ACC: Florida State Seminoles
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When an all-time program great leaves a school, his presence is felt far longer than the last time he played.
This spring at Florida State, it’s not just Jameis Winston’s name being consistently thrown into that conversation. Former receiver Rashad Greene is talked about at length despite leaving almost three months ago, and he’s spoken about in a manner that can be described as nothing short of reverential.
After four seasons starring at Florida State, finishing as the program’s most prolific receiver, Greene is pursuing an NFL career. His absence leaves a gaping hole at receiver in both leadership and production, but his successors said they’re using the lessons Greene passed along to make up for his departure.
“We’re going to take what he told us and do what we have to do,” junior receiver Jesus Wilson said.
Wilson is the most experienced receiver on the roster. He’s started seven games; Greene started 43.
The Seminoles will rely on a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are the only juniors at the position, which is why Wilson acknowledged it is his time to take on a bigger role. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound receiver registered 42 catches as a sophomore. He caught only three passes as a freshman.
While Florida State lacks experience and a proven commodity at receiver with Greene graduating and Kelvin Benjamin bolting for the NFL following the 2013 national championship, the current group of Florida State receivers has the talent to potentially make up for it.
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Jones, who was academically ineligible last season, was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class. Whitfield also was a highly-ranked recruit in that 2013 class. Sophomore Ermon Lane was the No. 2 receiver in the 2014 class, and Travis Rudolph was not far behind at No. 6. Two 2015 receivers are already enrolled and participating in in spring practices: top-rated athlete George Campbell and sixth-ranked receiver Da’Vante Phillips.
“Just working on our craft and that goes into learning the playbook,” said Rudolph, about the key to turning the promise into on-field production. “What can stop a guy from his highest potential is not learning the playbook.”
Rudolph said he doesn’t assume he will be the No. 1 receiver in the fall, but that it is what he’s working toward -- and he expects his teammates to be doing the same. Rudolph arrived in Tallahassee as one of the more polished high school players, so the expectation was for the 6-foot-2, 187-pound South Florida native to play early. After failing to record a catch in the season’s first three games, Rudolph finished the season with 555 yards. He capped his freshman campaign with six receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
“It went well, but not as well,” Rudolph said. “But I just got my feet wet and now I know how the system is and adjusted. … Now I’m at the point where everything is natural.”
Last season, Rudolph started six games and worked his way to becoming Winston’s No. 2 threat on the outside. Sean Maguire, the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback, worked with Rudolph with the second-string offense to start last fall and he said the difference between Rudolph then and now is “night and day.”
Then Maguire brought up the name from the past, inciting the hype and trying his best to curb it within the same breath.
“I’m not comparing anyone, but I slowly see him going toward Rashad, that route,” Maguire said. “... I was here when Rashad was a sophomore and this is going to be Travis’ sophomore year. They’re both great players, explosive, got that fifth gear to go get the ball and Travis is becoming a leader pretty much every day out there, too.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is not inviting the comparisons, but he isn’t squashing them, either. He said he will wait and see whether Rudolph is the next Greene.
For what it’s worth, Greene had 38 catches as a freshman -- the same as Rudolph. Greene used that season to springboard to 232 more.
“There’s nothing that says he won’t [be like Greene],” Fisher said, “but until someone does that, I’m not going to say they’re going to do that, you know what I mean?”
Will Be Making My College Choice April 3rd! @ Ocean Lakes High School 6pm... Anyone Can Come, No Charge Decision, Decisions, & Decisions.=— Levonta Taylor (@iamlevonta) March 24, 2015
We at the ACC blog would like to welcome Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer back to the sideline. Beamer, in his 29th season as the Hokies' coach, spent the December bowl game coaching from the press box following throat surgery.
The Daily Press writes Beamer's voice is still working its way back, but he still possessed the same fervor while talking about his team.
Here are a handful of links around the ACC for your morning:
- A search firm will present a list of candidates for the Pittsburgh athletic director position to the school's search committee in the coming weeks.
