Florida State started off 2013 with a win over Northern Illinois on New Year's Day in the Discover Orange Bowl giving the program its first BCS Bowl win since 1999. Fast forward 2 ½ months, and a proud Seminole team hit the practice field Wednesday excited to continue to build on that success even with some changes in tow.
Florida State held the first of 15 spring practices Wednesday, which will culminate with the annual Garnet & Gold game slated for Apr. 13 inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
"It was exciting to be back out there," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "It was good to get those young guys participating with some of the older guys- catching on with some of the new things on defense – just leading and teaching those guys to step up that are going to be counted on with how they act, feel more comfortable out there and seeing their role where they have to step up."
Despite losing 13 starters on paper and having turnover on a coaching staff that was the longest tenured staff heading into 2012, FSU's first practice still produced its usual up tempo. Florida State returns 11 starters but most importantly several key reserves with a plethora of playing experience.
Despite having to replace seven starters on a defense that ranked second nationally, FSU still returns its leading tackler in Christian Jones (95 tackles in 2012), its third leading tackler in linebacker Telvin Smith (64 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss) and the majority of its secondary (DB Lamarcus Joyner, CB Nick Waisome, CB Ronald Darby, FS Terrence Brooks. Defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan (46 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss) and Demonte McAllister (33 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss), who were two of the top four stoppers on the defensive line, also return. FSU broke in a new signal caller on the defensive side Wednesday with the addition of defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt.
"Defensively they picked it up pretty much – very few times did I see missed assignments and things, "Fisher said. "I was very proud of that. The kids hustled, thought they played hard in practice. Just pleased with them all, got good work in and our first practice under our belt. Good solid first practice."
Another storyline of FSU's spring practice also took center stage on day one with the competition to replace departed starter E.J. Manuel at quarterback getting underway. Redshirt junior Clint Trickett enters spring as the No. 1 but will be a in battle with redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker and redshirt freshmen Sean Maguire and Jameis Winston.
"They did their good and bad things," Fisher said. "They're learning. Very proud of all their checks, there were very few missed assignments. For the most part, I was pleased with the consistency being able to manage the team. That's the first thing, being able to get in the huddle and call the plays. When they missed a throw, it was still going to the right guy. Good thing about it is that you've got a lot of experienced receivers out there, so guys are getting in the right spots, which makes it a lot easier on them." Florida State returns to the practice field on Thursday. FSU will wrap up the first week of spring practice with a session on Saturday morning. All practices are closed to the public. Fans can begin counting down to the Spring football weekend which will be capped off with the annual Garnet and Gold Spring football game at 2 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium on Apr. 13. The game will be carried on ESPN3 and replayed on ESPNU.
MORE FROM JIMBO FISHER, DC Jeremy Pruitt and defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri:
On the communication with the new coaches:
"I don't think it's different. I've been around them a long time. It was pretty natural. Most of the guys know the tempo we do here in practice, so from that standpoint it wasn't that big of a change."
On DB Lamarcus Joyner:
"He is so competitive. Every time someone would catch the ball ‘coach he pushed.' He never gets beat. I love him. He's the ultimate competitor. For a little guy, he's so powerful. He had a couple of really nice plays today."
Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt:
On his first few months at FSU:
"It's been a whirlwind, getting in here and obviously, losing seven coaches from the last staff and trying to catch up in recruiting. Jimbo, Lawrence (Dawsey), Odell (Haggins) and Rick (Trickett) have done a fantastic job of holding the recruiting class together and the rest of us just jumped in. Definitely been a whirlwind."
On his first impression:
"There are some good players entering the draft and obviously if you were out here yesterday [Pro Day] you saw that. I've been fortunate enough to have been around some good players but there are more players from Florida State that were invited to the combine of any other school in the country. Obviously, we lost some players so that was something that stuck out. Florida State always had good players and continues to have them and we just have to figure out who the next are."
On what he thought when he evaluated the players coming back:
"Obviously, you do quality control every off season and you want to go back. What we want to do defensively, we don't want to come here and change what Mark [Stoops] did in the past. Obviously, it worked and he built on it in the past from the time he was here. The quality control that we've done we felt like they've done really well last year and we want to continue to do those things. When you're doing that, you do see players and some guys jump out at you. Right now, if you look at who was out there today besides the defensive line, there's not a whole lot of guys that have been major contributors in the past because we've got some injuries and whatnot. There is some speed out there and guys that can run around. As spring goes on, I'm anxious to see how those guys develop."
On Lamarcus Joyner moving from safety to corner:
"It's an experiment. He wanted to do that. It was as much his idea as it was anybody's. He can market himself a little better. He's been a good player at the safety position but he was a high school corner, him choosing to come back for his senior year, showing that he can play out there on the perimeter plus at safety, in the NFL the more positions you can play the more valuable you create yourself."
Defensive Ends Coach Sal Sunseri:
On being at Florida State:
"I'm extremely excited to be here at Florida State. I had the opportunity to be down here during the bowl practice and these young kids work hard. Jimbo does a great job with them. They're finding out what it takes to win, and they did win last year and they have high expectations. We just have to teach them to get to those high expectations."
On the first day of spring ball:
"It was like anything else. I'm different than most, I'm going to demand and they're going to be relentless competitive people. I'm going to push them to the ultimate. They're not going to have a chance to relax because this game is very physical and you're playing a four-three and two defensive ends, you have to be dominating, you have to rush the passer and stop the run. When fatigue sets in, most of us turn into cowards, so what I try to do is work them as fast as I can and as hard as I can to get them to play with the best technique because that's what's going to happen in the game. Technique ultimately wins on the field. If you have technique and you have smarts, you're going to be a good football player."
On all of his stops along the way at the college level:
"It's been great. Like anything else, you get different ideas being in all of the different conferences and you see what it takes to play. You can judge talent and know where you're at with it and evaluate it with kids and recruiting, you can tell what level of football they can be at. The things that's funny is when you're at Florida State you're recruiting the cream of the crop. That's what I really believe because this place has had great tradition, they've won national championships and we're hoping someday to get back to that."
On the kids working with the new coaches:
They're probably in there saying ‘boy the man is crazy.' But I want them to think that because the thing is that every time I go out on the field, it's like if I was coaching my own son. I am going to demand him to do it right. First of all, for protection. Because if he doesn't do it right and he gets lazy, to me that's the most important thing. And if they play with the technique and they do what they're supposed to do, someday they're going to have the opportunity to fulfill a dream that they've been waiting to do for a long time. I'm excited about it. I think they had a good practice out there today. I think they got an idea of what I am going to ask for, so tomorrow will be another day. Hopefully, we get better and they've got to learn. They've got to understand not just assignments, they've got to understand concepts of what's going on out there."
Players OUT for Spring
Fisher announced at his pre-spring press conference the Seminoles that will miss spring 2013. Fisher also announced that OL Garrett Faircloth (hip) and DB Justin Bright (head) are both medically disqualified. Bright will serve as a student assistant coach. Fisher also said OL Henry Orelus has graduated and is not on the active roster.
Spring Injury Report – Out for Spring Practice:
CB Ronald Darby (sports hernia)
CB Tyler Hunter (knee)
WR Jarred Haggins (knee)
DT Demonte McAllister (shoulder)
OL Jacob Fahrenkrug (left shoulder)
OL Daniel Foose (lower back)
CB Nick Waisome (leg)