Florida State Spring Game Report Card
Florida State's annual spring game took place yesterday and, unfortunately, they failed to impress; well at least the offense did. In front of a crowd of over 50,000 fans the offense looked stale and for most of the scrimmage, they failed to move the ball.
Of course that doesn't mean that there should be cause for concern. Instead it just means that this is April and there is still a lot of time left before the first game. On top of that, the injuries seemed to take their toll, especially on the offensive line.
The defense was improved, and there were some potential stars in the making emerging right before our eyes.
As a fan I was not exactly pleased with the way the teams were split up. I didn't like that Willie Haulstead and Rodney Smith didn't get to take snaps with E.J. Manuel. The No. 1 defense was split up and, of course, the offensive line was split in half due to all of the injuries.
I would rather have seen the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense as full units rather than them being split up, but, of course, I'm not the head coach, and Coach Fisher knows what he's doing.
So with that being said, here are the position grades for the spring game.
I'm being more than generous here. There may be just a little too much pressure on E.J. Manuel and I think if he would have had his top two receivers to throw to, he would have played much better. Instead, he was 17-for-36 for 204 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions, one of which was returned by Greg Reid for a touchdown.
Manuel did show some strengths though, especially in roll out and bootleg plays, but he looked uncomfortable in the shotgun. His protection certainly didn't hold up either, but that of course was due to the injuries.
Manuel was overthrowing receivers and while at times he looked poised in the pocket, he also showed signs of inexperience by wanting to run out of the pocket and scramble for what would have been two or three yard gains.
Manuel will be the starter, but if he goes down Clint Trickitt is the clear cut back up. Trickitt and Will Secord have been battling all spring for the right to be Manuel's back up, and it's safe to say that Trickitt is progressing more than Secord.
Trickitt went 13-of-22 for 137 yards and while he didn't throw a touchdown, he didn't throw an interception either. Secord was 3-of-9 for 25 yards. While this was a glorified scrimmage, Trickitt seemed like he wanted the job more with his ability to make plays.
The quarterbacks failed to impress, but they weren't terrible either. By the time August rolls around they will be just fine.
2. Running Backs
I'm giving the running backs a B grade because the offensive line was depleted. That isn't the best excuse ever, but the fact is that the depleted offensive line hurt the rushing game.
Chris Thompson was out due to injury, so instead Ty Jones got the reps for the first team offense. He rushed seven times for 20 yards, but what makes Jones good is his ability to make defenders miss and his ability to pound the rock if need be.
True freshman Devonta Freeman showed plenty of potential and while he only had seven carries for 25 yards, he showed plenty to be excited about.
Jermaine Thomas still doesn't look like the mold of his freshman year, and it's hard to say that he will be a second or even third option for this offense anymore. He's been passed by, and it will be very hard for him to get back up on the depth chart.
Thompson, Jones and even Freeman have seemingly passed him by, and the arrival of James Wilder Jr. in the summer might put Thomas at the bottom of the depth chart.
One bright spot from the backfield was fullback Lonnie Pryor, who might just be one of the best pass catching backs in the country. He will be a great safety valve for Manuel and while Pryor doesn't fit the fullback mold, he is exceptional when it comes to blocking.
As you can imagine, if the quarterbacks didn't receive a good grade than that probably means there wasn't a lot of production from the receivers; and that happens to be the case here.
I do think that the offense would have been smoother if Wille Haulstead and Rodney Smith were catching passes from Manuel. Smith did have a nice day, however, snagging three catches for 65 yards. Haulstead, however had just one catch for 11 yards.
Youngsters Greg Dent, Christian Green and Kenny Shaw all showed improvements, especially Dent, who seemed to be the only target that Manuel could rely on. Dent had seven catches for 72 yards.
As for tight end. Nick O'Leary can't arrive on campus soon enough, but Will Tye did play good. He showed good blocking ability and had a couple of catches. Ja"Barris Little played average, but wasn't special.
This unit is going to make or break the offense. Manuel will need to develop chemistry with them over the summer if they are going to have success in the fall.
4. Offensive Line
This unit was completely depleted due to injury. Andrew Datko, Zebrie Sanders and David Spurlock were all out. All three are starters and have been for a while. That forced the youngsters to get some playing time, which isn't exactly a bad thing.
As predicted, Jacob Fahrenkrug played both guard and center and played well. Henry Orelus had significant playing time a year ago when Datko sat out with a shoulder injury, and he played well in the scrimmage as well, but that's as far as the compliments will go.
The inexperience showed, and it didn't help this unit that the defensive line looked even better than they did a year ago.