- Clemson linebacker B.J. Goodson feels comfortable filling the shoes of departed leader Stephone Anthony.
- Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and son Tommy, who coached Clemson, will be part of a new travel show called "Bobby Bowden Goes to War." The documentary brings the Bowdens to Europe to highlight World War II stories.
- Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he is confident the school will make a strong athletic director hire.
- With hardly any experience returning at A-back, it feels like the beginning of the Paul Johnson era in Atlanta all over again for the unit.
- Here are 10 Miami players that could become much bigger factors in 2015.
- Louisville is splitting first-team reps at quarterback as spring practice gets underway. The Cardinals have a major question mark at quarterback.
- The defense was a little ahead of the offense at NC State on Tuesday, due in part to numbers.
- Prized signee C.J. Stalker is looking to adjust quickly for Virginia.
Much of the conversation in the ACC surrounds Florida State's quarterback situation -- past, present and future. While Sean Maguire impresses coaches and teammates with his performance this spring through the first few practices, his predecessor remains in the news and his potential successor is making headlines.
Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the favorite to go No. 1 overall, is leaning toward spending the draft with his family in Alabama rather than travel to Chicago, his father told ESPN.com last week. MMQB.com caught up with Roger Goodell and posted a story Monday in which Goodell said he would respect Winston's desire to watch the draft with those close to him.
"I think that it’s something we respect when a player says, “I’d like to be with my family on that day.” It’s an important day for them also," Goodell to MMQB.com.
Many wondered if the NFL would pressure Winston into attending the draft, but unless something changes, both parties are fine with skipping out on Chicago.
Winston was the No. 1 quarterback nationally in the 2012 recruiting class, and four years later, Florida State is bringing in the top-ranked prep quarterback again. Malik Henry, who recently transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, participated in a regional camp for Nike The Opening. Henry, No. 3 overall in the 2016 class, was named one of the regional camp's MVPs and received an invitation to The Opening, which is held in July in Beaverton, Oregon.
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer also leads the Elite 11, an elite passing camp for the top high school quarterbacks, and was on hand at the Atlanta regional to evaluate the quarterbacks. He told SB Nation Henry was "as dominant as any kid we had this year."
- A top Syracuse 2015 signee is still working to academically qualify for the fall. Also, Orange is making a return in the Orange's jersey.
- Boston College added a commitment from Brandon Barlow (subscription required).
- Former Miami linebacker Alex Figueroa is lucky to have a second chance, but he is not off to a good start. He posted an expletive-laced video last week in which he burned a Miami flag. Figueroa and former Miami teammate JaWand Blue were permanently dismissed from the university last summer after admitting to police they sexually assaulted an intoxicated Miami student. In November, they avoided jail time by being placed in a pre-trial diversion program, which prosecution sought after the victim did not want to relive the experience in court.
- Clemson was back on the practice field Monday after nearly two weeks off for the Tigers' spring break.
- Five priorities for Georgia Tech this spring as practice began Monday (subscription required).
- Here are a few notes gleaned from Bobby Petrino's news conference to open spring practice, which begins Tuesday.
- The Pitt defense is working to pick up new coach Pat Narduzzi's schemes and principles. It's going to be a process.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The question aimed at Sean Maguire left no room for deflection or wavering. Maguire’s answer was equally forthright, leaving no ambiguities.
Is Florida State now your team?
“Yes,” the redshirt junior said. “I believe so.”
The fourth-year quarterback has spent most of his career as a backup, losing out on a four-way quarterback competition in 2013 and playing sparingly in mostly mop-up duty the last two seasons. He played in nine games in 2013 but threw only 21 passes. He played in only four games last year after a hand injury cost him a large chunk of the season. However, the Seminoles’ playoff chances were thrown onto the 6-foot-3, 224-pound signal-caller’s shoulders 21 hours before a season-defining game against division rival Clemson. It wasn’t a flawless performance but one that was wholly admirable, especially considering the circumstances. Late in the game, Maguire threw a long touchdown to force overtime. The Seminoles eventually prevailed.
