Team Strength

Florida State made nice strides during its first week of practice. Not surprisingly, FSU linebackers were one of the team's most active units. The Seminoles lost all three starting linebackers from last season - <b>Michael Boulware, Kendyll Pope </b> and <b>Allen Augustin</b> - but still have the potential to field one of the nation's top units. Click here for an update.

There are certain segments that Florida State fans may want to keep an eye on when watching the Seminoles this season.

Linebackers just might be numero uno.

In fact, FSU linebackers coach Kevin Steele also has been impressed by his own group. The unit enjoyed a solid first week of practice, flying to the football and helping set the defensive tone.

"When you start talking about bigger, stronger, faster, changing direction, burst, explosion and all those things – the buzz the NFL uses for linebackers – these guys are more talented than any group I've ever coached," Steele said without hesitation.

"And that's including every year. That's Nebraska, Tennessee, the National Football League. As an athletic group, this is the best I've ever been around."

The unit is close-knit with plenty of competition.

Junior A.J. Nicholson was named the team's most dominating player in the spring while sophomore Ernie Sims garnered defensive MVP honors. Middle linebacker Sam McGrew also has made noticeable strides.

Sims entered the preseason No.2 on the depth chart on the strong side behind senior Ray Piquion. McGrew and sophomore Buster Davis are vying for the starting job.

Marcello Church's sprained ankle kept him sidelined Saturday, allowing junior-college transfer Barry Wright to work behind Nicholson on the weak side.

Wright, who was plagued by an ankle injury during spring drills, says his ankle is holding up just fine. Wright also is happy to be receiving more reps after a slow start.

"It's holding up real good, real good," Wright said.

"I wasn't getting that many reps, so I was kind of just sitting back and watching. When you are not getting reps, you are not improving. If I can get more reps, I will be okay. I will do what they want me to do, but running other people's play (opponent schemes) is not going to help me."

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