Florida State starts spring practice Tuesday. With new faces around the program there is buzz and excitement around the team as coaches and fans are eager to see how this team may look in the fall.
There are several storylines heading into the start of practice as this team has questions they must answer over a span of 15 practices. While 10 starters return to an offense that is expected to be dynamite, the majority of the hot topics will be on the defensive side of the ball as FSU will be installing a new scheme.
From the health of Christian Ponder, the need for a safety to step up, to the depth along the defensive line FSU will have a busy spring. Here are the top storylines that fans should keep an eye on as practice starts tomorrow.
1) The health of Christian Ponder: Heading into the spring it was expected that starter Christian Ponder would more than likely miss the spring to recuperate after shoulder surgery. About a month ago it came out that Ponder was ahead of schedule and had been throwing a ball. On Monday Coach Fisher announced that Christian was throwing passes that numbered a normal practice, and he said that Ponder would be participating in the spring game. Is he 100%, and are there any lingering effects from the surgery?
2) What safety wants it the most: While a strong defense starts up front there are some close to FSU that feel the biggest question mark is at safety for the ‘Nole defense. FSU loses both starters from last year, but they have a chance to be better overall in 2010. NoleDigest talked last week about how it looks like Nick Moody and Terrence Parks will be 1st on the depth chart as spring starts. There are still questions there as Moody needs to work on his coverage ability and Parks just can't stay healthy enough to contribute. After those two there are no players with quality experience other than sophomore JaJuan Harley, who himself battled a hamstring injury in fourth-quarter workouts. Moody, Parks and Harley are all physically impressive players that Coach Stoops looks for. Gerald Demps and Justin Bright played well on the scout team last year and look to make a move this spring. Which two want it the most? We have heard that it will come down to who fights the hardest and shows the ability to understand and play within the system.
3) New faces: Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, Greg Hudson, D.J. Eliot and Dameyune Craig are all new coaches for FSU. All are expected to be an upgrade and each will be working to improve the team. Coach Stoops will be implementing a zone based scheme that will feature multiple packages and that is more than likely one of the big topics for spring.
4) The new defense and what it will look like: Coach Fisher said in his Monday press conference that they have no intention of rolling the new schemes out slowly with the players. The players have been learning the schemes over the past month or so as Coach Stoops has held nothing back in getting his guys ready for spring football. After a man coverage defense under Coach Andrews it will be interesting to see what Stoops and Co. have in store for this defense.
5) The play of the early enrollees: While it is expected that Clint Trickett will redshirt in the fall the other 3 early enrollees will come in and fight for playing time once practice starts. Antony McCloud brings needed depth and size to the middle of the defensive line. Debrale Smiley is the power back Coach Fisher covets in his offense. Jeff Luc physically is as prepared as any upperclassman on the roster. For FSU's defense they need both McCloud and Luc to be ready to play major minutes once spring has ended.
6) Avoiding injuries: FSU has talent on defense but they are still lacking some quality depth at every spot of that side of the ball. Jacobbi McDaniel and Everett Dawkins are the only two healthy interior linemen with playing time for the defense. With 4 scholarship corners FSU can't afford to lose one to an injury. The offensive line will be missing 3 tackles that are out.
7) Who is going to step up as the go-to receiver: Jarmon Fortson has as much talent as anyone in the ACC as a wide out, but can he put it all together and be that elite force the coaches think he can be. We've heard since they arrived last year that Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith are potential NFL type pass catchers; are they ready to step up? Bert Reed is the elder statesman of the group and he is set for a stellar junior season.
Players out for spring:
E.J. Manuel- shoulder surgery
Moses McCray- elbow surgery
Avis Commack- broken leg
Zebrie Sanders- hip surgery
Garret Faircloth- hip surgery
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