It was enough to give Maguire the early leg up in this, the second four-way spring quarterback battle of his career. All indications are Maguire is taking full advantage of getting the first crack at the starting job through the first three spring practices.
“I’m very comfortable where I am, very comfortable with the offense, the team,” he said. “… I’m not worried about when Coach [Jimbo] Fisher is going to make his decision. That can’t affect anything that I do on the field. I’ve got to go out on the field every day whether he announces or doesn’t announce and practice and play the same way.”
Redshirt sophomore John Franklin III, redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino and true freshman De'Andre Johnson are Maguire’s counterparts in the spring competition, but there is a clear separation between Maguire and the remaining three at this point, based on the comments from Fisher and Maguire’s teammates. The position is Maguire’s to win.
In the aftermath following the Oregon loss that ended last season, Winston took hold of Maguire in the locker room and told his fellow Class of 2012 enrollee that the team belonged to Maguire and it was on him to lead the Seminoles. A week after the Rose Bowl, Maguire was organizing 7-on-7 drills to build a rapport with the receivers and running backs.
“All the receivers, Dalvin [Cook], they listen to me. They see me as the leader out there,” he said. “It’s very reassuring and adds to my confidence too.”
Junior receiver Jesus Wilson is the most experienced returning receiver with seven career starts. Maguire was tasked with earning the respect of a young group of receivers, running backs and offensive line, and Wilson said Maguire has done that.
“We got confidence in Sean,” Wilson said. “He’s stepping up, becoming a leader. It’s his time now.”
The race to replace Jameis Winston as Florida State's starting quarterback was always going to be crowded enough. But De'Andre Johnson has no problem adding to the confusion early on.
Johnson has drawn early praise from the Seminoles' coach Jimbo Fisher through the early part of spring practice. The early enrollee made a number of impressive plays during Saturday's scrimmage, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.
From the Sentinel:
“I thought De’Andre Johnson had a really nice day today – does a lot of things very instinctively, man, I think that guy’s gonna be a really good player,” Fisher said after Saturday’s practice. “J.J. and John, they responded well.”
As Sonnone notes, it's always worth reading between the lines, especially when a player is mentioned unprovoked. But Johnson seems to be doing something right so far, and he may force us all to think beyond Sean Maguire, J.J. Cosentino and John Franklin if he keeps growing throughout the spring and summer.
Here are the rest of your Monday links:
- Andy Gallik impressed scouts at BC's pro day, Adam Kurkjian writes in the Boston Herald.
- Miami's second scrimmage was a sloppy affair, Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- Funny stuff from the NC State football Twitter feed.
- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick shares some interesting thoughts on the future of college sports with CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd.
- Pitt's spring practices are getting more physical under Pat Narduzzi, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Syracuse quarterback A.J. Long clarifies recent comments he made about redshirting, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
Could an immediate reinforcement be on the way for Florida State's re-tooling offensive line? This weekend may go a long way toward determining that.
Former Notre Dame center Matt Hegarty is visiting Tallahassee on Friday through Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone reports. Hegarty confirmed his planned FSU visit to ESPN.com.
Hegarty started 11 of 13 games last year for the Fighting Irish, at center and at guard. He had told ESPN.com earlier this month that he planned to play football elsewhere upon receiving his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame this May. Hegarty will be immediately eligible to play wherever he ends up.
Hegarty had said that he was asked to switch positions, and Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Hegarty would have had the opportunity to be the team's starting left guard. He is presumably looking to play center at his next stop, and that is one of several positions up for grabs on the Seminoles' offensive line, which lost four of five starters from last season.
Ryan Hoefield is currently the projected man in the middle of the Noles' line, though he struggled last season in limited action as a redshirt freshman.
As for who Hegarty or any other center would be snapping the ball to at FSU in 2015, well, that storyline figures to dominate the conversation throughout the spring and likely the summer.
