Aug. 20, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The education of Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews’ unit continued Thursday morning on the practice field, during a three-hour practice in full pads.
FSU’s veteran offensive line and aresnal of skilled-position players has made for some long preseason practices for a defense that has at least a dozen freshmen or sophomores with limited experience running with the first- and second-team units.
“We’ve tried to tell our freshmen from day one that we’re not going to coach them like they’re freshmen … like you have a redshirt year,” Andrews said. “We can’t do that. We’ve got to get you ready to play.
“We’ve still got some maturing we’ve got to do. And we’ve got some juniors and seniors that have got to mature, too.”
So while Andrews is trying to teach a host of players expected to see their first significant action, he’s also trying to evaluate personnel needed to fill at least five new spots in the starting lineup, not to mention implement scheme and game plan changes.
“We’re not as fundamentally sound as we need to be,” Andrews said. “We’ll make a play or two and you couldn’t ask for more. Then, all of a sudden, you look around there and nobody’s feet are moving toward the line of scrimmage on a running play. We don’t play a read-and-react defense. We play attack and we don’t have 11 people doing that every time the ball’s snapped right now.”
While Andrews acknowledges the Seminoles have “some time left” to pull things together before the Sept. 7 opener against Miami, he’s pushing every button to hasten the pace of development. As a result, the first-team defense “earned” the opportunity to get additional repetitions Thursday after the first- and second-team offense moved the ball efficiently coming off the goal line, and in its 3-minute offense drill.
“The offense has not come to us a single time and said, ‘You all are too tough on us. You’re playing too hard,'” Andrews said. “Until we start doing that, we’re not playing tough enough.
“We’ve got some guys getting better. We asked them to take one thing and improve on it today, and I think some of them did. If we play like we practiced today, we’re going to be asking our offense to score too many points against a good football team to win.”
Middle linebacker Kendall Smith had a pass break-up and Jamie Robinson came up to stop quarterback EJ Manuel at the line of scrimmage for the only plays the offense failed to move the ball coming off the goal line. Quarterback Christian Ponder completed 3-of-4 pass attempts for 74 yards in a five-play touchdown drive in the 3-minute drill. Jarmon Fortson scored on a 35-yard catch-and-run play, set up by Bert Reed’s 30-yard reception. Manuel led the second team into the end zone in just three plays – a 10-yard completion to Taiwan Easterling and a 65-yard touchdown connection with freshman wideout Willie Haulstead.
Haulstead left the secondary in his wake one play after cornerback Dionte Allen broke up a Manuel pass intended for him along the sideline.
One day after yielding four touchdowns on four plays in the practice-ending goal line drill, the defense came up with two stops. Sophomore tailback Ty Jones was stopped for no gain as senior defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart led the push, before scoring from 1-yard out. Freshman tailback Lonnie Pryor was momentarily stopped in his tracks behind the line of scrimmage by linebacker Nigel Bradham, before he churned his way to a 3-yard touchdown run for the second-team offense. The defense finished on a high note by stuffing Tavares Pressley for no gain on the final play of practice.
“It’s a learning process, but we’re just missing a lot of tackles and over-running (plays); small stuff that can be corrected,” Stewart said of the defense’s slow development. “We’ve just got to put it all together. … That’s why we’re getting it corrected right now, so we can get ready to play Miami.”
“When they get tired and get hurt, I can’t find a senior right now,” said Andrews. “But we’re still encouraging them. We’re letting them think about it while they’re running.”
Stewart said it is the veteran’s responsibility to step up to that challenge.
“I feel like we’ve got to step up (executing) our assignments,” he said. “We can talk about it all day, but when you look yourself in the mirror, you’ve got to be doing the right things so the other guys can look up to you. We’ve got to set an example – set a standard – for the younger guys, so they can see how it’s done.”
Practices trimmed to one
After a grueling workout in Thursday’s morning heat, the coaching staff opted to call off the evening session that was originally scheduled.
“The NCAA gives you so many practice days, so we’d be one over if we took them all,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden explained. “Somewhere along the line we’d have to give them a practice off. They probably could use it.”
Greenlee undergoes knee scope
Redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Antwane Greenlee underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee Thursday morning at the Tallahassee Orthopedic Center. Dr. Steve Jordan removed two bone chips and determined that Greenlee has suffered a third-degree sprain of his medial collateral ligament (MCL).
“It’s exactly what we thought it was,” said Randy Oravetz, FSU director of sports medicine, who will oversee Greenlee’s rehabilitation and monitor his progress.