Preseason Scrimmage Primer

Montrae Holland admitted that in-depth analysis of FSU at this point and time wouldn't probably be worth a plugged nickel. That will change Saturday, however, when FSU holds its first preseason scrimmage. We have comments from players, such as Stanford Samuels (pictured) and coaches as the 'Noles eye their first major test. "We'd like to see a great deal of improvement. We still have a lot of offense in right now that at some point we're going to have to trim down," Jeff Bowden said.

As a hot and tired Montrae Holland shuffled off the practice field Friday morning, he admitted that in-depth analysis of the Florida State Seminoles at this point and time wouldn't probably be worth a plugged nickel.

That will change on Saturday, however, when FSU holds its first preseason scrimmage in Doak Campbell Stadium. The scrimmage isn't about drills, stations and repetitions. The Seminoles will be judged on performance, and that's priceless as fourth-ranked FSU continues preparations for its season-opener in 15 days against Iowa State in Kansas City.

"Let's get rid of all the drills and get right back into playing football under game-like conditions and a game-like atmosphere," Holland said. "That will tell us how far we've come and how far we have to go. I am excited."

Of course, many eyes will be on the Seminoles' secondary, receivers Anquan Boldin and Robert Morgan, and the trio of young tailbacks. Those areas have highlighted preseason drills thus far, though it seems any debate quite often returns to FSU's defense. Players certainly understand, considering last year's struggles.

Saturday's scrimmage will be the unit's first test, especially for the cornerbacks. Oft-maligned last year for their inconsistency, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has indicated the Seminoles will return to an aggressive, attacking style from the interior and press coverage on the edges.

Starting cornerback Stanford Samuels is eager to show the unit's progress this season. Of course, as Samuels started talking improvements and coverages, a smiling Dominic Robinson walked by and reminded Samuels his unit can't even stick to a former defensive back, much less a wideout - Robinson switched from cornerback to wide receiver last Saturday.

"Oh, that's crazy - that's crazy, " a laughing Samuels said. Naturally, Samuels realizes that a poor effort Saturday won't be a laughing matter.

"This is about intensity. Hard work. We have to have that throughout the rest of two-a-days. We have to grind. Right now we are kind of up and down. At first we came booming, looking beautiful. Then we kind of slacked off, started to let them (offense) make some plays. Today was a rocky day. We did our thing as a team but on one-on-ones and skels, we gave up some plays and we can't have that. Our expectations are higher than that - that' what that was about."


Andrews, who directed traffic as coach Bobby Bowden attended the graduation of one of his grandsons, was unhappy with Friday's practice. It went a few minutes longer than usual and ended with players doing up-and-downs before breaking off into their segments for conditioning. Andrews questioned his unit's toughness.

"Any time you have a lot of young players, sometimes they really don't understand how to push through the pain," said Samuels, who wasn't supposed to participate in goal line drills after suffering a slight concussion Friday. However, Samuels slipped off his blue non-contact jersey and helped the first-team unit stop the second-team offense on five plays. "You get a little nick, not knowing that football is about pain."

It's also about production.

"Everybody is better," Samuels said. "It seems like more everyone is focusing more on the little things that we need to be concentrating. But we have to finish. We have to have that desire not to let somebody catch that ball on you, or we need to make that tackle. As a unit, we are coming together and locking it down. I am sure the offense is thinking about making some plays (Saturday), it's going to be a battle. As long as everybody comes ready to knock some heads and tie that string to the receivers, we will be all right. We just need to keep working."

Fellow starter Rufus Brown put in some overtime Friday, staying after practice for nearly 20 minutes for extra work. In 11-on-11 drills, meanwhile, reserve cornerback Bryant McFadden held his own against the first team receivers, not allowing a pass reception. Segments aside, Brown says FSU's defense must rise together this season.

"The whole thing if everybody goes out and does their job that's going to help the team," Brown said.

"There's not extra pressure on us. .. .it's just a matter of everyone going out there and doing what you need to do. We can say we are good. Until we get tested we really don't know. We are learning. This happens - there are some good days and bad days. We had a bad day this morning but we will have a good day tomorrow. The biggest difference (from last year) is we had people who were worried about messing up. You mess up, you know you realize your mistake, you get better. Being a corner you have to be relaxed."


It's not a big secret what running backs coach Billy Sexton is looking for from his unit Saturday -- production.

Tailbacks Greg Jones and Nick Maddox are well-established and Willie Reid looks to continue to improve. Newcomers Lorenzo Booker, Leon Washington and Thomas "Hollywood" Clayton also will be given ample opportunities. Freshman fullback Torrance Washington also has been impressive at times.

"We are going to take a good look at them, we are going to look at those guys and throw them in there," Sexton said. "We've been working for a week-and-a-half with them on assignments and what to do. ... we've done some 11-on-11 out here but when you go into the stadium, that's the closest thing you can get to a game-like situation. That's their first real big test.

"Overall, I am looking for playmakers, guys who make plays. From an aggressive standpoint, making great runs, catching the ball, making something when they get the ball under their arm. With the fullbacks, making blocks. Making blocks for the tailbacks. In pass protection with both of them, protecting the quarterback, knowing who to get and doing it correctly and being aggressive how they are doing their pass protection."


Offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden didn't flinch when asked if his unit was a better-oiled offense than a year ago.

"Night and day," Bowden said. Still, Bowden is looking for improvement after unloading the playbook on the Seminoles. The offensive line, for example, has practiced against eight different sets of blitzes.

"Right now we are focusing on the whole notebook which is the nature of the first week of two-a-days," Bowden said."I think they can be pretty good once we start cutting back and scaling down what they got to do.

"We'd like to see a great deal of improvement. I think I'm seeing a lot of improvement out of the quarterbacks. We still have a lot of offense in right now that at some point we're going to have to trim down."

While coach Bobby Bowden wasn't happy with the unit's passing and catching Thursday night, his offensive coordinator begged to differ after reviewing the video.

"I know that's what he said. Maybe I better look harder," Bowden said. "I didn't think that we looked that bad on film. We took our one-minute offense right to the four-yard line and thought we hit some good plays in the 11-on-11 scrimmage. We didn't think it was that bad but we still a lot of things we can improve on."

Bowden also admitted his unit needs to display its big-play ability more often. Bowden said, "we are are making some plays but we're not making as many plays as we need to make. They (playmakers) are there, it just hasn't ahppened yet. I think it's one of the key things for the season."

Boldin, considered one of those playmakers and a vital key to the Seminoles' success this season after missing last year following reconstructive knee surgery, took a deep breath and offered his thoughts. After six days of two-a-day practice sessions, Boldin realizes the importance of Saturday's scrimmage.

"I think we are progressing, but we are not where we want to be obviously," Boldin said. "(Personally), I think I am where I want to be physically. But I think we are looking at the bigger picture right now. You want people to ignore their soreness, come out here and work hard every day. It will be good to see how we do tomorrow (scrimmage)."

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