Here are the rest of your Friday links:
- Grantland's Matt Hinton has an interesting article on all of the quarterback movement around the country, starting with former Clemson QB Chad Kelly, who is now at Ole Miss.
- Steve Addazio thinks Tyler Murphy is ready to take on the NFL as "an elite athlete," Mike Petraglia writes on WEEI.com.
- Former Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson is gaining notice after pro day, Ken Suguira writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Malik Rosier stepped up Thursday in Brad Kaaya's absence (illness), Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- UNC's Twitter feed had some fun with a pair of ESPN personalities on #tbt.
- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly thinks Jameis Winston was the best QB in college football.
- Pitt started slow in its first spring practice with pads, but it ended with emotion, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher walked into his opening news conference with far fewer microphones and notepads staring back. That’s because of the number of new faces glaring back at the sixth-year coach in his own football meetings.
At this meeting with reporters -- almost exclusively of the local variety -- on the first day of spring camp, there was no talk of complacency or repeats or dynasties. There were hardly any questions about that former polarizing quarterback (of course there would be some). Instead, the afternoon session’s buzzwords were rooted in education: coach, patience, teach.
There is an obvious contrast in the Florida panhandle this spring. The Seminoles will have lost more than 30 players to the NFL draft over the past three years -- chief among them Jameis Winston. The Seminoles had a 29-game winning streak -- chief reason for it being Winston -- snapped in last season's finale.
So, Florida State, we’ll take that black hat from you while you exit stage left into relative (and welcomed) obscurity for the time being. The 2015 college football spring prospectus is focused on Alabama, TCU and USC. The only quarterback we’re interested in right now is the one in Columbus, Ohio -- whichever one the Buckeyes choose (or maybe don’t choose).
“I guess I’ve been in [coaching] long enough to have been on both ends of it,” Fisher said of the preseason hype, which besieged FSU last spring. “They’re relatively similar from a coaching standpoint in that you’ve still got to go develop your team. I know y’all don’t look at it that way, but we do.
“… But it does feel different.”
The Seminoles have been freed of the “media hoopla,” as Fisher referred to it, that embroiled the 2014 season. Though there is the lingering question of whether they can withstand the constant cycling and remain at college football’s summit, most of the outside pressures have been lifted as the early belief is the 2015 Seminoles will step back. (Colleague Mark Schlabach has them No. 15 in his Way-Too-Early Top 25.) The offense is being overhauled and is auditioning for a quarterback. The defense is rallying from the loss of two former five-star linemen and its starting corners. The core of the 2014 team and a dozen of its members are all off to certain NFL futures.
Roberto Aguayo, one of the few draft-eligible players that elected to remain in school, said it feels like a new era has been ushered in around campus.
“We’re forced to have that chip on our shoulder. We had it last year but now it’s more realistic,” he said. “Obviously we don’t have a starting quarterback right now. … Jameis is a one-of-a-kind quarterback and now we don’t have him.”
Florida State is embracing the challenge, which all elite programs go through every few seasons. The better the recruiting, the quicker the roster churns over and the higher the demand placed on young players to make earlier impacts. Although Florida State has recruited better than any program outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that talent is still undergoing the required maturation. Dalvin Cook and Jalen Ramsey present the freshmen exception rather than the rule as most first-year players serve as understudies. With a young roster, Florida State’s staff is tasked with molding it so the newer Seminoles are ready to contribute come September.
“To me, that’s why it’s exciting to watch these new pups develop into football players,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it can be a frustrating thing, but at the same time it’s very fun. You have to remember to keep your patience because you see the talent. … I think we have to continue to make sure we’re dotting I’s and crossing T’s and making sure they know exactly what we want. Because if we do that, I think we have a chance to be another very, very good football team.”
It’s too early to size up the picture of the 2015 season after a single brush, but Fisher was chipper following the Seminoles’ first spring practice. Redshirt junior Sean Maguire started the quarterback competition with a leg up based on his experience, but he took control of his first practice with his voice as much as his arm, said Fisher, notorious for coaching his quarterbacks hard.
