One of the most coveted traits for a sports team is to have a roster full of talented athletes. More specifically, one with athletes standing on the sidelines that are nearly as capable as those that are on the field. True functional depth is something that is extremely rare in college football. In most cases, the number two and three guys at a position aren’t capable of performing at or near the level of the starter. The backups will either have outstanding talent with little experience, plenty of experience with less talent, or in some unfortunate cases have less talent and little experience.
For a couple of reasons, the release of the Seminole’s tentative opening day depth chart raised a few eyebrows. Firstly, freshman Devonta Freeman was listed as the third back in a rotation expected to feature three running backs, ahead of senior and career rushing leader Jermaine Thomas. Secondly, returning ACC Defensive Rookie of The Year, Xavier Rhodes, was unseated from his position as starter at the boundary cornerback position by Mike Harris. The initial thought for most is “Have the incumbent starters been struggling? What happened?”. While that may be an understandable conclusion to draw, Coach Jimbo Fisher insist that this isn’t the case and views this as an expected condition of building a championship program. The fact that two notable returning players with big game accomplishments and experience are not guaranteed starting jobs is indicative of true functional depth and authentic inner-squad competition.
Both Jermaine Thomas and especially Xavier Rhodes are sure to see the field as much as anyone in 2011; But the significance here is that a clear message is sent to every player in the FSU program. Regardless of your past accomplishments or despite being the new face on campus, you have equal opportunity to lose or earn a starting role on this football team. While this may seem like an insignificant event, it does quite a bit for the psyche and motivation of every player on the roster. It proves to freshmen, who may be discouraged and somewhat intimidated by the daunting new challenge of college football, that if they catch on quick and truly outperform their veteran peers they can see the field. It proves to returning starters, who are sometimes prone to becoming complacent, that their job is never guaranteed and they must always stay on their toes.
It can be said that everyone wins when things are done this way. It inspires maximum effort accross the board, which typically leads to the best overall development of all players involved, ultimately helping the team become stronger. The drop off from first to second string becomes less of a blow or concern when the coaching staff and teammates are comfortable with either player being thrown into the fire. The Seminoles may not be there at every position just yet, but the above scenarios help to further illuminate the type of talent that has been stockpiled on the Florida State roster over the past few years.
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