TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher met with the media Monday to preview FSU’s spring camp, his eighth as the Seminoles’ head coach. The Seminoles will take to the practice fields for the first time on Monday afternoon.
Here are highlights from that conversation:
1) Several injuries and one transfer
First things first: Wilson Bell, a guard who would have been a fifth-year senior, is expected to graduate and transfer from FSU. Bell leaves the Seminoles with 18 career starts, including every game of the 2015 season.
Elsewhere, the Seminoles will be without some noteworthy names for the duration of spring due to injuries: junior CB Tarvarus McFadden (shoulder), CB Marcus Lewis (hip), C Alec Eberle (hip), G Landon Dickerson (knee), TE Jeremy Kerr (shoulder) and DB Lawrence Dawsey Jr.
Fisher also said the following players will be out to begin spring camp but are expected to return: S Ermon Lane (foot), LB Sh’Mar Kilby-Lane (foot), OL David Robbins (hamstring) and DL Adam Torres (leg).
McFadden’s and Lewis’ absences, along with the departure of senior Marquez White, should lead to some wide-open races in the secondary over the next few weeks. But, as Fisher noted, the Seminoles have signed a plethora of talented defensive backs in recent years and should have no shortage of options.
“That’s going to be an interesting battle and it’s fun to watch,” Fisher said. “But also, you’re playing five, six, seven DBs at times now. You’ve got to have them all. … Your secondary guys have to be very diverse.”
2) Welcome back, Derwin
After speculation that lasted for almost the entirety of the 2016 season, Fisher on Monday put to rest any uncertainty about star safety Derwin James’ status.
James is healthy and ready to return from the knee injury that cost him most of his sophomore season.
“Derwin is a full go,” Fisher said. “He’s got to go out there and prove it again, too. What he’s done in the past, that’s great. Got to go do it again, which I expect him to do that.”
James’ return is welcome news for Florida State. The Haines City native was thought to be one of the best defensive players in the country entering last season, and he’ll be counted on in a big way as the Seminoles adjust to life without senior stalwarts White and DeMarcus Walker.
“He’s been the same Derwin,” Fisher said. “More mature.”
3) Orange is the new garnet?
Florida State’s “Fourth Quarter” conditioning drills had a new color palette this year.
Fisher said Monday that he devised a scheme for evaluating a players’ effort in the drills that centered around the color jersey worn each afternoon.
If a player was given a garnet jersey, that meant his effort met Fisher’s expectations. A white jersey meant the player’s effort was average. And if a player fell far short of the standard – meaning a “ridiculous” effort, as Fisher put it – then he was given an orange jersey.
Jerseys were issued every day. And you didn’t want to be seen in orange.
“That’s not always a good color around here,” Fisher said.
Fisher said the method allowed players to be held accountable for their actions in front of the entire team.
There was no hiding – if you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain in conditioning drills, everyone knew about it.
“It takes all the guesswork out,” Fisher said. “(Players ask), ‘What do I have to do?’ This is it. Here’s the example of three plays that you didn’t do it. Now do it.”
The good news, though, is that Fisher said the system worked. He estimated that by the time Fourth Quarter Drills wrapped up last week, 85 to 90 percent of the team had earned their garnet jerseys.
“It’s a constant educational practice,” Fisher said. “And don’t blame anybody else. You’re not born a winner. You’re not born a loser. You’re born a chooser. Choose what you’re going to do.”
4) Early look at the early-enrollees
The start of spring camp brings the first taste of college football for the seven newcomers who enrolled at Florida State in January. That means a first look at highly-touted freshmen Cam Akers, Stanford Samuels III, Joshua Kaindoh, Cyrus Fagan, Bailey Hockman and Tre’ McKitty, as well as junior-college transfer Adonis Thomas.
While none of that group has yet to do so much as put on full pads, Fisher said they’ve all done a great job of fitting in so far.
“We didn’t miss on any of those guys,” Fisher said. “Very happy with where they’re at. Also, all of them are doing really well in school. Great students, being where they’re supposed to be, being dependable, reliable people and then coming out here and working their tails off.”
5) The start of the post-Dalvin era
The symbolism was not so subtle: As Fisher gave his remarks, he did so at FSU’s players’ lounge directly in front of a larger-than-life wall graphic of All-American running back Dalvin Cook.
Yes, Cook’s presence is still felt around the program.
FSU will start the process of filling the void from Cook’s departure on Monday, with a host of veterans and newcomers alike looking to fill his shoes.
Junior Jacques Patrick is the likely frontrunner. He was Cook’s top backup a year ago and has two starts to his credit. But veterans Ryan Green and Johnathan Vickers, sophomore Amir Rasul and the freshman Akers will all get opportunities over the next few weeks.
Fisher has traditionally featured multiple running backs during his tenure at FSU, but he understandably broke from that tradition with Cook.
“It was just a weird deal with Dalvin because he could create so many big plays,” Fisher said. “You’d love to have one guy jump out, but you also have to have a stable of backs,” Fisher said. “That’s a position that we’ve always done that.”
As a quick post-script on Cook, Fisher was asked Monday what he would say to an NFL scout who might have second doubts about Cook following what some pundits have suggested was a sub-per performance at the NFL scouting combine last weekend.
Fisher’s answer was as concise as it was emphatic:
“Turn the tape on,” Fisher said. “How come all these ‘fast’ guys couldn’t catch him? How did he run away from all those guys? The combine, we make too much of the combine.”