All Smiles

Each summer, Florida State players talk about improved chemistry, unity and work ethic. While the upcoming season will determine if that chatter is fact or fiction, there remains at least one constant on the practice fields -- linebacker <b>A.J. Nicholson </b> is all smiles. Although still recovering from offseason knee surgery, Nicholson is excited about his progress and the Seminoles' potential. FSU must replace all three starting linebackers, including <b>Michael Boulware</b> (pictured).

A tired A.J. Nicholson took a deep breath and exhaled. Of course, the personable Nicholson still had enough energy to joke with his Florida State teammates.

"I am feeling great but I am still looking to pick it up a little bit," a grinning Nicholson said as he sat down to remove his cleats.

"I still need to get some strength in my knee."

Nicholson, the Seminoles' talented junior linebacker, is recovering nicely from offseason knee surgery. Nicholson said he had a bone fragment removed and slight meniscus tear repaired in his right knee.

"It was a simple scope, nothing big," Nicholson said as he tapped lightly on the outside of his right knee.

"I am probably 60 to 70 percent right now. I am out here trying to get my heart pumping a little bit so when I come out during two-a-days, I won't be as tired. I will have a better recovery time out on the field."

Nicholson, who participates in limited drills and also spends time on the stationary bicycle during the team's conditioning sessions, is looking to be cleared medically "at some point very soon." He continues to concentrate on his strength and endurance as well as helping motivate his teammates with his mile-a-minute chatter and approach.

"Running straight ahead is pretty cool. Running straight ahead, I am fine," Nicholson said.

"The doctor doesn't want me to cut because of the pressure on my knee. He doesn't want me to start real fast and cut because that's the maximum pressure you can have on the knee. I am running straight. Trying to get some endurance and speed, just what I can for right now so when I get out there I won't be so bad out of shape."

Of course, Seminole fans are well aware of Nicholson's talent when he's in shape.

Nicholson played in all 13 games and started three(Duke, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame) for an injured Kendyll Pope at outside linebacker last season.

Nicholson proved to be an outstanding football player, recording 55 tackles (36 solo, 19 assisted), three tackles for loss, two pass break-ups, four quarterback hurries, three recovered fumbles (ranking 1st on team), and one forced fumble.

In his first start against Duke, Nicholson had seven tackles (one for loss), two fumble recoveries, returning one for a touchdown, one quarterback hurry, and a fourth-down stop. Nicholson ended the season with a nice effort against Miami in the Orange Bowl, registering four tackles.

Nicholson, however, is not one to look over his shoulder. He's more interested in the future. While Nicholson has been pleased with the Seminoles' summer approach, he stresses the work is just beginning.

"We have to get after it every day so we will be ready when two-a-days start," Nicholson said.

Nicholson also has been impressed by FSU's incoming freshman class. Many of the players are participating in conditioning drills.

"I think the young kids are going to add a big addition to our football team," Nicholson said.

"Jamaal Edwards is a good back. And the rest of them, we have to come together and unify as one team -- not just as freshmen and upperclassmen. All unify together to accomplish the bigger goal and that's a national championship.

"But that takes hard work. The young kids are coming out early, not falling out. I know it's a big experience for them because I did it and they will learn a lot and contribute to the football team."

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