“It looked like he wanted that job and was in control of things,” Fisher said. “… I was very pleased with his demeanor and execution and decision-making.”
“… Again, it’s day one.”
In more than one way.
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Jalen Ramsey is on the move again.
The junior standout at Florida State, who has started all 28 games of his career, is moving to cornerback this season. Ramsey began his career at cornerback and was the first true freshman to start at cornerback since Deion Sanders, but he then moved to free safety and then nickelback as a sophomore.
Regardless of where Ramsey plays, he is going to play a significant role in Florida State's defense again. Ramsey is one of the country's elite athletes -- he finished fourth nationally in the long jump last week -- and he will continue to cover, blitz and even do a little freelancing regardless of where he is on the field.
The question is whether the Seminoles will have the productivity around Ramsey on a defense that could be tasked with carrying much of the load, a contrast to the 2014 season. The offense is being overhauled, and while the defense did lose several key contributors and former five-star prospects, it does return a good deal of experience at every level. Florida State has to improve its pass rush, and the linebacker group will have to overcome depth issues.
As for Ramsey's future, the move back to cornerback would seemingly help his draft stock, whether he enters the NFL draft after this season or 2016. More cornerbacks (nine) have been drafted in the first round the last two years than any other defensive position. Corners are annually among the highest-paid defensive players, too. Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman have all signed lucrative contracts recently.
Other links around the ACC for your morning (assuming the afternoon and evening will be dedicated to the NCAA Tournament, which begins in earnest Thursday).
- I think the ACC blog could use a selfie stick (and a jet ski).
- Virginia Tech had its pro day, and father was there to once again coach his son.
- Miami received some good news and some bad news on the recruiting trail. Kc McDermott, already a member of the Canes, said he will not accept anything short of a conference championship. Miami has yet to win an ACC title since joining the league.
- Daryl Gross said it was his decision to leave his post as Syracuse athletic director. This NCAA tournament eve (in the traditional sense) will be remembered for a long time in central New York.
- Pitt and Tennessee announced a home-and-home series for 2021 and 2022. The first game will be played at Tennessee.
- An interesting interview with Boston College AD Brad Bates about his thoughts on the evolving collegiate model and BC's dissenting vote to recent legislation.
- Six takeaways from Georgia Tech's pro day includes notes on Shaq Mason and DeAndre Smelter. And Georgia Tech's Chaz Cheeks and Thomas O'Reilly are no longer listed on the roster.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It’s the question that will almost certainly define Florida State’s 2015 season, potentially dictate the Atlantic Division and could determine the entire ACC: Who is going to quarterback the Seminoles?
“I don’t have a plan,” sixth-year coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I have a plan when I see it. Let them play.”
The candidates entering spring practice, which opens Wednesday, are redshirt junior Sean Maguire and redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino, although receiver/quarterback John Franklin III and enrolled freshman De'Andre Johnson will each have an opportunity to make a formal pitch to Fisher over the 15 practices. It doesn’t sound as if Fisher expects to leave the spring with a starter in place, though, a stark contrast to last spring when he returned an undefeated Heisman Trophy winner.
For any of the four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster to establish himself as the leading candidate, there is going to have to be a consistency with each practice leading up to the Apr. 11 spring game. It won’t always be about going for the big play, Fisher said. Game manager" is too often a misconstrued asset for a quarterback, one that induces cringes from fan bases (especially ones that have watched three consecutive first-round picks at the position), but that's what Fisher seeks this spring.
Quarterback Jameis Winston elevated Florida State and re-established it as a national power, but the future quarterback is not being asked to do the same. Instead, he takes over a program with a wealth of riches at most every position, and it will be his responsibility to guide Florida State through a manageable schedule and to a fourth consecutive ACC title.
“Manage the game, get  guys in the huddle to believe in you, process and move down the field, make your throws and your reads,” Fisher said. “But let the  guys around you function and do their job. That’s the first job you have.
“If you have a chance to make plays and become ‘that guy’ then you do. You do that when you get confident and the guys around you are confident.”
