Noles News 08.09.11: FSU Opening Practice Notes


Jimbo was extremely happy after practice.  Said the young guys looked good, and the veterans helped them.  Thought EJ was a leader, and he threw the ball well.  When he missed, he missed well.  

Fisher said the special teams ought to be "very, very good." 

Interestingly, Fisher did not mind going in shells (not full pads).  The 'Noles run a very pro-style practice in order to avoid injury. Not much full tackling goes on. That is a change Fisher made last year after Amato's guys would take cheap shots on the offensive players (uh, their teammates) with the linebacker coach looking on in approval. He stressed there is plenty of physicality, but that the players are not taken to the ground. Also, he was very pleased with the revamped practice fields and indicated that they were quite poor before.

Tim Jernigan and Nick O'Leary are beasts and if they can get all the mental stuff down, they will definitely be significant contributors. As we said this summer, Manuel loves O'Leary. Manuel also said this is the biggest FSU team since he has been there, but perhaps also the fastest. Fisher and this staff have completely changed the program.

Want proof?  Here is a free photo gallery. And here are photos of (all FRESHMEN) LB Arrington Jenkins, RB James Wilder Jr., RB Devonta Freeman, DBs Tyler Hunter/Karlos Williams, DT Nile Lawrenceagain, QB Jacob Coker (told you he was huge), OL Josue Matias, 6'6" 242 pound WR Kelvin Benjamin, againNick O'Leary, and hello, Timmy. Link to rest of album.       

VIDEO: Sights and sounds of Florida State’s first practice – Chopping Block – Seminoles Blog – Orlando Sentinel
Good look here from Coley Harvey

It's been a long, long while since any ACC team had freshmen look like this class. As I said this summer, daddy's home. 

As for the medical DQs, Fisher said Blake Snider and Rhonne Sanderson have the "Yao Ming" injury, where there is a 50% chance of breaking again. If that occurs, the ankle must be fused. Tank Sessions had double-microfracture surgery and is bone on bone in both knees.  Ouch! Fisher, unlike Saban, was transparent with the medical DQs and his explanations seem truthful here, as these injured were not out of nowhere. All three are in good spirits.

FSU added long-snapper Dax Dellenbach to the scholarship list.  Not sure if the junior will keep it for both years, but good for him since there was an open slot. And Austin Barron doesn't have to greyshirt.

Fisher said his two biggest concerns for the offense are backup QB and o-line depth.  Biggest concern on defense is figuring out who will play in the nickel and dime packages.

Rivals - The Pressure Of Poverty

One form of pressure – examined in a previous column – is found in the need to affirm a rise to power by backing up one good season with another. As was said in “The Pressure of Prosperity,” the road to fulfillment in any line of endeavor is always marked by an initial breakthrough; however, that first taste of success needs to be replicated again and again in order for supremacy to be sustained. As the folks at Oklahoma State, Michigan State, South Carolina, and Stanford know all too well, power can’t be consolidated unless “one brilliant season” is transformed into “the normal way of proceeding.” Until winning becomes a regular reality in the locker room, on the practice field, and then on Saturdays, a program won’t make that leap from “one-hit wonder” to “annual contender.” That’s the challenge being faced this year in Stillwater, East Lansing, Columbia, and Palo Alto.

This column focuses on the other primary pressure point in college football: the pressure that comes with poverty. For all the teams that manage to produce magic-carpet-ride seasons and gain a chance to move up the ladder in the sport, there are many more which fail to attain even one mountaintop moment, one particularly sweet sip from the cup of glory.

One of the enduringly fascinating aspects of college football is that while players come and go every few years and coaches’ tenures shrink, the personalities of certain programs remain remarkably consistent. Virginia Tech and Oklahoma wobble early in the season and have their manhood questioned before October arrives, but the Hokies and Sooners often manage to claim their conference crowns at the end of the season. LSU is a schizophrenia patient whose competing personalities always clash in vivid, violent detail, making each autumnal Saturday a tense and thoroughly scary gridiron equivalent of a psych ward visit. Oregon State is the team with less than overwhelming speed that regularly (last year was an exception) uses its high football IQ and well-honed instincts to squeeze out eight or nine wins. Boise State – not just in the Chris Petersen era, but under previous coaches Dan Hawkins and Dirk Koetter – has been the persistently cocky but zen-infused jujitsu practitioner who brings a meticulous sense of planning to each and every day at the office. The Broncos have cultivated a well-earned reputation as a team that always comes prepared and regularly plays with a precision lacking at other schools.

You get the point – so many teams inhabit a certain identity that doesn’t change very much over an extended period of time. All of the examples just listed – Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon State, and Boise State – are examples of “persistent pigskin personalities” with decidedly positive dimensions. These are the members of the college football community who defy the odds by winning in the same basic manner over a number of years.

Then consider the other side of the coin.

While some schools’ “Groundhog Day” seasons are happy occasions due to the victories that always seem to emerge in the defining championship moments of late November, many other schools are trapped in unending cycles of deprivation and disillusionment, living versions of gridiron hell. Some college football programs, no matter how hard they try or how many coaching changes they make, always seem to fall short. These are the programs whose personalities are very much entrenched in their own right, but for all the wrong reasons. While not lacking resources, they can’t seem to turn potential into accomplishment. Challenged by high expectations – a sign that people care about them – they must deal with the pressure of poverty, the weight that comes with missing out on success year after year after laborious, agonizing year.

