Tag:Chris Thompson
Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 12:26 am
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ACC Winners and Losers: Week 8


Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins

Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins has been the Clemson wide receiver who has struck fear in defensive coordinators across the ACC, but Saturday was a reminder that there are plenty of dangerous weapons in the Tigers offense - notably sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. Nuke went off against the Tar Heels, catching 9 passes for a career high 157 yards. Hopkins was one of five different receivers to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Tajh Boyd, who finished with 367 yards on 46 attempts with no interceptions. If Ellington continues to be bothered by an apparent foot injury, you can expect to see a lot more of Nuke down the stretch.

LOSER: North Carolina's third down efficiency

Defeating Clemson this season is an unbelievably difficult task. Beyond their collection of talent and playmaking ability, the team refuses to quit or stop their relentless attack. But North Carolina made winning in Death Valley so much harder by committing penalties, turning the ball over, and not converting on third downs. The Tar Heels did not convert their first third down until the start of the fourth quarter - when the Tar Heels trailed by 25 points.

One of the ways to take advantage of Clemson is to put together extended drives to keep the ball out of Tajh Boyd's hands. Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels offense did the exact opposite on Saturday by continually handing the ball right back to Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. You give the Tigers enough opportunities, they will put basketball numbers on the scoreboard. North Carolina could have played flawlessly on Saturday and still lost, but we'll never know because they did enough beating themselves to put the game out of hand before the fourth quarter even started.

WINNER: Miami's defense

The Hurricanes have been playing much better football in recent weeks, but head coach Al Golden knew they could not defeat Georgia Tech without an improved performance from their defense. They have been hurting on the front line with injuries, but as of last week are back to full-strength from a suspension stand point. Georgia Tech, entering the game as the nations 2nd best rushing team, would be the ultimate challenge in a must-win scenario for the Hurricanes.

Miami's defensive line stuffed the dive from the Yellow Jackets' B-backs, while the linebackers swarmed to the ball to seal off the big play on the perimeter. It was fantastic execution by the entire unit, who only allowed a single scoring drive from Georgia Tech all afternoon. That top-ranked rushing attack only accounted for 127 yards, more than 200 below their season average. If Miami can keep up the effort, there are several winnable games left on the schedule for the Hurricanes to have a memorable on-field finish to a season filled with off-field distractions.

LOSER: Georgia Tech's grip on the Coastal Division

With their second straight conference loss, Georgia Tech has lost their position as frontrunner in the ACC's Coastal Division. There are plenty of places to point the blame. Some will look to the competition, and the unrealistic expectations drawn from weaker defenses the Yellow Jackets' faced in the first month of play. Some will argue that ACC opponents have figured out ways to prepare for, and limit, Paul Johnson's option attack. Johnson himself has spoken of the team's fatigue, and recently cut back on some of the workload in practices.

But whatever the reason, the Yellow Jackets have gotten beat up the last two weeks. The good news for Georgia Tech fans is the team still controls their own destiny in the division. Clemson and Virginia Tech visit Atlanta in the next two contests, with a much-needed bye week between those games. If they can upset Clemson under the lights in Bobby Dodd Stadium, a victory against Virginia Tech would give them a tie for the division lead and ownership of the head-to-head tie breaker. But because of Saturday's loss to Miami, none of that will be possible unless they upset Clemson. Which as we saw elsewhere, might require 94 points.

WINNER: David Amerson and the NC State defense

Just like Miami, N.C. State's defense has caught their fair share of criticism this season. The Wolfpack have been plagued with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and just now are they starting to get back to full strength. Virginia used a power running game to wear down Georgia Tech a week ago in the upset, but when they tried a similar tactic on N.C. State the Wolfpack were ready. After putting up 272 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets, N.C. State swarmed into the gaps and won the battle in the trenches to limit the Cavaliers' ability to methodically move the ball while milking the clock.

Once the Wolfpack got the lead, it was David Amerson time. Amerson entered the game leading the nation in interceptions, then picked off both Michael Rocco and David Watford to help seal a big win for N.C. State. Amerson has been viewed as the one bright spot in a struggling defense in some games, but on Saturday he was the icing on the cake in the Wolfpack's first ACC victory of the season.

