ACC: Florida State Seminoles
JD in State College, Pa., writes: Where do you think Pitt sophomores James Conner and Tyler Boyd rank among ACC running back/wide receiver combos?
HD: I'm looking at every team in the league and it's tough to find one that compares. Some of them have half the equation, such as Jamison Crowder at Duke. But when you consider that Clemson has to replace its leading rusher and top two receivers from a year ago, FSU lost Kelvin Benjamin, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman ... Pitt has to be near the top -- if not No. 1 -- and last season was only the beginning for them. Based on potential, though, they could be surpassed by Miami's combo of Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley, especially with Johnson healthy again. And don't forget that FSU reloads. Karlos Williams and Rashad Greene could state their case. Here's a sleeper for you: UNC's T.J. Logan and Quinshad Davis. Logan drew rave reviews from the coaching staff this spring.
HD: No hope? I'd never say no hope. Hapless maybe, but not hopeless. Here's the scoop on VT's offense this spring: The Hokies are better everywhere on offense this spring. Every position is deeper and better. Except quarterback. It's still a huge question, and one that won't be answered until this summer when the entire roster is practicing. There's plenty of talent on that roster, but until they find an answer at quarterback, I'm not picking them to win the Coastal Division.
HD: Yep, I'm pretty sure I said that one, though technically I think I said it could be the best D in the ACC, even better than Florida State's. Look, I know everyone is not used to Clemson's defense being a strength, just like you're not used to Duke being a contender in the Coastal Division race, but stay with me here. FSU's defensive line has been depleted in the past two years by the NFL draft, whereas Clemson's defensive line finally has a veteran look. I'm not going to make too much out of the turnover at the coordinator position because there's still continuity there for the Seminoles, but Clemson enters this fall with fewer questions on defense.
HD: I don't think the overall expectations should be lower -- but maybe the expectations about routinely bringing in an elite quarterback should be. Granted, much of Virginia's woes can be traced to inconsistency, indecisiveness and underwhelming performances from that position. But look across the ACC, not to mention college football, and how often does a Matt Ryan come along? Philip Rivers? There are more of the likes of Logan Thomas, Chase Rettig and Tanner Price. You're right that UVa football is capable of more than what we've seen, especially with the increased commitment to facilities, recruiting and staff salaries. It should be a regular bowl-bound team, and every now and then make some noise in the Coastal Division race, but is it going to be the next Clemson? Probably not.
- This news is just peachy.
- Clemson has gone local for its latest commitments.
- The Tiger paw strikes again.
- Florida State is still basking in the glow of its championship.
- A big crowd of recruits is expected for the Georgia Tech spring game.
- Is Louisville still an undervalued collegiate athletics property?
- North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham stung some members of the athletic department with recent comments to Forbes Magazine.
- NC State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen chats about the Wolfpack's progress during spring.
- Pitt is pulling its weight for a new strength coach.
- Setting the stage for the Syracuse spring game.
- Inexperience could be a factor on the UVa offensive line.
- A smaller defense is no big deal to Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
- Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson wants to see improvements in the pass game during the team's scrimmage tonight.
So when his quarterbacks started begging him to go live this spring, his first reaction was, ‘No way!’ He was in protection mode, the way he was as a Steelers assistant. But veterans Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette persisted, and he slowly relented -- only a few times, and with clear instructions to the defense.
His is a dilemma that many coaches across the league have faced this spring. Do you allow your quarterbacks to get hit in practice to help simulate game situations and foster competition, knowing you have increased their injury risk? Or do you never even broach the subject because the priority should always be to protect the quarterback?
Four ACC teams allowed their quarterbacks to go live at some point during spring practice, more than any other power-five league. Clemson did it for the first time under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, believing he would see more out of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson ended up getting hurt and missing the spring game.
Florida State allowed its younger quarterbacks to go live this spring. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he did the same last year, when Jameis Winston was a redshirt freshman competing to win the starting job.
“They’ve got to be able to feel things around them and react,” Fisher said. “They get in a false security blanket sometimes.”
