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Fresh Start



Aug. 16, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A fresh-legged Florida State football team hit the practice field Monday morning for the first of two workouts on the day and drew praise from coach Jimbo Fisher for its mental approach and effort.

"We came out and worked," Fisher said after the 2-hour, 15-minute session. "We had a day off so some of them got their legs back. ... For the most part the offense made some plays, the defense made some plays; we got better on some things."

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Two practices removed from Friday's defensive-dominated scrimmage, the Seminoles made enough plays on both sides of the football to encourage Fisher, who has liked the way both sides of the ball have answered challenges. It is just one tool he uses when evaluating his players.

"If they get beat on one play, how did they play the next play?" Fisher said. "I'd like to see a little more than that.

"We're making a lot of strides, but we're nowhere close to where we need to be. The guys are working, they're taking to coach and fixing things. They're not making the same mistakes every day."

Sophomore tailback Chris Thompson was glad to earn a practice reprieve Sunday, both physically and mentally.

"It felt real good," Thompson said. "We were able to get our bodies back. Just having that one day off gave us some time to get into our playbook and study more and to get our bodies back into shape."

Quarterback Christian Ponder was sharp Monday morning, especially in the mid-range passing game, where he consistently delivered the ball with velocity and accuracy. At the same time, the secondary held its own, especially in competitive situations, sticking with receivers and consistently denying the deep ball.

"I really like our secondary," said Fisher. "Our secondary is making a lot of progress. They're really doing some great things. Up front we're really learning to play a lot more with technique. Our backers are running to the ball. There's a lot more consistency on defense."

One of those secondary players, senior Ochuko Jenije, has been splitting time between cornerback and safety.

"I have played corner for the past four years so it has been a learning process," said Jenije. "I am looking forward to learning and just getting the job done and just try to get a spot. ...

"(The coaches) want to win. They want the best 11 on the field. They are moving things around and working things around and seeing what they can do to get the best 11 on the field."

Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops' unit has made tremendous strides, which Fisher has taken into account when assessing the offensive play.

"You've got to remember, you've got a hungry defense that's got a chip on their shoulders and they're ready to play," Fisher said.

That, however, doesn't keep Fisher and the coaching staff from pushing for more.

"I was a Michael Jordan fan for this one reason: If he was beating you by 20, he'd want to beat you by 40," Fisher said. "If he was up by 40, he'd want to beat you by 60. ... It's a mentality. Don't say, `I know, we can turn it on.' No. It's every day.

"They've got to understand the energy level and focus they've got to come out play with every day."

Jenije said the team's practice attitude has a lot to do with the improvement.

"We are just trying to have as much fun as possible," said Jenije. "We have been having a pretty good fall camp but we are not there yet. We have a long way to go. We have still got three weeks before Samford. We still have a long way to go but as of right now we are doing pretty good."

Monday's morning session was a good example.

"They didn't hold anything back," said Fisher, noting that isn't always easy to do when you're scheduled for two practices in a day. "They were flying around, doing things and they've got another one this afternoon. ... I like that part of them coming out today and hitting the field."

Noteworthy:

Redshirt junior cornerback Dionte Allen has voluntarily left the football team and been granted his release to transfer...Center Ryan McMahon and offensive guard David Spurlock returned to practice Monday. Offensive tackle Andrew Datko is expected back in action the next couple days...The Seminoles will practice Monday evening then return to the field Tuesday at 3 p.m...Friday is the annual Kickoff Luncheon, sponsored by the Alumni Association, at the Donald L. Tucker Center with doors opening at 11:30 a.m. and the program beginning at 12 noon. Tickets are $20 and available online at alumni.fsu.edu or by calling 850-644-2761.

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