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March 21, 2011

Spring practice kicks off today

After today's practice, Warchant.com will have a full report, video interview with Jimbo Fisher, a practice photo gallery, video highlights and more.

There will be some firsts for Florida State when spring practice kicks off Monday afternoon.

Spring Practice Dates: 3/21 - 4/16
Week 1 - Mon. Mar. 21 (Helmets & Shorts); Wed. Mar. 23 (Helmets & Shorts);
Thurs. Mar. 24 (First Day of Full Pads); Sat. Mar. 26
Week 2 - Mon. Mar. 28; Wed. Mar. 30; Fri. Apr. 1; Sat. Apr. 2
Week 3 - Mon. Apr. 4; Wed. Apr. 6; Thurs. Apr. 7; Sat. Apr. 9
Week 4 - Mon. Apr. 11; Wed. Apr. 13; Thurs. Apr. 14; Sat. Apr. 16 - Spring Game

The most obvious difference will be the location. Instead of the four weekly sessions taking place on the practice fields, this spring the players and coaches will be stationed on the intramural fields. The normal practice fields are currently undergoing a massive renovation and won't be ready until this summer.

On the field, there's also an overhaul going on under center. Three-year starter Christian Ponder has moved on making E.J. Manuel the undisputed leader of the offense. Also, this will be Manuel's first spring running the offense since he was unable to practice due to injuries the past two years.

"This is going to be huge and that's why I'm so excited," Manuel said of being able to practice this spring. "I'll actually have the opportunity to get reps with the first team full time and I'm not hurt. I don't have anything that's going hold me back. I don't have to worry about my shoulder when I throw the ball 60 yards down the field and I can just let it rip. It definitely puts your mind at ease."

Even though the Virginia Beach native was Ponder's backup the past two seasons, he has significant playing time under his belt including six career starts. He also came on in relief for an injured Ponder in FSU's Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over South Carolina.

In addition to stepping into the role as a full-time starter, Manuel must also take on the role as the offensive leader. That's a responsibility he says he's already taken to heart.

"I'm not necessarily telling the guys what do to but telling guys what we need to do," said Manuel. "I'm taking a lot of the younger guys not necessarily under my wing, but getting other guys that are my age like Terrance Parks and Nigel Bradham, the big time leaders on our team, and telling those guys that you need to talk to your guys, make sure they are here, are where they need to be, and telling them small things and giving them pointers so they successful."

While this will be Manuel's first full spring practice, most the attention at quarterback will be on the battle for the No. 2 spot. There is no definite backup between freshman Clint Trickett and sophomore Will Secord. Secord has only been on campus one semester longer than Trickett and neither has ever attempted a pass in a college game.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher says the battle for the backup quarterback job will get a lot of his attention this spring.

"That's a big spot for us," Fisher said. "That's one of the big things that we have to establish this spring, who the backup is going to be and what can he do and what can he not do. That's always the case in a lot of jobs but that will be a big one and who will win that battle.

"I feel good about them," added Fisher of Trickett and Secord. "I think Will is a great guy and is going to be a very good player. He's a coach's son, understands the game and played very well in the spring game here last year when he got out there. Clint always has a lot of confidence in himself, is a very good leader, has a lot of ability, has gotten bigger and stronger. I feel good about them."

Position changes

As is the case every year, a few players will be lining up at a brand new position this spring.

The two biggest changes are easily Lamarcus Joyner moving from cornerback to safety and David Spurlock from guard to center.

Spurlock's move is probably the most surprising and arguably the most important to the team's future success. Replacing four-year starter Ryan McMahon will be a tall order, especially since there wasn't an established backup to step into his spot.

Spurlock, who missed most of last season after having problems with concussions, has played strictly at guard since arriving at Florida State in 2008. That will change this spring but it will have to be on a limited basis at first since he is still rehabbing from off-season wrist surgery. Bryan Stork, who started four games at guard last season, will also see extensive time at center this spring.

"Spurlock will practice a lot but he'll be limited in some things he does as we get contact going. We'll build it up as we go with the hits," Fisher said. "(Bryan) Stork will battle in there. We are planning on Spurlock but we have to teach two or three guys. Stork will have to go in and do it and we'll bring in (Sterling) Lovelady and those guys along. Trey Pettis is a guy who can be a great center I think if he has to be. We'll train a lot of guys."

Also, look for Henry Orelus, walk-on Jacob Stanley to see time at center this spring.

"Center is a position where you never have enough guys because it is such a unique position so you are always training guys for that," Fisher said.

For Joyner, the switch from cornerback to safety won't be as dramatic. In fact, the former five-star defensive back is very used to the position since he played primarily safety at high school powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.

