Aug. 11, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Through the first seven days of Florida State's preseason football camp, one element is coming into focus: Moving the ball against the Seminoles' defense has become a challenge.
"I thought the defense did some nice things," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said after Wednesday afternoon's practice. "Yesterday on the offensive side of the ball, it was pretty good. Now the defense is pretty good."
That's a pretty good sign for all parties as the Seminoles continue preparation for the Sept. 4 opener against Samford.
"The pieces are starting to come together for not only me, but the whole defense," said junior safety Terrance Parks. "I feel like we are starting to get more comfortable in what we are doing, and we are starting to use our vision more. I am starting to see a lot of things that I didn't before."
Vision is even more critical in Stoops' retooled zone scheme.
"It's been a different process since last year because last year we played a lot of man-to-man with our backs to the quarterback," Parks explained. "Now I have the opportunity to play with my eyes - looking at the quarterback - and have everything it front of me. It's been a process and I feel like I am getting better at. I am thankful that we have Christian, EJ (Manuel) and a great offense that gives me great looks so I can get used to it."
Parks parlayed that developing skill into a key fourth-down stop during 11-on-11 work in the two-minute drill at the end of practice. With the defense facing fourth-and-two, he came charging from behind wideout Rodney Smith on a curl route and hammered Christian Ponder's pass attempt into the ground.
"We had to get off the field," said Parks. "The offense, they ran a great play, but the guys up front on defense are the ones that allowed me to make that play [by applying pressure]."
Sophomore cornerback Greg Reid and freshman linebacker Telvin Smith also recorded pass break-ups. Reid closed the practice with an end zone interception as Ponder slightly overthrew Smith as the `Noles worked on a play with :01 remaining on the clock and the ball on the 20-yard line.
Junior tailback Jermaine Thomas, the team's rushing leader in 2009, said the defensive improvement is only going to make the Seminoles better on both sides of the football.
"It's a lot more competitive," Thomas said. "It used to be a lot easier (moving the football). With the coaching they're getting and every (defender) being in the right spots makes it a lot tougher on our side. We need that, so that the mistakes we might make and see in the film room, we'll try and get better. It's not going to do anything but help us even more during the season."
Powell finding the punting groove
Junior punter Shawn Powell continues to build on an outstanding spring practice, which culminated with an amazing performance in the Garnet & Gold game. Fisher has repeatedly talked about the importance of special teams play and Powell figures to be a major weapon when it comes to changing the field for the FSU defense.
"I think it's just all starting to click," said Powell, who ranks among the ACC's top punters and hopes to work his way onto the Ray Guy Award watch list in 2010. "Last year I was talking about getting more hang time, and once you see that spark and everything's feeling good, you just try to stay on that road. I felt that click towards the end of the spring and ever since then I have just been hitting the ball really well and getting a lot more hang time on it."
New special teams coordinator Eddie Gran has set some parameters for Powell to work within as he attempts to improve on last season's rock-solid 41.6 average.
"Coach Gran likes it really high and not too far," Powell said. "He loves that 4.5 hang time and about 45 yards. I have been working on that, tilting the nose of the ball up and trying to get more hang time and less distance.
Powell's credits the improvement to improved mechanics and a solid mental approach.
"Sometimes (last season) my motions were good, but it would feel like the ball didn't hit the right part of my foot. ... It's also is mental because it's just having fun. When you go out there and punt six balls and five or six of them turn over and go 60 yards, you can only smile and be happy about it."
The Seminoles worked out in full pads for just over two hours Wednesday in a practice that culminated with two-minute and situational drills...Though Fisher has continually reminded players not to tackle during practices, he took the wraps off long enough with a period of board drills - a tried-and-true test of strength and leverage. "We did some board drills and one-on-one blocking drills and it got pretty physical," Fisher said. "I'll tell you what, those new pups will put their nose on you."...The `Noles will hold their second two-a-day workout Thursday. Tuesday night's second session - in shells - came to a close about 15 minutes early due to lightning in the area...Fisher praised right tackle Zebrie Sanders, whom he said is playing as well anyone not named Rodney Hudson among the starters. "Besides Rodney, he's playing as good as anyone up front," Fisher said. "He's a different guy now. He's 307, strong. He actually looks bigger than that...He's not where we want him but he's starting to get there."...Offensive right guard Blake Snider earned kudos for his progress as he's filled in for incumbent starter David Spurlock. Held out of practice for the last three days for precautionary measures, Spurlock was back on the field getting some conditioning work Wednesday...True freshman quarterback Clint Trickett tossed three touchdown passes while directing the third-team offense during the practice-closing two periods. He followed up back-to-back scoring strikes to Bert Reed and Jarred Haggins with a 60-yard hook-up to Reed on a seam route...Sophomore wide receiver Willie Haulstead collected three receptions for 44 yards in the final two periods of practice.