Sunday Notebook: Week 1

The FSU football team has officially completed its first week of preseason practice and will continue to work towards the Sept. 4 opener. Leading up to that contest, will provide a Sunday Notebook highlighting some of the lesser talked about stories from the week. This edition contains a Q&A with Derek Nicholson and an update on sophomore tailback Antone Smith (pictured).


Throughout the first week of practice, true sophomore linebacker Derek Nicholson, who is listed as the No, 2 middle or "Mike" linebacker, cross-trained as a "Will" or weakside outside linebacker. The North Carolina native recently spoke with about his work across the linebacker depth chart. Tell me about cross-training at the two linebacker spots.

Derek Nicholson: "I am cross training so that I know both of them. I know Mike no problem and will play a lot at Mike this year. We are a little light on the outside so (the coaches) want me to be able to contribute there in case something happens. The more positions you know, the better player you are is how I see it. It gives you more opportunities on the field too and it helps this team so I am all for that. Coach asked me to play some Will and learn some stuff and that's what I am doing."

RR: Do you prefer once position over the other?

DN: "Well, I just like playing football period. I love playing linebacker. Mike and Will are relatively the same. It's just one gap over. Will is basically an inside linebacker where at times he plays on the outside for blitzes and passing schemes. But besides that, Will is a lot like Mike and vice a versa. As long as I am out there playing football and playing linebacker I am straight."

RR: It seems that if you were to do some work on the outside that could get Jae Thaxton into the game alongside you on some occasions. Is that the plan; to be able to work all of the talented linebackers on the roster into the gameplan?

DN: "That's exactly what we are doing. We are going to have situations where it's Geno (Hayes) and me out there. Or Buster (Davis) and Geno or Jae (Thaxton) and Geno, myself and Buster. There are just so many different options for us. You can put Geno at Will and Jae at Sam if you have to. It's just nice because we can all rotate to each spot if need be and have no drop off. Along with Lawrence (Timmons) on the outside it's a great mix that Coach (Kevin) Steele can utilize and he does a good job at that. He knows what playmakers need to be in there in each situation."

RR: What has your initial impression been so far of the young linebackers Marcus Ball, Dekoda Watson and Recardo Wright?

DN: "They just got here and they have a lot to learn. They need to just hang in there and Geno and I were the same last year. This year they are here and just have to learn the system and that will take some time but athletic-wise and physical-wise they are having no problem adjusting. They will be alright."


It's not very often that a young player can steal some of the spotlight of proven veteran standouts.

But for sophomore tailback Antone Smith, it comes pretty easy.

After spurning the University of Miami in 2005 and signing with the Seminoles, the former Mr. Football in Florida has been waiting to break out since arriving in Tallahassee. And after being buried on the depth chart last year with Leon Washington, Lorenzo Bookler and Lamar Lewis all vying for playing time, he waited patiently - and showed flashes when given the opportunity (see: his miraculous touchdown scamper against Duke).

Now, it's almost Smith's turn as Washington has since graduated and Lewis transferred. The Pahokee native is slated to split carries with Booker this year.

"I am in the best shape of my life. I'm well conditioned," Smith said. "I'm mentally ready and physically ready. I'm just ready to go out there and put it on paper, baby. I am ready to be a part of this offense."

And, as mentioned, being a part of the offense means working closely with Booker - the undisputed offensive leader and veteran of the Seminole football team.

"He's like a big-brother figure out here just like Leon Washington was last year," Smith said, referring to Booker. "It's good to have a guy like that. We make each other better."

In addition to working as one of the primary offensive weapons for the first team this preseason, Smith is also working into the kick return rotation. Smith fielded a few kicks last year but failed to show the flashes that many thought he would in that aspect of the game.

Known for his remarkable speed and agility, FSU fans just may get to see him working there again this year. In fact, FSU fans just want to see him on the field in any capacity – and Smith agrees.

"(The coaches) are just giving me a good look right now to see what I can do," he said of returning kicks. "I don't mind doing it all. Just put me somewhere on the field so I can help the team."


At practice Saturday, both Charlie Graham and Aaron Jones had to be carted off the field with ankle injuries. Both ailments appear to not be serious.

Said Graham: "It's not that serious. I should be fine. I thought it was worse than it really is when I tried to walk on it yesterday."

Said Jones: "It's going to be okay, I think. I have to get it x-rayed but it's good. I will probably be out a week."

At Media Day Sunday, both young players were sporting walking boots.


"I made the right choice, I made the right choice." –True freshman wide receiver Damon McDaniel, who at one point was committed to the University of Florida during his recruitment, referencing his decision to attend FSU.

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