Florida State Tuesday Practice Report: The 'Noles Seek Consistent Focus

It's no secret that FSU is reaping the benefits of their excellent off-season conditioning program. The Seminoles are moving at a quicker pace and are getting in a lot more plays. That worked well for the first three practices, but today the heat and intensity got to a few guys as they lost focus. The coaches were not pleased.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The dog days of preseason football camp are clearly underway, but the prospect of donning full pads for the first time Wednesday morning is something the Florida State football team is looking forward to with great anticipation.

"Everybody is looking forward it," said FSU senior defensive tackle Budd Thacker. "It gives everybody more of an incentive to go out and hit somebody. We'll get in some goal line, which is always a tough thing for the guys."

I saw Thacker on Sunday.  He looks to be bigger in the upper body but his legs are tiny and I heard that he did not make the progress the coaches wanted in his rehab.  Defensive tackle Moses McCray is now working with the first team, a move 'Nole fans should celebrate.

Tuesday's 2 1/2-hour workout seemed to take a toll on the team, as it battled sweltering temperatures and the raised expectations of the coaching staff.

"It was very obvious we weren't as peppy today as we were yesterday," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden, who for the fourth consecutive workout spent significant time on the practice field, rotating between different segments. "The kids have handled everything good so far. I hope they can keep it up."

I spoke with Bert Reed Sunday, and he emphasized the need to play hard every snap, and every practice period.  "We took periods off last year.  We would start strong, slack off, and then try to finish strong.  We cannot do that.  We don't do that this year," Reed said.  "We have to bring it every play.  We have to know what to do and think every play."  So far, the practices had gone pretty well.  Reed said that FSU had actually run out of things to do because of the increased pace, as the coaches actually underestimated the squad.  FSU is getting in 25% more plays per practice session, from the high 80's to the one-teens.    

That will be especially challenging over the next two days. After getting their first taste of full pads Wednesday, the Seminoles are scheduled for their first two-a-day session on Thursday.

It is the kind of drain that will test the resolve of the team, which the players insist in stronger and more unified than ever.  

"It's hot, but when it comes down to it, it's all in your head," said Thacker. "You've got to do it and help each other out."

Quarterback Christian Ponder said practicing in full pads provides a better look and barometer of exactly where the team is at this juncture.

"You put the pads on and really play football," Ponder said. "It's different going in just helmets and shoulder pads. You don't get a real look. When you put the full pads on it really shows where we are right now."

The 'Noles have to be more physical, specifically on defense, and we will get to see that for the first time tomorrow.  

It may also serve to heighten focus while under duress; something that waned at times Tuesday.

"Toward the end of practice (focus) definitely plays a role," Ponder added. "That's better for us because it will help us out in the long run."

Andrew Carter lets us know that talented but inconsistent Sophomore Wide Reciever Jarmon Fortson got reamed by Fisher today.  He ran the wrong routes and just lacked attention to detail

."J-man (Fortson) could be whatever J-man wants to be," said Fisher. "J-man just has to decide if he wants to do it every play -- which he does, I'm not saying he doesn't. But I'm talking about focus. Sometimes you run the route, and, 'am I really focused on what I'm doing?' When he does it, he can do whatever he wants to do. It's not a knock on him, it's something that happens with youth. As he gets more experienced with it, and learns to concentrate, he'll get better. But when he focuses, he's a heck of a football player."

Quarterback Christian Ponder agreed.

"His mind kind of gets to him a little bit," Ponder said. "He gets frustrated sometimes. He just needs to grow a little bit, but he made a lot of great plays at the end. When he's in it, he does well. The kid's a freak. Once he gets over the maturity hump, he'll be good."

 It appears that Senior Richard Goodman is the favorite to start over Fortson.  That makes sense, because FSU doesn't need amazing from it's wide receivers.  With the 'Nole's running game, FSU just needs consistently good.  Be where you should be.  Know the route you must run before the ball is snapped.  Fortson is a better talent than Goodman, but Goodman is no slouch and is the better player right now.  ESPN has more on Goodman:

"In the offseason there was so much that happened to the point where the only way to go is up," Goodman said. " ... We're not guaranteeing any wins, but you can quote me on this when I tell you this: The Florida State receiving corps, the Florida State offense, and the team, period, we're going to play four quarters of football every game."

Goodman could have a really, really big surprising year for the 'Noles.  He's definitely the senior leader

Bowden looks forward to the full pads contact because it is often the best gauge to determine which freshmen may be most prepared for action early on.

"Sometimes a guy that has been looking OK, but not outstanding, when he puts the pads on he becomes outstanding," Bowden said. "Those are things we find out as we watch kids play."

Jacobbi McDaniel is apparently in line for some serious PT at Defensive Tackle.  I think he has amazing potential but probably will be inconsistent, since he a freshman.

While Tuesday's practice provided a limited number of highlights during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills, Bowden did cite a pair of players for outstanding plays.

Sophomore tight end Beau Reliford, more accomplished as a basketball player in high school, stretched out to make an outstanding catch during 11-on-11 work. It was one of many on the day for the raw-boned, 6-foot-7 youngster, who has been impressive throughout the early stages of camp.

"(Reliford) is coming along," Bowden said. "He came in here with outstanding talent and he's really becoming a football player."

He's getting some serious work at H-Back.  Reliford is of course very raw, as he only played 2 years of high school football.  He does have some serious athletic ability.  

Reliford said it's "kind of weird" lining up as an h-back, but he was also spread out wide today. He said he's much more confident this year because he spent so much time in the offseason studying the playbook.  More here from ESPN.   

Heather has a good article there.  FSU will use Reliford all over the field this year, like an H-Back, which we detailed last week.  

The other end of the experience spectrum, senior free safety Jamie Robinson had an interception return for a touchdown near the end of the practice session. It was Robinson's second in as many days, on the heels of an outstanding spring by the one-time cornerback.

"Those were the two biggest plays out there today," Bowden said.

Senior Jamie Robinson is having an all-star camp, just like he did in the spring.  He reminds some of Dexter Jackson.  Robinson has always had good ball skills.

Finally, Steve Ellis who runs the excellent Democrat blog, offers some great nuggets:

  • JaJuan Harley looks very good returning kicks.  (As does A.J. Alexander)
  • Greg Reid, Bert Reed, and Chris Thompson look good returning punts (excellent all over really.  He doesn't look like a freshman).  
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