FSU welcomes doubters, won't lack for motivation for 2013

Florida State welcomes anyone who expects the team to take a step back this season.

Florida State is seven months removed from winning the ACC championship, its first conference football title since 2005.


And already, analysts have found plenty of reasons why the Seminoles won't repeat. No EJ Manuel. No Bjoern Werner or Tank Carradine. No Dustin Hopkins. Six new assistant coaches.


Senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner gives thanks to all of the summer chatter doubting that Florida State can repeat as Atlantic Division and league champion.


"We love that; we thank the nation for thinking that," Joyner said on Sunday at the ACC media days. "If you look at the past two recruiting classes, we have been in the top 5. We have set a standard around Florida State where we lose great players but we bring in another group that will fill those shoes."


Among those top recruits are members of the 2012 class -- quarterback Jameis Winston, who was the nation's top dual-threat quarterback, and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Winston, the top defensive recruit.


No transition is perfectly smooth, but Florida State is carrying an air of confidence going into 2013. The Seminoles may not be a top 5 team that is on everyone's preseason list to win the conference (let alone compete for a national title), but it isn't like the cupboard is bare.


Florida State (12-2 in 2012) returns seven starters on offense, including four on the line. The numbers appear slim on defense, where just four full-time starters return.


But Edwards started the final two games after Carradine's injury, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan had two starts early in the year (and 46 tackles), and Telvin Smith didn't start a game at linebacker but was third on the team with 64 tackles.


It's that kind of depth that underscores Joyner's point -- it's tough to lose a first-round pick at quarterback like Manuel, the nation's top pass-rushing duo in Werner and Carradine and the ACC's all-time scoring leader in Hopkins. But Florida State has depth.


The new starters will be put to the test right away, as Florida State opens at Pittsburgh on Labor Day. In a prime time game, the nation's college football fans will see if the Seminoles can fill those spots against one of the newest ACC programs.


"That's a great game to start off with," junior wide receiver Rashad Greene said. "That game will set the tone for the whole entire season. Those guys being an addition to the ACC, we plan to go up there and make it a good game. And we plan on winning."


After a few years of through-the-roof expectations, some of the projections are for Florida State to take a step back. And that's OK to the Seminoles, who welcome the doubts. They will smile, say thanks and use it as motivation.


"The ladder that we can climb has more room, so we can do more things without the pressure of feeling like we are going to fall," Joyner said. "We only can climb."


Contact Bob Ferrante at bobferrante17@gmail.com or follow on Twitter @bobferrante