August 14, 2009 - by
Defense Takes A Small Step Forward

Aug. 14, 2009




TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – One day after the Florida State offense peppered the defense with a wide range of big plays, veteran coordinator Mickey Andrews’ crew got a small measure of revenge – at least in Friday’s practice-closing 2-minute drill.

Under threatening skies, the Seminoles worked out for 2 1/2 hours in shells – shoulder pads and helmets – in preparation for Saturday’s first scrimmage of the preseason.

Andrews’ first- and second-team defensive units yielded too many yards, but salvaged a pair of shutouts, in part due to a quality pass rush and a handful of crucial plays in the secondary.

“Defense wins and that ain’t all that bad,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said, summing up the 11-on-11 work to close the day. “I nearly hate for one of them (offense or defense) to dominate right now. It makes you feel good about the one that’s dominating, but you’ve got to be wondering how you’re going to do on the other side of that ball. I’m glad to see (the defense) picking it up.”

Quarterback Christian Ponder completed 3 of 7 attempts for 34 yards while directing the first-team offense against Andrews’ patched-up first-team defense. Starting from its own 20 with two minutes set on the clock, the starters managed three first downs in eight plays – one on a defensive penalty – but failed to get beyond the defense’s 35-yard line. Linebacker Mister Alexander came up with a key third-down sack, while safety Nick Moody and defensive end Markus White kept Ponder on his toes with strong pass rushes.

Tailback Jermaine Thomas turned a screen pass from Ponder into a 20-yard gain; the longest of the series for the offense.

Andrews’ second unit was forced to defend 12 plays by the EJ Manuel-led offense, but came up with a handful of key plays. Linebacker Nigel Carr sacked Manuel for a six-yard loss on the first play and cornerback A.J. Alexander closed for a break-up of a Manuel pass, intended for freshman receiver Rodney White. Alexander’s deflection came one down after Manuel broke off a 14-yard run for a first down.

“(Terrell Buckley) told me when they sprint out to just get ready because they were going to throw it quick,” Alexander said. “When I saw them running out, I just ran towards the receiver.”

The break-up was a bit of redemption for Alexander, who found a way to come through at the end of a long, hot day on the practice field.

“I love football,” Alexander said, when asked about his resilience. “I know that everyone else is tired. … I know I can’t get tired because I want to win.”

Manuel did hook up with freshman receiver Josh Gehres for a 23-yard pass play and added a 12-yard completion to Richard Goodman. Redshirt freshman defensive end Toshmon Stevens swatted down a pass at the line of scrimmage, before Manuel found Taiwan Easterling for a 20-yard pass play to the 5-yard line with 24 seconds remaining.

Manuel, who was 4 of 9 for 57 yards, was incomplete on his final two pass attempts, both of which came under duress from Stevens.

“That was the best thing,” Andrews said of the two shutout series. “You give them 1 minute and they have to have a touchdown to win the game and your job is don’t let them score. We played we too many plays on the drive. We could have had it over in one play; we could have had it over in three plays. We either let them convert or gave them a first down on a penalty. … You can’t do that. It can’t happen.

“We’re too inconsistent to be a good defense right now.”

Still, the improved pass rush and end-of-practice tenacity shown on defense was encouraging.

“Overall we are coming together,” Markus White said of the defense. “We are learning as one. Everyone is coming together.”

Noteworthy

A different kind of two-back offense

You won’t hear sophomore tailback Jermaine Thomas or freshman Lonnie Pryor complaining about a lack of practice carries, at least into the near future. Thomas and Pryor are getting most of the carries with  junior Tavares Pressley, sophomore Ty Jones and freshman Chris Thompson on the mend.

 “They are getting some at-bats,” Bowden said of Thomas and Pryor. “I met with the freshmen this morning and I looked up to Lonnie and said, ‘Lonnie, would you have ever thought you’d be running second team?’ That (experience is) good, though, and he’s responded.”

Pressley and Jones are recovering from hamstring strains, while Thompson sprained his ankle Thursday.

The depleted running back corps has also led to some additional scrimmage opportunities for walk-on Nathan Brazeau and Daniel Gard.

Hudson adds another preseason honor

Junior left guard Rodney Hudson has gained plenty of attention nationally for his performance as a two-year starter and Friday he picked up another accolade. Hudson, a returning first-team All-ACC performer, was recognized by ESPN.com as a preseason All-American. … Former FSU standout tight end Reggie Johnson, who enjoyed a lengthy NFL career, visited Friday’s practice.

 

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