Does that cause him extra worry?
“It’s no different than when we run the running backs, and I get nervous in the scrimmages when the backs are running and get tackled,” Fisher said. “Our guys know if they’ve got a kill shot, not to. There’s a certain limit of how we practice with each other. You know those shots that everyone wants to have? We won’t take those on each other even if we’re in a live scrimmage because it’s not productive to the organization. Tough to me is when you’re eyeball to eyeball, not when a guy’s exposed and you can do that.”
The coaches are not the only ones who wrestle with the idea. NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett was not live this spring. But when he was competing for the starting job at Florida with Jeff Driskel back in 2012, both were allowed to go live early on in fall practice. The first day they were allowed to take hits, Driskel hurt his shoulder.
For a running quarterback such as Brissett, that helps. Same for the Duke quarterbacks. Georgia Tech has its quarterbacks live during practice for that reason.
Some coaches believe going live helps separate the competition. But Clemson was the only school with an open quarterback competition to allow its quarterbacks to go live during scrimmage situations. North Carolina, for example, has Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battling to win the starting job, but offensive coordinator Seth Littrell does not believe it is necessary to allow quarterbacks to get hit. “I’ve never done it,” he said.
Virginia Tech also is in the middle of an intense competition, but quarterbacks have been off limits so far this spring. Veteran Mark Leal would have no problem if the coaches changed their minds.
“Honestly, I'd like to be live,” he said. “I think the rest of the quarterbacks would, too, because it gives more of a game feel. If you're not live, sometimes the whistle gets blown early when you don't think you should have been sacked or the play gets messed up because when there's a rush around you, the first thing the coaches want to do is blow the whistle, rather than you continue to play or go through your reads and progressions and finish the play.”
Depth concerns often dictate what coaches do. Pitt only had two scholarship quarterbacks this spring, so there was no way they were going live. Virginia Tech only has three quarterbacks on the roster this spring.
Still, all the protections most coaches take are not enough to keep their quarterbacks injury-free. Miami quarterbacks were off limits this spring, but Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage.
It was a noncontact injury.
- Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett is confident in quarterback Cole Stoudt. So is Tajh Boyd.
- Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden kicks off his booster tour today.
- Georgia Tech back Broderick Snoddy will be racking up the frequent flyer miles with track and football this week.
- Former Louisville defensive tackle Roy Philon is hoping for an NFL shot. Louisville has reportedly signed a $40 million shoe and apparel deal to stay with adidas.
- Two Miami basketball players have turned to football.
- Russell Wilson spoke to NC State football players when he was in town for the spring game.
- Pitt begins the transition to the next phase in the offseason.
- Thumbs up or thumbs down on the new Syracuse uniforms? One fashion expert weighs in.
- Could Greyson Lambert be Virginia football's Joe Harris?
- Former Virginia Tech player Eddie Royal shares what 4/16/07 means to him.
- Freshman Hokies running back Marshawn Williams can pound the rock.
- The Freedom From Religion Foundation has sent a complaint to Clemson over the way Dabo Swinney has incorporated religion into the program.
- Former Duke quarterback Brandon Connette is visiting Fresno State.
- The New York Times examines the Tallahassee police department's investigation into sexual assault allegations against Jameis Winston.
- Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu has been busy meeting and greeting NFL coaches and team executives.
- What did we learn from the North Carolina and NC State spring games?
- Pitt cornerback Jahmahl Pardner has decided to leave the team.
- Syracuse coach Scott Shafer revealed the spring game format.
- Virginia Tech quarterback Brenden Motley has earned the opportunity to play with the first team, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler says.
- Athlon Sports ranks the ACC's quarterbacks headed into 2014.
According to the newspaper's investigation, "Florida State did little to determine what had happened." The paper also reported that a second woman "had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Mr. Winston, according to the prosecutor’s office."
An excerpt from the article: "The woman did not call it rape — she did not say “no.” But the encounter, not previously reported, “was of such a nature that she felt violated or felt that she needed to seek some type of counseling for her emotions about the experience,” according to Georgia Cappleman, the chief assistant state attorney, who said she had spoken with the advocate but not with the woman."
