Early Enrollees Adapting Quickly
One of the more interesting storylines this spring is the high number of early enrollees that Florida State brought in last recruiting cycle. When you consider that six of the eight January enrollees were 4-star or higher, with three 5-stars, there is a ridiculous amount of raw talent that the Seminole coaching staff has to play with. On the first day of practice Head coach Jimbo Fisher said this about the newcomers.
“I never noticed one of them from the standpoint of being lost or out of place or unathletic or from an assignment standpoint,” Fisher said. “That’s shocking. It really is. You’d think one or two of them would be really lost. Derwin flashed at me, Jacques flashed at me at times, and I saw Calvin running and doing some things. Those guys all look normal, like they fit in already.”
After the third practice he is even more impressed with the way they are performing.
“In pads they’re better,” Fisher said. “There are some big, strong guys in there.”
Offensive Line Gelling
Florida State lost four starters on the offensive line from last year’s team, but this years group is ready to jump right in. The benefit to having a mass exodus like that is that the second team unit has a chance to work together before their time is called. Right tackle Chad Mavety, Right Guard Derrick Kelly, and Left Guard Kareem Are were all on the second team last season and spent time getting the feel of the others. Even Roderick Johnson, who is the only remaining starter from last season, spent the first eight games with the second team. Those four players have been the starters at their positions so far this spring.
Coach Fisher talked after practice about how well the offensive line is coming along.
“There are some mistakes in there, but there are also some really good things,” Fisher said. “There are some talented players in that group. Just getting more consistent, but guys that are willing to take coaching and whatever you say, they do.
Quarterback Sean Maguire talked about how that familiarity has helped them so far this spring.
“It’s very familiar,” Maguire said. “I ran with Chad, Kareem, and even big Rod for the beginning of the year and Hoefeld and Bell. Some of them had trouble accepting being in the two role and I just told them ‘It’ll be our time soon.’”
The only position where there has been a change up is at center where Ryan Hoefeld and Alec Eberle are battling it out for the starting spot. Hoefeld was the starter the first day of practice, while Eberle got the start today. It could be a moot point as Notre Dame graduate transfer Matt Hegarty could choose to join the Noles in the summer, but for now those are the two competing for the position.
Coach Fisher had this to say about Eberle.
“He’s getting more consistent on his calls,” Fisher said. “He’s like the quarterback on a running play. You’ve got to make the calls. The Mike calls. He has to make the calls to tell everybody who to block. He’s a very tough guy and a hard worker.”
Tight End Up For Grabs
Tight ends coach Tim Brewster has the tough job of finding a replacement for the best tight end in Florida State history with Nick O’Leary graduating. While Isaac Nauta may be that replacement in the future, he won’t be part of this years team. Florida State will go into the spring with Ryan Izzo, Jeremy Kerr, and Mavin Saunders at the position.
Izzo is the more well rounded of the three at this point, but coach Fisher has been pleased with the way all the tight ends have practiced so far.
“A lot of ability,” Fisher said. “Izzo, Kerr, Mavin. All those guys are doing a really nice job. Big bodies that can run. The wing span and catch radius on those guy, they’re all long arm big guys. Very athletic that understand with good ball skills and they’re becoming much more physical. That group has me excited.”
The wild card of the group is Mavin Saunders. Saunders hasn’t been playing football for very long and played wide receiver in high school. He hadn’t ever blocked before coming to Florida State as a tight end. Coach Fisher said that he is coming along very well in that regard.
“The best day he ever had today,” Fisher said. “He made two or three blocks here. He’s so athletic that when he rolls those hips and gets that big 260-pound body on you with the way he runs. I mean it’s power. He made two or three big time blocks today, as Izzo and Kerr have done too, but Mavin has really come along in the contact part of the game.”
If Saunders can become a good enough blocker to not be a detriment to the team he could be the best option at the position because of his freak athleticism. Until that point Izzo and Kerr will have a leg up on him.