By: Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
Graduation, attrition and injury affect every team in college football, but the Noles were dealt a strong dose of it this year. Coming into a highly anticipated season, the Seminole players looked up to the seniors for leadership. Three of these important seniors are now missing from the playing field on Saturdays.
Senior defensive end Brandon Jenkins is out for the season with a foot injury. Senior running back and current leading rusher, Chris Thompson, is also out for the season with an ACL tear that he suffered week 8 against Miami. Then there is senior cornerback and star punt returner, Greg Reid, who was dismissed from the school after some off the field incidents.
Brandon Jenkins, who passed up the NFL draft to return for his senior year, started his 2012 season as anyone would have expected; with a sack. Jenkins came out of the 1st game before halftime and he never returned. Luckily for the Seminoles, Tank Carradine is a force to be reckoned with in his own right. This senior erupted onto the scene to lead the Seminole defense in sacks and tackles for a loss. Carradine and junior Bjoern Werner lead the number one defense in the country and make up the most feared tandem of defensive ends in the nation.
The offense took an obvious step back when leading rusher Chris Thompson went down with a season ending ACL tear against Miami. Thompson was on pace to easily break the 1,000 yard mark, which has not been done since Warrick Dunn in 1996. Many thought that the senior would be easily replaced with one of the talented young sophomore running backs. Among this group of sophomores is Devonta Freeman, who was the leading rusher in 2011, when he replaced Thompson. Since the loss of Thompson, the rushing offense has seen a dramatic decrease in production, including a negative 15-yard performance last week against Virginia Tech. It is very evident that his injury has set back the entire offense.
Greg Reid was a highly touted recruit coming out of Valdosta Lowndes high school in Georgia. Reid immediately found playing time as the teams’ nickel back and star return man. He was electric at returning the football and became a household name around the southeast. After Reid was kicked off the team this summer the worry of replacing him was lingering. Many figured finding another athlete to return punts would be easier than replacing him at cornerback. Quite the opposite has happened though, as Nick Waisome and freshman Ronald Darby have been solid in replacing his vacant cornerback spot. On the other hand the punt returner spot is still a question mark for this football team.
The special teams have been down right horrible this season with missed field goals, two allowed blocked punts and horrible punting by a freshman punter. But in my opinion the glaring disappointment of the 2012 special teams unit is the lack of a sure-handed punt returner. What was a strength on the 2011 team is now a heart attack waiting to happen. The punt returner position has been a revolving door as no one can catch the dang football! Anyone that thought Greg Reid was overrated, or wouldn’t be missed on this team, I hope you have reevaluated your stance, as he never struggled to field punts.
Everyone understands that players get injured, or kicked off, or graduate and your program is left to pick up the pieces and start all over again, but imagine this team with those three players healthy. Would they have faltered against NC State? Would they be in the national title contention right now? No one will ever know, but it makes you wonder what could have been if we had “The Lost Ones.”
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