The NYT also reported that the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, "has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters."
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Florida State's handling of the sexual assault allegations against Winston.
UPDATE: Florida State has since released this statement on its website in response to the article.
- Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly could not keep his emotions in check, and that is the biggest reason why he is no longer on the team.
- Former Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee says the sky's the limit at his new home, James Madison.
- Some concerns still linger for Florida State after spring practice.
- How many games will Louisville win in 2014?
- The lawyer involved in the Miami-NCAA case is facing ethics violations charges by the Florida Bar.
- Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd has put his freshman season in the rearview mirror.
- Where to see improvements in the Syracuse football team during the spring game this weekend.
- Eric Tetlow appears to be leading the race to start at center for Virginia.
- Virginia Tech cornerback Donovan Riley is making the most of his reps this spring.
- Athlon Sports selects the BCS era All-America team.
Somehow, Florida State and Miami both just won.
The rivals recently unveiled their new uniforms, and neither one opted for an outlandish, over-the-top style, instead choosing to stick with tradition and class. That, in itself, was refreshing. Unlike the dreadful first Maryland Pride uniforms, Florida State and Miami both managed to preserve their history while at the same time get an upgrade. FSU released garnet, white and black uniforms, while Miami will have four new looks: The orange jersey, “Juice”; the white jersey, “Storm Trooper"; a green jersey, “Surge”; and a new alternate anthracite “Smoke” jersey. At home, the Canes will wear orange. The 'U' logo on the palms of the gloves is a creative touch, but overall it's a simple, sleek and clean look that doesn't lose any of its edge.
It's good timing for both programs for different reasons. As defending national champs, Florida State has a new look -- one that's in the spotlight again as the nation's premier program. For Miami, the tumultuous days of the NCAA investigation are finally behind it, and the Hurricanes got a fresh start.
“These young men, who unselfishly guided us through some very dark days, now display a renewed attitude and spirit," Miami coach Al Golden said in a statement. "These new uniforms capture that outlook."
"These uniforms really enhance and embody the Seminole tribe," coach Jimbo Fisher told his team, "which is what we all represent. Without them, we wouldn't be the Florida State Seminoles."
Check 'em out, and cast your votes to let us know what you think.
Florida State’s spring camp came to a close on Saturday with the annual Garnet and Gold game, and now the Seminoles are prepping for a second straight national title.
The game is secondary compared to the rest of spring practices, so with that in mind, here are some of the biggest answers the 15 spring sessions presented.
In early March, Noles coach Jimbo Fisher noted how healthy his team was and how rare it is to have a squad almost entirely intact for spring practice. As the practices mounted, though, so did the injuries. The silver lining is that none of the injuries are expected to linger into preseason camp. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Ryan Green had shoulder surgery but will be 100 percent by around July. Nick O’Leary missed the final half of spring practices with a second motorcycle accident, but he avoided any serious injuries. There were a few concussions in camp, but Terrance Smith, who suffered one of them, was back for the spring game. The lone setback that could impact fall camp is the foot injury Ukeme Eligwe sustained, which Fisher hinted could be the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which has a tendency to persist for quite some time. The thought is he should be fine for August, though.
2. The secondary is among the best in the country.
Quarterback Jameis Winston said after the spring game that “we got the best [defensive] backs in the country.” He should know, having thrown against the unit for much of the spring and the entire Garnet and Gold game. The secondary of P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey, Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter shut down the No. 1 offense’s passing attack the entire first half, and the unit was without sophomore Nate Andrews. Fisher said throughout the spring that Ramsey is a star-in-the-making and should become a nationally recognized name replacing Lamarcus Joyner. Ramsey showcased his skills by moving around at cornerback, safety and nickel during the game. Fisher and Winston are raving about freshman Trey Marshall, too. Williams is a star in his own right, shutting down No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene.
