TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida State football team headed to the practice field Saturday morning with one No. 7 preseason national ranking, thanks to the USA Today Coaches Poll, and left the field as the consensus No. 7 team.
The Seminoles checked in at No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, which was released as the Seminoles were wrapping up the first of two workouts on the day.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher joked with the media afterward about sharing the same opinion as the coaches, and then shared his thoughts on why he isn't shying away from the expectations.
"I love being up there," Fisher said of the ranking. "I think it helps. The higher up you are the easier it is to climb. ... I think it's a good thing. Hopefully we'll deal with it very well. I think we will. We've just got to play ball and quit worrying about that. They've got us there and now we've got to take care of our business."
That's something the ‘Noles didn't appear to do to the best of their ability a year ago, when they checked in at No. 6 in the AP preseason poll, but dropped out of the rankings for more than a month after a three-game losing streak.
Fisher, however, has been genuinely pleased with how the Seminoles have performed as they prepare to head into their third and final week of preseason practices. An ample amount of experience in key positions, competitive depth and noticeable physical and technical gains - especially on the offensive line - has the needle pointing North on FSU's development in Fisher's third year at the helm.
Saturday's morning session was merely an extension of the continued development the ‘Noles have made throughout camp.
"I am pleased by where we're at," Fisher said. "I see which direction we want to go. ... I see things a lot more clearly, I really do, about what I think we need to do and what we need to do and who we need to get the ball to, and those types of things. Probably, more so than I have in a while."
Earlier this week, Fisher had made the comment that the ‘Noles were significantly ahead of where they were at this same juncture last season. After practice, he elaborated on the reason he feels that way.
"I think we're more physical," he said. "We've got a better grasp of how we want things done. The older guys are getting across to the younger guys, because it's their third year in the system for them, so when they see those (younger) guys make the same mistakes, they grab them and move them along. It allows us to keep coaching and not have to worry about effort issues. ...
"Assignment-wise we're much further along than where we were. I'm very pleased with the offensive line as far as assignments. You worry with some young guys there, but I was pleased with a lot of protection issues and blitz pick-ups. I think they're getting pretty good."
After working out in full pads for the morning session, the ‘Noles were slated to return to the field in shells for the afternoon workout. A rare Sunday practice session is also on the schedule as they head into the last week before the fall semester begins.
Manuel working through sore ankle
After sitting out Thursday's scrimmage with a sore right ankle, starting quarterback EJ Manuel was back running the offense Saturday morning.
"He was a little tender today," Fisher said of his senior standout. "He threw yesterday, too. It's just that right foot - the push-off foot - and you can see every now and then when he flips it. In another couple days that (soreness) will be out of there. It's a very minimal thing. He did everything today; took every rep, threw every ball. ... For the most part, he threw the ball pretty good."
Fisher notes following the morning workout:
· Practice included an improved performance in the passing game, but at the same time was plenty physical;
· The ‘Noles worked on the installation of new elements on both offense and defense;
· Sophomore TB James Wilder had a sore shoulder and was in a blue, non-contact, jersey;
· Freshman DT Eddie Goldman has a knee strain and was held out of practice but worked on the stationary bike;
· Fisher also continued to praise junior WR Greg Dent, citing his maturity, a better grasp of the system and the competitiveness within his position as contributing factors to his emergence.