TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With experience across the roster but also several key positions to be filled, the Florida State football team opened its 2017 spring camp on Monday afternoon at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility.
The Seminoles took the first steps toward building on last year’s campaign, which ended with a victory in the Capital One Orange Bowl, with 17 returning starters. That includes quarterback Deondre Francois, who is FSU’s first returning starter at quarterback since Jameis Winston in 2014.
Also back in the fold is defensive back Derwin James, a redshirt sophomore All-America candidate who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher, who is embarking on his eighth season at the helm, came away from the first of 15 spring practices satisfied with his team’s effort and intensity.
“The tempo of practice was really good for Day 1. I was pleased,” Fisher said. “They got through things, hustled, got in and out of drills, go to drills. I was shocked – everybody knew where they were going. Sometimes this first day is (sloppy) when it’s been a while and (you have) so many new guys.
“We’ve got to get a lot better, as we always know.”
Florida State will practice again on Wednesday and Thursday before pausing for Spring Break next week.
Spring practice culminates with the annual Garnet and Gold Game on April 8 inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
Craig Returns to Florida State
A familiar face is back on staff at FSU.
Dameyune Craig, who served as Florida State’s quarterbacks coach from 2010-12, has joined Fisher’s staff as an off-field offensive analyst.
A former college quarterback who played under Fisher at Auburn in the mid-1990s, Craig had spent two years at Auburn and a year at LSU before returning to Tallahassee.
“It was huge getting him back,” Fisher said. “He knows the system, knows what I like, knows what I like in recruiting.”
Fisher said he and Craig stayed in constant communication over the last few years, and that when Craig became available following some staff turnover at LSU, both thought he would be a natural fit with the Seminoles.
So on Monday, wearing a gold FSU hat and a black Seminoles t-shirt, Craig made his way back on to the practice fields at Florida State for the first time in more than four years.
During his first stint at FSU, Craig served as the position coach for first-round picks Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel, and the Alabama native was instrumental in recruiting Jameis Winston to Florida State.
Although Craig’s role as an analyst will not permit him to recruit off-campus, Fisher said his intimate knowledge of the offensive scheme – he played in it at Auburn and coached it at FSU – will be a big benefit to the current Seminoles.
“It’s just another set of eyes, especially an eye that grew up in that offense,” Fisher said. “He’s a heck of football coach. He was a great quarterbacks coach for us, was a great guy. Does a good job with any skill position.”
Noles Don Soft-Shell Helmets
A bystander might not notice at first, but a close look at the FSU practice fields shows that some Seminoles are donning new gear this spring.
Florida State’s offensive and defensive linemen are wearing gold, soft-padded helmets in an effort to cut down on head injuries suffered in practice.
“We’re seeing how they work,” Fisher said. “A lot of people started going to them and looking at them, so we’re going to experiment with them and see how they do.”
The helmets are round like standard football helmets, although they are a bit larger.
Fisher said he and the FSU medical staff will evaluate the helmets and also noted that he would consider expanding their use if the helmets prove effective.
“You (want to) prevent injuries, just like you’d prevent an ankle sprain or something like that,” Fisher said. “And it’s shown that it looks like it can help.”
Francois Continues to Develop as a Leader
Francois enters spring entrenched as the starter after passing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns in the fall. Still, the 2016 ACC Rookie of the Year refuses to get complacent.
“I feel like at all times I have to compete with myself,” Francois said. “I may not have to compete against anyone else, but I have to compete internally. If I am tired I have to keep going. Every ball has to be perfect, the next play has to have no mistakes. I am just trying to compete with myself to get better.”
This fall will be Francois’ third year with the Seminoles and he also recognizes he will need to advance as a leader in addition to improving on the field. Part of that task will be preparing early enrollee quarterback Bailey Hockman.
“I am not the oldest of the oldest, but I am considered an older guy,” Francois said. “I am trying to get Bailey prepared and ready. It is a big part of my job.”
Murray Switches to 8
Before Monday, the last time Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray had his Seminole jersey on, he was wearing No. 80 and catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Deondre Francois in the Orange Bowl. However, the Orlando, Fla., native debuted a new number for FSU’s first spring practice – No. 8. Murray.
The hope is that No. 8 Murray can replicate his final six games of 2016 – a stretch that included all five of his touchdown catches, an ACC Receiver of the Week performance and his two-touchdown effort against Michigan to cap the season.
Noles Return Leading Passer and Leader in Tackles for first time since 2010
2017 will be the first time that Florida State returns its leading passer (Deondre Francois, 3,350 yards) and leading tackler (Matthew Thomas, 77 tackles) since Christian Ponder (2,717 yards) and Nigel Bradham (93 tackles) led the Noles in 2009 and returned in 2010.
Florida State Spring Injury Report
The following will miss spring practice due to injury
OL Landon Dickerson
C Alec Eberle
TE Jeremy Kerr
DB Marcus Lewis
DB Tarvarus McFadden