Sept. 1, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State isn’t winding down its preparation for the Labor Day night clash with rival Miami inside Doak Campbell Stadium. If anything, the 18th-ranked Seminoles are ratcheting up the intensity with the anticipated season-opener less than a week away.
“Anytime you go into a season it’s always exciting because you’ve been practicing against each other all spring and fall,” FSU coach Bobby Bowden said after Tuesday’s 23-period practice. “You just want to see what you’ve got.”
Tuesday’s feisty practice atmosphere was indicative of a team that is anxious to finally hit someone else. The challenge for the coaching staff at this point is to get the players to focus and practice with intensity and efficiency.
“We’re doing better on our assignments, but we’re still busting some,” said Bowden, who had not been happy with the team’s overall execution the past week. “I hope we get it straightened out.”
The Seminoles closed the 2 1/2-hour practice session with 10 minutes of 11-on-11 scrimmaging in the red zone, which produced a handful of productive plays, then finished with the goal line drill.
Sophomore wide receiver Jarmon Fortson collected touchdown receptions from quarterbacks Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel, while freshman tailback Chris Thompson scooted around the right side on a touchdown run. Manuel also raced – untouched – into the end zone from 10 yards out after executing a brilliant play fake to Thompson.
The defense, however, got the best of the goal line drill with three stops in four snaps – two from the 3-yard line and two from the 1-yard line.
Senior free safety Jamie Robinson broke up a touchdown pass attempt from Ponder to Beau Reliford on the first play, but the biggest lick of the practice followed on the second snap. Linebacker Nigel Bradham burst through the left side to disrupt a run by tailback Jermaine Thomas, before linebacker Nigel Carr finished him off with a crushing blow for a 1-yard loss.
Manuel overthrew a receiver in the end zone on the first snap for the second-team offense, before freshman tailback Lonnie Prior averted the defensive shutout when he ran through the arm tackle of linebacker Maurice Harris for a 1-yard touchdown run.
Better execution and sure tackling are musts against Miami in a series that has see-sawed over the past 10 seasons. The Seminoles have won three of the last four meetings between the programs, including last season’s 41-39 triumph at Dolphin Stadium.
Asked what worried him most about the Hurricanes, Bowden indicated very little has changed with the team from Coral Gables.
“They’ve got good athletes,” Bowden said. “Miami can always run.”
Defensive ends coach Jody Allen praised the efforts of walk-on Craig Yarborough, who has earned the right to start at left end with his hard-nosed, smart play. “It’s not a motivational ploy,” Allen said, explaining his decision to start Yarborough over senior Kevin McNeil. … Freshman Dustin Hopkins has got the early nod to handle all of the Seminoles’ place-kicking duties. Allen, however, said the battle between Hopkins and walk-on James Esco if “far from over” and will likely continue throughout the season.