Florida State Seminoles: Greg Reid
That didn’t happen. Benjamin decided not to run. He asked NFL teams to look at his body of work -- and body, all 6-foot-5, 240 pounds of it -- as proof he is a surefire first-round talent.
Following a dominant pro-day performance in position drills, undoubtedly far more teams are willing to overlook his 4.61 time in Indianapolis.
While running routes, Benjamin showcased his ability to catch the football at its highest point and make the types of catches most NFL receivers can't. On one throw toward the boundary, NFL coaches cleared as the ball’s flight plan descended toward a coaching cluster. Benjamin hauled in the pass -- easily -- and on the next throw he reached behind to catch an underthrown and off-target toss.
And for those who still question his speed?
“I can open up that stride and stride all day,” he said. “You got a guy who can run 4.3, he’s going to get tired and not keep up with the stride all day.”
Noles coach Jimbo Fisher will be terse with NFL coaches asking if Benjamin is worth a first-round payday.
"You don't want to play against him. That's the ultimate thing,” he said. “I'm telling you this: You don't want to play against that guy. He changes the game.”
Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will likely be the first former Florida State player taken, and both Mel Kiper and Todd McShay project him to the Cowboys at No. 16. Jernigan weighed in at 305 pounds Tuesday, six pounds heavier than at the combine. Most of the questions he was hearing about his stock surrounded his height (6-1) and sub-300-pound playing weight.
“I feel like they definitely wanted to see how well I could move, weighing a little bit heavier than I did at the combine and how well I could move agility-wise and how powerful I was,” Jernigan said. “I feel like I did a pretty good job showing that.”
NFL coaches intently watched the secondary drills, as Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks are both potential second-round picks. Brooks built upon his strong performance at the combine, excelling in position drills.
Joyner is rated higher than Brooks, but there is some trepidation among NFL scouts. Joyner struggled securing catches and one scout noted the need to be able to finish making the play on the ball. He said Joyner showed that in his film, but an NFC North scout chimed in that he is more worried about Joyner’s height. He measured in at just above 5-8.
“It’s a big concern,” the NFC North scout said. “You don’t see too many 5-8 corners.”
The biggest surprise among the defensive backs, and possibly the entire pro day was the attendance of Greg Reid. A three-year starter at cornerback for Florida State, Reid was dismissed from the team before his senior season. He enrolled at Division II Valdosta State but a torn ACL cost him his senior season. Instead of returning in 2013, he declared for the NFL draft but was not selected.
A few scouts buzzed that Reid, who can be signed by a team at any time, was the best defensive back participating.
“I was pleased to come out and show NFL coaches how I was doing and how far I’ve came,” Reid said. “I’m healthy and everything is going in the right track.”
Next up: No. 10 Ronald Darby
Where he's at: When Xavier Rhodes chose to leave a year early for the NFL draft, the immediate assumption was that Darby would step seamlessly into the vacated starting corner spot and FSU's secondary would once again endure the loss of a star player without a hiccup. As it turns out, the plan may still work nicely, but it got a bit more complex when Lamarcus Joyner switched from safety to corner before spring practice. That left three potential starters for two jobs, and a spring injury meant Darby wouldn't get a chance to test his mettle until the fall. Still, even if Darby doesn't land an official starting job, he's likely to see an even bigger share of reps this year than he did a year ago as Joyner moves back and forth from corner to safety and nickel on passing downs.
What's to come: From Jameis Winston to Karlos Williams to Mario Edwards Jr., there are numerous Seminoles stepping into bigger roles in 2013 that are widely expected to blossom into stars, but perhaps none seems as sure a bet for longterm success as Darby. His ability to pick up FSU's defensive scheme so quickly last fall was surprising, but he continued to grow as the year went along, and now he'll get a taste of new DC Jeremy Pruitt's scheme which should free Darby to be even more of a playmaker. How the snaps are shared between a crowded defensive backfield remains to be seen, but if Darby's not at the top of the depth chart now, there's a strong belief he will be by year's end -- and he's got the potential to be an All-American before his time is up at Florida State.
