Spring Football Roundtable
Priority Number One: The offense must pick up the learning curve a little quicker this year. Once opposing defenses picked up on FSU's predicatable tendencies, the Seminoles turned a 5-0 start in to an 3-5 finish. I think there is a need to further develop the spread offense so the zone-blocking schemes on the offensive line can be further utilized. Also, the tight end needs to be used as a receiving threat. There are way too many quality athletes in at the skill positions not to get
them as many touches as possible.
Priority 1b would be to focus on team discipline on the field. I am not concerned about penalties of aggression, but the penalties and mental mistakes that continually cost the Noles valuable field position or points have got to stop if a national title is going to be a realistic possibility.
If I was on the staff:
Year after year you see it - a fabulous play is negated by a mental breakdown on special teams. I attribute this solely to the fact that the special teams are divided up and coached by several of our assistant coaches. Although our special teams look brilliant on many occasions, I believe this is only partly because of coaching and mostly because of the athletic ability of some very special athletes.
If you look at the top performing schools for special teams, the one thing in common is that they have a coach dedicated specifically to working with just the special teams. Virginia Tech thinks so much of special teams performance, that Frank Beamer, the head man himself, coaches the special teams.
Not that our coaches do a bad job. If I had the whistle in my hand, I would hire a special teams coach, and a punting/kicking coach. And if I had any funds leftover, I would also hire a special teams' sports psychologist just in case.
Watch out for:
There are a lot of obvious choices when it comes to players that are primed for a breakout year, but it's the ones that aren't so obvious that will make or break the season. On offense there are two players that I expect to make a name for themselves this year - Brandon Warren and Caz Piurowski. Both players will be true freshmen when they hit the field against Miami in the Orange Bowl. Besides bringing alot of inexperience to the tight end position, they also bring the first true pass-catching skills that position has seen since Danny Kanell was under center. For those of you new to FSU football, the tight end is the player that lines up on the outside of the tackle - they are actually eligible receivers!
On defense, the players to watch out for are Andre Fluellen and Lawrence Timmons. Fluellen will be starting in his second year at defensive tackle. He has a great motor and when he is 100 percent healthy he will be a dominating force up front.
Timmons showed flashes of brilliance on special teams last season with his punt blocking and coverage prowess. As a starter at outside linebacker, LT's size and athleticism will make him the playmaker that the defense needs.
With ten games in the state of Florida (including the ACC Championship) and trips to only N.C. State, Duke and Maryland, the Noles run the table and face Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Xavier Lee cracks the starting lineup as a slot receiver when Bobby realizes the need for a gadget play every now and then.
Priority Number One:
Turn up the practice-field heat. As a precursor to two-a-days in the fall, the importance of spring camp is two-fold. While FSU coaches have always strived to instill a devout work ethic into the Garnet and Gold players during this period of time, I think a renewed focus should be placed on practice intensity.
For example, just because veteran players have gone through several offseason workouts in the past doesn't mean that these athletes should be exempt from certain drills or activities leading up to the fall. Historically, the Tribe has worked a great number of youngsters into the fold during the spring. Even though it has proven to be beneficial in a number of ways, there's always room for improvement by the older guys as well.
I am not saying that the young players should be removed from practice all together, but the increased reps of certain veteran starters should set the tone for the 2006 season.
With players such as Lorenzo Booker and Buster Davis - two guys that always leave it all on the field - providing a consistent example for their respective positions, the resulting competition from the younger guys looking for some action could translate into a new intensity and a new mindset come opening night in September.
If I was on the staff:
I'd hire a kicking coach. When a historically dominant football program becomes more known for its blown opportunities in the kicking game than for its past successes something's got to give.
Now, I know that Coach Bobby Bowden has reiterated over the years he would prefer to pay his staffers in other areas of the game. But with the increased level of play in not only the Atlantic Coast Conference but across all of Division I college football, three points via a field goal or one point courtesy of a kick after a touchdown could be considered more crucial than ever. We saw that in the Orange Bowl.
It truly is unfortunate that the collective breath of Seminole nation has to be held whenever Florida State lines up to kick a field goal. FSU is too proud of a program to have to be consistently reminded of the 'wide-rights' and something should be done to improve that facet of the game.
