March 2, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State played a lot of freshmen last year but of the handful of first-year players that sat out and took redshirts in 2011, Kelvin Benjamin may be the most intriguing.
A consensus four-star recruit and one of the nation's top high-school wide receivers, Benjamin came to FSU with a lot of immediate-impact expectations because of his above-average size and dominating prep career.
But the Belle Glade native had to shed pounds and get better acclimated to the college game once he moved to Tallahassee. After a full season watching from the sidelines and a strong showing during Fourth Quarter drills, the 6-foot-6 pass catcher looks poised to make his mark on a deep wide-receiver depth chart once spring practices start March 19.
"[Benjamin is] making progress," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "Understanding how to finish, understanding how to press all the time. Has gotten himself in really good shape now that he can control that body. He's staying in that low 240s now and that's where he's going to be in that low 240 range. Liked his progression. Still has work to do but he understands that, but I like his attitude.
"School has been going well and he's getting where he needs to get to."
Fisher, Benjamin's teammates and the media that gathered Thursday to watch the Seminoles' work out aren't the only ones that have taken notice of the progression.
Last week, ESPN.com national college football writer Mark Schlabach was in town to work on a Florida State football story and to cover the highly-anticipated FSU-Duke men's basketball game.
Schlabach tweeted before the start of the basketball game, "Forgot to mention I watched #FSU offseason workouts earlier this week. I'll be stunned if Kelvin Benjamin isn't a star in 2012. He's sick."
Seven days before Schlabach's Twitter praise of Benjamin, another national college football writer said FSU's mammoth receiver was one to pay attention to this spring. Even though he hadn't seen Benjamin in person, CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman wrote in his blog that the redshirt freshman is one of 10 "most intriguing freshmen" entering offseason practices.
"EJ Manuel should have some very good options to throw to in 2012," Feldman wrote here. "The only target FSU loses is Bert Reed, but they gain the super-sized Benjamin in his place. Coaches say Benjamin is up to 245 pounds on his 6-5 frame and he still has the athleticism to get away from DBs and go up and make acrobatic catches in traffic."
A LOOK AT THE SAFETY POSITION
Despite the change at that position, it will be one player's job to lose once practice starts in a few weeks.
"Terrence Brooks is your starter coming back," Fisher said. "Terrence is a big-time player, now. Athletic, sub 4.4, makes a lot of plays and has great ball skills."
Battling with Brooks will be sophomore Karlos Williams, who is also a starter at kick returner.
Williams broke his wrist in the Seminoles' win at Florida and consequently missed the Champs Sports Bowl victory over Notre Dame. The speedy defender still had a brace on his right wrist at Thursday's workout but is nearly back to full health and expected to push Brooks in what should be a competition worth following throughout spring and into fall camp later this year.
"He's about 228, 229; can't be less than that ... can't be it's just how big he is," Fisher said about Williams. "He's running extremely well. He's gotten back in shape now good too. He'll have a great chance to compete at safety."
There was talk this offseason that Williams might move to offense because of the flashes of brilliance he showed with the football in his hands as a freshman on special teams.
But when Fisher announced several position changes early last week -- Moody to linebacker, Cameron Erving from defensive tackle to offensive tackle and Dan Hicks from defensive end to tight end -- Williams was not on the list of switches.
"We looked at it with who we have coming in, where we are and let [Williams] stay there and let him have a shot to win that job," Fisher said. "Because with moving Nickup, you want to make sure you have enough guys because you're in nickel and dime a lot of the time."
Both Manuel and running back Chris Thompson have been working out with the team in preparation for spring practice and both will compete once the session starts.
Thompson's availability is impressive considering the injury he sustained last year. At Wake Forest, FSU's then-starter at tailback fractured two vertebras in his back and was lost for the season and potentially longer.
But despite the scary injury, Thompson's rehabilitation -- a process that forced him to wear a back brace -- has him in position to make his return to action.
"It was great to see him back out there," Fisher said. "We give him a break here and there because he hasn't done it in about a year, but when he goes it looks like the old Chris again. That explosion, we've just got to hope that the back maintains. The healing process so far has been very good."
In Manuel's case, his injury wasn't nearly as visible as Thompson's. FSU's starting quarterback sustain a fractured fibula in the bowl game but still played to the end of the win.
"EJ will be fine," Fisher said. "We ain't going to press it and chance it. He'll be ready for spring. He's healed up good, all the X-rays came back super and he's been great."