3. The receivers need to step up.
Speaking of Greene and the receivers, that position is probably the biggest weakness heading into the season. Fisher was upset with the production and consistency his receivers showcased through much of the spring, and the starting unit did not get any separation from the Noles’ secondary. Jesus Wilson has the potential to be a playmaker from the slot, but can he replace Kenny Shaw’s production? Isaiah Jones is 6-foot-4, but his production did not match that of departed 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Levonte Whitfield announced himself to the world in the national title game, but he is still needs some refinement as a receiver. The coaches can spend two hours a week breaking down film with players during the offseason, and Fisher said that will be a critical step in Florida State’s development at receiver.
4. The talent is there at linebacker.
The Noles lose beloved figure Telvin Smith and consistent producer Christian Jones, but the depth at linebacker is there so those losses might not be felt all that much. Matthew Thomas is a budding star, and the former five-star recruit will not be kept off the field this fall. Terrance Smith is the leader of the unit and could be a viable replacement for Telvin Smith. Before Eligwe’s injury, Fisher voiced his opinion that Eligwe was having as good of a spring as any player. Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry should each see significant snaps in the rotation, and Ro’Derrick Hoskins could be a dangerous third-down specialist from the position.
5. Sean Maguire is a quality backup for Noles.
Earlier this spring, Winston missed a practice to travel to Clemson with the baseball team, putting the pressure squarely on No. 2 quarterback Maguire to perform at a competent level. Following the practice, the third of the spring, Fisher was lukewarm on Maguire’s performance. But Maguire looked the part of a quality No. 2 option for Florida State during the spring game. The Noles got him in rhythm with three straight passes to the flats to open the game, and then Maguire dropped in a 26-yard touchdown on a post route over the defender. Maguire, a redshirt sophomore, said he made the most progress this spring than he’s ever made at any point in his college career.
- Cole Stoudt was the quarterback winner during the Clemson spring game.
- Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery is a man of many influences.
- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has a lot on his plate this spring.
- Former Georgia Tech linebacker Brandon Watts has seen his draft stock rise since pro day.
- Louisville quarterback Will Gardner had himself a day.
- Miami's quarterbacks need some polishing after their spring game performances. Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton is a miracle man.
- North Carolina ended spring practice without a clear leader at quarterback.
- Plenty of stars showed up for the NC State spring game.
- Pitt running back Isaac Bennett needs shoulder surgery.
- The hottest name in the NFL draft is ... former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage?
- Syracuse's defense has been banged up this spring.
- Greyson Lambert made a convincing case as Virginia's quarterback.
- The Virginia Tech offense clicked during its weekend scrimmage, even without quarterback Mark Leal.
- Wake Forest's offense looked ragged in its first scrimmage.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says spring practice is all about cramming as much information to the mind as possible. Introduce as many schemes, techniques and late-game situations as possible, but remember there is no buildup to a Saturday opponent. The hope is his team will draw on that information when it counts this fall.
It’s best to take that approach when evaluating Florida State’s spring practices and game, which the Garnet won over the Gold 31-14.
This was supposed to be a ho-hum spring for Florida State. That’s the goal when you’re the reigning national champion and return your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Sure, there are issues on the roster, but those were never going to be resolved in 15 spring practices, not with more than a dozen players nursing injuries.
That picture, Fisher hopes, is one of him holding the national championship trophy, plastered on all 11,520 square feet of the video board at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the first College Football Championship Game will be played. Fans were spoiled at this time a year ago when Jameis Winston launched the ball and his path to stardom on his first throw, a 58-yard touchdown. That was a different time, though. This spring was about improving and getting to August.
Fisher said he saw that improvement throughout camp, and it was clear during the second half of spring practice that Fisher was pleased with the progress. Two weeks ago, Fisher called his team “lazy” and was sour on just about every position. He spoke positively about his team during the final eight sessions.
His starting quarterback made strides this spring, although Fisher said it might not always be visible to the naked eye. Fisher said it is about improving the “subtle things” and “all of a sudden it’s a major change.” The backup position looks better than it did a month ago, too.