RecruitingNation takes a quick glance at some players at Florida and Florida State who turned down one school or the other during the recruiting process to sign with a rival.
WR Percy Harvin (2006): Harvin would go on to be one of the most electric college football players during his time in Gainesville. But, at one point, he was leaning to Florida State. Growing up, he liked the Seminoles mainly for their tradition and success. But coach Urban Meyer came in and did a great job recruiting him to the Gators and got a couple of national titles out of the deal.
For the past seven months, however, Reid has been rehabbing his knee and his reputation with his sights set on rejuvenating his NFL prospects, and he's been detailing his road to the NFL draft here. Reid's first installment chronicled his workouts at Athlete's Edge near Miami, and in his second diary entry, he writes about the experience of the NFL combine and Florida State's pro day workouts.
The last few weeks have been crazy. I’ve gone from Miami to Indianapolis to Miami to Valdosta to Tallahassee, then finally back to Miami. This is the first chance I’ve had to update you all since the combine and pro day.
Seeing Rex Ryan in person was funny since I’m used to seeing him on TV every day. Mike Shannahan was definitely the funniest coach. When I walked into the room, he asked me if I went to high school at Valdosta or Lowndes, as if he didn’t know Valdosta was my biggest rival school. I said, “Come on Coach, you already know, Lowndes!”
I bet most people don’t even know football players have to go through hours and hours of written tests at the combine. There were six different testing rooms. Each room had the same hour-and-half to two-hour test. The questions all seemed the same, just in a different order.
It was tough not participating in all the drills because I’m so competitive. It took a lot for me to understand it wasn’t worth another possible setback after all I’ve done to rehab my knee.
I got to catch up with friends from college and high school that I hadn’t seen in a while. I also got to meet a lot of new people. When I got back to Miami, I started YouTubing highlights of all the people I met at the combine. It was funny comparing their highlights to my first impressions from Indy.
"I just had to knock this out, and now I can go celebrate," he said.
After solid showings at the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine, Manuel already believed he had plenty to celebrate before throwing for scouts today. He has worked his way into the mix of top quarterbacks available, met with more than two dozen teams, and earned an invite to the NFL draft in New York.
"When I got the invite, I was about to cry, really," Manuel said. "That was probably my biggest goal. I know there was a lot being said about me going into it, but I never listened to it. I continue to work hard, did well at the Senior Bowl and the combine, and the naysayers have pushed me to have a bigger chip on my shoulder."
Manuel insists he's not bitter about any criticism along the way, but he said it has pushed him to work harder.
He certainly appeared to help his cause today. Jimbo Fisher watched carefully and said Manuel was accurate on all of his throws and looked sharp in the process.
Although more than a dozen former Seminoles will be participating in today's workouts, a few have a bit more to gain (or lose) than the rest. Here's a quick look at which of FSU's NFL hopefuls has the most on the line today.
Bjoern Werner (DE): When the season ended, Werner was a hot commodity, with some mock drafts projecting him as a top five selection and, perhaps, the highest drafted Seminole in program history. That enthusiasm has cooled a bit, however, after a mediocre performance at the NFL combine. It's not that Werner was bad, but so much of what he does best is underscored far better in game conditions than a scouting combine. Still, he can make up some of the ground he lost with an impressive day on campus, which could mean quite a bit financially. Last year's third overall pick (the highest Werner's been on draft boards) signed for more than $20 million. The 30th overall pick (where ESPN's Mel Kiper currently has Werner projected) signed for less than $7 million.
For the past six months, however, Reid has been rehabbing his knee and his reputation with his sights set on rejuvenating his NFL prospects. Throughout the next few weeks, he'll be detailing his road to the NFL draft here. Reid's first installment chronicles his workouts at Athlete's Edge near Miami, where he's been preparing for this weekend's scouting combine, where he'll join 10 other former Seminoles and a host of top NFL prospects.
