August 10, 2011 - by
Day 3 Practice Observations

Aug. 10, 2011

Brandon Mellor
Brandon Mellor Senior Writer
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida State football team put on shells for the first time this fall as day three on the practice fields rolled on Wednesday afternoon.

Let’s start off today’s observations by getting to some of your Twitter questions about the Seminoles.

@MLGDillon asked, “How does [Jacob] Fahrenkrug look at center? Is the O-line looking closer and closer to game-ready?

Fahrenkrug set the tone with his play in the spring after coming to FSU from a junior college.

Jacob Fahrenkrug is working hard to replace Ryan McMhahon.

Three days into fall camp and he is still looking good. Fahrenkrug and quarterback EJ Manuel seem to really be developing a strong rapport together and they are focused on getting their timing down and being as comfortable with each other as possible. One thing that I know he is aiming to improve upon is his shotgun-snapping ability and getting it high enough for Manuel to handle cleanly.

Let’s not forget that Fahrenkrug has some monster shoes to fill. Ryan McMahon was a four-year starter at center under offensive line coach Rick Trickett and he will surely be missed.

But Fahrenkrug has been a nice addition since McMahon’s departure. Once he gets comfortable making the calls and reading the Mike linebackers I think the Seminoles won’t miss a beat at center.

As a whole, the offensive line is coming along. Trickett is still experimenting with different options at right guard and at the backup center position but the early indication is that the unit is gelling nicely.

Perhaps the biggest news to report is that Andrew Datko is fully healthy now. He has been moving around real well out there after getting banged up last season and missing all of the spring. Datko doesn’t get enough credit and it’s easy to forget that much of FSU’s success this season depends on his ability to protect Manuel’s blind side.

A healthy Datko is a very good thing.

For a visual look at the offensive linemen, check out our photo gallery of the offensive linemen.

@Jfarris24 asked, “What positions have starters set for the UL-Monroe game?”

A lot can change between now and the Sept. 3 opener but there are definitely some positions that are set in stone.

Obviously, Manuel is “the guy” at quarterback and Lonnie Pryor will start at fullback. On the offensive line, Fahrenkrug — as I said above — appears to have the center position locked up and Datko will be at left tackle, Zebrie Sanders at right tackle and likely David Spurlock at left guard.

The battle is really on for right guard where Bryan Stork, freshmen Reuben Carter and Tre Jackson or Henry Orelus are all options.

At running back, Chris Thompson should be the opening-day starter but he has missed the past two days with a sore back. If for some reason he is limited because of that injury, an interesting storyline could develop.

Seniors Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas are there and have the experience that demands minutes. But freshman Devonta Freeman has looked excellent and today he was running with the first team while Thompson was out. Freshman James Wilder, Jr. is right there in the mix and has been getting a lot of reps early on.

Thomas was in a blue jersey today after making his return from a migraine.

Defensively, I think it’s safe to say that the current depth chart reflects what the opening day starter’s list will look like.

That means Brandon Jenkins (DE), Anthony McCloud (NG), Everett Dawkins (DT) and Bjoern Werner (DE) are the top four on the defensive line. At linebacker, Nigel Bradham (Sam), Vince Williams (Mike) and Christian Jones (Will) are there. In the secondary, it’s Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes at the two cornerbacks and Lamarcus Joyner, whom I wrote about at length today, at one of the safety spots.

We will have to wait to see who wins the battle for the other starter’s role at safety between Nick Moody and Terrance Parks.

Again, a lot can certainly change and by no means are any of these slots a guarantee. As of Wednesday, though, that’s what it looks like. Let the guys get the pads on and work into the middle of August and we can revisit this question again.

@rich_land asked, “How are the DBs looking? Big game against Okla. Who’s gonna be assigned to shut down [Ryan] Broyles?”

Head coach Jimbo Fisher said already that he has enjoyed watching the battles between the defensive backs and the wide receivers. I have noticed that the defensive backs are flying around, breaking up passes and going over their assignments so far this week.

I will have a feature story on him in the near future but I will tell you right now that Mike Harris has looked good at cornerback. The same is true for Joyner at safety — enough for Fisher to single him with praise after practice today.

The task of covering Broyles will likely be on Harris. As the nickelback, Harris draws the slot receiver and that is where Broyles does most of his damage. Joyner had a fantastic quote for me today about Harris’ ability to cover wide receivers that I am saving for the Harris feature story so stay tuned.

Day 3 Observations:

Austin Barron has worked his way into the backup center spot.

Don’t look now but Trickett may have found another hidden gem. Known for his ability to mold overlooked prospects into great college players (hello, Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon), Trickett seems to have his next potentially-great project in Austin Barron.

An unknown prospect before signing day this past February, Barron was rated just a two-star recruit coming out of powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. There was some talk that he may receive a greyshirt and not enroll until January of 2012.

Trickett wasn’t listening to any of that. He has been impressed enough with Barron that he has vaulted him all the way up to the second-string center position behind Fahrenkrug.

In addition to Barron, Orelus, Stork, Spurlock and Sterling Lovelady are all getting early warm-up reps at center.

One of the guys that the offensive line has been blocking for on the Al Dunlap Practice Fields has been Freeman.

I mentioned it above in the Twitter questions and I will mention it again down here from watching today: Freeman is impressive.

He doesn’t do anything with half effort. Even when he is moving from one practice field to the other he sprints. When he takes a handoff and weaves his way through the trenches and the whistle blows, he still keeps churning his legs.

I have no idea how much Freeman will play this season because of the three veterans ahead of him and because fullback Lonnie Pryor is good enough to warrant some carries. If he doesn’t play much it won’t be because of lack of effort.

Still, I would get used to seeing No. 8 carrying the football.

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is another freshman that gives maximum effort. I saw a play late in today’s practice where Jernigan hit the ground and lost his helmet before popping right back up and running down the field like a madman in pursuit of the ball carrier.

Jernigan and the defense had an overall impressive day and Fisher was quick to point that out after gathering with the media. On the flip side, he was also very critical of the offense and mentioned the sloppiness by the unit as a whole and lack of execution.

Fisher let his players know after practice that he wasn’t thrilled and is expecting them to come back out on Thursday will the mindset more befitting of champions.

One last thing before I finish off today’s observations.

At the end of each day’s stretching exercises, Ty Jones and strength coach Vic Viloria give each other a running chest bump. I missed an opportunity on Monday and Tuesday to take a photo of the flying body high-five but today I was ready.

This one’s a shoutout to my photographer brother, Cameron. I hope he and all you Seminole fans out there enjoy it:

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