a missed 50-yard field goal on their fourth. They would drive to mid-field and punt on their fifth drive as well. The same thing happened on the Seminoles' sixth drive too. Herald reporter Manny Navarro used the term "constipated offense."

That would probably the most appropriate description. 

The Seminoles did finally manage to get things going again on their final drive of the first half when they marched 81 yards and scored their second touchdown of the game to go up 14-3. But frankly, this game looks like a typical Florida State road game. When they're away from the friendly confines of Doak Campbell stadium, things just don't run quite the same.

It's not an issue of moving the ball for Florida State- they racked up over 300 yards of offense in the first half- it's whether they can score. They were held scoreless in the second half against NC State and lost. Georgia Tech almost knocked them off after a flat second half last month during the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

They should run away with this in the second half when depth becomes an issue. But who knows with Florida State.

 

Keep checking back here at the Herald FSU blog and follow me on Twitter for running updates, news and rapid reactions from tonight's Orange Bowl...

Orange Bowl Pregame: Northern Illinois vs. Florida State

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We're about two and a half hours from the kickoff of the Discover Orange Bowl. Florida State (11-2, ACC Champions) will square off with Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC Champions) in a game that has more than a few interesting storylines heading in.

All week Northern Illinois has answered questions about whether they belong in this game with a brash confidence. They have a chip on their shoulder. Now they'll have the chance to back up the talk and prove to the world that Northern Illinois and the MAC are legitimate. Frankly, the trends and the precedents are on their side. Northern Illinois is designated as the "visiting team" tonight and the team in their road whites have won seven of the last eight Orange Bowls. 

Beyond that, schools from non-AQ conferences are 5-2 all time in BCS games, and 4-1 all-time against schools from BCS conferences. The lone BCS conference win over a non-AQ team was Georgia pounding Hawai'i 41-10 in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. But Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Alabama and Wisconsin have all fallen victim to non-AQ competition in BCS games.

Typically that comes from complacency. Complacency has been an issue for the Florida State this year. It could be an issue tonight.

But then again, Jordan Lynch also gave Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles a gift last week when he told The Sporting News, "They're fast, they're physical, but they haven't seen anything like our offense... We plan on wearing them down. In the fourth quarter, we plan to have them on their knees and then just keep pounding away."

Florida State may do a better job of media-training their athletes, or Northern Illinois just may not care, but the Seminoles remained diplomatic in their interviews throughout the rest of the leadup to tonight's game. While NIU continued to voice their intention to shock the world, Florida State gave the partyline.

But when the recorders went off and the camera lights dimmed, it wasn't tough to see that Florida State is more than a little angry. We'll find out tonight if that anger translates into a good performance, but if NIU was hoping the Seminoles would sleepwalk, they dramatically diminished those chances with their media presence this week.

Anything can happen tonight. Florida State is the more talented team, Northern Illinois is the hungrier team. The scripted ending might have Northern Illinois pulling an epic, BCS-busting upset. Or possibly a highly-motivated Florida State team punishing NIU for its hubris.

But the beauty of sports though- as Jimbo Fisher reminded everyone on Monday morning- is that they aren't a movie. They're not scripted. In college football once things kick off, it's anyone's game.

Tonight's Orange Bowl- even despite a ton of initial buzz- may wind up being one heck of a showdown.

Kickoff: 8:30 PM

TV: ESPN

Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color), Maria Taylor (sideline)

Officiating Crew: Southeastern Conference, Matt Moore (Head Referee), Ben Oldham (Replay Official)

 

Keep checking back here at the Herald FSU blog and follow me on Twitter for running updates, news and rapid reactions from tonight's Orange Bowl...

The ACC Needs the Real Florida State to Show Up for Tonight's Orange Bowl

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Tonight all eyes around the ACC- and the country- will be on Florida State and their Orange Bowl matchup with Northern Illinois. For the first time in seemingly years the Atlantic Coast Conference has an opportunity to come out of bowl season with some semblance of respectability. 