Before any quarterback takes a snap, Maguire is considered to have the best chance of the group to eventually earn the starting position. The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Maguire is a step ahead of the group due to his time in the program and experience under pressure situations. While Maguire has served mostly in a backup role the last two seasons, he was thrust into the starting lineup just days before a prime time and nationally televised game against division rival Clemson. The winner of that game would likely go on to win the Atlantic Division, and Maguire was asked to step in for Winston for all four quarters less than 24 hours before kickoff.
“I see a very good leader,” Fisher said. “He’s been having a great [offseason]. I see the presence and command and he’s talking more like ‘It’s my time.’ ”
Cosentino has the prototypical pocket-passing quarterback size (6-4, 237) and comes with a strong arm. Johnson and Franklin bring an athleticism to the position.
Fisher and his staff have time to make a decision -- a little more than five months. The rest eagerly await an answer.
- Sophomore left tackle Roderick Johnson is going through his first offseason, and he continues to impress the staff with his maturity. Inserted into the lineup in November, Johnson helped solidify a struggling offensive line. He established himself as one of the premier tackles in the ACC in a short time. “Big Rod is really special. It’s like he’s been here 10 years the way he works,” Fisher said. “He’s a veteran already.”
- The linebacker group won’t be at full strength this spring. While Terrance Smith has had a few months to recover from a knee sprain, leading tackler Reggie Northrup is rehabbing an ACL tear suffered against Oregon. E.J. Levenberry is transferring, and although Kain Daub is still listed on the roster, Fisher expects him to transfer. Ukeme Eligwe was dismissed from the team last fall. For former five-star recruit Matthew Thomas, who has battled injuries and suspensions, there is no time like the present.
- The pass rush was too often ineffective for Florida State last season, but Fisher said he likes what he is seeing from the sophomore group. Lorenzo Featherston, Derrick Nnadi and Jacob Pugh all flashed productivity at points last season, and Fisher pointed those three out as players looking strong in offseason workouts. Both Featherston and Pugh have added about 10 pounds since last season based on the updated roster measurements.
- Outside of this first week, Florida State will practice Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday each week this spring, culminating with the Saturday spring game in April.
From Florida State and Clemson to Miami and Boston College, offensive lines will be a big talking point for many ACC offenses this spring. But in Blacksburg, Virginia, Frank Beamer’s crew is actually feeling a bit optimistic.
As the Roanoke Times writes in its preview of the position, this marks the first time in the past four years that Virginia Tech has had the same O-line coach -- and recruiting, development and scheme philosophies -- which once again has the line firmly in the spotlight.
From the Times:
This group has been treading water for a few years, trying to dig out of a numbers deficiency and talent gap that's been been apparent whenever the Hokies played against even decent defensive lines.
It’s no secret that Virginia Tech hasn’t met expectations for the past three years, and while there have been plenty of areas that needed improvement, it’s hard to argue that the offensive line hasn’t been the most overwhelming problem.
For example, here are some crucial line-related numbers for Virginia Tech since 2012:
- 42nd among 65 Power 5 teams in sack rate (6.4 percent)
- tied for 62nd in yards per carry (4.27, not counting sacks)
- 60th in touchdowns per rush (3.3 percent)
- 60th in percentage of rushes going for a loss or no gain (21.5 percent)
- 54th in yards per play on first down (5.32)
- 60th in third- and fourth-and-short conversions (54.5 percent)
Those are all pretty atrocious results, which might explain why a line that figures to look quite a bit different in 2015 is also one that has a lot more enthusiasm surrounding it.
Stacy Searels has a track record of success building lines. Wyatt Teller was a revelation in the second half of 2014. Depth, for the first time in years, is an asset. And, of course, this year might also represent the best cast of skill-position players surrounding the line in years.
In other words, while FSU is hoping Wilson Bell can emerge as a star and Miami is excited to have Kc McDermott back in the fold, there may not be any ACC team with more focus on the offensive line this spring. And if that unit really does take a big step forward, there’s reason to think that Virginia Tech can, at long last, return to that 10-win plateau that had once been the norm.