Any discussion of poverty-ravaged programs in college football must begin with Clemson. This is, by any reasonable measurement, a football school. It’s the birthplace and residence of Howard’s Rock. Over the long sweep of Atlantic Coast Conference football history (since 1953, not just the past 15 years of Florida State- and Virginia Tech-based dominance), only Georgia Tech and North Carolina – maybe Maryland as well – can claim a football tradition as rich as Clemson’s. The passion of the Tigers’ fan base is unmatched among old-guard ACC schools. Clemson is more of an SEC school in terms of its subculture than any of the other charter members of the ACC. The Tigers won the 1981 national championship, sweetly beating a Turner Gill-led, Tom Osborne-coached Nebraska team on New Year’s Night in the Orange Bowl while bitter regional rival Georgia fell to Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson fans are yearning for conference championships and BCS bowl berths with an uncommon hunger. The university is waiting to be able to bust loose and celebrate a conquest of the rest of the ACC.

Yet, as the years come and go, Clemson can’t snag a single ACC title. This, despite C.J. Spiller. This, despite the sustained weakness of the ACC in the years following the Florida State and Miami migrations to the conference. This, despite hosting a vulnerable and psychologically frail Boston College team for the ACC Atlantic title in 2007, one of the most wide-open seasons in college football’s 14-decade-long history. Clemson brings high-caliber recruits to the Palmetto State, but those talented performers never mesh… at least not enough to win the ACC. Sometimes, the Tigers violently crash and burn, knocking themselves out of conference title contention by the midpoint of the season. On other occasions, Aaron Kelly drops a game-winning pass (against Boston College in that 2007 stomach punch of a game). A decisive placekick is blocked or missed in the final minute of regulation. A quarterback displays terrible judgment on a defining fourth-quarter drive. This litany of situational breakdowns has simply continued without interruption in Death Valley, exasperating Tommy Bowden and dumbfounding Dabo Swinney. Few programs are more adrift than Clemson, even though the Tigers should be a pace-setter in an ACC that has rarely fared well against intersectional non-conference opponents over the past several years. Virginia Tech has been the model program in the ACC since 2005, so while Clemson should not have a bulging trophy case, the Tigers should have been able to face the Hokies on at least two or three occasions in the ACC Championship Game. The fact that Clemson has made only one ACC title game while failing to reach a single BCS bowl (in 13 years of the BCS era) represents a damning indictment of this program’s performance.

In light of all the problems Clemson has endured in recent seasons, it’s hard to understand why the program didn’t pluck available coach Rich Rodriguez when the former Michigan boss was fired. Rodriguez was Bowden’s assistant at Clemson in 1999 and 2000, but a far better reason for hiring Rich Rod is that he enabled a football school in one of the weaker BCS conferences (West Virginia in the Big East) to thrive. Rodriguez was clearly not cut out for the rigors of the Big Ten, but at one of the ACC’s more attractive programs, Rodriguez could have pulled in athletes who would have made his speed-based spread offense sing. Clemson had the ability to make one of the best and most compatible hires of the college football offseason, but it instead chose to stick with Swinney, a man of sound character without Rodriguez’s considerable baggage from the West Virginia and Michigan years. Yes, personal integrity is supposed to matter in an ideal world, but in the cutthroat climate of college football, there’s little doubt that Rodriguez would have given Clemson a far better chance of winning games. As Clemson prepares for the 2011 season, Swinney’s competence and leadership ability will receive a final, telling test. If Swinney can’t cut the mustard, the Tigers will almost surely look for another coach in December. Maybe a guy like Rodriguez will still be available, but if he’s not, the Tigers could be thrust into even more years of stomach-churning uncertainty. The pressure of poverty weighs heavily on the Clemson football family this season. It’s doubtful the narrative will change in the state of South Carolina, but if it does, the Tigers are better positioned than most to remain a championship contender. It’s taking the first step – and winning one ACC crown – that’s proven to be so consistently and agonizingly elusive for the wearers of Clemson colors.


TomRob's Clemson Tiger Preview - ChantRant

General CFB

The Utah State Aggies And The Duke Of The WAC - Football Study Hall
A look at the 2011 Utah State Aggies football team. Thanks to injuries, coach Gary Anderson has more depth to work with than he has in recent years.

Below is a small handful of projection and change factors most pertinent to the Football Outsiders' preseason projections you will find in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2011.

Four-Year F/+ Rk 107
Five-Year Recruiting Rk 105
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin**** -5 / -5.5
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (8, 5)
Yds/Pt Margin***** +3.1

This is not a team projections will love. Our projections place them just 108th in the country, which makes sense considering their recent record, recent performance and recent recruiting. That said, they have two things going for them:

1) An incredibly easy schedule. Despite projecting as the 13th-worst team in FBS, they have a projected record of 5-7 and are given a 24% chance of finishing with six wins or better (17% chance at 6-6, 6% chance at 7-5, 1% chance at 8-4). Home games against Weber State, Colorado State, Wyoming, Louisiana Tech and San Jose State are all incredibly winnable, as are road games New Mexico State and maybe Idaho. The problem, of course, is that the other five games (@Auburn, @BYU, @Fresno State, @Hawaii, Nevada) are, to put it kindly, less winnable, meaning their bowl eligibility hopes hinge on winning almost every single winnable game. That's rough, especially for a team not used to winning more than four games in a season.

2) Gary Andersen. I really like him, and I think if anybody can bring football success to Logan, it's him. It just takes time. He has better depth to work with now than he has recently, and he has a strong defensive mind, but he is probably still a year or two away from seeing all the pieces put together in full.

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