Getting the combine invite was unreal. I mean, I’d been working harder than ever before. But when I got that email, I knew I had to seize the moment.
Life has taught me one thing. Nothing is guaranteed. Everything is earned. That’s been my whole philosophy through this training process.
I’m from Valdosta, Georgia. ESPN TitleTown, USA. I never thought I’d be waking up every day by the beach in Miami. That’s how I know this whole combine thing is real. That, and I don’t even mess with the snooze button anymore.
With that in mind, we're going to go position by position, looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for spring practice.
Previously: Cornerbacks, wide receivers/tight ends, defensive tackles, and running backs can be found HERE.
Next up: Special teams
2012 recap: Special teams is a pretty broad term, so it's tough to look back on last season and call it a success or a failure for Florida State when, the truth is, it was a little of both. On the plus side, kicker Dustin Hopkins turned in the best season of his remarkable career, setting the NCAA scoring mark for kickers in the process. Lamarcus Joyner and Karlos Williams both were exceptional on kick returns once again, and FSU even accounted for three punt-return touchdowns in its first season without Greg Reid. Of course, the flip side of that was the significant struggles by freshman punter Cason Beatty, including a block against NC State that likely cost FSU the game, a bevy of turnovers on punt returns that resulted in a revolving door at the position, and a truly ridiculous number of special teams penalties (with Williams responsible for a season's worth by himself).
The final results should all be known Wednesday. But really, that's just the beginning.
Once national signing day is over, the focus again turns to the field. Since Fisher took the helm at FSU in 2010, there haven't been too many incoming freshmen to make a particularly big impact on game days.
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With that in mind, we're going to go position-by-position looking at Florida State's strengths and weaknesses as the Seminoles prepare for the start of spring practice.
First up: Cornerback
Departures: It seemed a foregone conclusion long before the season ended, and as expected, junior Xavier Rhodes opted to pass on a fifth year in Tallahassee and will head to the NFL draft. It's a big loss, as Rhodes had blossomed into one of the best cover corners in the nation, and 2012 might have been his best season as a Seminole.
Arrivals: Redshirt freshman Colin Blake will get his first taste of action. FSU has two four-star commitments at the position in Marquez White (Dothan, Ala./Northview) and Michael Johnson (Miami/Booker T. Washington). White is the 17th-ranked corner in the nation, according to ESPN.
Biggest question mark: Replacing Rhodes is obviously the top priority, but with the impressive 2012 campaigns from both Darby and Waisome, the answers appear fairly obvious. What might be a more intriguing question is who steps in as the third man in the cornerback rotation -- a list that could include more work from nickel Tyler Hunter, early playing time for the youngsters or, perhaps most likely, an expanded role for rising sophomore Keelin Smith.
Breakout star: Darby seems the logical choice. He never quite overtook Waisome for the starting job in 2012, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. Darby finished the season having appeared in all 14 games, making 22 tackles and recording eight pass breakups and one forced fumble en route to being named a freshman All-American. He's perhaps not quite as physical as Rhodes, but his speed is elite and he has the potential to quickly develop into one of the marquee defensive backs in the conference.
Projected 2013 starters: Darby and Waisome, with Hunter as the top nickel option.
The numbers don't always tell the whole story, but these numbers shed some light on some of the biggest reasons Florida State won 12 games and its first ACC title in seven years, and also why those other two games got away.
We started with a look at the ground game on Monday.
We looked at some curious playcalling by Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday.
Next up: 161.9.
That's the average number of yards Florida State's defense allowed through the air in 2012, more than 30 yards per game fewer than it allowed a year earlier.
That's something of an astonishing feat considering how many questions there were in the secondary when the season began. Xavier Rhodes was still recovering from a knee injury. Greg Reid had been dismissed from the program. Youngsters Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby were thrown into the fire. Terrence Brooks (safety) and Tyler Hunter (nickel) were in their first seasons as starters. It was a turbulent preseason.