A few more links:
- It’s going to be a fresh start at cornerback for Florida State, writes Tomahawk Nation.
- The competition at quarterback is a boost for Wake Forest’s offense, writes the Winston-Salem Journal.
- The Orange have parted ways with senior receiver Quinta Funderburk, writes Syracuse.com.
- The first day of spring practice at Virginia was about getting back into the groove for the Hoos, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- A former NC State receiver is under investigation by the federal government on fraud charges, writes the Raleigh News & Observer.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gone is former Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and his two most reliable receivers. Departed are four offensive linemen with more than 160 combined starts. Off to the NFL early are Florida State's two former five-star talents along the defensive line and its starters at cornerback.
So, heading into the 2015 season -- spring practice opens Wednesday for the Seminoles -- what's left in the Florida panhandle?
"We got some talent and some youth," sixth-year coach Jimbo Fisher said, "and I'm anxious to see them grow."
Talent and youth are in abundance at Florida State, as only Alabama has recruited better than the Seminoles since Fisher took over in 2010. Inexperience is too, though, especially on offense. No player with double-digit career starts will return on that side of the football.
When all of the 2015 class arrives, nearly the entire roster will be comprised of juniors, sophomores and freshmen as a significant chunk of the 2012 signing class is no longer enrolled at Florida State. Elevating through the system are players often ranked among the top 10 at their position in high school, but that prep prestige loses its shine after about a year pacing the sideline as a redshirt or reserve. Now the expectation is to turn promise into production.
Fisher said it's too early to get an accurate read on what this roster is capable of in the fall, having lost the core of a team that won 29 of its last 30 games. So the offseason focus was to develop this young group's intangibles because "you recruit talent," Fisher said.
"When you see them do it right, it's special," he said. "They need to do it more consistently and develop that and their attitude."
The Seminoles still have key pieces to build around. Offensively, sophomore left tackle Roderick Johnson could end up being a four-year starter. The same goes for secondary star Jalen Ramsey, who could be playing his final season in Tallahassee.
The roster was revitalized in January, too, with the addition of eight early enrollees. Among them are five-star signees George Campbell, Derwin James and Josh Sweat (who will miss the spring rehabbing an ACL tear). Five of the Seminoles' top seven signees are already on campus, and Fisher said the group has adjusted well. If previous years are any indication, much of the 2015 class should see the field as freshmen with several asked to play significant roles in the pursuit of a fourth consecutive conference championship.
"I'm very proud of a lot of the true freshmen," he said.
This week marks the beginning of a transition year at Florida State, which is expected at the college level every couple of seasons. Now it just comes after one of the best eras in school history and a lot more eyes on the Seminoles.
Boston College fans who'd been eagerly anticipating the team's annual spring game are probably a bit disappointed with news that the team has nixed the exhibition in favor of an open scrimmage. Most fans, on the other hand, probably aren't sure what the difference is regardless.
For the second time in three years, the Eagles have opted against holding a traditional spring game, a decision coach Steve Addazio explained as a necessity to get his team ready:
"These adjustments are meant to best serve our team," Addazio said in a statement released by the school. "We understand that our fans have received this information on short notice, but we know that ultimately they are dedicated to support us as we strive to win as many games as possible this coming season."
While the move comes a bit late in the spring for BC, the Eagles are hardly the only team making changes to their spring calendar.
Repairs to Kenan Stadium meant North Carolina had two separate spring "events" -- including one in Charlotte, North Carolina -- rather than a traditional spring game.
Last year, it was Pittsburgh cutting the spring game from its schedule as former coach Paul Chryst suggested more practice time benefited a young team.
In the big picture, it's easy to wonder why any of it matters in the first place.
Yes, there are some fans who enjoy the game — which is usually a chance to get an early look at the team for free. And some schools pack out the stadium for these spring exhibitions, too. But the vast majority of programs could probably add up the costs and benefits and come to the same conclusion Addazio has this year: There's just not much reward for the investment.
