Aug. 8, 2011
After A False Start, No. 5 Seminoles Open 2011 Preseason Practice
Fisher praises opening effort from veterans, touted freshmen class.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Delayed, but not deterred, the fifth-ranked Florida State football team – 105 strong – took to the new Al Dunlap Practice Fields Monday afternoon for the first workout of the season.
“I was pleased,” said second-year coach Jimbo Fisher. “I thought the attitude was good; I thought the energy level was good. We’ve got a lot of polish to clean up, but not really bad for the first day. I thought the young guys really caught on and I thought the older guys helped those guys a lot.
“We worked hard. They had a smile on their face and had fun out there.”
So did Fisher, who got his first in-action glimpse of FSU’s top-ranked signing class working alongside the veterans, albeit in shorts. It was also the first day that junior quarterback EJ Manuel seized control as the team’s offensive leader on the field.
“He looked really good today,” Fisher said of Manuel. “He threw the deep ball well. Even when he missed, he missed in the right spots. He made good decisions. He was in control and command of himself and our team looked to him, too.”
Significant playing experience aside, Manuel said he was even more comfortable on opening day this season.
“Just getting reps with the first group is big,” said Manuel. “I feel pretty comfortable … not saying that I wasn’t comfortable last year, but I just feel better this year. I don’t have any injuries right now, I just feel 100 percent.”
The `Noles had to wait to get things going as a lightning warning chased the team from the field just as they were about to begin their flex period at 2:45 p.m. After briefly reconvening for position meetings, the team returned to action at 3:30 p.m. and kept a brisk pace through the 2 ½-hour workout under overcast skies, which provided a respite from the recent heat wave.
Fisher didn’t have to wait long to be asked about the lofty expectations that follow his second team into the preseason. At the conclusion of the first of 29 practices before the Sept. 3 home-opener against Louisiana Monroe, he was asked about FSU’s goals for 2011.
“You always want to win them all … but we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to prepare the attitude of this team. This team has to develop its own identity.”
He has, however, been encouraged by the way the team has gone about its business since being tabbed No. 5 in the USA Today/Coaches preseason poll.
“They came out here and practiced hard,” Fisher said. “They weren’t out here patting themselves on the back. When you’re here, you’re going to have expectations. You better be able to deal with it. When those expectations come you’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”
“We can’t get caught in the hype,” said senior linebacker Nigel Bradham. “At the end of the day it’s nothing. You can go out there and lose a game and then all of the hype is gone and you’ve let everyone down. We just have to go out there and control what we can.”
Newcomers create quite a buzz
FSU ballyhooed 2011 signing class certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to first glances, but the youngest `Noles also impressed their older teammates on opening day.
“Some of those guys you can’t miss,” Manuel said. “Kelvin Benjamin made some plays. All of those guys I thought were out there making plays today. At first, it looked like there were a few “deer in headlights” but they caught on pretty quick. ”
“I guess I am a little older than them,” Bradham said. “I mean, they call me grandpa and stuff like that. But they do look up to me and I’m going to do what I can in order to help them out. It’s just a great freshman class we have out there and a lot of them are going to play.”
Like a fisherman who isn’t willing to toss back his catch of the day, Fisher said:
“I’m not disappointed in any of them. You see athleticism, size, ball skills, blocking ability, change-of-direction. For the most part they fit in very well, because the way we split them up they were getting the same amount of reps as the [starters].”
Personnel changes announced
Following Monday’s workout, Fisher announced that three veterans, offensive linemen senior Rhonne Sanderson and sophomore Blake Snider, and redshirt freshman tight end Tank Sessions had been medically disqualified, ending their playing careers. “It’s a shame,” said Fisher. “I thought all of those guys had a chance to be good players.” Fisher said they will stay on and work with the team as student assistants. … Fisher also announced that junior walk-on long snapper Dax Dellenbach had been awarded a scholarship. The Seminoles are now at the NCAA maximum 85 scholarship players.
New practice fields earn high marks
Five months after bulldozers and dump trucks rolled onto the old practice fields to begin a complete overhaul of the three-field complex, the Seminoles got their first chance to work out on the well-manicured Al Dunlap Practice fields Monday.
“It makes a huge difference,” Fisher said of the fields, which have been off-limits up until this point. “Field conditions are huge. If you have a Kentucky Derby horse, you pay $8 million dollars for it, you don’t go train it where there are holes on the field and bad sod. You’ve got a lot guys out here where, as they progress in their careers, they can make a whole lot of money, too. This is a big health issue. I think this will really help [limit] our injuries, having fields like this.”
Later start for Seminoles
It’s been quite a while since a Florida State football team opened preseason camp as late as Aug. 8. The last time the `Noles opened camp this late was 2006, when they began practice on the same date. In 2005, FSU held its first practice on Aug. 9.
Reid back on the Hornung watch list
Junior cornerback/return specialist Greg Reid was one of 50 players named to the 2011 Paul Hornung Award Watch List on Monday. The Valdosta, Ga. native is one of 16 players who has made the list for second consecutive year. Presented annually by the Louisville Sports Commission, the award honors the most versatile player in major college.