ACC: Florida State Seminoles

ACC Friday mailblog

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Hope everyone has a Happy Easter ...

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.


Tim in Blacksburg writes: HD, did you say no hope for Virginia Tech on offense!? The QB spot is up in the air, and in transition -- no doubt. Michael Brewer should have a say in that spot when he arrives. Beyond that however, your analysis of the offense is lacking, to say the least. The OL should be much improved this year. Have you seen Augie Conte and Wyatt Teller... Alston Smith... and it's the most experienced group we've seen in a number of years. Our top tight end, who missed all of last year -- returns, as does Kalvin Cline and newcomer to the position Bucky Hodges. BTW, have you seen Bucky Hodges? Bucky has a chance to be a HUGE playmaker for VT. The run game needs a big-time boost in production. That may be by committee again this year between [Trey] Edmunds, [J.C.] Coleman and newcomer Marshawn Williams, who has been turning heads and nearly breaking them so far 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.


Josh in Palm Bay, Fla., writes: The other day, you were talking about Clemson as the best defense in the ACC. I was shocked that you would take such a stand for them! You saw they got flat-out destroyed in many games last year despite how good they played in their previous bowl vs LSU, I believe? FSU lost a few players, true, but in some cases, their replacements might be better (not [Timmy] Jernigan's). The new DC last year didn't stop us with a whole new system; a new DC this year with the same system won't either. Sorry ACC, Dabo, HD, AD... gonna still be a fantastic D at FSU, still gonna be better than Clemson, and still gonna be doubters, I guess!

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.


Jeremy Lambert in South Hill, Va., writes: Virginia's basketball success in recent years has clearly demonstrated the school's athletics potential across the board. Its resources to attract talent and fan support are on display for all to see in the basketball program. Having said that, UVa's football woes are extremely frustrating to watch. Its failures are excruciating. It is difficult for me to point to a specific factor, but it is hard to think that a lot of the Hoos' football woes could not be solved by having a good quarterback. Matt Schaub -- 10 years ago -- was the last good quarterback Virginia had. What is it about Virginia's program that a good quarterback is not compelled to commit to playing there? Or should Virginia's expectations be lower than I think?

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.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Wishing everybody a great holiday weekend!
Scottie Montgomery returned to Duke last year from an NFL world where quarterbacks were never, ever hit in practice.

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.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Phil SearsFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher had Jameis Winston go live last spring when he was dueling Jacob Coker for the starting job.
“My initial feel is, ‘Don't ever let anybody get touched, so I have to fight myself at times, because I want to protect these guys and these guys want to compete for jobs,” said Montgomery, the offensive coordinator.

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.

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark CrammerClemson freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in practice and missed the spring game.
“There's a right time and wrong time for quarterbacks to be live,” Brissett said. “We haven't done live practices, but in the fall sometimes we will have a live scrimmage on a Saturday. It helps out with the game speed reps.”

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.

ACC's lunch links

April, 17, 2014
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Well, this rule ought to make games more interesting.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
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Never forget.

ESPN 300: Top ACC targets 

April, 16, 2014
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With Wednesday’s release of the 2015 ESPN 300, here’s a look at five top ACC targets in the 2015 class.


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The New York Times has reported that there was virtually no investigation, either by the Tallahassee Police Department or Florida State University, into the rape allegations against FSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

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.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 15, 2014
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Boston strong.
Florida State UniformsSeminoles.comFlorida State used its connection to the Seminole tribe in influencing the design on its new uniforms.

Somehow, Florida State and Miami both just won.

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I'm no fashion critic (c'mon, you've seen my videos) but these guys are gonna look sharp.

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.

[+] EnlargeMiami uniforms
Courtesy of NikeMiami added an anthracite uniform to represent its iconic smoke game entrance.
Florida State embraced its namesake, and used the Seminole tribe patterns as its inspiration, while Miami tactfully included the Ibis on the uniform shoulder, helmet and hip of the pants. The Canes' "Smoke" uniform was designed to represent the school's tradition of running out of the tunnel into the smoke before every home game.

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."

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The boldest move of the designs was with Florida State, as Nike used a pattern from the Seminole tribe to accentuate the shoulders and neckline. While some might not like the bigger, bolder look, the authenticity of the pattern should be appreciated.

"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.

Video: Florida State CB P.J. Williams

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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Andrea Adelson talks with Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams about stepping into a leadership role this spring and the development of the secondary.

FSU spring: What we learned

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
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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.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher escaped the spring with a healthy roster.
1. FSU will be at full strength this fall.
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.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
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Bo Pelini is the cat's meow.
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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.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
AP Photo/Steve CannonReserve quarterback Sean Maguire said he "learned a lot" in spring practice.
“We got a lot accomplished and we’re starting to form the identity and the personality of this team,” Fisher said. “... We are nowhere close to where we need to be, but I can picture where we’re going to be.”

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.
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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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ACC's lunchtime links

April, 11, 2014
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Enjoy the weekend, gang.

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