Florida State senior tailback Chris Thompson didn't have his usual explosiveness at the beginning of last year, as a back injury had forced him to miss a lot of practice time the previous spring and summer, and then the Madison native broke said back Oct. 8 at Wake Forest.
Remarkably, the two injuries were reportedly unrelated, but that didn't change the fact that not only was Thompson's 2011 cut short, but there was some chatter that his football career could be all but over.
Originally not expected to return until summer workouts, the 5-8, 187-pounder has been practicing with his teammates -- wearing a blue no-contact jersey for a while, but practicing nonetheless -- in spring drills and loving every minute of it.
"It's been fun," Thompson said before Thursday's session. "I've been cherishing every day. It's a blessing to be back out there with the stuff that I've had to deal with from last season. I'm just trying to go out and have fun and get better every day."
Thompson's biggest obstacle at this juncture is a broken bone in his left hand, which occurred at some point during Monday's workout and has put him in a cast for the next four weeks.
Erving isn't counting his money yet
At the beginning of practice Thursday, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was shooting the breeze with media about his new offensive tackle, sophomore Cameron Erving, and suggested that he's a walking future millionaire.
A part of the rotation at defensive tackle last season, Erving has flipped to the other side of the ball -- Fisher asked the 6-5, 305-pounder to make the switch a year ago but was turned down -- and is currently getting reps with the starting squad at the all-important left tackle position.
Pro Bowl-caliber left tackles make a killing in the NFL, much more than plug-and-play D-tackles, and while possible riches in the pros didn't weigh too heavily in Erving's decision, the idea at least entered his thought process.
"Of course that factors in, but that's not what I am thinking about now," said Erving. "I'm just taking this one day at a time, like I said. I'm thinking about this spring and this fall camp and this next season, and we have to see how this goes before I can think about any of that, regardless of what the coaches tell me about the money. It's good to hear and it's good to know that it can come in the future, but I am trying to stay focused on what's here right now."
All the more amazing, Erving did not play a lick of O-line at Moultrie (GA) Colquitt County High School and has been instructed to attack the quarterback, not protect him, since he started playing the game.
Moody didn't need much convincing
Another player making a position switch in 2012, although at least he's staying on the same side of the ball, senior Nick Moody is now a linebacker after three seasons in garnet and gold as a safety.
The two-man rotation of senior Vince Williams and junior Telvin Smith returns in the middle, and with junior Christian Jones moving to the weak side, Moody has a real opportunity to earn the starting job at strong-side linebacker.
And it doesn't appear as if the 6-2, 243-pounder -- he's already put on 13 pounds during the offseason -- is going to miss his old spot much, not with the emergence of junior Terrence Brooks playing alongside fellow junior Lamarcus Joyner as the last line of defense.
"It wasn't much of a conversation," Moody said. "It would be my better fit at the next level, and then [with] T-Brooks moving to free safety, all it's going to do is help our defense even more."
Moody credits his weight gain to nothing more than going heavier when pumping iron, as the strength and conditioning staff used to hold him back a bit in an effort to keep him safety-like from a size perspective.
Communication is the key for Jenkins
Senior defensive end Brandon Jenkins was simply a force to be reckoned with as a sophomore in 2010, and the stat sheet clearly showed that: 63 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
While his personal numbers took a bit of a hit (41 tackles, 8 sacks, 12 tackles for loss) as a junior in 2011, Florida State was a much better team defense than it was the year before and has a shot to be nothing short of dominant -- Jenkins turning down the NFL helps, of course -- in 2012.
The Seminoles return nine starters and have four- and five-star depth at seemingly every position, but if they want to be all they can be on a weekly basis, it will take more than gratuitous amounts of size and speed.
"We need to communicate better," Jenkins said. "On defense, that is our goal. Last year, some games we didn't communicate and we had some missed assignments. We're working on communication, learning the plays that are more detailed and knowing multiple decisions."
Few players are assigned to do more under Stoops than Jenkins, who rushes the QB as a 4-3 defensive end on one snap but then drops into coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker on the next snap.
Greene is expected to know it all now
Because FSU had an embarrassment of riches at receiver last season, even with junior Willie Haulstead forced to take a medical redshirt to deal with post-concussion problems, a true freshman like Rashad Greene was only required to learn how to play split end (X).
However, the 6-foot, 175-pounder proved to be the premier playmaker on the team, delivering some of the most memorable highlights of the year in breath-taking fashion -- his incredible catch-and-run touchdown that tied the Oklahoma game shook Doak Campbell Stadium like never before.
Fisher said at a press conference Monday that Greene has to get his touches each and every game, so he -- and the rest of the wideouts, as a matter of fact -- are now responsible for the entirety of the playbook at split end, flanker (Z) and the slot position (Y).
"I know more now, which creates more opportunities not just for me but the other receivers, too," said Greene. "Just like [receivers] coach [Lawrence] Dawsey and Coach Fisher said, every receiver needs to learn every position so that everyone can contribute to a game that could lead to a bigger game to where it's a national championship. That just doesn't go for me, but everyone as well."
A coach's dream so far, not only does Fisher believe Greene is perhaps the hardest worker on the team, but the Ft. Lauderdale product was also an All-Academic honoree in the ACC for the work he did in the classroom this past fall.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Thompson back, cherishing football
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