Aug. 7, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In the NFL, "cap room" and "free agent" are terms as common as "first down" and "field goal." In college football, not so much.
Despite that, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher mentioned both Monday when talking about a current Seminoles player and it made perfect sense.
When asked about tight end Kevin Haplea, who officially joined the team late last week after transferring from Penn State, Fisher compared his addition to something that happens in the NFL every off-season.
"It's like getting a free agent; at the end we had cap room," Fisher said.
Haplea was a "free agent" because of the sanctions placed upon the Nittany Lions that allows any their players to transfer schools without having to sit out a full season.
Haplea was one of a handful of players that elected to take advantage of this rare exception, choosing to reach out to Florida State -- a program he was familiar with after being recruited by the 'Noles a few years ago.
"He called us. We didn't go after any of the Penn State players and we're not going to, but he was a guy that we recruited out of high school," Fisher said. "He was someone we really liked. We were one of the schools that he was interested in if we showed interest in him. We looked at our situation, we had a scholarship, we evaluated film and he started at different times as a freshman and sophomore."
Haplea, who is now wearing No. 33 for the Seminoles and took part in the team's first practice of the year Monday, joins a depth chart that already has starter Nick O'Leary, converted defensive end Dan Hicks, redshirt sophomore Will Tye and freshman Christo Kourtzidis.
It's impressive depth but there isn't much experience. O'Leary, Hicks, Tye and Kourtzidis have played in a combined 17 games at tight end for the Seminoles while Haplea comes to Tallahassee after playing in 26 contests over the course of his two-year Penn State career.
Not only does he bring a veteran quality to the team but he is also a proven blocker, having helped the Nittany Lions produce back-to-back 1,000-yards rushers in 2010 and 2011 -- a trait that is a welcome addition for an FSU team focused on achieving a bounce-back year from its running game.
"He's a quality player, great guy and we loved him out of high school, great student, great guy," Fisher said. "To me it was a no brainer. We didn't want and go pick players, but we knew him and I thought it would be another big athletic body that we thought can affect and help us win.
"He's played in a lot of big time games and environments, he can run, block, catch and do a lot of things."
FSU WILL 'PLAY IT BY EAR' WITH MCDANIEL
Florida State's talent and depth at defensive tackle is a luxury in more ways than one.
Not only are the 'Noles deep enough at the position that defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins can consistently rotate fresh bodies in and out of the lineup over the course of the season, but the sheer number of capable players in the middle allows the coaching staff to play it cautiously with senior Jacobbi McDaniel.
After sustaining a serious leg injury at Duke last season that cost McDaniel the rest of his junior year and all of spring practices, Fisher said late last month that the former five-star recruit's rehabilitation process was progressing successfully but that he wasn't yet back to full health.
Monday at the team's weather-shortened first practice of fall camp, McDaniel was in attendance and in action with the rest of his teammates. But how much he participates once the pads are put on Saturday and the real hitting begins remains to be seen.
"We'll play it by ear because he does have that redshirt year and that's only fair to him," Fisher said. "He's an outstanding guy, he's a great player and leader and I think he has a chance to be an NFL player. We'll see where he is at that time."
Because McDaniel has played in each of the three seasons he's been in Tallahassee and therefore still has the ability to sit out a season and retain a final year of eligibility, Florida State can maintain that wait-and-see approach without much pressure thanks to its depth.
Missing McDaniel for the season obviously wouldn't help the Seminoles but it wouldn't hurt them either. And with Anthony McCloud, Everett Dawkins and Moses McCray all playing in their final seasons in 2012, it would bolster FSU's depth with a proven veteran in 2013 that otherwise wouldn't have returned.
In the meantime, McDaniel will continue to practice and prepare as if he's going to suit up and play Sept. 1, with a final decision on his immediate future -- redshirt or no redshirt -- set to take place at a later date.