March 24, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - While Florida State's defense remains very much a work in progress, the sixth session of spring football practice produced a variety of big plays from a unit that is still in the early stages of grasping a new scheme. Leaping interceptions by linebacker Nigel Bradham and Jeff Luc, sacks by ends Markus White, Brandon Jenkins and Dan Hicks and a run-stuffing backfield drop by tackle Jacobbi McDaniel marked signs of progress during Wednesday's practice.
"The defense is starting to get things down," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said afterward.
Midway through the second week of implementing coordinator Mark Stoops' new plan, the defensive players are decidedly upbeat.
"We had some moments today where you could see the whole defense as a unit pretty much working together," said Bradham, the top returning tackler. "We had 12 plays straight with the (starters) where we had everything right. It's just the chemistry. We're communicating more. We're starting to learn our checks and adjustments."
One of those adjustments helped Bradham make the play of the day, a leaping interception of a Christian Ponder pass.
"We were in our base defense and I dropped back toward the weak-side hook (route)," Bradham explained. "Two wide receivers were coming across and I just read it right. I knew he was going to come inside some, so I cheated inside a little bit and just read the quarterbacks' eyes." The ball was thrown behind Bradham, who reached back with his right hand and pulled the ball down and into his chest as he hit the ground.
There was a lot of whooping and hollering in celebration; perhaps a sign of the contagious nature the new defensive coaching staff has brought to the program. "[Coach Stoops] is very, very enthusiastic about his job and what he is doing," said White. "He knows he is here to coach us and that is what he makes sure he does. Even in the meeting room he is jumping around and making sure he is getting his points across."
"It reminds me of high school at Lowndes," said cornerback Greg Reid. "The intensity here is great. Everyone is coming together and we are just working really hard."
Fisher attributes some of the excitement and enthusiasm to the players getting a grasp on the new system.
"They like what they are doing," Fisher said. "It's different for them. The first couple of days they were used to playing so much man. Now they're mixing man and zone and learning their drops and where they have to be and have got to do. You can see some guys that can run and make some plays. You can see their false steps are starting to go away and can see them gradually getting better and better."
One of the players who has caught Fisher's attention is rising junior free safety Terrance Parks, who is running with the first-team defense. A seldom-used reserve who has battled injuries for two seasons, Parks appears to be flourishing in the new scheme.
"I am pleasantly surprised and in a good way," Fisher said. "He is getting more consistent. He can run and can cover some ground. He plays with his eyes pretty well."
Parks has been rejuvenated with the arrival of the new staff.
"It's a real good feeling to be out there," said Parks, a one-time cornerback who has bought into the safety position. "[Coach Stoops] expects a lot out of me and I feel like it's my responsibility to know what I'm supposed to do and what everyone else is supposed to do. "It's been a long journey and I really appreciate where I'm at right now. I appreciate it, but there's nothing given to you. You've got to earn it."