On the plus side, spring games are good recruiting tools, as Syracuse.com notes in its story about the hefty number of recruits planning to be on campus for the Orange's spring game this season. And more and more, these exhibitions are broadcast -- either online or on TV -- to give schools even more of a wide net for recruiting.
But for the players already on the field, the spring game isn't much help. Because it's played under game-like conditions, there's limited opportunity for coaches to work on nuanced issues. Because the crowd is in the stands, coaches typically water down the playbook and stick to vanilla schemes. And because of injury concerns, plenty of stars never take the field in the first place -- limiting depth and setting up the game as a showcase for walk-ons as much as next year's key players.
With practice time limited by NCAA rules and coaches forced to limit hands-on contact with players once spring practice ends, Addazio's plan to maximize his opportunities to get his team better makes a lot more sense from a practical standpoint. And for the fans, the rare spring-game highlight probably doesn't make up for the often monotonous conditions that drain any drama from the exhibition.
Certainly there could be tweaks made to improve the spring games — whether it be playing other teams or adding some celebrity entertainment value — but really, these are relics that seem unnecessary at best and wastes of time and money at worst. So don't be too surprised if Addazio's plan becomes the norm at more than a few schools moving forward.
A few more links:
- Tomahawk Nation takes a look at Florida State's linebacking situation this spring, noting that Matthew Thomas could be a key for the Seminoles' defense.
- USA Today writes that Sean Maguire remains the frontrunner to replace Jameis Winston as FSU's starting QB.
- Clemson's Dabo Swinney was the target of some of John Oliver's NCAA-related ire on his show "Last Week Tonight," as Yahoo! notes.
- With Virginia set to open spring practice Tuesday, Demetrious Nicholson is making a long-awaited return to work, writes the Daily Progress.
- The Roanoke Times takes a deeper look at Virginia Tech's young receiving corps with an eye toward 2015.
Sam Werner at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a very interesting piece on the eve of Pat Narduzzi's first practice as Pitt's head coach. Werner dives into Narduzzi's Youngstown, Ohio, upbringing and his fiery emotions -- which isn't meant as a negative -- on the sideline.
Early on, Werner brings up an interesting point on how Narduzzi's sideline excitability will affect his ability as a head coach and whether Narduzzi will need to rein it in. That passion is what helped him climb the ladder from assistant at Rhode Island to architect of one of college football's stingiest defenses at budding power Michigan State.
"[B]eing a head coach requires an even more delicate balance. At one instant, Narduzzi must be calm and thoughtful to make rational decisions. At the next, he has to spark his players with the same sort of motivation he has used throughout his entire career," Werner writes.
Narduzzi told Werner he will have to "change a little bit probably" but that he has no intentions of losing his enthusiasm.
At the college level, head coaches are required to double as CEO and face of the program. That has proven to be a tough and unexpected requirement that some talented assistant coaches struggled with in the past. No one would ever question Narduzzi's coaching chops -- he was considered a home-run hire for Pitt -- but it will certainly be worth watching if and how his sideline demeanor changes as Pitt's head coach.
- Five questions heading into the spring season for Pittsburgh, and the first has to do with Narduzzi and the defense.
- This is a nice feature from Corey Clark on the longevity Florida State football and basketball play-by-play voice Gene Deckerhoff. The first time I spoke with Deckerhoff, a few questions turned into a 30-minute conversation. The last time I spoke with him, he was explaining how his interest in The Grammys was reignited because of his affection for the latest pop music. He's a big fan of Meghan Trainor's single "All About That Bass."
- Here is an in-depth timeline of events from the NCAA's case on Syracuse.
- Former Georgia Tech back Zach Laskey performed well at the school's pro day.
- It won't be answered this spring, but it will be worth watching who emerges from Virginia Tech's group of young, talented (and injury-riddled) running backs.
- Facility changes are coming to Clemson, and Dabo Swinney is starting to see his dreams put into action.