“I thought the spring went well. I thought I learned a lot,” backup quarterback Sean Maguire said. “I haven’t gone into a camp or a spring where I was a No. 2, but going into it and getting reps the whole time with the twos, I felt like now I know a lot more than I did.”
There will be questions that still need answers when preseason camp opens, however. It was evident Saturday that Florida State’s passing attack could take a significant step in the wrong direction. Granted, Florida State could have the best secondary in the country, but the Seminoles’ first-team receivers generated no separation from defenders despite Winston getting several seconds to survey the field. On a few occasions, he was forced to his fourth and fifth reads. Winston’s window to fit the ball in will probably be bigger Sunday from the pitcher's mound than it was Saturday from the pocket. Kelvin Benjamin is a potential first-round NFL draft pick, and there is no direct replacement for the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver on the roster. Undervalued receiver Kenny Shaw will be hard to replace, too.
“Early they didn’t get open, but that’s kind of expected,” Fisher said. “Then, as the game went on, they gradually made plays, and we helped them get open with some formations and things.”
That stands to be the biggest issue for Florida State as it exits the spring. The defense underwent major changes, but there is talent at every level, and new coordinator Charles Kelly was an in-house hire.
The spring game -- and the entire spring -- was ugly at time for Florida State, but it is still too early to determine how far this team will go. Florida State didn’t look like a team that has 15-0 written on it, but there probably isn't any team with that look on any campus in mid-April. There are questions, but there is more talent.
“You relax and realize the sky’s not falling and the world is not coming to an end,” Fisher said.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- At SEC media days last summer, someone asked Alabama head coach Nick Saban if he wears any of his four national championship rings.
"To me, it doesn't make any difference how many game-winning shots Michael Jordan made," Saban said. "The only one that matters is the next one. So there doesn't seem to be any purpose to me. I have them. They're there."
You put that championship in a velvet-lined box and store it in your closet. It has no effect on the future.
Florida State, which plays its Garnet and Gold Game on Saturday, will start next season as No. 1, just as the Seminoles ended last season. The Seminoles have 14 returning starters from the team that won the BCS National Championship three months ago. That includes the best player in the country, quarterback Jameis Winston, and the best defensive lineman in the country, end Mario Edwards Jr., and other talented players too numerous to mention.
Florida State must carry the expectations of a fan base and a college football nation that expects them to improve upon a perfect 14-0 record. That it is possible -- with the two-round playoff, the Seminoles could be the first team in modern history to go 15-0 -- doesn't make it any less daunting.
Jimbo Fisher is a graduate and espouser of the Nick Saban Institute of The Process. Fisher coached for Saban for seven seasons at LSU. The tenets that Saban preaches in the meeting room at Alabama -- smart choices and personal development, focus and discipline -- are heard from the pulpit at Florida State, too.
It would be only natural to assume that Fisher would consult the Sabanic Verses on the subject of following a national championship season. Not only has Alabama done so in three of the past four years, but LSU, with Saban as head coach and Fisher as his offensive coordinator, did so a decade ago.
Fisher knows what Saban believes. He coached it at LSU. And that's what convinced him that it's wrong.
"One of the things I wish we had done better then," Fisher said in his office recently, "was actually remember we were national champions. We were so focused to me on, 'Forget that. Don't get big-headed. Don't do that,' that I think you lost the aura and the confidence of winning the championship."
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- SportsOnEarth's Matt Brown says there's no reason to forget about Clemson this season.
- I'm sure everyone's reactions to FSU's new uniforms and logo on Friday night will be 100 percent positive.
- Georgia Tech's practice on Saturday is open to the public.
- The (Louisville) Courier-Journal's Jeff Greer talks to receivers coach Lamar Thomas, who is Miami's latest inductee into its Hall of Fame.
- The (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel's Christy Cabrera Chirinos has some notes from Miami's penultimate spring practice.
- Pitt players and coaches like the changes in the roster makeup under Paul Chryst.
- Scott Shafer has an early goal for the 2014 Orange, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Augie Conte leads Virginia Tech's emerging linemen this spring, Mike Barber writes in the (Richmond) Times-Dispatch.