Aug. 14, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - It was back to the practice field Saturday afternoon for the Florida State football team, where the focus was on correcting mistakes from Friday's scrimmage and individual improvement.
"We had a good day," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said, after cutting the workout short by about 15 minutes.
Fisher was not pleased with the performance of the Seminoles' offense during Friday's scrimmage, but did heap praise on the defense.
"Things are never as bad as they seem, and they're never as good as they seem," said Fisher. "It (was) just a matter of taking care of the football. We put the ball on the ground a couple of times yesterday. And it's making plays with it. The defense made some good plays and we did some good things (on offense), too...
"Generally right now, you're defense is usually ahead of your offense, even though people say we have an experienced offense. But I've been telling people we're pretty good on defense. We've got a first group that's pretty daggone good and they're understanding, they're playing hard and we've done a pretty good job coaching them."
The same can be said of FSU's special teams unit, under the direction of coordinator Eddie Gran. Fisher has repeatedly said since spring practice that he expects the Seminoles to be very good on the special teams units and that group did not disappoint during Friday's scrimmage.
Punter Shawn Powell continues to impress with his strong leg and improved hang time. Kicker Dustin Hopkins converted a pair of field goal attempts and boomed a pair kickoffs, high and deep. And while the `Noles did not do any live return work, they have a known commodity there in sophomore Greg Reid, who led the nation in punt returns in 2009.
"I like our kickers," said Fisher. "Hopkins has good range on kickoffs and field goals. Shan has a great leg. We've got athletic guys that can cover. At long snapper we've got three guys battling (Chris Revell, Dax Dellenbach and Philip Doumar) who are doing a good job, and we've got great return guys. Greg Reid is one of the best guys in the country. In terms of where you start on offense and defense, the field position can make a huge difference."
Powell is capable of changing the field position game quickly with his powerful right leg and improved hang time. During Friday's scrimmage he routinely booted the ball in the 45-50 yard range with hang times approaching five seconds.
"We had a team meeting earlier," Powell said after Saturday's practice. "(Coach Gran) called out the distances and hang times. All of them were around 4.7 to 4.8, so he was really excited about it."
According to Powell, those averages are about a full second better than a year ago, when he still managed to rank as the ACC's No. 2 punter in league competition.
"My goal is to keep it up there," said Powell. "Every punt, I go out there I want it to be 40-55 yards and over a 4.0"
Gran places a premium on precision execution from his specialty units and isn't skimping when it comes to personnel at his disposal. Veteran starters like Nigel Bradham, Jermaine Thomas and Ochuko Jenije - all of whom are among the team's best athletes - are vying for starting roles on special teams units.
"Special teams have a big impact on games," said Bradham, the team's leading tackler last season, who is working with the starters on the punt and kickoff returns units. "We know we can win at least four games on special teams. When you've got great returners like Greg Reid, Lamarcus (Joyner) and Bert Reed, any chance we get we know they can score a touchdown. ... We've got a great kicker and a great punter."
In short, Fisher and Gran have the Seminoles buying into the idea to the team concept.
"Sometimes it's not a matter of how far you kick it but how far you have to go to make a tackle down there," Fisher said. "That's a team concept. That's not a selfish thing and Shan's buying into that. His leg is strong and he can be a weapon for us."
Hopkins, whose 24 touchbacks ranked fourth nationally last season as freshman, is also focusing on improved hang time with his kickoffs. Likewise, he feels as if he has improved his leg strength for longer field goal attempts, after going 8 of 14 from beyond 40 yards.
Like Powell, Hopkins has high praise for Gran.
"He's a perfectionist on everything," Hopkins said. "He takes things to a new level. He doesn't want to be good. He wants to be great."
With teammates like Powell and Reid setting the bar with their special teams excellence, Hopkins has plenty motivation.
"If I can keep up with those two guys I think we're going to be in really good shape," he said.
The Seminoles will get their first practice day off since camp began Sunday, which is a welcome relief for the players. "They're banged and bruised, but their attitude is good," said Fisher. "They come out with smiles on their faces. If we told them they have to practice tomorrow they'd do it. They need to get some film work in."...Starting offensive linemen Andrew Datko, David Spurlock and Ryan McMahon did not practice, but worked on conditioning during Saturday's practice. They are expected back on the field as early as Monday...Fisher said having a few linemen banged up has helped assess the progress of the reserves like Garrett Faircloth, Blake Snider, Bryan Stork, Rhonne Sanderson and Henry Orelus. "Those guys are stronger, bigger and they understand what they're doing more. It's a blessing, even though it's frustrating when some of your guys are banged up."...The Seminoles are scheduled for a two-a-day session Monday with the first practice walk-through beginning at 9:15 a.m.