Aug. 8, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Of the 105 student-athletes competing for the Florida State football team during fall camp this month, few are more qualified to speak on the physical changes that have taken place to the practice fields than Bryan Stork.
The redshirt senior offensive lineman even has his own personal bit of memorabilia of what it used to be like just a few steps north of Doak Cambell Stadium.
"I used to be here when there were hills and Bobby's [coach Bowden] old tree," Stork said after the team' first day of camp Tuesday. "I've actually got a piece of that old tree. ... I watched the field go flat and now it's this. It's kind of different. It's kind of cool to be a guy who went from the last decade and into the changes in this decade."
The physical changes to the practice fields were preceded by a program overhaul as a result of Bowden's retirement and the appointment of Jimbo Fisher as head coach in time for the 2010 season. Fisher's direction for the program included many specific tasks from a shift in recruiting philosophy to an improved internal infrastructure to his hope to one day have an indoor facility that would prevent the 'Noles from missing valuable practice time in the lightning-friendly Tallahassee summer months.
"It will be very handy," Fisher said. "Walk-throughs, out of practice, during practice, in- season -- you'll be surprised how much it will be used in the off season for player development. There are a ton of things that it will be constantly used for."
Three days into fall camp and the Seminoles haven't yet dealt with lightning, but that doesn't mean the new Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility hasn't been utilized.
Quite the contrary in fact.
The Seminoles used to run through pre-practice drills, walk-throughs and stretch-and-flex periods outside before the official start of practice. But now -- rain or shine -- each of those activities is conducted inside the facility before the team ventures outside. By conducting each of those tasks on the artificial turf, the 'Noles no longer tear up the natural grass fields before practice has even begun -- an obvious benefit as the days and weeks wear on and the fields get worn out.
"I was here with the big bark tree over there," Shaw said on the first day of camp, pointing to a spot that now marks the 20-yard line on one of the two new outdoor fields. "Just walking into it [the indoor facility] I got a little dizzy because it was a little weird. I'm used to coming out here with the grass a little bit rough. Now we've got the indoor [facility] and everything.
"It's a blessing to have it."
Said senior safety Terrence Brooks: "I'm glad I got to experience it."
Odds and ends
-The Seminoles were in shells for the first time during fall camp Thursday as the 'Noles introduced a little "thudding" into the mix at practice.
-I continue to enjoy watching the way the defense runs some of its walk-through drills at the beginning of practice. The easiest way to explain what they do is to simply point out that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt doesn't want to waste a single repetition. While one man is running through his specific duties at the snap, there's another man standing right behind him that then does the same thing.
Think "follow the leader." Or better yet, check out the photo below:
-Fisher has talked a lot about cross training his players and the examples of that are evident already at fall camp. Two players I saw working in an unexpected group were linebackers Ukeme Eligwe and Ro'Derrick Hoskins, who have been seen doing lots of drills with the defensive ends.
-From the early look of it, there is a lot of exciting competition going on at punt- and kick-return.
While the Seminoles aren't practicing live punts or kicks yet, you still can see who is in the mix for the starting spots. Kenny Shaw is the guy at punt returner but early in practice when the players catch highly lofted balls that simulate a punt, Shaw is joined in the drill by Rashad Greene and freshmen Levonte Whitfield, Jesus Wilson and Ryan Green.
-Redshirt freshman Mario Pender made his first appearance at fall camp Tuesday and the speedy tailback looked ... well ... fast. Pender will have to go through an acclimation period before he is completely caught up on the two days he missed while Fisher waited on a grade to post, but it was good to see FSU's No. 3 running back back in the mix.
-While the news was good about Pender, there was also some bad new Thursday. Fisher confirmed that true freshman tight end Jeremy Kerr has a cartilage injury in his knee that will rquire surgery and keep him "out a good month or so." Luckily, Fisher said, it wasn't an ACL tear.
Kerr still has the chance to play this season but the same is not true for Willie Haulstead. Fisher announced that the redshirt senior wide receiver is academically inelgible, and therefore his collegiate career is over.