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August 11, 2009

FSU's practices are 'controlled chaos'

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Jimbo Fisher calls it "controlled chaos."

And Florida State's offensive coordinator loves it.

For the first time since he, offensive line coach Rick Trickett and company arrived at FSU in early 2007, practices are being conducted at the pace Fisher prefers - somewhere between breakneck and warp speed.

"We've changed the whole tempo - we're getting more reps in less time," Fisher said. "Nobody's standing around. Everybody's getting reps, and everybody's getting chances. That's the way you develop young guys. You don't learn by watching. You learn by doing.

"That's the way we can get these young, talented guys reps. And the older guys get more reps."

By changing the format of practice, Florida State's players are seeing a dramatic increase in repetitions per session - by as much as double in some cases. And they're often doing it in a shorter amount of time than in previous years, which forces the players to concentrate when they're physically tired.

"It teaches you how to play at a fast pace," Fisher said. "It teaches you to play at a game competition level. Not a practice level - a game competition level. Where you're training every day like it's a national championship game. "What happens is you learn to control chaos. And you learn how to deal with it."

The Seminoles are accomplishing this by frequently splitting the team across two separate fields. For example, the first- and third-string offense and defense will be on one field, while the second- and fourth-strings will be on another field.

That means players have less time to wait between plays.

"You might end up taking 10 snaps in a row," junior OG Rodney Hudson said. "And that will be beneficial in the games because you might have a 10- or 15-play drive in a game."

"It's a lot more intense," sophomore DT Moses McCray said. "Everything is faster and up-tempo. The way we're practicing now, the games should be cake."

While the veteran players are excited about the benefits of the ramped-up workouts, they also admit that it has been an adjustment.

"It's definitely been tough," senior TE Caz Piurowski said. "Some of the toughest practices ... you're going from one field to the next and one drill to the next. It's definitely tough, but I think it's going to be real good."

One side benefit of the faster pace is that the players actually are getting extra conditioning work while shuffling from drill to drill.

But the biggest impact might be seen in the rapid development of the freshman class. In previous seasons, young players often were forced to wait patiently for their turns while veterans took the majority of the snaps. This preseason, they were thrown into the fire from day one.

"They're getting every rep that the ones are getting," Fisher said. "When you're going on both fields, they're getting the same number of reps. Now, they may do it wrong a little bit but instead of watching it, they're actually physically doing it. So it actually speeds up their development."

That is welcome news, even to the veterans. Though juniors and seniors never want to come off the field, they know the reality is that football is a physical game - and a starter can be sidelined on any play.

"During the season, you can't rely on your ones the whole time," Piurowski said. "Injuries are going to happen. People are going to get tired. Fatigue is going to set in. You need to count on your twos and threes and even fours sometimes. I think this is going to be huge, because it's not just the ones and twos getting reps and the threes getting sprinkled in here and there. Everyone is getting reps. Everyone is learning the plays."

It also is providing an opportunity for second- and third-teamers to lead instead of always looking to the starters for guidance.

"If I'm not up there on the upper field and one of the younger tight ends has a question, hopefully Beau [Reliford] or Ja'Baris [Little]can help answer the question," Piurowski said. "Some of the younger guys that can kind of develop that [leadership]."

Given all the benefits of the revised practice schedules, one might wonder why the Seminoles didn't implement these changes last year or the year before.

But Fisher said it simply wasn't feasible. The players weren't in good enough condition to handle the constant work, and not enough players had bought in to the new philosophy.

"Not even close," Fisher said. "Didn't have the personnel, and didn't have the mentality."

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