And while there was ample reason to dismiss Florida State's schedule this season, it's not as if the ACC lacked viable passing attacks. Clemson, Virginia Tech and NC State all featured quarterbacks projected as NFL prospects. And yet, no team in the nation allowed fewer passing yards per game than Florida State.
Here's a comparison of 2011 vs. 2012 for FSU's pass defense:
|15+ Yard Plays||41||58|
It's a tribute, in part, to the work done up front, where QBs rarely had much time to throw, and to the work of former coordinator Mark Stoops. But more than anything, it's a tribute to the players in the secondary who stepped up. For the season, Florida State allowed just 41 passing plays of 15 yards or more -- tied for the fewest in the nation.
The only potential concern is that the interceptions were down a bit, but that also comes from the fact that there were so many three-and-outs. FSU allowed the fewest passing first downs per game of any team in the country.
Now with Lamarcus Joyner coming back for 2013 and Waisome, Darby and Karlos Williams playing with experience under their belts, it's possible this could be the best set of defensive backs in the nation next season.
Sometimes, the biggest decisions float under the radar at the time, and it's only in retrospect that we figure out what really defined the season. With that in mind, here are the five decisions that probably made the biggest impact on the 2012 ACC champions.
1. West Virginia waves goodbye
The rumors started last December and by February it was official: West Virginia backed out of its scheduled non-conference trip to Tallahassee, leaving FSU scrambling for an opponent. The result was a horrific game against lowly Savannah State -- one that mercifully wasn't played to completion due to weather -- and months of bemoaning a weak schedule.
Thanks to two games against FCS foes and another down season in the ACC, the Seminoles were lambasted as untested and its conference title (and 12 wins) felt somewhat hollow, given that only Clemson and Florida provided legitimate obstacles in the minds of many fans.
2. Moving Cameron Erving, benching Bobby Hart
When the 2011 season ended, Erving was a prospect on the defensive line and Hart was ensconced as the starter at right tackle. By the end of spring practice, a lot had changed.
The young and talented Hart found himself in line coach Rick Trickett's doghouse, and by the time fall practice began, he had been moved inside to guard and was working with the second-team offense. That opened up room for Menelik Watson, a junior college transfer who blossomed into a star.
Erving was swapped from offense to defense -- with a little convincing -- and although he had his ups and downs this season, he provided a marked improvement in protecting EJ Manuel's blind side.
With Erving and Watson working the edges, FSU shaved 14 sacks off its total from 2011 and kept Manuel healthy enough to start all 14 games.
Former Florida State cornerback Greg Reid said he plans to declare for the 2013 NFL draft, despite missing the entirety of the 2012 season with Valdosta State with a knee injury.
Reid could have applied for a medical redshirt that would have allowed him to return to college next season -- perhaps at a Division I school -- but he said the only destination he would have considered was FSU.
"If I had a chance to go back to a Division I school, of course it would be Florida State, but after [former defensive coordinator Mark] Stoops left and things like that, I think I'm going to declare for the draft and hope for the best," Reid said. "I want to just get my image cleared up and go from there. Train hard, work hard and hope everything pans out."
Reid was a three-year starter for the Seminoles at cornerback and punt returner, but he was dismissed on Aug. 1 for a violation of team rules following an arrest on charges of marijuana possession. It was Reid's third off-field violation.
Florida State will head to Maryland this week with yet another new plan for fixing the disaster that has been the punt return game, a situation where Jimbo Fisher has asked relatively little, and the results have still fallen short.
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It was Greene's third fumble of the season in his first year as the full-time punt returner, and while none have cost Florida State a game, it proved to be one too many for Jimbo Fisher.
"The punt returns we've got to get fixed. We've had too many there," Fisher said. "We'll see if [Greene] can catch it, and if not, you've got to swap and put somebody else in there."
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