Young Guns

Although tedious and painful at times, it appears FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has rebuilt the Seminoles' depth. Fans are hopeful that alone allows FSU to return to its attacking style, maximizing speed and numbers. A pair of youngsters in that mix include free safety <b>Pat Watkins</b> and linebacker <b>A.J. Nicholson.</b> "Whew, I want to get better. I want to win a national championship. I want to do it all," Nicholson said following Tuesday's workout. Click here for the details.

Although tedious and painful at times, it appears Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has rebuilt the Seminoles' depth.

Fans are hopeful that alone allows FSU to return to its attacking style, maximizing speed and numbers.

A pair of youngsters in that mix include free safety Pat Watkins and linebacker A.J. Nicholson. Both are coming off solid springs and are expected to see quality playing time this season. Watkins, in fact, could very well push veteran B.J. Ward for a starting role.

There's no denying the duo's high-energy approach during summer workouts.

"Whew, I want to get better. I want to win a national championship. I want to do it all," Nicholson said with a wide smile following Tuesday's training session.

"Right now I am happy to be out here running, working hard and trying to get back in real good shape. Yes, I had a pretty good spring, but I want to get better. I can get better. I made mistakes and I want to correct them."

Nicholson, from Winston-Salem, N.C., played in all 13 games last season and finished 21st on the team with 22 tackles. He was one of eight true freshmen to see action.

Nicholson recorded a season-high five tackles in two games against Clemson and North Carolina and was an important member on special teams. Nicholson heads into preseason drills as the backup to Kendyll Pope at weakside linebacker. He may also see time in the middle behind Allen Augustin.

Either way, Nicholson is determined to make an impact this year.

"I really do want (playing time), " Nicholson said.

"I am going to work hard and try to earn as much as I can. Right now I am at WILL (linebacker) but coach (Kevin Steele) told me I could also play at MIKE. They are still contemplating. Either way, I am very happy with my situation. I would rather play MIKE but I will stay at WILL. My goal is to play as a starter when I get on the field. Either way, I am going to go out there and display my abilities."

Ditto for Watkins, who has gained needed weight from last season -- 202 from 185 pounds. Watkins, who starred at nearby Lincoln High School, is noticeably bigger across the shoulders and chest.

"I know one of my main problems (last year) was I didn't have enough weight," Watkins said.

"Coach (Andrews) told me not to gain too much but if it happens, it happens. I know my best playing weight, and I believe I am somewhere around that right now. But I will tell you when we get back in pads (laughing)."

Watkins, whose production increased as the season progressed last year, is also stressing quickness.

"I am not going to lose my speed," Watkins said.

"The drills that we are doing out here are real beneficial because they will help you keep your speed while you gain weight. Everyone knows you can't have one without the other. If you want to be a good football player, you just can't be big and un-athletic."

Watkins worked with the first unit in spring drills, saying he feels more comfortable with the Seminoles' scheme. Seven of his nine tackles last season came in the last five games of the regular season. Watkins also forced his first career fumble against Wake Forest.

"It's really coming together now," Watkins said.

"(I am) starting to get used to it. I am learning it faster. Catching on to stuff, what to do in certain situations. I still have to get the little things right. Making checks faster and seeing things at it comes to the line."

Like Nicholson, Watkins wants to make an impact this season. The Seminoles' quality depth will be on display more than ever.

"I just want to come in and help the secondary anyway I can," Watkins said.

"I might not be a starter but when I get in there, I am going to play like a starter. I know B.J. (Ward) is a real good player. For me to behind him is not disappointing at all. If B.J. needs a rest or is not playing up to expectations, I am going to be there to back him up."


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