Aug. 12, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With the onset of the second full week of preseason football camp, the Dog Days have officially arrived.
From Florida State football coach Jimbo Fisher’s perspective, they are a necessary evil; a time when he can best evaluate how players will perform – mentally and physically – under the most adverse conditions.
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“The first five days really don’t count,” Fisher said, following the first of two Thursday practice sessions. “Now they’re banged, they’re bruised, they’re hurt and we’re going to find out who can play football. Everybody can play when they’re fresh and healthy. …
“We’re going to find out who can endure, who can be counted upon; teammates are going to find out about the guy beside him and what he’s about. So far, so good. We’re getting there.”
The Seminoles completed their ninth practice in eight days Thursday morning under typical August-in-Tallahassee conditions – hot and humid. Fisher said this is about the time in camp where his serious evaluation of players begins.
Sophomore running back Lonnie Pryor has been through camp once before, so in theory, he knows what to expect.
“This is the part where everyone’s getting hurt, so we’ve all got to fight through it,” said Pyror. “We’re halfway there and he (Fisher) wants to see who is going to make it all the way through.”
In actuality, there have been very few injuries to this point, but that doesn’t mean the aches and pains haven’t seized control of the mind and body. In some respects, camp is twice as difficult for Pryor, who has to learn the plays for the tailback and fullback positions. That’s no easy chore when you can draw a direct parallel between the soaring temps and difficulty in the area of information retention.
“Honestly I can’t remember the first (preseason camp),” said Pryor, who arrived at FSU last summer as a wide-eyed freshman. “I’m probably not getting yelled at as much as last year, so that’s a good thing.”
Pryor credits improved conditioning – he has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle over the past year – for helping him through the tough times.
Sophomore free safety Jajuan Harley tells a similar story. Ill-prepared for the rigors of camp when he arrived last season, Harley never fully recovered after over-heating early on. It’s a different story this time around, now that he has been educated on the importance of nutrition and hydration by the FSU staff.
“It feels very good,” Harley said, noting the difference from a year ago. “It’s just a blessing because my health was not up to par last year, but I’ve changed the way I eat, think and drink.”
Harley said his daily routine includes pounding two gallons of Powerade prior to practice, while making sure to take enough water whenever possible on the field.
“Last year I played but I got worn out from the sun,” he said. “I could run at full-speed but after that I was done. Now that I have energy I can just keep on going.”
Like Pryor, Harley has added nearly 20 pounds to his frame by “just eating the right foods and approaching life better.”
Still, the Dog Days don’t discriminate between the younger or older players.
“It’s tough on everybody,” said Fisher. “On the new guys it is because you don’t have that wealth of knowledge behind you of what to expect every day, [or] the knowledge of what you’re doing, as much as older guy. But that’s camp. Camp is supposed to be tough.”
Junior wide receiver Taiwan Easterling has reached out to FSU’s young corps of wideouts in an effort to help them through the tough times. Easterling firmly believes the mental challenge of performing under duress is more difficult than the physical.
“You’ve just got to tell yourself you can get through it,” Easterling said. “As an older guy who has been through it a couple times, we’re trying to let the younger guys know we’re all going to get through it. We’re all tired so we’re pushing each other.”
In his own quiet manner, Easterling has embraced the opportunity to mentor FSU’s younger wideouts.
“It’s something I enjoy,” he said. “I’m not very talkative, but in my segment I talk to the younger guys … and let them know we’re going to push through it; that we’ve got to be consistent each and every day and we’re going to bring something to the table for the offense. When we get an opportunity, we’ve got to make the best of it.”
Collectively, the Seminoles will receive their first scrimmage test Friday afternoon inside Doak Campbell Stadium. Fisher will be looking to see which players have best-adapted to the conditions – physically and mentally; young and old.
“You’re looking for the consistency from the upper-classmen and you want to test those young guys,” Fisher said. “We’re going to put some guys in some situations to see how they react to them and challenge them. … We’re still on a fact-finding mission.”
Few things are more revealing than the Dog Days of camp.