TALLAHASSEE — Before the season, few would have thrown Florida State QB Christian Ponder's name into the mix of possible early entries into the 2010 NFL draft.
But the redshirt junior, who is in his second season as the Seminoles starter and already has his undergraduate degree, is putting up numbers that might give him name recognition in April and make the draft tough to pass up.
"Obviously after the season, I'll take an evaluation (from the NFL) and see what happens and make a decision after that," he said. "I see myself playing here next year, but we'll see what they say and what happens. There's a chance of either way."
Through eight games, the dual-threat Ponder (who bruised his ribs last weekend and may not be running as frequently or as effectively on Saturday at Clemson) is averaging 327.38 yards of total offense, which is third in Division I-A. His average of 306.63 passing yards is fifth nationally. He's also 13th in passing efficiency. He was named a semifinalist on Wednesday for the Maxwell Award, after making it onto the watch list only last week.
"I think he can do some great things in the future here," offensive coordinator/QB coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They keep talking about the hype and the season he's had, that he'd be a Heisman guy and player of the year (candidate next year). He can be a phenomenal player … and put us back right on top, I really believe that. But if it's best for him to go, I'll be the first one to kick him out the door."
Individual honors would be nice, but it's the possibility for team success that Ponder said is foremost in his mind. Now and, possibly, in the not-too-distant future.
"The biggest thing that would bring me back is we'd have a lot of potential next year as a team; I think we can get to that national championship level," he said, adding that another dozen or so starts in 2010 would only help prepare him better for the NFL.
On that score, FSU coach Bobby Bowden would agree.
"Ponder, to me, is on the verge of being a celebrity and it's according to, does he want to try to climax that college experience or not," said Bowden, who could be back for a final year in 2010 and would like nothing more than the chance to end on a high, something that's more realistic with a veteran QB. "Everette Brown chose not to climax that; he could have been maybe the defensive player of the year. … Knowing him (Ponder), I would think he was leaning on staying no matter what."
Staff changes and recruiting: Now that defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has officially said he will retire at the end of this season, the Seminoles face the task of replacing him (and possibly other assistants if the new coordinator wants his own guys) and cobbling together a badly needed top-shelf recruiting class.
"We've all been waiting for the domino game to be played; well, here's the first piece," Jamie Newberg, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said of FSU's expected staff change. "It's got to unfold. In my opinion, the sooner the better for recruiting. … Sure, Florida State could have lost traction with a bunch of guys, but they still have plenty of time to make things up."
Caz update: Senior TE Caz Piurowski, the former Land O'Lakes star who saw his breakout season end last month when he tore the ACL in his right knee, said that last week's surgery went "better than expected" and seems incredibly upbeat.
"There's nothing to be gained by pouting about it," said Piurowski, who will be graduating in December. "I'm going to make the best of the situation and the most of the opportunities in front of me."
Piurowski, who was hearing he could be picked in the top half of the NFL draft, is unlikely to be full speed by the NFL scouting combine Feb. 24 to March 2 in Indianapolis. Given the timetable his doctors gave him, he said he's shooting to work out for individual teams instead.
He said it: "We do want to kind of send him (Andrews) out on top or just send him out on a good note so everything won't be sour. So that is motivation for us; (for) what he means to us and just how much we have learned from him, It's kind of like wanting to do something for him." — Senior S Jamie Robinson on the goal for the rest of the year for the uncharacteristically struggling defense.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347. Read his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/seminoles.