LOSER: Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly is not a loser, but his performances this season have gone largely overlooked because of Boston College's struggles. The junior linebacker entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, averaging 16.5 tackles per game. As the Eagles' defense slowly broke down against David Wilson and Virginia Tech's downhill attack, Kuechly never stopped. The All-American finished Saturday's loss with 19 tackles, and once again seemed to be in on almost every open field tackle. With injuries and close losses, 2011 has not been friendly to Boston College. In the case that this might be Kuechly's last season in Chestnut Hill, it is a shame these performances are finding their way to the back page rather than the headlines.

WINNER: Devonta Freeman

There was a lot that didn't look good for the Seminoles after they suffered their third straight loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago. But the most concerning situation for Florida State's offense was figuring out how to establish a running game, particularly with the season-ending injury to leading rusher Chris Thompson. The Seminoles boasted a stable of talented backs during training camp, but none had emerged as a clear leader once the season started. In the last two weeks, true freshman Devonta Freeman has made his case to be that back for Florida State. Granted the competition has provided some opportunity (Duke and Maryland), but Freeman's back-to-back 100-yard games could be the beginnings of a big-time career for talented rookie. For starters, he is the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in back to back games since 1986. He's already grabbed a small piece of history, now we get to see if he helps the Seminoles bounce back and finish strong after their three-game slide.

LOSER: An unknown amount of C.J. Brown's brain cells

Maryland's freshman quarterback had a brutal meeting with Florida State's Nigel Bradham in the 41-16 loss on Saturday



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Posted on: October 10, 2011 9:37 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 9:48 am
 

FSU leading rusher suffers broken back

Posted by Chip Patterson

Florida State has been plagued by injuries at nearly every position during the Seminoles' 2-3 start to the season. Among the on-field struggles have included the inability to get a consistent rushing game going. The offensive backfield took a hit on Saturday when starting running back Chris Thompson suffered a back injury in the 35-30 loss to Wake Forest.

The Orlando Sentinel reports Thompson suffered compression fractures of his T-5 and T-6 vertebrae. The Seminoles' leading rusher was hit hard on a routine short run to the right, and struggled to get himself off the ground. He was tended to by the on-site medial staff and left the field on a cart. For those not familiar with vertebrae vocabulary, head coach Jimbo Fisher simplified the injury.

"He's going to be staying [in Winston-Salem] for further evaluations for a day or two so they can stabilize it and see how we're going to move him and what we're going to do," Fisher explained. "But… he broke his back."

Florida State's lack of a rushing attack has been one of the most frustrating on-field anomalies for Seminole fans. A deep stable of running backs all returned this season (albeit with some health concerns) after leading the fourth-best rushing attack in the conference in 2010. Through five games the Seminoles are dead last in the ACC, averaging just over 85 yards per game on the ground.

It does not take long to identify reasons for the sputtering running game. Florida State has not had an entirely healthy five-man offensive line unit since the beginning of training camp. Someone is either getting hurt, or slowly working their way back into the lineup nearly every week. For example, starting offensive tackle Andrew Datko has been questionable nearly all season due to a shoulder injury. Since he was not cleared to play against Wake Forest, 17-year old true freshman Bobby Hart was called on for his first career start.

Florida State will travel back to North Carolina to face Duke this weekend, hoping to climb back to .500 and end the three-game losing streak.

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 8:09 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 21 Clemson 35, No. 11 FSU 30



Posted by Chip Patterson


CLEMSON WON. Death Valley was rocking from kickoff to final whistle, and Saturday's Top 25 Atlantic Division rivalry game lived up to everything we expetced as No. 21 Clemson knocked off No. 11 Florida State 35-30.  Quarterback Tajh Boyd orchestrated an impressive display of Chad Morris' offense, throwing for more than 300 yards for the second straight game.  Boyd becomes the first Clemson quarterback to accomplish that feat since Charlie Whitehurst, and the Tigers are 4-0 for the first time since 2007.  

