Aug. 9, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Now Jimbo Fisher is just spoiling the local media.
For the second time in three days, Florida State's football coach elected to hold an open practice, with reporters permitted to stand on the sidelines, shoot video and take photos, and watch the proceedings of another day of fall camp for the Seminoles.
Unlike Tuesday, however, when practice was open from start to finish in the late afternoon, Thursday's session started at 5:30 a.m. -- a change in scheduling aimed at sidestepping the routine Tallahassee thunderstorms that have been so commonplace the last few weeks.
"If it rains everyday from 12-7, you've got to go at 5:30," said Fisher, whose team also practiced Wednesday morning before the crack of dawn and may continue to do so. "There isn't no other alternative. I hate it because of getting your kids in bed and your meeting times and it does rearrange your whole schedule -- especially when you're still in school. But you've got to practice. We wouldn't have been able to practice the last two days if we would have practiced at the normal time.
"You have to do what you have to do."
And what the 'Noles did was practice in shells for the second time this preseason.
Here are some observations from the two-hour session, broken down by position groups:
Clint Trickett continued to operate as the No. 2 quarterback with Jacob Coker working with the third team. Because of this, Trickett is on the far field alongside Stadium Drive for many of the late-practice drills. It's on that field that the 2s and 4s compete against each other whiles the 1s and 3s go at it on the middle of FSU's three practice fields.
In 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 drills, all five of FSU's quarterbacks are on the same field for what is always a spirited competition between offensive and defensive players.
Starter EJ Manuel had some nice connections with Rodney Smith, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent and Rashad Greene while Coker hooked up with Kelvin Benjamin on a perfectly executed out-pattern towards the right sideline.
Freshmen Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston continue to show flashes of potential while also going through the typical growing pains of being new to a complex offensive system. And through the first few days of practice, Fisher likes what he sees."
"Very talented. They've got great arm talent," Fisher said. "Picking things up as they go. There's a lot going at them ... I'm glad we've got them."
Chris Thompson continues to impress with his speed, vision and on-a-dime cutting ability out of the backfield -- all traits that made him so dangerous before his season-ending injury at Wake Forest last year. He had a few really nice runs Thursday, continuing what has been a great start to his final fall camp.
While the battle between him, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Jr. will continue to wage on with depth-chart positioning on the line, Thompson was the clear-cut No. 1 Wednesday as Freeman worked the latter part of practice with the second team.
"Very comfortable with those guys," said Fisher, who complimented all the performances of all three 'backs after practice.
FSU has all the talent -- and depth -- in the world at wide receiver but Fisher said that he would have liked to see more consistency from the group as a whole. He wants to see less drops and more precise routes.
He also wants to see his pass catchers make more of an effort to go up and get the football.
"Ball's in the air," Fisher said, "it's our ball."
"That's the way the game goes," Fisher said. "Look at all the great players in the league. Why is Calvin Johnson, Calvin Johnson? Because he jumps over people. He takes balls away. Of those, how many yards did he have [last season]? Thirteen hundred? I bet 600 of them were average to below average throws. That joker just made plays ... But we have those guys who are capable."
Benjamin has shown an early ability to be one of those guys, using his 6-foot-6 and 238-pound frame to out-jump and out-muscle defenders for the football.
Benjamin showed Thursday what has been a common theme for him so far in 2012: more burst, better quickness and an overall better feel for what the offense is doing each play.
"I like where he's coming [from]," Fisher said. "I like his attitude and the way he's pushing himself right now."
He's often overlooked when talking about FSU's wide receiver corps but Dent did enough Thursday to catch Fisher's eye. The true junior has been wearing a no-contact blue jersey for the start of camp because of a knee issue but that hasn't stopped him from showing some of the most consistent play at camp of any player on the roster.
"He didn't miss a rep," Fisher said. "Dadgum trainers had him on life support. Dadgum guys had me scared to death and he was out there. He ain't missed a rep. I thought he had a really good spring. I thought he had a really good summer from what guys were telling me and I've been really pleased with his work ethic. ... he's got a lot of big-play potential."
Shaw showed some of that same potential Thursday, hauling in a long touchdown pass in 7-on-7 drills that elicited some excited chanting from safety Lamarcus Joyner, who was watching from the sidelines.
Florida State continued Thursday to do what it did so much in the spring by getting the tight ends involved.
Whether it's two tight-ends sets or motioning Nick O'Leary, Kevin Haplea, Will Tye, Dan Hicks or Christo Kourtzidis to free them from blockers, it's evident that the 'Noles want the players at that position to be more involved this season.
The new-look line is just the next step in the fall-camp plan for the 'Noles, as they look for the combination of the five best players on the line while also continuing to build capable depth in the event that injuries -- like they did last season -- force the coaches' hands.
Stork has proven to be Florida State's utility man on the line through his career and looked good back at center.
"He's very strong in there," Fisher said. "More physical at 310 pounds. He had a good, solid day," Fisher said about Stork.
You know what you're going to get from FSU's top defensive linemen, as Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner, Timmy Jernigan, Cornellius Carradine, Anthony McCloud, Everett Dawkins and Co. are nightmares to block.
The story in camp at that position will continue to be what roles the freshmen play. Eddie Goldman was seen getting some snaps with the second-team unit and Fisher mentioned Mario Edwards, Jr. after practice as being someone that made some good early-morning plays.
Ronald Darby is a freshman that continues to turn heads as the second-team defensive back behind Nick Waisome at boundary cornerback. I saw him register an interception on Tuesday and Thursday he had a really nice pass breakup while guarding the taller Rodney Smith.
Afetr the play, Darby jumped and yelled, showing his excitement for making a great defensive play against a proven college football wide receiver.
"He's got a lot of ability, boy," Fisher said about the Maryland native.
Waisome is still the starter opposite Xavier Rhodes but it's not far fetched to think that Darby is making a push for that position as well.
As for Rhodes, he tweaked his repaired left knee early in practice and was hobbled most of the morning. His injury situation will be one worth monitoring as camp progresses. His backup is redshirt freshman Keelin Smith at No. 2 with freshman P.J. Williams rounding out the field cornerback spot at No. 3.
At safety, Joyner had an interception during one of the live drills off a ball that bounced off Jones' head.
Terrance Brooks is also the other starting safety but he got some work at nickel back as well.