New Shoes

The ingredients for dramatic improvement over last season, when FSU defensive ends accounted for just 10 sacks, are certainly in place under first-year coach Jody Allen. Allen also will play a key role on the recruiting front, focusing on south Georgia and the Seminoles' junior-college efforts. "I think that was probably one of the biggest plusses of the spring for me is learning more about them and them learning more about me and now we know what we have to work on," Allen said.

Florida State's defensive ends were put on the spot during spring drills after last year's lackluster performance. The Seminoles' trademark pass rush was anemic as the unit accounted for just 10 sacks. And, prior to drills, longtime assistant Jim Gladden retired from coaching and was replaced by graduate assistant Jody Allen.

Don't fret. The ends enjoyed a fine spring under the intense Allen, who didn't shy away from circling the unit's strengths and weaknesses. Allen quickly admits FSU must improve its pass rush and work habits next season.

"I was pretty pleased with their work habits the whole spring," Allen said.

"I think they really locked in and focused and tried to understand what we were teaching. In some cases, they did and in some cases I think we at least -- maybe one of the best things about spring -- is that we identified the things we have to work on. This summer they can focus on those things in their offseason. They can work also in the weight room and when we come back next fall, we know where we have to go. Overall, I was pleased with their effort and their focus and their concentration. If they continue that, we will be okay. It's no secret that we have to be able to get pressure (on the quarterback)."

Senior Alonzo Jackson and junior Kevin Emanuel emerged from spring drills as the two starters. Jackson, who can be an outstanding pass rusher and leader, won the Hinesman Award as the Seminoles' most dominant spring performer, thanks to his consistent harassment of the team's quarterbacks. But Jackson had help.

Sophomore Eric Moore made impressive progress, but was edged for the segment's Most Improved Award by junior Charles Howard. Emanuel, too, drew high praise from Allen. The ingredients for dramatic improvement over last season are in place, but Allen says it's not going to be easy. He said the unit needs to work on fundamentals and technique during the offseason.

"We need to play a little more physically," Allen said.

"I think the angles on our past rushes improved a little bit but again, while they improved some, we have to get more consistent with it. There were times when we took good angles and did things just right and there were times when we didn't. During the summer those guys can look at the film and see that -- we can't watch film with them but by all indications they will come in and watch it on their own and rehash what we've been saying -- that maybe by the time we start next fall it will all make sense to them."

Allen says correct technique -- playing low -- will help the Seminoles on the edges.

"The techniques that we are trying to use improved some but again it shouldn't do anything but get better as time goes by," Allen said. "When we introduce it again next fall, it should be old hat. The one thing we have to do better is we have to play lower. They can improve themselves this summer by getting out there and working in those pens and work on moving lower and playing lower. I mean, if they just realize that -- and I think they do -- and if they just work on it, which I think they will, then we can really be even better."

FSU's depth also should be much improved. Redshirt freshman Willie Jones, Jr., who has gained noticeable bulk since arriving at FSU, and newcomer Kamerion Wimbley have the athletic ability and attitude Allen loves. The Seminoles also should receive a boost from recruits Broderick Bunkley (Tampa) and Darrell Burston (Peacthree City, Ga.).

Overall, Allen feels good about his unit's progress.

"I think that was probably one of the biggest plusses of the spring for me is learning more about them and them learning more about me and now we know what we have to work on," Allen said. "There are some areas we improved on and there are some areas we have a ways to go on. At least we know now."

Of course, Allen also will play a key role on the recruiting front, centering on south Georgia and helping fellow assistant Odell Haggins in Atlanta. Allen also will anchor FSU's effort on the junior-college level.

Starting next week, FSU coaches will visit every high school in Florida. Recruiting coordinator John Lilly says the Seminoles also hope to hit some parts of Georgia "a little harder," than the past. Also, south Florida, especially Dade County, remains a prime location despite the Seminoles' inability to sign any players from that area last February.

At the moment, it's believed the Seminoles have already offered nearly 50 scholarships to promising juniors nation wide, including such local standouts as Ernie Sims of North Florida Christian, Antonio Cromarite of Lincoln and Ryan Gilliam of Lincoln.

Lilly said FSU hopes to again sign up to 22 recruits in February. Immediate concerns include the offensive line and secondary, though Lilly admits the Seminoles' approach hasn't changed much over the years. FSU wants to be involved with the nation's top prospects, positions aside.

"We are still going to have to sign at every position, no doubt about it," Lilly said. "I think we will have very similar to this year in terms of numbers, somewhere between 18 to 22, looking at it right now with what we have graduating, normal attrition will and kind of what our needs are."

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