What an interesting two weeks for the Florida State program. Here are some general thoughts on what I think we learned from the two weeks.
- There is actual leadership and discipline for the first time in a long while. The players aren't confused as to who is leading the program. There is much less nonsense. Player quotes have revealed that they cannot "just chill" in the weight room. Expectations on the practice field are higher. Players have revealed that the coaches expect football technique and not just athleticism. From the time players wake up to the time they go to sleep, their lives are infinitely more structured than they used to be.
- The defense is unquestionably better than last season. Last season saw the offense have multiple scrimmages in which the offense put up 600 yards in a half or 300 yards in a quarter. The defense was so poor last year and the offense would simply know what coverage they were in and roast them. That is no more. The new scheme makes better conceptual sense for this day and age of offenses. The players are better individually because awful coaches who cannot land a decent job after being fired from FSU have been replaced with competent, and in some cases, excellent coaches. The focus has been on technique and not making plays, with the knowledge that proper technique will lead to playmaking. This defense is far from dominant, but with some injury luck, it could be better than competent later in the year. As the editor of the only FSU site to openly predict the defensive collapse before last season, I'm comfortable saying that this defense is better than last year and is likely better than the 2008 group (which was wildly overrated).
- FSU again has a weight program it can brag about. With defensive linemen adding 20+ lbs in the off-season in some cases, this is pretty evident. No, FSU won't look like the elite teams in only 7 months of training, but I'm quite excited to think that the Noles could be downright monstrous, particularly on defense, for 2011.
- In the pre-season I wrote that Xavier Rhodes starting at the boundary corner position would be a good sign for the 'Noles. Along with Georgia's Aaron Murray and Florida's Andre Debose, Xavier Rhodes is one of the most anticipated red-shirt freshmen in the country. It is Rhodes, and not the more known Greg Reid who people around the program feel has the chance to be the high draft choice. The question coming into camp was whether Rhodes could play with the mental consistency needed to be trusted. It appears Rhodes has answered that question in the affirmative. That's particularly important because he beat out Ochuko Jenije, who could now be needed at safety with projected starter Nick Moody nursing a nasty groin injury. I expect Jenije, a smart 5th-year senior, to play multiple positions for the 'Noles this year, particularly in nickel packages. It's also encouraging that Lamarcus Joyner and Mike Harris have held their own as backups to Rhodes and Reid.
- Everyone I talk to says that this freshman class is the type of class upon which a championship program could be built. Yes, the 2008 and 2009 classes were good classes. This one, however, seems different.
- FSU breaks camp having lost two starters and one key backup for the season in Carr, Fortson, and McCray. Those are heavy losses and while the replacements should be quite capable, the lack of depth at some spots should put a damper on those unrealistic expectations many Noles have at this point. Injuries do happen in this collision sport. FSU needs to pray that they happen at positions of depth and not the shallow spots.
- The competition for the running back position was fierce. First, Jermaine Thomas was demoted for lack of attention to detail and discipline (think pass protection). Then, Chris Thompson put the ball on the ground in the scrimmage. Thomas mounted a late charge and FSU will continue to use a lot of talented runners this year. One key difference, however, is that all-world RB coach Eddie Gran is now instructing these runners and not Dexter Carter, who had no idea what he was doing. The smart money is now on Thomas to start the first game.
- With all of the cross training, it is getting tough to throw together an accurate depth chart. Someone can say "player is working at X position" and someone else can say "player is working at X position" and both are correct. Without great depth, the cross-training is necessary. I'll have a depth-chart soon.
I have more thoughts as well, but those stood out the most. We'll have position-by-position previews in the coming days as well as a lot of other interesting content. The season is almost here. Are you excited?
Finally, check out the FSU Monday Morning Tomahawk Chops©.