HOW CLEMSON WON: The Tigers did a lot of things right, but injuries and costly penalties also played a big role in Saturday's upset.  Three of Clemson's first four scoring drives were kept alive by costly penalties against Florida State on 3rd or 4th down.  By the end of the game, the Seminoles had racked up 11 penalties for 124 yards, which paired with the absence of EJ Manuel, Willie Haulstead, Bert Reed, and Greg Reid certainly aided the Tigers.

But don't let those facts discredit Clemson's performance.  Boyd was spectacular outside of a few poor decisions (the most humorous is featured below), freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins continued his breakout campaign with eight catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tigers' defense took advantage of the suddenly one-dimensional Florida State offense by putting pressure on Trickett in the pocket all afternoon. 

WHEN CLEMSON WON: Clint Trickett kicked off the fourth quarter by finding Rashad Greene for a 30-yard touchdown to cap off a three minute scoring drive that cut the Clemson lead to 28-23.  On the very next possession, Sammy Watkins beat senior cornerback Mike Harris with a double move and Boyd hit him in stride for a 62-yard touchdown.  The score deflated the Seminoles, and the offense followed with a three and out.  All Clemson had to do from there was take care of the ball and burn clock.  

WHAT CLEMSON WON: For the Tigers, this win was reaffirming what they began to believe in the victory against Auburn: they can hang with anyone on their schedule.  Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech looked like a brutal stretch coming into the season, and Dabo Swinney's squad has passed two of the tests with flying colors.  Taking on Virginia Tech in Blacksburg can be a daunting task, and Saturday's win was much-needed for their confidence heading into that matchup.

WHAT FLORIDA STATE LOST: Florida State walked into Doak Campbell a week ago one win away from being a national title contender.  Seven days later they are 2-2 with their starting quarterback leading a star-studded injury report.  Thankfully the Seminoles have a week off before returning to ACC play against Wake Forest.  This will be a crucial week for Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State coaching staff to refocus the team on their goal of reclaiming the ACC Championship.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Clemson won.  Despite this derp-tastic play.  (courtesy of @bubbaprog, Mocksession)



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Posted on: August 23, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: August 23, 2011 11:28 am
 

Could Chris Thompson (back) be redshirted?

Posted by Chip Patterson

One of the strengths of the Florida State offense is expected to be the return of their top three rushers, who combined for 1,940 yards in 2010. But an unspecified back injury could keep junior Chris Thompson, the team's leading rusher, off the field for "a long time."

Head coach Jimbo Fisher addressed the media after practice yesterday (you can see video HERE courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel) and seemed to have no clear answers on when, or even if, Thompson would return. The chronic back problems have kept the Seminoles' leading rusher in limited action throughout the preseason. If Thompson is not ready to go Sept. 3 against ULM, Florida State should be fine at the tailback position.

"Hopefully he'll get back, but if he doesn't, like I said there's a guy who can replace him," Fisher told reporters.

Seniors Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones received praises from the head coach on Monday, and freshmen James Wilder and Devonta Freeman have also put together impressive fall camps. Considering the loaded talent at the position, it seems that redshirting Thompson may be an option for the Seminoles' coaching staff. Losing the team's leading rusher will hurt, especially after his breakout 2010 campaign, but if he can't get back to full strength soon it might be the best way for Florida State to prepare for the future.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 7:55 am
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-ACC Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer this blogger's selections for the Preseason All-ACC Team.

Offense


QUARTERBACK

EJ Manuel, Jr., Florida State - Manuel has been handed the keys to arguably one of the best Seminole teams in nearly a decade, and the first-year starter has already had several opportunities to grow comfortable with the 57 returning letterman. Manuel was impressive filling in for the injured Christian Ponder in the ACC Championship Game (44-33 loss to Virginia Tech) and the Chick Fil-A Bowl (26-17 victory over South Carolina), and completed 67.3 percent of his passes as a two-year reserve. Manuel also has the ability to burn defenses with his feet, making him especially dangerous in the red zone.

Also watch for: Expect another big year from Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, though it will be hard to replicate last year's numbers without Torrey Smith. Also the competition between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris at Miami could elevate the game of the to-be-named starter.

