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Aug. 7 Fall Camp Observations

Aug. 7, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State media members were treated to the rarest of treats Tuesday as 'Noles coach Jimbo Fisher elected to have an open practice for the duration of the hour an a half session.

Brandon Mellor
Brandon Mellor
Seminoles.com Managing Editor
bmellor@fsu.edu
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FSU's practices are typically closed after the first 20 minutes or so and that will continue to be the case. But Tuesday did provide a valuable and lengthy look at the early makings of the 2012 Seminoles.

Here are some observations from the practice fields, broken down by position:

QUARTERBACKS

Five deep at the position and loaded for the long haul, FSU's quarterback depth chart may be heavy on underclassmen but it's still clear who the main man under center is for the Seminoles.

In the early moments of practice, Fisher walked to the middle practice field and said to EJ Manuel, "You ready, boss?" Manuel's reply was simple: "Yes sir."

It is Manuel's team and it has been since last season. But more so now than then, he truly understands what it means to be FSU's leader both on and off the field. He looked good throwing the football and leading the offense Tuesday and I'm sure that will be the case throughout the rest of August and into the season.

Behind him, Clint Trickett continues to be the No. 2 quarterback with Jacob Coker at No. 3 ahead of Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire. Trickett had a really nice toss on go-route during one of the opening drills and Fisher made sure to express his pleasure at such a perfectly thrown ball.

RUNNING BACK

Florida State entered the 2012 campaign deep at tailback with four scholarship players at the position.

But Tuesday afternoon that depth took a hit when Fisher announced that freshman Mario Pender will have groin surgery and miss the entire season. Pender was in his practice gear Monday but was on the sidelines and in baseball cap rather than a helmet Tuesday.

[RELATED: FSU Sports Information Tuesday practice report]

Ahead of him on the depth chart, Chris Thompson and Devonta Freeman are both healthy after their own separate back issues. 

Thompson spoke with the media after practice and talked about how he feels better than he ever has at Florida State and is anxiously awaiting his participation in full contact drills for the first time since last October. (I will have a full feature story on Thompson this weekend after that first full-pads practice.)

“Him and Devonta, for guys that were sitting down with back issues, they’ve said their back have felt as good as they have in a long time, maybe even when they came in," Fisher said. "We’ve changed the training of them and how we did things behind the scenes. I was really pleased. Contact will make a difference, but that’s the first time they were out there and had bounce in their step and explosion.”

With James Wilder, Jr. and fullbacks Lonnie Pryor and Debrale Smiley both boasting backgrounds as running backs, FSU's depth at tailback is still a positive even with its newest member's season-ending setback

Tuesday, Thompson looked the sharpest of the FSU runners but Freeman and Wilder, Jr. both had their moments as well. Without Pender the 'Noles are simply one man down for the year but they certainly aren't lacking talent and big-play potential.

WIDE RECEIVER

FSU's top two receivers, Rashad Greene and Rodney Smith, got the brunt of the work on the first team Tuesday but redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin earned some snaps with the starting unit as well.

The 'Noles are deep and talented on the outside and have the luxury of plugging in guys here and there from up and down the depth chart depending on what the formation and call is on that particular play.

Freshman wide receiver Marvin Bracy looked every bit as fast as advertised but tweaked his hamstring during practice and limited the rest of the way.

“He twinged up there on a deep ball,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to get that right. I have to get him to remember this ain’t track."

TIGHT END

Kevin Haplea appears to be adapting nicely to his new team.

The former Penn State tight end and recent transfer took part in his first full practice as a Seminole and even garnered some first-team repetitions alongside Nick O'Leary in a two tight-end set.

Haplea is a in a battle with Will Tye, Dan Hicks and Christo Kourtzidis for the No. 2 job behind O'Leary.

OFFENSIVE LINE

FSU's first-team offensive line continues to be what it was to end the spring: Cameron Erving (LT), Josue Matias (LG), Austin Barron ( C ), Tre' Jackson (RG) and Bryan Stork (RT).

The 'Noles have increased depth at the position and it has resulted in more competition across the line, but those starting five seem unwilling in the early goings of fall camp to relent their starting spots any time soon.

“Everyone is pretty confident," Stork said. "We are feeling well about ourselves. We’re on a mission to turn everything around and we just got to take it a day at a time to get there.”

DEFENSIVE LINE

The same cast of characters that performed so well last season -- Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner, Antony McCloud, Timmy Jernigan, Everett Dawkins, and the list goes on -- were right back at it again Tuesday.

The real story has been the addition of some highly-touted freshmen. Mario Edwards, Jr., Eddie Goldman, Chris Casher and Justin Shanks are all fighting for playing time and will be pushing their way up the depth chart as best they can.

You can tell by watching them on the practice fields that FSU's young defensive linemen are intent on making an impact despite the number of stars in front of them.


Mario Edwards, Jr. was the nation's No. 1 prospect in 2012.


“You can just look at them and tell they can play," Manuel said. "I’ve heard Goldman probably has the quickest step out of all the D-linemen we have. I’m looking forward to seeing it -- not necessarily seeing it because they’re going to try to get me -- but he’s on my team so I’m not going to play.”

LINEBACKER

At linebacker, FSU's starting three remains the same from the spring with Nick Moody and Christian Jones on the outside and Vince Williams and Telvin Smith splitting repetitions in the middle.

[RELATED: Tuesday photo gallery]

On the second team, freshman Markuss Eligwe was seen taking snaps at middle linebacker along with Terrance Smith and Nigel Terrell. Reggie Northrup was in the mix on the outside as well.

SECONDARY

The battle is just heating up for the vacant cornerback position left in the wake of Greg Reid's dismissal. Nick Waisome began fall as the starter at one of the spots opposite Xavier Rhodes and he was there Tuesday. Freshman Ronald Darby and redshirt freshman Keelin Smith worked with the second team at both corner spots.

Darby looks like a freshman that is going to get some early playing time in year No. 1. He is fluid, instinctive and has a nose for the football. I saw him intercept a pass in one of the drills on the far field alongside Stadium Drive.

Behind starters Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, FSU's second-team safety unit Tuesday consisted of Tyler Hunter and Karlos Williams.

What the depth chart will look like a week from now is anyone's guess at each of the positions. But FSU possesses incredible depth across the board, and competition seems to be a common theme at every spot on the roster.


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