Fresh Start

Kendyll Pope agreed -- FSU probably led the nation in team meetings last year due to discontent. But those struggles are behind the Seminoles, who are looking forward to a fresh start. Defensive changes are in store as well, as FSU looks to return to its attacking style of past teams. Click here for all the details. "We are going to get back to that aggressive style of defense, getting the pressure on the quarterback and making him get it (ball) out of there early," Pope said.

Kendyll Pope howled in laughter. It's funny now but it wasn't funny at the time.

Yes, Florida State probably led the nation in player meetings last year because of discontent. Team chemistry has become a priority as the defending ACC champions go after their 11th league title in 12 seasons.

"I was like, ‘Man, why do we keep having these meetings?‘ You can meet and talk all you want but it doesn't mean nothing if you can't come together," Pope told TheTerritory Wednesday.

"That's the thing this year. If we can all come together and play as a team. …we have the ability, we have the talent, we have the depth, we have the coaches. It's going to be really exciting to see how it turns out if everyone plays like a team."

Pope and the Seminoles are trying very hard to make that happen as summer workouts continue at a lively pace. Attendance continues to be impressive, though players have a nice incentive -- don't miss a workout and you don't have to participate in varsity conditioning testing in August.

"If we continue to have turnout like this, it could be something special in the making," Pope admitted.

"It looks like everyone wants to work hard to get to where we want to be at this year. The key is everyone needs to come out here every day. I want to see over the next couple of weeks if everyone is still showing. You need to keep pushing yourself."

Include Pope in that mix following off season shoulder surgery.

Pope and fellow third-year starter Michael Boulware are the heart of a unit expected to rank as one of the nation's best. Pope and Boulware have combined for 562 career tackles, four touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 23 pass breakups and 31 tackles for loss.

"Right now it (shoulder) is about 90 percent," Pope said.

"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent until I test it out with shoulder pads on during two-a-days. I would say 90 percent, but I have all my range of motion and I am back to full strength. I am just waiting to test it out during two-a-days."

Pope has another reason to smile wide.

The Seminoles plan to return to their attacking style of yesteryear. A strong push from the front seven should take some of the burden off an intact secondary, led by senior cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Rufus Brown, that ranked 85th nationally against the pass. Pope said the defense has added a number of new blitz packages, including a run blitz.

"I have never done a run blitz before," Pope said and smiled.

"We are going to get back to that aggressive style of defense, getting the pressure on the quarterback and making him get it (ball) out of there early. I would have to say our front seven….we have to have one of the best front seven in the country. I know we are going to get back to putting pressure on the quarterback and causing some turnovers. Everyone says about Florida State's defense is like, ‘You can pass on them. You can run on them.‘ We just have to prove differently."

Pope said first-year linebackers coach Kevin Steele wants his unit to be aggressive.

"We are going to mix it up, disguise some things, give people different looks out of our base (defense)," Pope said.

"It's going to be good to make some plays. It's going to be kind of like the Tampa Bay defense, where they let the linebackers play loose and run free to the ball. Last year you would see the linebackers getting in their position and staying. Now, we are playing inside, at the line, sometimes we will be back. It's going to be very exciting and interesting to see how those things work out."

The same could be said for the Seminoles' team chemistry.

Much of the blame last season fell on quarterback Chris Rix. With 21 starts, 4,418 passing yards and 37 touchdown passes under his belt, Rix is a seasoned veteran and is expected to play like one. It had been 21 years since a Bobby Bowden-coached FSU team lost five games in a season.

"We didn't play as a team the past two years," Pope said.

"Everyone was doing their own thing. People need to understand if you are better as a team, it will make everyone look better. You have to win games around here. That should be on our shirts this year -- TEAM. We need everyone backing each other up, not criticizing who the quarterback is. It's about the team, and getting Florida State back to where it needs to be. You do your job, I am going to do my job. Everyone takes care of their business and we won't have any problems."


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