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August 2, 2014

Five storylines to watch in FSU camp

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Football season is just about here, with Florida State kicking off preseason camp on Monday. As the Seminoles get ready to start their campaign for a second straight national title, here are a few of the biggest storylines to keep track of.

What will FSU's wide receiver rotation look like?

FSU's offense will remain plenty potent with Jameis Winston at the helm, plus an extremely experienced offensive line and a deep pool of talent at the skill positions. But it's still unclear at the moment how things will shake out with Winston's corps of receivers.

Kelvin Benjamin's role on the outside is still up for grabs, as is Kenny Shaw's slot receiver spot. Spring practice did very little to clear the waters there, and Jesus Wilson's offseason theft charge muddies the waters still further, even after the case was reduced to two misdemeanors. Jimbo Fisher said at ACC Kickoff that FSU's rotation will be determined based on which players can handle which roles, meaning if anyone masters the entire playbook, they'll see the field more often.

Veterans Scooter Haggins and Christian Green haven't locked up either spot, leaving the door open for sophomores Wilson, Isaiah Jones and Kermit Whitfield, plus freshmen Travis Rudolph, Ermon Lane and Ja'vonn Harrison.

Who will step up as a leader for FSU's defense?

The Seminoles' defense in 2013 was blessed with both prodigious talent and a number of outspoken leaders. Telvin Smith, Lamarcus Joyner and Timmy Jernigan were all vocal forces for FSU. The 2014 version of FSU's defense has every bit as much talent, but it's still not clear who will be the mouthpiece and fill the role Joyner, Jernigan and Smith left behind.

During spring practice, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. implied FSU would look for a leadership-by-committee strategy on defense, and Jimbo Fisher said during ACC Kickoff that FSU had more quiet leaders on the current roster. But there are some who will be heard - sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey has already been outspoken, and normally soft-spoken players like Terrence Smith and Tyler Hunter plan to do more of that as well during fall camp.

What about that defensive line?

FSU has plenty of returning defensive linemen on the roster, and many of them were highly recruited. But replacing a second-round draft pick in Timmy Jernigan is going to be difficult, not to mention the depth that FSU lost at the position. Edwards Jr. is an exceptionally talented player and will serve as an anchor for the line. Eddie Goldman has experience -- he started 13 games in 2013 -- and drew praise from the coaches during the spring. And Nile Lawrence-Stample was a part-time starter as well. But the hybrid linebacker-defensive end position is still up in the air, as are several of the top backup roles. Fall camp will be instrumental in sorting out the depth chart.

Punting remains the question

Florida State's most obvious weak point in recent years has been the punting game. FSU was dead last in the ACC in punting in 2012 and only 10th in 2013. While the Seminoles didn't really need high-level punting during their dominant 2013 campaign, accuracy on coffin-corner punts is something that Fisher does prize. Fisher hasn't harshly critiqued current punter Cason Beatty, but he has repeatedly said the punting game needs to find more consistency. Fisher's policy is that the best players will play, and if any of the walk-ons on the roster can legitimately beat out Beatty, Fisher probably won't hesitate to play them.

Which newcomers will stand out?

Oh, the freshmen. FSU's incoming class is chock full of potential contributors, from the mammoth Rick Leonard to the highly touted wide receiver trio (Harrison, Lane and Rudolph) to a host of offensive linemen who might vie for playing time -- most notably junior college transfers Kareem Are and Chad Mavety.

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