Aug. 9, 2010
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Clear skies and soaring temps greeted the Florida State football team Monday afternoon as the Seminoles dressed in full pads for the first time this preseason.
There was very little difference from how the Seminoles worked in shells – shoulder pads and helmets – as head coach Jimbo Fisher has taken a page from the NFL playbook, stressing to the players the importance of staying on their feet. It’s just one of the ways Fisher is trying to limit injury.
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Yet it’s not the only area where the Seminoles’ camp resembles those in the NFL. Cross-training – preparing players for action at multiple positions – is also very much the norm at some position segments. That’s especially true in the offensive backfield, secondary, linebacker and receiver, where learning multiple positions benefits all parties.
Sophomore back Lonnie Pryor is a prime example. A heralded tailback recruit out of high school, Pryor split time between his natural position and fullback. It wasn’t an easy sell at first, but Pryor flourished as a freshman, combining for 288 rushing and receiving yards and five touchdowns in the dual role.
“Once he had it explained to him and had the details of it, he was good,” Fisher said of Pryor. “He’s the same style of player that (former Seminole) Edgar Bennett was (at) 215-218 pounds. Whether he was a true tailback or a true fullback, I don’t know, but he was a heckuva football player.
“He [Pryor] is that style of player and you’ve got to get him on the field.”
Redshirt sophomore Debrale Smiley, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a power high school tailback, has spent more time at fullback since arriving on campus in January. He is also getting work in FSU’s one-back set. Essentially, the Seminoles are getting two players from one and building depth in the process.
Likewise, senior cornerback Ochuko Jenije, who led the team in interceptions as a starter last season, is getting considerable work at one of the safety positions. Across the board, linebackers coach Greg Hudson is cross-training his players for multiple slots.
“Coach Hudson told the linebackers we must learn a different position,” said senior middle linebacker Kendall Smith. “It’s all about helping each other out because it’s a long season and people get banged and bruised up. By learning a different position, all you’re doing is bettering yourself and your team.”
Smith said he expects to get work at weakside linebacker, while weakside starter Nigel Bradham will get reps in the middle and strongside linebacker Mister Alexander will also work at the weakside spot.
“If you understand your position and another position, pretty soon you understand the whole defense,” Smith added.
The same holds true at wide receiver, where learning the X, Y and Z positions enhances opportunities and enables the coaching staff to exploit potential mismatches from a variety of different sets.
Fisher is a big proponent of playing his best players and the ability to master two spots allows him that opportunity.
“That’s all you want,” Fisher said. “You have to tell them what’s in it for them and what’s in it for the team. Lonnie is a great team guy. He thinks team and plays team. When he gets his individual opportunities, he does it. Our job is to get the best players on the field.”
And Fisher has been extremely happy with how the players have embraced the concept in an effort to build a championship team.
“Our guys, when we’ve moved them around and bounced them around, they’ve been very receptive,” said Fisher, who said he won’t force a player to move if it’s against his wishes. “You have to sit and explain it to them. …”That’s how you win. Look at the NFL… It has become a very personnel specific game at times. We’ve got to find out what guys are capable of learning and what their abilities are. The only way to do that is put them in that position.”
Jenkins finding comfort zone
Sophomore defensive end Brandon Jenkins has add 16 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame since last fall. A play-maker throughout the spring, Jenkins is hoping to parlay the added size and strength into a more productive season after registering three tackles for loss as a reserve in 2009.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” said Jenkins, who is pushing to start opposite senior Markus White. “We have got a lot of new plays. I feel like I am more free than I was last year and I am just letting it all lose this year. We didn’t get to the quarterback much last year, so this year I am going to try to get to the quarterback a lot more.”
So far, Jenkins has been holding up his end of the deal and can attest that size does matter when playing on the defensive front.
“Going against 300-pound offensive lineman, you can’t go at 230 when you really come down to it,” said Jenkins, who now tips the scales at 250 pounds. “I feel a lot stronger and a lot more confident. My goal is to be 255 by the start of the season. It’s really hot outside though, and I lose a couple pounds after each practice, so during breakfast, lunch, and dinner I am trying to eat as much as I can.”
After dropping in on the coaching staff earlier in the day, former defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews spent a good portion of Monday’s practice observing. “It was great to see Mickey out there today. He’s a great guy and a good friend,” said Fisher. “It’s great to see him anytime we can see him.”…DT Moses McCray (left knee) and RB Tavares Pressley (right knee) under MRI examinations Monday…OG David Spurlock was held out of practice for precautionary measures…The Seminoles added two walk-ons to the active roster Monday – redshirt freshman TE Jonathan Wallace (Jacksonville Lee) and freshman tailback Jordan Stanley (FAMU DRS). Walk-on OL Trevor Lally left the team voluntarily, which puts FSU at the 105-player preseason roster limit…Florida State will hold its first two-a-day practice Tuesday. The Seminoles are scheduled to go at 9:30 a.m. for the first session and come back for a 6 p.m. workout.