Despite not being anywhere near the size of FSU's starting safeties - Terrance Parks and Nick Moody - Fisher is convinced that Joyner is a perfect fit for his new position.

"He's at 193 pounds now, he's just as fast or faster than he was, he hits, he tackles well and cam play in the deep part of the field covering the ball in the half," said Fisher. "He's also an excellent tackler, a very good tackler and Terrence Brooks (who is also moving to safety) is the same way."

While both Moody and Parks weigh around 230 pounds and look more like linebackers, Fisher insists that safeties must be extremely quick and capable of covering like cornerbacks with the way offenses are spreading out defenses these days. As a result, moving Joyner to safety will fill that need nicely.

"With all these three and four wideout (sets) now people don't realize that safeties have to cover like corners," said Fisher. "All the blitzing stuff, all the man stuff and with all the spread teams you have got to go play and that's what we did against South Carolina. We played nickel and dime with Joyner and Mike Harris in the game - we were playing four corners all the time.... Those guys are becoming interchangeable in the way football is being played now in space."

As a freshman, Joyner played in all 14 games and accumulated 23 tackles (18 solo), 1 interception and 3 pass break-ups.

Biggest question mark

Without a doubt the biggest question mark this spring, and next fall, will be at the offensive line.

In addition to having to replace four-year starting center Ryan McMahon, there are even bigger shoes to fill are at left guard where FSU must replace two-time Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner and consensus All-American Rodney Hudson.

Even though he has only been on campus for a couple months, Fisher has penciled in junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug to fill Hudson's enormous shoes. Based on his impressive showing in the weight room and in Fourth Quarter drills (FSU's off-season conditioning program), Fisher is convinced that Fahrenkrug, a former JUCO All-American, has the right stuff to carry on the tradition at left guard.

"I've been very pleased with him. Fahrenkrug looks great," said Fisher. "He moves great, he's got punch, power and I expect him to be a really good football player. And he's driven, hard working and focused. He's as focused a guy when he comes to work now, there is no playing. His body looks great, he's moving good, he's smart, he's tough."

In addition to the changes at left guard and center, with starting tackles Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko being out following off-season surgeries, the entire offensive line will be overhauled this spring. As a result, Fisher will be keeping a close eye on the offensive line this spring to see how quickly the younger players catch on.

"It's huge, you've got Spurlock, who will play (some) in the beginning and will then be full go about midway," Fisher said. "You've also got both tackles out - Zebrie and Datko will both be out. That will create huge chances for some of those young guys to some on, the (Garrett) Faircloth's and Henry Orelus of the world and all those guys. Other young guys will be in there like (Jordan) Prestwood and Pettis and whoever else goes outside."

With so many changes on the offensive line, and with so many inexperienced players running with the first team, Fisher expects there to be some growing pains early on.

"It will probably cause us some problems in scrimmages because there will be mismatches early with some of our good front guys. But we understand that. What you do in the spring - there are no wins or losses, it's about getting better," he said. "In the scrimmages people put a lot of weight on it but it doesn't matter to me... I'm anxious that we get to build a lot of depth in the offensive line and see these guys against some really good players every day. Hopefully, they will develop a lot quicker."

The good news is that four of FSU's eight early enrollees are offensive linemen - Jacob Fahrenkrug, Trey Pettis, Sterling Lovelady, Jordan Prestwood - and with the lack of depth, all four should see extensive playing time this spring.

Notables

  • Running back Jermaine Thomas, who was arrested twice recently for having a suspended drivers license, may be available to practice this spring. Fisher said he will make a decision on his status "shortly".
  • List of players who will miss all of spring practice due to injuries: DT Jacobbi McDaniel (groin), OT Andrew Datko (shoulder), OT Zebrie Sanders, CB Xavier Rhodes (groin), LB Holmes Onwukaife (shoulder), LB Jeff Luc (knee surgery), OL Blake Snider, S Nick Moody, OL Rhonne Sanderson, P Shawn Powell (back).
  • DT Anthony McCloud had minor knee surgery two weeks ago but is expected to be fine for spring practice.
  • DT Moses McCray, who missed all of 2010 with torn ACL, will likely miss some of the early stages of spring practices but should be able to return around the midway point.
  • TE Beau Reliford, who was academically suspended for the bowl game, should participate in spring practice according to Fisher.
  • According to Fisher, not one player has missed a weight lifting session over the last two and a half months.


    Gene WilliamsGene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. For seven years, Williams hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee. He currently appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Sports Radio in Jacksonville and 1270 The Team in Tallahassee during football season. Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.



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