Aug. 7, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As the Florida State football team slipped into shells for the first contact of the preseason Saturday evening, the competitive spirit of the team came out.
The sounds of shoulder pads popping and whooping and hollering after a play was made filled the air as the Seminoles raised their level of play over the second half of the two-hour workout on the turf field. The `Noles were originally scheduled to practice in the heat of the day but severe weather led the coaching staff to push the workout back to 6 p.m.
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“I really liked it on both sides,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “A guy would get his butt kicked and would turn around and have to make a play and he’d make a good play. Then another guy would turn around and make a good play. The intensity level, the second half of practice especially, was very good.
“The attitude and playing physical, I like. We were physical today and I like it.”
There were battles all over the field as the practice came to a close with team drills and some 7-on-7 work. Few battles were better than the competition between defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ revamped secondary and a receiving corps that has improved its talent base with youngsters who are pushing the veterans.
“The secondary is real good,” said junior wide receiver Taiwan Easterling. “The defense is really stepping it up with the different coverages they’re throwing at us and the intensity they’re bringing to the game. They’re going all out. As an offense, we’re running our routes and competing, also.
“We’re all competing for spots, playing as team and pushing each other. You can tell the change in the whole team vibe. Coach talks about being together and I feel like we’ve come a long way.”
And the competition within the squad is something that excites Fisher.
“Guys are pushing each other,” Fisher said. “That’s what makes good football players. You know if you have a bad day and don’t step up, someone is going to take your job. And if you get a job, it’s not yours. You’ve got to keep performing every day. If they all play well, we’re going to find a way to play them all.”
Sophomore cornerback Greg Reid made a handful of pass breakups, knocking a Christian Ponder a pair of potential TD passes away from wideout Rodney Smith. Smith, however, made a handful of plays on his own, including a nifty sideline route, where he grabbed the pass and raced up-field for a score.
Redshirt freshman cornerback Xavier Rhodes had several pass breakups, including one that denied Willie Haulstead a score at the pylon. Lamarcus Joyner also broke up a big gainer intended for Kenny Shaw. Still, Haulstead, Shaw, Smith and Bert Reed all came up with big scoring the plays, evening the score for the offense.
Fisher heaped praise on the corners and the secondary as a whole.
“Every time one doesn’t [make a play], two more make plays,” Fisher said. “There’s a lot of good young players out there and older players. The older guys are playing good and the young guys are pushing. There are a lot of guys being aggressive and using their eyes well.”
Sunday’s Fan Day, from 12-2 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Center, will be followed by an open practice beginning at 4:30 inside Doak Campbell Stadium. Admission and parking are free for both events.
“It’s a practice for us,” said Fisher. “It’s a show for everybody else. We’re coming out there to get better.”
Fisher doesn’t have any qualms with giving FSU fans a taste of what is going on behind the scenes.
“I just think a base practice early in the spring – running base plays – it just gives fans a vision of everybody and an appreciate what these kids go through and how hard a practice is and what they do,” he said. “It lets the fans get a little closer to them and see what it’s like to be out there. I think it’s good to educate them and what’s wrong with that.”