Aug. 12, 2009
‘Noles delay first day in pads; tempo improves
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After some deliberation the Florida State football coaching staff opted to delay the first day of practice in full pads until Thursday, which is also the first, two-session practice of the offseason.
If the Seminoles were disappointed about the delay, it did not show during Wednesday’s morning session.
“We really tested them today,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said after the 2 1/2-hour workout on the Al Dunlap Practice Fields. “It was their third day in a row with no break – no day off – and they survived it pretty good.”
Better still, the Seminoles appeared energized after a somewhat lethargic effort a day earlier.
“We improved today as a football team,” offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. “Our attitude and effort was very good. Our work ethic and approach was good.”
And there’s little doubt the team is getting ample work. By splitting the offense – and in some instances the defense – into two groups, the coaching staff is exposing more players to more repetitions, which is critical to development. Bowden signed off on the change in practice structure and likes what he’s seen thus far with the new system, even though it’s difficult to keep up with both groups simultaneously working on separate fields.
“From up high (in the tower) I can see both of them,” Bowden said. “It’s a lot more reps, which is really taxing on them. From what we’ve done in the past, this doubles it.”
Double the work also means double the opportunity and both the offense and defense capitalized at various times.
Quarterbacks Christain Ponder and EJ Manuel were on target much of the practice, which included small group work, a down-and-distance period, plus 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work.
Cornerbacks Patrick Robinson and Xavier Rhodes had pass break-ups of balls intended for wideouts Richard Goodman and Rodney Smith in a two-defender, skeleton session. Cornerback Dionte Allen, working opposite A.J. Alexander with the second-team defense, had a break-up and an interception in pass skeleton.
“By schedule, it’s time for him to step up,” Bowden said, when asked the progress of Allen, a redshirt sophomore who saw little action due to injury last season.
Ponder completed 3 of 4 attempts during a third-down conversion drill, including a 9-yard strike to tight end Caz Piurowski, who made a leaping grab. Ponder zipped a sideline pass to Bert Reed for a 12-yard gain, then connected with Rod Owens for 10 yards and another first down.
Allen prevented Ponder from a perfect period, riding wideout Avis Commack out of bounds on a well-contested pass.
Manuel, after going 5 fo 7 during 7-on-7, wasn’t quite as sharp during the third-down drill. Linebacker Nigel Bradham and safety Justin Bright sandwiched a pair of pass break-ups around Manuel’s sideline dart to Josh Gehres for a 30-yard gain.
The productive day by the secondary was no small coincidence.
“After watching film on practice (Tuesday) night … one of the things that kept popping up was we really weren’t flying to the ball,” senior free safety Jamie Robinson said. “We really weren’t as active as we should be. We came out and wanted to focus on that.
“Whenever you’ve got guys flying to the ball you know good things are going to happen.”
For the second consecutive day Robinson came through with an interception near the end of practice, which hardly went unnoticed.
“Jamie had another interception and that’s a good sign,” Bowden said. “We haven’t had much of that back there. We need takeaways.”
On a third-down play with Ponder looking to go deep, Robinson hawked down the ball.
“They were going deep and Korey (Mangum) was protecting the post and I just broke down on it,” Robinson said, adding that the pass was intended for Taiwan Easterling. “The ball came in there and I just went down and got it.”