RUNNING BACK

Montel Harris, Sr., Boston College - Harris was the ACC's leading rusher in 2010 (1,243 yards) despite missing the final two and half games of the season. If Harris can stay healthy, he should have a chance to chase down the ACC career rushing record. Currently, Harris sits 15th and needs just 1,003 yards (approx. 80-85 yards/game) to become the conference's all-time leading rusher.

Lamar Miller, Soph., Miami - Storm Johnson's departure has left the Hurricanes rushing attack primarily in the hands of Miller and junior Mike James. There have been nothing but good reports on the duo, with Miller in particular drawing praise from teammate Sean Spence. "Lamar is one of the fastest backs in the ACC and the nation," Spence said. Miller's ranking nationally is debatable, but he should be one of the most impressive backs in the conference.

Also watch for: Florida State's trio of Chris Thompson, Jermaine Thomas, and Ty Jones combined for 1,862 yards and 17 TDs in 2010 and all return. Clemson will likely be giving Andre Ellington (5.8 ypc in 2010) more touches in Chad Morris' up-tempo system, and Roddy Jones will try to be the sixth straight Yellow Jacket to rush for 1,300 yards or more in a season.

WIDE RECEIVER

Conner Vernon, Sr., Duke - In 2010 Vernon led the ACC in receptions per game, and should see similar production this season with Sean Renfree much more comfortable under center. Despite a rocky start, the Blue Devils passing game began clicking in the second half of the season. Along with teammate Donovan Varner, Vernon is a big reason optimism is on the rise in Durham.

Dwight Jones, Sr., North Carolina - An All-ACC Honorable Mention selection in 2010, the 6-foot-4 Jones will quickly be a go-to target for new starting quarterback Bryn Renner. Jones is a threat as a possession receiver, but also has shown the ability to make a big play after the catch. Against Virginia in Charlottesville, Jones turned a short slant into an 81 yard touchdown on his way to a 198 yard outing. Jones is looking to continue the momentum from the second half of last season into his final year with the Tar Heels.

Also watch for:Questions with new quarterbacks makes selecting wide receivers difficult, but there is no reason believe that Virginia Tech wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins won't be able to shine with a new signal caller. Virginia's Kris Burd is another sleeper to watch at this position.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C Tyler Horn, Sr., Miami - Horn has taken on a leadership role with this unit and this team since Al Golden's arrival. The redshirt senior was one of the many players selected by Golden and the staff to spend practices as coaches, and has become a mentor to to touted DL Anthony Chickillo. Golden has complimented his efforts, and it looks like he will hold off redshirt freshman Shane McDermott after a fierce battle for the starting spot.

OG Brandon Washington, Jr., Miami - A 1st Team All-ACC pick in 2010, Washington is arguably the most talented piece of the Hurricanes front line. Washington has been moved around because of injuries, but has never failed to deliver regardless of position. Whoever wins the Jacory Harris/Stephen Morris battle will be happy to be playing behind Washington.

OG Jonathan Cooper, Jr., North Carolina - Cooper believes that this offensive line unit is the best North Carolina has had since he arrived in Chapel Hill. What the junior guard did not mention is that he is probably one of the critical pieces in their success. Cooper can play either guard or center, and will be looked to as one of the leaders in the trenches.

OT Blake DeChristopher, Sr., Virginia Tech - Missing training camp because of a strained left pectoral shouldn't slow down DeChristopher too much this fall. He has been a three-year starter and All-ACC pick in 2010. A crucial piece to protecting new quarterback Logan Thomas.

OT Andrew Datko, Sr., Florida State - The 6-foot-6, 321 pound tackle is determined to make his senior year count, playing his last season alongside David Spurlock and Zebrie Sanders. Datko is considered the most talented of the group, and will be needed to be productive and keep EJ Manuel on his feet and healthy.

Also watch for:You could argue that Clemson center Dalton Freeman and Georgia Tech guard Omoregie Uzzi both belong on this list, and a strong case could be made for Virginia Tech guard Jaymes Brookes. One to watch this season is JUCO transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug at Florida State. If the 307-pound guard lives up to expectations it could make an already talented Seminole offense even better.

