April 5, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Luckily for the Florida State football team, the 13th and hottest day of spring practice, included a bit of a reprieve in attire. The Seminoles practiced in shorts, jerseys and helmets Monday; their next-to-last team practice before Saturday's Garnet & Gold game inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
"The attitude was pretty good today," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher. "For a hot day, the guys ran around pretty good."
FSU will hold its final practice Wednesday, before the highly-anticipated spring game.
"We're going to have a hard one," Fisher said. "We'll be in pads. We're gonna bang. We're gonna get some things on film; different looks that we can teach off of."
Still, there has been much discussion of Thursday's draft of players that will make up the spring rosters. Fisher said the draft will take place in his office, with the rising seniors handling the selections.
"That's the reward for being a senior," Fisher said. "We want to give them some ownership. It's neat to see how the guys draft and (take into account) the process of how to win a game. ... Somebody will GM-it and they'll have their scouts. You'll have to divide the seniors up and not let them load up (one team)."
Obviously, quarterback Christian Ponder will be a hot commodity on the draft board, and for good reason. Not only is Ponder one of the nation's top returning quarterbacks, Monday's practice further reinforced his steady improvement following shoulder surgery 4 ½ months ago.
On the heels of his 7 of 11 passing performance for 188 yards in Saturday's scrimmage, Ponder followed up with one of his best passing days of the spring.
"I think it was," Ponder said. "The good thing for me was to go out and have a good scrimmage and get the confidence back. It feels pretty good. There were a couple mistakes, but overall I thought I was pretty good."
So too were FSU's receivers, who were the target of Fisher's angst following Saturday's scrimmage.
"I could see a lot of improvement today," said rising sophomore wideout Rodney Smith, who was on the receiving end of several Ponder passes during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work Monday. "We barely had any dropped balls. Everybody had the right depth in their routes and everybody was aggressive.
"There's competition everywhere. Everybody wants a starting position and everybody is working hard. We have to push each other."
Ponder noticed the difference in the practice effort of those charged with reeling in his spirals.
"I thought they did well," Ponder said of the receivers. "It looked like they studied. They knew what their assignments were. They looked good and went and made some plays today."
"I've got to be the guy that's kind of the leader on the side; from me, it's encouragement," said Ponder. "I'm trying to push them positively. We're going to get there. I'm confident about it."
Smith has plenty of confidence in Ponder, who has taken virtually every significant snap with the first-team offense this spring while continuing his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery.
"The whole spring I haven't really seen a difference in the way he's throwing," Smith said. "He told us that he doesn't feel like he's 100 percent, but I really don't see a difference. He isn't scared to let it go; deep balls and everything."
Monday, those balls were on target with greater regularity; which may be one of the most encouraging signs as spring football winds toward Saturday's finale.