Despite how it's spun on ESPN, yesterday was a big day for the ACC. NC State phoned in a lousy Music City Bowl effort in their loss to Vanderbilt. But then Georgia Tech staved off some potential conference embarrassment in the Sun Bowl by beating USC and finishing the year with a 7-7 mark. While 7-7 is hardly the sort of year to write home about, a 6-8 bowl team would've been even more egg on the face of the ACC. 

In the nightcap, Clemson upset LSU in the Chick-Fil-A bowl. SEC-apologists have called it an LSU-meltdown, but there's no place on the trophy that says how you won it. Clemson and the ACC pulled off a big win over an SEC opponent and the ACC heads into tonight looking pretty solid.

Through five bowl games the Atlantic Coast Conference is 3-2 with a shot to finish 4-2 if its reigning champion, no. 12 Florida State, can handle its business against no. 15 Northern Illinois in tonight's Orange Bowl game. 

But whether Florida State handles its business- which on paper they should- is a completely different story.

Depending on which Florida State team shows up for tonight's game, tonight could be a blowout or a nailbiter. It's almost entirely up to the Seminoles.

FSU was essentially two completely different teams this year depending on where they played. At Doak Campbell Stadium Florida State won their games by an average score of 50-13. They averaged 543 yards of offense per game. They looked like a top ten football team.

When the Seminoles left Doak in 2012 though, watch out. The offense averages 22 few points per game (28) and gains 169 fewer yards (374 ypg) when they're on the road. And even those numbers might not tell the whole story.

USF fired their coach this year but gave Florida State a game that went well into the third quarter. The next week NC State beat the Seminoles in Raleigh, 17-16. The Wolfpack also fired their coach this year and hired NIU's old coach, Dave Doeren, after he BCS-busted his team into the Orange Bowl. 

Florida State trailed Miami 10-0 after starting flat the first time they played in Sun Life Stadium this year. They ended up winning 33-20, but struggled with an inferior Hurricane team into the second half.

In November, the 'Noles eked out a 28-22 win against Virginia Tech on the road in Blacksburg, though admittedly that is a difficult Thursday night atmosphere at Lane Stadium. Their best road performance came the next week when they clinched the Atlantic division of the ACC against a 4-8 Maryland team, 41-14. 

But the trend was short-lived, in Charlotte against a .500 Georgia Tech squad Florida State had to resort to a late Karlos Williams interception to close out the Yellow Jackets, 21-15. The game felt eerily similar to the loss at North Carolina State as the second have ground on.

Something happens when the Seminoles hit the road. While the defense has been consistent all season, the offense has a tough time finding rhythm when they're not playing on Bobby Bowden field. 

Tonight Florida State will look to get 2013 started on the right foot by putting together a dominating performance away from home. And if ever there were a reason Florida State might come out fired up for a road game this season, Northern Illinois has made sure to to give it to them in the week heading up to this game.

It may have been smart for the Huskies to play it humble this week, downplay the confidence a little bit and try to lull the Seminoles into a false sense of complacency.

They went the complete other direction though.

All week NIU has displayed a brash, at times seemingly-unwaranted confidence about this matchup. Their quarterback said they would have FSU's defense 'on its knees.' Their head coach, Rod Carey- in talking up his own offense- shrugged off Florida State's offense, characterizing them as 'not slouches.'

While nobody expected Northern Illinois to bow down to Florida State and the ACC, I doubt many people expected them to defiantly incite the Seminoles either.

But that's what's happened. They've attacked Florida State's pride. If ever there were a time for a sleeping road giant to wake up, now is that time.

By midnight tonight we should have a pretty good idea which Florida State team made the trip to Sun Life Stadium, there is no comparison between these teams in terms of talent, only in terms of desire. Northern Illinois has a chip on their shoulder, they want this game badly. 

But it's Florida State's for the taking.

And the rest of the ACC is hoping the Seminoles want it.

 

Keep checking back here at the Herald FSU blog and follow me on Twitter for running updates, news and rapid reactions from tonight's Orange Bowl...


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