TIGHT END

George Bryan, Sr., N.C. State - Bryan earned 1st Team All-ACC honors after pulling in 35 catches for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2010. The big target could see a lot of action this fall, as the most experienced receiver for new starting quarterback Mike Glennon. When Glennon sees pressure from opposing defenses, you can bet he'll be looking for No. 84 underneath.

Also watch for:The conference is a little thin at tight end, but Clemson's Dwayne Allen and Virginia's Colter Phillips are two players to keep an eye on. Virginia Tech tight end Chris Drager is making the move back to offense after playing DE in 2010, though his primary task may be focused more on run/pass blocking.

Defense


DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Brandon Jenkins, Jr., Florida State - Jenkins is a relentless pass rusher who leads a talented unit in Tallahassee that made of habit of bringing down quarterbacks in 2010. Jenkins finished sixth in the nation with 13.5 sacks, and the return of eight defensive starters should help him follow up 2010 with another impressive campaign this fall.

DE Quinton Coples, Sr., North Carolina - After causing havoc at DT last season (10.0 sacks ranked him third in the conference behind Da'Quan Bowers and Brandon Jenkins), Coples will move to defensive end in 2011. Teams won't be surprised by Coples this year, but North Carolina's depth and talent on the defensive line will make it difficult to scheme specifically against the All-ACC senior.

DT Tydreke Powell, Sr., North Carolina - Expectations are high for Powell, who was one of the few defenders to start all 13 games in 2010. Powell has the body of a run stopper, but said in the offseason he has focused on moving faster and becoming more of a pass rusher. If he adds that aspect to his game it will make that talented unit a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.

DT Marcus Forston, Jr., Miami - Forston has returned from a knee injury ahead of schedule, and could end up having a big impact on the field for the Hurricanes this season. Golden has been high on Forston since camp started, and if he can stay healthy the standout defensive lineman could finally deliver the type of season many have waited for from the top-ranked recruit.

Also watch for: Clemson will once again will have a strong defensive line with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Maryland's Joe Vellano was a 2nd Team All-ACC selection a year ago.

LINEBACKERS

Luke Kuechly, Jr., Boston College - Kuechly might not only be the best linebacker in the ACC, but possibly the best in the nation. The unanimous All-American selection in 2010 is currently the NCAA active leader in tackles per game, averaging 13.1 tackles across his 26 career starts. There is no reason to think that "Boy Wonder," as they call him, will do anything other continue dominating on the defensive side of the ball.

Sean Spence, Sr., Miami - After a 2nd Team All-ACC selection in 2010, Spence has returned as the "clear-cut leader" on defense. Fellow linebacker Jimmy Gaines went so far as to call Spence "Mr. Miami." He is one three Hurricanes on the Nagurski Award Watch List, given to the nation's top defensive player. From making plays in coverage to getting stops behind the line of scrimmage (16.0 tackles for loss in 2010), Spence can have an impact all over the field for Miami.

Kenny Tate, Sr., Maryland - Maryland finished fourth nationally in turnover margin last season, with some of the credit going to Tate - who led the ACC in forced fumbles. Tate makes the move from free safety to linebacker this season, and can be found on most individual award watch lists for defenders.

Also watch for: Florida State weakside linebacker Nigel Bradham is expected to have a big season, and Virginia Tech's Bruce Taylor was a second team All-ACC pick in 2010.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Jayron Hosley, Jr., Virginia Tech - All-ACC and All-American in 2010, Hosley is arguably the most talented secondary player in the league. Hosley might not see as much action now that he's not playing opposite Rock Carmichael, but his impact will still be felt.

CB Xavier Rhodes, Soph., Florida State - Rhodes broke out a season ago, combining with teammate Greg Reid for 33 defended passes. His efforts earned him a Freshman All-American nod and 2nd Team All-ACC. The Seminoles' secondary is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, and Rhodes is a big reason why.

