August 26, 2009 - by
Offense Responds To Challenge; Kicking Battle Continues

Aug. 26, 2009




TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State offense had a response to challenges from head coach Bobby Bowden and coordinator Jimbo Fisher, to sharpen their execution and understanding of the playbook.

Wednesday’s 2 1/2-hour practice sailed along behind the accurate passing of quarterbacks Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel and some sure-handed receiving.

“It’s never been like that around here before,” Fisher said, after his top two quarterbacks and receiving corps breezed through one five-minute segment without allowing the ball to hit the ground. “They were throwing completes, running routes, playing full speed, doing what they’re supposed to do. That’s the way it should be. That’s what a team looks like when it’s executing well.

“Now the challenge is how many days in a row can you do it? Can you do it every day? Cany you hold yourself to that standard every day?”

The offense maintained that standard throughout much of the day. In one 7-on-7 drill, Ponder hooked up with Louis Givens and Jarmon Fortson on pin-point deep throws, while Bert Reed and Givens laid out to reel in mid-range passes from Manuel.

 “We did a little better today – not 100 percent – but it was better,” Bowden said. “Now it’s got to get better the next day, the next day and the next day.”

Practice wound toward close with a period of situational, third-down plays; one of the last of which produced an A.J. Alexander interception, after a Manuel pass slipped through the hands of Willie Haulstead.

The day ended with the Seminoles working their 1-minute offense, with the first- and second-team units going head-to-head. The first-team offense’s possession ended when senior free safety Jamie Robinson came up with yet another preseason interception – this one off the chest of Fortson. Manuel drove the second unit down the field with first-down completions to Rod Owens, Haulstead and Bert Reed, but freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins’ 53-yard field goal attempt with time expiring came up short.

 “The defense won both battles in shells today,” said Bowden.

Still, the crisp tempo of Wednesday’s practice was a pretty good barometer for gauging the teams’ focus, just 12 days before the season opener.

“When you know what your mistake is, you admit it and you correct it,” Fisher said. “Our attitude has been pretty good that way.”

 Kicking battle continues

Hopkins and redshirt sophomore walk-on James Esco appear locked in a tight race to handle the place-kicking duties in the Sept. 7 season-opener against Miami.

“It’s hard to tell right now,” Bowden said, when asked if there was a leader in the competition. “One of them kicks it further than the other. The other has been pretty consistent, but is not as strong. We’ll let them keep at it and see which one gets the best of it.”

Special teams coordinator Jody Allen said that decision could come down to game day.

“Usually one’s more consistent than the other and it depends on which day it is, (as to) which one it is,” Allen said. “Esco has really improved. I’m real proud of him. No matter who wins the job, he’s doing a great job with it. I’m excited about the future with Dustin Hopkins. …

“They’ve got to do it when the lights go on.”

Hopkins appears to have the leg up in the contest to handle the kickoffs, regularly putting the ball into the end zone, in the area Allen wants it. But it’s Esco who has made a race of the place-kicking competition, aided by his 3 of 4 performance in last Saturday’s evening scrimmage.

Chop talk

Senior defensive tackles Kendrick Stewart (knee tenderness) and Budd Thacker (toe injury) were held out of Wedensday’s workout while receiving treatment. Neither is expected to miss substantial practice time. … Sophomore Moses McCray and freshman Jacobbi McDaniel worked with the first team defense up front and more than held their own during the inside drill portion of practice. … Freshman safety Gerald Demps was held out of practice due to illness. … Junior cornerback Ochuko Jenije was working with the first team opposite Patrick Robinson, as he appears to have overcome a tender led. Rover Korey Mangum ran with the starters in a blue, non-contact jersey.

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