Jacob Stanley and Bryon Stork did show flashes of being capable as did Garrett Faircloth, but youngsters Jordan Prestwood and Trey Pettis have a long way to go if they want to contribute as freshman in the fall.
Offensive line coach Rick Trickitt is known for his ability to mold offensive lineman, so this will be a challenge for him, but the youth of the unit means that Trickitt has time to get the very best out of them.
5. Defensive Line
This grade comes in large with the injuries to the offensive line, but honestly this unit looks better than ever and they will be very, very scary in the fall.
Everett Dawkins looks like a man possessed and played great in the middle while Brandon Jenkins picked up right where he left off, and Bjoern Werner looks like he can be a future star in college football. JUCO transfer Tank Carradine already has a knickname by defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, "the freak."
The rotation at tackle payed off, and Dawkins looked great while Anthony McCloud and youngster Cameron Erving showed plenty of potential.
Dan Hicks and Toshmon Stevens were both very impressive and will see plenty of time in the rotation in the fall, as well as Darius Cummings.
This unit led by Jenkins was one of the reasons why Florida State led the nation in sacks a year ago and in this defensive scheme, another year is only going to make the production increase.
This line is full of young stars mixed with veterans, and they look every bit like a National Championship type defensive line.
A lot of questions in the offseason facing this unit revolved around depth issues, but they answered a lot of those questions on Saturday. Vince Williams looks like the next great middle linebacker at Florida State, while Christian Jones and Nigel Bradham lived up to expectations.
Bradham showed more focus and field awareness, while Jones showed the ability to cover. Williams on the other hand, is a bigger linebacker than what Kendall Smith was last year, and Williams is faster which makes him more dangerous.
Telvin Smith had an interception, but he was also everywhere. He's a field roamer and shows savvy at middle linebacker. Nigel Terrell and Terrance Smith, both freshman, looked good and will provide much needed depth to all three positions.
Combine this unit with the defensive line and you have a very good and very scary front seven that will do nothing less of excelling.
7. Defensive Backs
I might be wrong about this, but I think Terrance Parks senses that touted freshman Karlos Williams arrives in the summer and his job is in limbo because of that. Parks played sensational on Saturday. He showed much better cover skills and was better in run support.
Greg Reid had an interception for a touchdown as stated earlier, but he also showed the usual coverage skills that make him a great player. Reid may lack in size, but you couldn't tell in the way that he hits. Reid has all the potential in the world to be the very best corner in the country this season.
Xavier Rhodes didn't play because of injury, but Mike Harris filled in nicely. Harris was a JUCO transfer last season and in his second year as a 'Nole, he is progressing and getting better in coverage.
The move to free safety by LaMarcus Joyner looks to be the right one. Joyner broke up a couple of passes, but he just looked comfortable.
Youngsters Nick Waisome and Terrance Brooks played well, but safety Justin Bright struggled in coverage. Nick Moody also sat out due to injury, so as it stands the safety position looks to be the weakest link of this unit, but it's still very early and with healthy players back, this unit will thrive.
Avis Commack, a converted receiver, looks to be a better corner than receiver. He's very long and has the speed to be productive, the question remains: Can he hit?
8. Special Teams
Because of the risk of injury, there wasn't too much in the special teams department. Greg Reid will be the punt returner, and it looks like Kenny Shaw will return kicks.
Reid is an electrifying punt returner and while fans didn't get to see that element during the spring game, they can rest assured there will be plenty of it in the fall.
9. Kicking Game
Dustin Hopkins is the sole reason for this grade. He went 5-for-5 with his longest being a 60-yard field goal. Hopkins could end up being the best kicker in the country by years end.
The punting game, however, was not good. Parker Conley punted eight times for an average of 32.2 yards per punt while Derrick Williams had seven punts for a 34.1 average.
Bottom line, this needs to get better.
Offensively, I thought Manuel was a bit limited, but that also had to be because of the injuries to the offensive line. I liked the play calling, but there needed to be more running.
The scheme definitely pointed out Manuel's strengths. The naked bootleg packages showed his strengths as well as the roll out designs, but the under route that Reid intercepted for a touchdown was due in large part to the same play being called too many times.
Fisher is a great offensive mind, as well as offensive coordinator James Coley, but they will need to open the playbook up more, even if this is Manuel's first full year as a starter.
Defensively, Mark Stoops drew up nothing but impressive plays. The scheme is proving to be beneficial to the type of athletes Florida State has. The only real cause for concern is the inexperience in the secondary especially in Cover 3 packages.
Stoops knows this units strength and that lies in the front seven. Obviously, since it was the spring game there wasn't going to be a whole lot of blitzing going on, but hopefully come August there will be plenty more blitzing.