S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Jr., Miami - There is a lot of hype around Armstrong, who is coming off a 2nd Team All-ACC season in 2010. He picked off three passes and is the second-leading returning tackler for the Hurrcanes, trailing only Sean Spence. Armstrong is also on the watch list for the Nagurski Award.

S Eddie Whitley, Sr., Virginia Tech - Whitley is the second-leading tackler back for the Hokies, and will be an important part of trying to turn around a defense that statistically did not live up to Bud Foster's recent standards. The Hokies have depth problems in the secondary, and Whitley should get plenty of chances to make plays as the only senior slated to start.

Also watch for: Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield could be set to have a big year, as could N.C. State's Earl Wolff. Sleeper pick for a big season is Duke's Matt Daniels..

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Dustin Hopkins, Jr., Florida State

P Dawson Zimmerman, Sr., Cemsoni

KR/PR David Wilson, Jr., Virginia Tech

Also watch for: Duke placekicker Will Snyderwine was the media's selection for Preseason All-ACC, and Greg Reid has a chance to cause some damage returning kicks for Florida State.

As always, let us know what you the think about the selections in the comment section below. Also be sure to click on over to the Conference Preview for more coverage on the ACC
Posted on: March 28, 2011 11:25 pm
Edited on: March 28, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Florida State

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Florida State , who started spring practice last Monday.


Pegged as early favorites for the ACC (and possibly National) Title in 2011, are the Seminoles for real?

In a word? Yes.

From 1987-2000, the Seminoles did not have a single season without double-digit wins. From 2001-2009 Florida State only accomplished that feat once. One of the purposes for utilizing a "coach-in-waiting" is to limit the negative effects of transition in a coaching change. For Florida State, giving the head coaching seat to Jimbo Fisher was a much-needed upgrade.

Fisher has not just returned Florida State to the double-digit wins club, he has rejuvenated the entire program. For the first time since conference expansion brought Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, Florida State is entering the 2011 season as favorites to win the ACC. If you have any wonders as to why so many people are high on the Seminoles, just look at what returns from 2010.

Florida State returns eight starters on offense and defense as well as both specialists from their 2010's ACC Atlantic Division Champion squad. They won four of their last five, only losing 44-33 to Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game and finishing the season with a Chick Fil-A Bowl win over South Carolina. One of the main reasons so many experts favor Florida State in 2011 is the return of so many of the same players who stood on the podium in Atlanta on New Years Eve.

For example, take a look at the running back position. Florida State never put up dazzling numbers with their ground game, but their running back-by-committee attack wore teams down and consistently became a factor late in games. Junior running back Chris Thompson (846 yards, 6 TD) led the way in 2010, but Ty Jones (527 yards, 5 TD), Jermaine Thomas (490 yards, 6 TD), and Lonnie Pryor (112 yards, 4 TD) will all be back and looking to increase their workload in 2011. Thomas recently rejoined the team after serving a suspension resulting from a driving with a suspended license arrest, reuniting the group once again on the field.

"I love Jermaine to death and it just feels good to have him back," Pryor said after Thomas' return. "We need all of us again to do the same things we did last year."

Thomas may be back from suspension, but the Seminoles still have an extensive list of inactive players for spring practice due to injury. While many people have high expectations for the Seminoles in 2011 because of all the returning talent, the look of spring practice has been much different. Fisher hopes that the extra attention for the young talent will help the Seminoles in the future.

"We got a lot of issues going on," Fisher told Seminoles.com. "Hopefully, we'll develop our top 22 guys out there. We know the guys that have started that won't be in there, but develop some of these young guys and some depth."

One position that will undergo major development for Florida State this spring will be quarterback. The Seminoles may be returning 8 starters from each side of the ball, but there will be a brand new starting quarterback under center. Except, the thing is, he's not really brand new.

E.J. Manuel saw his first action on the field as a true freshman in 2009, taking over for the injured Christian Ponder for the final four games of the season. Manuel was wildly inconsistent, but finished the season 3-1 as a starter and was named MVP of the Gator Bowl. The win secured a 7-6 record for the Seminoles, avoiding the only losing record in the Bobby Bowden era at Florida State.

