Florida State had a successful spring game: great weather, great fans (roughly 40,000), nice festivities and activities, tons of playing time for everyone and no major injuries. Here are some observations, but before you read these, remember to not take too much from a spring game. It is a scrimmage like any other, the only difference is you get to watch it. Oh, and this defense looks even better than it did last year. Also, these are my initial thoughts. I will watch again soon.
Quarterback EJ Manuel did not run or scramble much at all, which is normally a major part of his game. Coach Fisher made Manuel focus on his throwing. Manuel did have some nice throws, but also struggled reading the middle of the field and had some accuracy issues. The game did nothing to increase my confidence that he will ever fully "get it." But he did look better at times.
James Wilder Jr. had a nice game at running back, particularly catching the football. Mario Pender was disciplined and ran well in-between the tackles. Lonnie Pryor is noticeably quicker, as he's been all spring.
No receivers stood out, though Kenny Shaw had a nice game. Kelvin Benjamin didn't do anything special, despite the enormous hype. But it is good news that he looked just as good as any other receiver in a loaded corps.
At tight end, Nick O'Leary had several nice catches and was not noticeably out of position. That's very important. O'Leary just needs to be consistently in the right spot and on the same page as his quarterback. That's something Beau Reliford never managed to do.
The offensive line appeared improved over last year. New offensive tackle Cameron Erving looked good considering his competition, as did Daniel Glauser and Josue Matias. There are certainly parts for a much better starting five.
Not everything on the offensive line was great, however. Bobby Hart was atrocious and perhaps this embarrassment was exactly what he needs to get him to focus on becoming a better player and not thinking he is untouchable just because he started as a freshman. If Menelik Watson is decent come fall, Hart should red-shirt. Trey Pettis looks embarrassingly out of shape and was dominated. If he doesn't soon commit to doing what it takes to play at the BCS level, expect him to be somewhere else. Awful.
This defense was missing defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes (two top-60) type draft choices, defensive tackle starter/contributors Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel, and starting middle linebacker Vince Williams. and it still dominated. What a ridiculous unit.
The defensive line was its typical dominant self, though many top players were held out. Tank Carradine had an incredible game, abusing the aforementioned Bobby Hart. Brandon Jenkins still played well, despite the nice day from Cameron Erving. Demonte McAllister had a very nice game. Nile Lawrence-Stample was very disruptive, again, abusing Trey Pettis. I am quite confident that FSU has three top-60 picks at defensive end. Just sick.
Terrance Smith had several flash plays. He needs to continue to add bulk. Jeff Luc made some nice plays. Enough to make him not transfer? I'm not sure. Telvin Smith also made a lot of plays, per usual.
Defensively, Tyler Hunter and Terrence Brooks were excellent. Lamarcus Joyner and Greg Reid were avoided at all costs by the quarterbacks, for the most part. Nick Waisome did not look particularly good.
Justin Bright dove at the knees of senior receiver Rodney Smith. That was terrible. Coach Fisher should just cut him. He'll never play for FSU and came very close to causing a serious knee injury for one of FSU's top players.
The punting by freshman Cason Beatty was not very good.
The 'Noles look a lot better than they did last year. A lot. But there is still a lot of work to be done if the team is to be good enough to make a run at something bigger than the ACC.
What did you see? There are tons of details I miss, as does any single observer. Please share your thoughts.