With long-time assistants Billy Sexton and Mickey Andrews guiding key positions on both sides of the ball and rising coaches such as Odell Haggins and Kevin Steele directing others, don't FSU players and fans alike deserve some direction at the Achilles heel, I mean foot?
Watch out for:
A lot of deserved focus has been placed on prep star Myron Rolle and the impact that he is sure to make in his first season playing collegiate football. And while I do think that the New Jersey native has an excellent shot to be a starter when spring is all said and done, we shouldn't forget about No 8.
Rising redshirt junior Roger Williams has quietly been a solid contributor for Mickey Andrews' defense for two seasons and he is finally the veteran leader of his unit. Though injury will keep him limited in the spring, the ball hawk will find himself as the capstone in the secondary.
Known for his hard-hitting capabilities, Williams has done his part to show that he has the hands to be a standout presence in the "outfield" as well. Remember his diving interception against Clemson last season?
While the loss of Pat Watkins stings on a variety of levels, Williams' presence at free safety should eliminate much of a drop-off.Expect big things and some big plays from the Georgia native this spring.
Xavier Lee will play well enough during spring practice to set the tone for a sophomore campaign that sees him starting more games than Drew Weatherford.
Priority Number One:
Work on the running game. Part of the problem on offense under Jeff Bowden has been the inability to run the ball with consistency. Some of it has to do with injuries on the offensive line, but the predictability of when and where the Seminoles will run limits offensive effectiveness. Lorenzo Booker and Antone Smith are both shifty runners that can take the ball outside, where FSU stands to gain most of its rushing yards.
The coaches must get creative -- using more counters and misdirection to highlight speed at tailback. Opposing linebackers will have to accommodate, which will create room to run up the middle. Using the fullback, likely first-year starter Joe Surratt, will be important in short yardage situations. Florida State had a player run for 100 yards in a game only once last season and finished last in the ACC in rushing at 94.0 yards per contest. Establishing the run opens up the pass, making teams more successful on offense and able to win more games. The Seminoles need to run for at least 150 yards a game for any hope of repeating as ACC champs and contending for a national title.
If I was on the staff:
I'd make Xavier Lee a part of the offense -- at quarterback or not. Just a reminder: the X-man shattered Florida high school records at Seabreeze High. Lee was named Florida's Mr. Football in 2003 as a senior, where he set all-time marks for passing yards (9,082), completions (549), and touchdowns (98).
Here's another reminder: he is still on the Seminole roster. Dual-quarterback systems rarely work, and Drew Weatherford has shown the ability to succeed at the position. But that doesn't mean Lee can't factor in the offense. Lining him up at wide receiver or bringing him in the game with Weatherford force defenses to compensate for the run or pass are options. Lee's ability to run in the open field and move out of the pocket give him versatility that could allow him to enter the game as a third down wild card. Rumors that he would transfer haven't come to fruition yet, meaning he's another option to make the offense more dangerous and difficult to defend. He had trouble entering the game cold, so keeping him fresh may pay off if he gets enough playing time. However Lee is used doesn't matter -- but this athlete is too talented not to keep him on the field.
Watch out for:
Derek Nicholson and Myron Rolle. The names should already be familiar, but expect each to have a tremendous impact on defense in 2006. Nicholson is the younger brother of the graduated A.J. and has the possibility to be even better by the time he finishes his career in Tallahassee. The linebacker played in all 13 games in 2005, spending most of his time on special teams. He led all first-year players with 21 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and recorded half a sack. Against Citadel last season, Nicholson led all players with a career-high nine tackles. He has a good opportunity to join Buster Davis and Lawrence Timmons as a starter at linebacker in the fall.
Rolle was the top high school defensive back in the nation in 2005 and enrolled in FSU in the spring, eager to get his career in Tallahassee started. He has an opportunity to compete for a starting job with the youth in the secondary. Rolle will be Florida State's biggest DB and has speed to cover the field. With an ability to play near the line of scrimmage to stop the run and drop back to defend the pass, look for Rolle to make an immediate impact in 2006.
An undefeated regular season in 2006. Florida State has a good opportunity to capitalize with a school-record eight home games, including four to finish the season.
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