He was asked to do the same thing in 2010, filling in for Ponder who struggled through a nagging elbow injury all season. After falling behind early, Manuel put together one of his best individual performances against Virginia Tech in the 2010 ACC Championship Game. Manuel was not phased by the big stage, calmly completing 23 of 31 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown. He carried that momentum into the Chick Fil-A Bowl against South Carolina, when he was once again asked to take over for Ponder in the second quarter because of injury. Manuel threw for 84 yards and ran seven times for 46 yards to hold off the Gamecocks.

With two bowl games under his belt, it is easy to forget that Manuel is just now completing his first spring practices. He injured his hand in his first spring practice two years ago, and missed all of 2010's spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery. Now he will have to get used to running the offense on a full-time basis with two starting tackles sitting on the sideline and new faces at guard and center.

"It's a big difference, not having Ponder there," running back Chris Thompson explained. "He was a big leader on our team. But E.J. has stepped right in on that. With him stepping up, being a leader - like when we are going through workouts and fourth quarter drills he has always been vocal with us - it's been a real help for us."

On the defensive end the Seminoles are not only returning eight starters, but also several reserves that saw quality minutes in 2010. One of the focuses on the defense hasn't been on trying to fill out a depth chart, but instead players trying to win the few starting spots available. Not a bad problem to have for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

"We got everybody coming back from last season with a lot more experience," said defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel. "Coming together as a defense, we know what it takes and the high standards. We set the bar last season, and now we know in spring everyone is going to come out ready to practice."

The high standards demanded by head coach Jimbo Fisher include constant effort and an always-present toughness. The fast-talking West Virginia native wants to practice fast and hit hard. He is never hesitant to criticize his team when he feels they deserve it, but he will also sing praises when they have been earned.

"I was very pleased," Fisher said after Florida State's first practice in full pads on Saturday. "We had toughness and we had effort today which I questioned the other day and I was very pleased. That was one of the first real practices we've had. I liked what I saw on both sides of the ball - kids competing when everything wasn't right, guys making some plays on both sides. Effort was good. I thought we had a good day on special teams. I liked the way we practiced today."

Are the Seminoles legitimate contenders in 2011? Absolutely. Unfortunately their status as national contenders could be determined before the the end of September. Before they even have to face their first conference opponent, Florida State hosts the Oklahoma Sooners in Tallahassee on Sept. 17. The Sooners are also considered to be among the top contenders in 2011, making the game a "must-win" for both teams with BCS dreams.

Florida State does not have all the tools in place to win a championship yet, but returning 18 starters and a Gator Bowl MVP quarterback is a great way to start.

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: January 1, 2011 1:35 am
 

Bowl Grades: Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

South Carolina loses Marcus Lattimore to an early head injury and can't rally from a 13-0 hole, falling 26-17 to Florida State.

FLORIDA STATE

Offense: The Seminole offense rarely looked like a well-oiled machine, particularly after quarterback Christian Ponder left the game for good with a first-quarter concussion, and a few more touchdowns in place of field goals would have salted the game away sometime in the third quarter. But in a game defined by blown chances and mistakes on both sides, that the 'Noles managed not to screw up four potential (and eventually converted) Dustin Hopkins field goal opportunities counts for a lot, and backup E.J. Manuel's two clutch throws on FSU's game-clinching fourth-quarter drive -- one on third-and-eight to set up first-and-goal, the other to score the touchdown -- count for even more.

But what counts the most was the 218 yards rushing stunningly piled up on what had been the nation's eighth-ranked run defense. Even without any real passing threat once Ponder left the game, the Seminole line blasted hole after hole in the Gamecock front seven, and Chris Thompson took advantage to the tune of 147 game-changing yards. GRADE: B

