Speed to Burn

Speed coach Curt Hester, part of former FSU track assistant Tom Shaw's touted staff in New Orleans, is working with athletes on campus this week. After meeting with FSU coaches Monday, Hester went straight to work. "It was great. I thought it was going to be something silly, but it was good. He stressed mechanics, arm placement, pushing off your toes, anything to help you be quicker off the ball," DE Alonzo Jackson said. Also, read players' reaction to the preseason mags and see who's back.

Robert Morgan was drenched in sweat Monday afternoon as he made his way towards Florida State's weight room. Morgan, who missed last year following reconstructive knee surgery, had just finished agility drills. The senior will test his knee strength for Seminole trainers within the next few days.

"I am about 85 to 90 percent I think," Morgan said and smiled. "Either tomorrow or Wednesday, I will get on the Cybex (measures strength). It feels good. It's not hurting but it does let me know to calm down and rest a little bit after I rehab, or do stuff in the weight room or do agility drills. I am taking it a day at a time."

And Monday was a tad more hectic than usual for the Seminoles.

Many players have returned to school following a short break during the first summer session. Quarterback Chris Rix bounced out of the weight room with his usual smile. Linebacker Michael Boulware arrived back in Tallahassee Sunday night. Defensive end Charles Howard had made an appearance, too, and cornerback Dominic Robinson has been back for less than a week.

"It's good to see everyone again -- I am seeing some new faces right now," Morgan said as he peered into the Seminoles' weight room.

While the turnout has been impressive thus far -- strength coach Jon Jost said the lowest turnout for afternoon workouts during the first semester had been 38 players -- the group has increased significantly. With good reason, too. FSU brought in speed coach Curt Hester, part of former FSU track assistant Tom Shaw's touted staff in New Orleans, to work with athletes on campus.

Hester, who was on LSU's staff at one time, worked with players in the gymnasium and on the practice field (weather permitting). He met with FSU coaches this morning and is scheduled to be in town for the remainder of the week.

"It was better than I thought it was going to be," cornerback Malcom Tatum said. "He stressed fundamentals and mechanics, stretching and quickness. Big people never get a chance to do stuff like that. I always ran track so most of it is natural to me. But as far as dragging those sleds and pushing those sleds (on the practice field), that helps, too. Anything to make us quicker as a team."

Defensive end Alonzo Jackson, who is lifting again following wrist surgery, agreed, saying, "it was great. I thought it was going to be something silly, but it was good. He really stressed mechanics, arm placement, pushing off your toes, anything to help you be quicker off the ball. Like I've said, that half-second can be the difference between a sack and a completion. Hey, anything that's gonna make us better is a good thing."

And, speaking of good things, FSU has once again taken its place among the nation's elite -- at least on paper.

Many of football's preseason magazines are on the newsstands, and the Seminoles have received high marks. The offensive line, rated No.1 by The Sporting News, is a big reason that FSU can be found in the top five of at least four preseason magazines' college football polls.

Athlon rates FSU, 8-4 a year ago, the No.1 team ahead of Texas and Miami. Street & Smith's and Lindy's rank FSU fourth, while The Sporting News places FSU second behind Oklahoma. Of the magazines that have hit Tally's newsstands, only Football Action places FSU out of the top five. That publication ranks FSU sixth. Several online sites, including CNN/SI and CBS Sportsline, list FSU in the top five.

Players are taking the news in stride.

"That's all nice, but we are just trying to be on top at the end of the season," Tatum said. "Last year, we are kind of looking at it as an opportunity passes. This year we are trying to stay on top of it. We have to have a better season. This (working out) helps. Anything we can do together as a team is helping us -- it's better than sitting at home playing a video game all day."

Tatum, who is expected to play a key role in the Seminoles' secondary, has practiced what he has preached. Although not in school this summer, Tatum elected to remain in Tallahassee rather than return to his hometown of Miami. Tatum appears thicker across the chest and shoulders. The secondary, which struggled last season, has been challenged by defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

"I don't want to go home," Tatum said.

"I am trying to step up. The last thing coach Andrews told me was he wanted me to be more of a leader this year. Most of the time I am the type of person that I probably wouldn't say much. 'Okay, let's get the job done.' I might be a leader but they are not seeing me be a leader. I want to be more vocal. Some times you go in there (weight room) and you are small, you are a DB, and you are almost doing some of the weight of the big guys -- either you are strong or they are not going hard. some times people need a little push. Nobody wants a repeat of last year."

Robinson, meanwhile, returned from California to specifically work with Hester.

"It was good to get home but it's also good to get back," said Robinson, who returned last Wednesday. "You know, you kind of have your back-home-workout and your workout here. It's good to get back home. I worked at my high school, talked to some of the kids there, good to be home and visit the family. But it's good to be back. Everytime I go home I am so happy I am there but when I get back here, I love it here.

"One of my main reasons (coming back) was to work out with this speed guy and see what we has to say. Right now it's more technique, things that you may have not been taught growing up. Growing up, you just run. If you're fast, you're fast. Now, it's getting to the point where you really have to learn how to run, as far as your arm placement, your legs. He's teaching us the fundamentals. (I want to) take it in and hopefully get faster and better as a team."

According to many preseason magazines, FSU should be better this year. Lindy's staff wrote: "Hope all you ACC wannabes enjoyed kicking FSU while it was down last season, because the 'Noles are ready to resume their rightful place. That's atop the ACC, in the Top 5 and possibly in the Fiesta Bowl."

The Seminoles' offensive backfield, with Greg Jones, Nick Maddox and Rix returning, rates as the eighth-best backfield nationally by both TSN and Lindy's. The receiving corps, based on the return of Anquan Boldin and Morgan, earns Lindy's third spot behind Texas and Marshall. Brett Williams and Montrae Holland rank as TSN's No.1 offensive tackle and offensive guard respectively. Williams is also a Lindy's and Athlon's first-team All-America. Rix is Lindy's 10th-best quarterback.

Darnell Dockett is the No.2 defensive tackle behind Miami's William Joseph, according to The Sporting News. Jeff Womble is the ninth-rated defensive tackle. Jackson is the 13th-rated defensive end, according to Lindy's. Boulware and Kendyll Pope are first and 11th respectively on TSN's list of top outside linebackers, and Lindy's ranks FSU's linebacking corps fifth nationally. TSN says FSU's defensive line is fourth behind Miami, Oklahoma and Ohio State, and the linebackers seventh.

"All that tells you is how far you have to go and how much harder you have to work to be the best," Jackson said.

Morgan agreed, saying, "That's nice to hear and it's a good feeling but, like I said, it doesn't matter where they put us. We have to come out and make a statement."

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