March 18, 2012

Spring Football Practice - Five things to watch

After Monday's practice, Warchant.com will have a full report, video highlights, a practice photo gallery, interviews and more.

Spring Practice Dates: 3/19 - 4/14
Week 1 - Mon. March 19; Wed. March 21; Thurs. Mar. 22; Sat. March 24
Week 2 - Mon. March 26; Wed. March 28; Fri. March 30 (Coaching Clinic); Sat. March 31 (Coaching Clinic)
Week 3 - Mon. April 2; Wed. April 4; Thurs. April 5; Sat. April 6
Week 4 - Mon. April 9; Wed. April 11; Thurs. April 12 (If necessary); Sat. April 14 - Spring Game

Spring position previews: QB, RB, WR/TE, OL, DE, DT, LB, Safety, CB, ST

Five things to watch for this spring

5. Intrigue at wide receiver

Even though just one wide receiver from last year's group moved on (Bert Reed), there will be plenty of eyes on Lawrence Dawsey's group this spring. That's because there are lofty expectations surrounding two players who didn't suit up last season. Both watched from the sidelines in 2011 but did so for very different reasons.

A case could be made that Willie Haulstead was on the verge of becoming FSU's top receiver at the conclusion of the 2010 season. However, a severe concussion sustained last spring forced him to sit out all of 2011. There were some rumblings that medical issues could derail his career but the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder participated in the recently completed "Fourth Quarter" drills and appears to be ready to roll this spring. If he can get past his concussion problems, shake off the rust and return to the form he showed as a sophomore, it would be a huge boon for coach Dawsey's unit.

Despite having two five star signees in the 2011 recruiting class, there was a large amount of buzz centered on Kelvin Benjamin. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound wideout reportedly runs the 40-yard dash in the 4.4 range and has been a nightmare for defensive backs to cover in player-run passing drills. But in order to sure up his academics, the coaching staff made the decision to redshirt the former Rivals100 member last season. As a result, his upside potential has been a hot subject of discussion among fans. That potential will be put to the test this spring when the Belle Glade native sees some real action against FSU's stout defensive backs. If he can even live up to half the hype, Benjamin should become a regular in the receiver rotation this fall.

4. The time is now for Jeff Luc

Almost all of the highly rated recruits from the 2010 class have made their mark on the field. However, that can't be said for former No. 1 ranked inside linebacker Jeff Luc. As a result of a serious knee injury suffered during "Fourth Quarter" drills in 2011, the 6-foot, 242-pound linebacker missed all of spring practice and was not 100 percent healthy for part of the last season. He finished his sophomore campaign with just 15 tackles coming off the bench in a reserve role.

Despite seeing little action at linebacker through his first two years, Luc did serve as Bradham's official backup at weak side (Will) linebacker last season. With Bradham's graduation, the rising junior should enter spring practice with the first team. However, the hard-hitting linebacker could have some stiff competition. Former safety Nick Moody, who has 16 career starts, has made the move to linebacker and you can bet that the hard-hitting senior will also be gunning for a starting spot.

3. Finding depth in the secondary

Florida State's starting secondary is pretty much set entering spring practice. Two-year starter Terrance Parks has graduated, but head coach Jimbo Fisher has already declared that Terrence Brooks will step into his spot at safety. The rising junior came on strong at the end of last season and will join returning starters Lamarcus Joyner, Xavier Rhodes and Greg Reid to make up one of the nation's top defensive backfields. While the starting group appears to be set, there is practically zero experience behind them.

Mike Harris' graduation and Nick Moody's move to linebacker pretty much left defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Mark Stoops with no proven backups. The good news is that there are plenty of capable bodies to fill those backup spots and this spring will serve as a testing ground.

Players like Nick Waisome, Karlos Williams, Gerald Demps, Justin Bright and Tyler Hunter have all seen the field some but have yet to establish themselves. Also, former Treasure Coast teammates Lamarcus Brutus and Keelin Smith redshirted last year but will have the opportunity to get into the mix as well this spring. The key for Stoops will be to find a few players that are capable of both giving the starters a breather and to step in should there be an injury.

2. Who will be EJ Manuel's backup?

Even though he suffered a broken fibula in the Champs Sports Bowl, EJ Manuel should be good to go this spring. While it is a foregone conclusion that he will be FSU's starting quarterback this fall, the real question is: Who will back him up? The logical pick is sophomore Clint Trickett since he already has real game experience starting two games as a redshirt freshman and served as Manuel's primary backup last year. After being diagnosed with Celiac disease last year, the son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett has been able to add some much needed weight.

While Trickett has the experience edge, redshirt freshman Jacob Coker clearly has the physical advantage. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder not only has the physical stature of an NFL quarterback, he has a rocket arm and is an accomplished athlete that is a threat running the football. More importantly, he has reportedly picked up Jimbo Fisher's system quickly and has been impressive both in practice and in player-run passing drills. He will get his first real shot working with the second team offense this spring and will be given a chance to compete for the No. 2 spot behind Manuel.

1. Coming up with a starting five on the offensive line

It's no secret that Rick Trickett's offensive line was FSU's weak link in 2011. The group was besieged by injuries and finished dead last in the ACC in sacks allowed (110th nationally) and were 10th in rushing offense (104th nationally). Those sobering statistics were in large part due to an ineffective offensive line that struggled both in pass and run blocking. The unit got a ray of hope in the Champs Sports Bowl when four starting freshmen showed signs of real potential in the second half of FSU's come-from-behind victory.

With David Spurlock and Andrew Datko missing a large portion of last season as a result of injuries, Zebrie Sanders is the only full-time starter who will need to be replaced. But there's a lot more than just one position up for grabs this spring. In fact, other than Bobby Hart, who started nine games at tackle as a true freshman, the other four starting spots are wide open. All in all, eight players return with starting experience to compete for the five open spots (Hart, Garrett Faircloth, Jacob Fahrenkrug, Josue Matias, Tre Jackson, Austin Barron, Bryan Stork and Henry Orelus).

In addition to these eight players, two others will be firmly in the mix and are expected to compete for a starting job. Junior college transfer Daniel Glauser is already enrolled in school and is expected to compete for one of the two starting spots at tackle. In a bit of a surprise, Cameron Erving was moved from defensive tackle to offensive line in the offseason. His physical ability is clear but what isn't clear is how quickly he can pick up playing on offense and adjusting to Rick Trickett's system.

Noteworthy

  • Injured players that will miss spring practice: Offensive guards Jacob Fahrenkrug (left shoulder), Garrett Faircloth (hip), offensive lineman Daniel Foose (lower back), defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle) and defensive end Bjoern Werner (right shoulder)

  • Jersey number changes: Defensive end Brandon Jenkins drops the nine off of his jersey and will wear No. 4, while on offense that number (4) will now be worn by running back Chris Thompson, who has worn No. 23 the past three seasons. Along with their position changes, tight end Dan Hicks will now don No. 6, while Cameron Erving will sport No. 75 as an offensive tackle. Other notable new jersey numbers for the spring are DB Tyler Hunter (1), RB Mario Pender (7), P Cason Beatty (38) and OL Daniel Glauser (67).




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