Defense:
When FSU corner Greg Reid -- the game's best player by a wide, wide margin -- walloped Lattimore on Carolina's first drive to dislodge the ball, end a Gamecock scoring threat, and (cleanly) knock Steve Spurrier's biggest weapon out of the game, the tone was set. Maybe the Seminoles were going to give up some yards here and there (414 in all by the time the whistle blew), but it wasn't going to matter as long as they had a big play waiting ... and they nearly always did. The 'Nole pass rush recorded only two official sacks but harassed Stephen Garcia into poor throws all game long; the defensive backs turned three of those throws into interceptions; and Reid, a demon all night, separated Alshon Jeffery from the ball as well late in the third quarter for another crucial turnover, Carolina's fifth of the game. In short: yardage allowed, schmardage schmallowed. GRADE: A-

Coaching: In a game where both teams appeared equally motivated and (almost) equally sloppy, the star of the game from a coaching standpoint was FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, whose blitz packages the Carolina offensive line never developed an answer for. But credit also goes to Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff for never asking the clearly-limited Manuel to do too much. GRADE: A-

SOUTH CAROLINA

Offense: Particularly considering they were forced to play nearly the entire game without the linchpin of their offense -- a situation that had already seen the Carolina offense roll over and die a couple of times this season -- the Gamecocks as a whole weren't that bad. 414 yards of offense ought to be worth a lot more than 17 points. But it's not when your quarterback has the kind of nightmare game Garcia had, throwing three picks-to-zero touchdowns, missing multiple open receivers, and generally looking every bit as lost as he'd looked in his previous two bowl starts (blowout losses to Iowa and UConn).

He didn't get a whole lot of help -- no Lattimore, Jeffrey's fumble, blown assignments in pass protection, etc. -- but it was Garcia's loose screws that first let the Gamecocks' wheels come off. GRADE: C-

Defense:
There shouldn't be much shame in the Gamecocks' defensive performance; allowing only 308 yards of total offense should be enough to win most games, and if not for a whole series of huge stands from the Carolina D following offensive (and special teams) miscues, the game would have been well out of hand before the halftime whistle.

At the same time, there might have been more time for a Gamecock comeback if not for all the clock burned off by Thompson's runs, and allowing Manuel to go 7-for-7 on the deciding touchdown drive directly after the offense had scored to cut the lead to 19-17 will stick in coordinator Ellis Thompson's craw all offseason. The Gamecocks were good, but it's not true to say they were good enough. GRADE: B

Coaching:
Spurrier's perenially lackadaisical approach to blitz protection caught up to him again, but aside from that, there's not much to take issue with in Carolina's coaching performance; the coaches can't be held responsible for Lattimore's sudden injury, Garcia having one of those games, the defensive line getting beat straight up in the running game, etc. Unlike the last two years, the Gamecocks at leats played like they wanted to be at their bowl game. GRADE: B+

FINAL GRADE:
The 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl provided some drama in the late-going, but between the insistence on South Carolina's part to hand the game over to Florida State and FSU's insistence on politely kicking another field goal to keep the Gamecocks in it anyway, you can't call it a classic. And with the final five minutes an anticlimax following Manuel's final touchdown toss, this blogger isn't sure he'd even call it "good." Grade: B

Posted on: November 16, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2010 2:08 pm
 

FSU RB gets some good news, but still doubtful

Posted by Chip Patterson

When Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas laid on the ground, leg limp at his side, many (your author included) believed that the knee injury could be the end of the season for the talented junior.  However, it appears as though Thomas has somehow avoided serious injury, according to the St. Petersburg Times.  An MRI on Monday showed no major tears or damages, though head coach Jimbo Fisher said that Thomas may not play this weekend against Maryland.

Thomas is the team's second-leading rusher, and has been a pivotal part of the multi-back rushing attack that has helped fuel the Seminoles' offense this season.  Thomas, along with Chris Thompson and Ty Jones, have combined to average 147.8 yards per game thus far in 2010.  Florida State will need to find a way to keep up that production in a must-win game against the Terrapins in College Park.  With Florida State, N.C. State, and Maryland all knotted at the top of the ACC Atlantic standings, the Seminoles must win their conference finale in order to do their part to win the division title and get to the ACC Championship Game.  With the loss to N.C. State, Florida State will also need a Wolfpack loss in order to claim the division.  N.C. State also has to travel to Maryland for their conference finale on November 27, but takes on the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
 
 
 
 
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