A football season always looks vastly different in the December rear-view mirror than it does on the horizon of an afternoon in August. Wins and losses play the largest part in that, yes, but so too do the new faces that become household names out of nowhere. See Rashad Greene. Although there needs to be an unpredictable blend of talent, aptitude and opportunity for a few of these faces to make themselves known to the Seminole nation, let's take a stab at the five relatively unknown players who will emerge in the fall of 2012.
Keelin Smith, defensive back
As you may or may not have heard this week, there is an opening at the cornerback position in Tallahassee. With Greg Reid's dismissal, that opportunity is nothing to sneeze at either.
Enter Keelin Smith, one of the overlooked guys in a secondary that features five-star recruits mixed with established veterans. Smith caught Jimbo Fisher's eye this spring working at boundary corner for the injured Xavier Rhodes. Smith suffered an injury of his own during camp, one he played through because the secondary was already banged up. Fisher praised Smith for his work ethic and skill, a combination that will give the redshirt freshman some stocked credibility on the practice fields. Sure, much of the Seminole secondary is multiple, but any time a player has skill and the head coach's attention, that player will get a chance.
Tyler Hunter, defensive back
Tyler Hunter is another young gun with an opportunity to gain unexpected reps in the secondary. Hunter was already considered a candidate to land the nickel corner job, an opening that existed before Reid's dismissal. Now his opportunities are only greater.
Given Hunter's recent social media faux pas, however, there is a question about how much supplementary discipline the sophomore will be subject to in addition to his educational work with the Florida State Police Department. Hunter's case is simple: stay out of trouble and he'll have plenty of chances to assert himself on the depth chart.
Cason Beatty, Punter
Admittedly this pick is a cheap out. Of course the team's scholarship punter is going to have his share of camera time in the fall.
The point remains though that Cason Beatty will replace what many considered (including this writer) to be the nation's top punter in 2011. There's no pressure on the freshman, only that he'll be counted upon a handful of times to win field position in what is a pivotal season for the program.
Giorgio Newberry, Defensive End
We know all about what the Seminoles' returning veterans bring to the table at defensive end. We also have heard plenty about a recruit named Edwards who will be sporting the helmet of his father starting next week.
Lost in the shuffle is redshirt freshman Giorgio Newberry, who at 6-foot-6, 278 pounds is a hefty edge rusher in his own right. With Dan Hicks' defection from defensive end to tight end this spring, there are game reps to be had behind Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. Whether it will be the Mario Edwards or Newberry remains to be seen, but there's no question defensive coordinator Mark Stoops will rotate at least four players in the defensive end segment.
Terrance Smith, Linebacker
There has been some shuffling at linebacker in the wake of Nigel Bradham's graduation. While the story is still the same in the middle with Vince Williams and Telvin Smith figuring to split game reps, junior Christian Jones has moved from the strong to weak side and former safety Nick Moody slides up to play on the strong side.
Starting roles seem to be solidified heading into camp, but consider Terrance Smith one of the 'insurance' options on the roster this fall. Who is to say at this point that the Moody experiment will be a success? What happens if one or any of the top four guys go down to injury? Questions like these, in addition to the attrition of a typical fall, mean a fifth linebacker will see the field for meaningful plays at some point. In that scenario, Terrance Smith is a leading candidate for such a role.
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