ACC: Florida State Seminoles

Scottie Montgomery returned to Duke last year from an NFL world where quarterbacks were never, ever hit in practice.

So when his quarterbacks started begging him to go live this spring, his first reaction was, ‘No way!’ He was in protection mode, the way he was as a Steelers assistant. But veterans Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette persisted, and he slowly relented -- only a few times, and with clear instructions to the defense.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Phil SearsFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher had Jameis Winston go live last spring when he was dueling Jacob Coker for the starting job.
“My initial feel is, ‘Don't ever let anybody get touched, so I have to fight myself at times, because I want to protect these guys and these guys want to compete for jobs,” said Montgomery, the offensive coordinator.

His is a dilemma that many coaches across the league have faced this spring. Do you allow your quarterbacks to get hit in practice to help simulate game situations and foster competition, knowing you have increased their injury risk? Or do you never even broach the subject because the priority should always be to protect the quarterback?

Four ACC teams allowed their quarterbacks to go live at some point during spring practice, more than any other power-five league. Clemson did it for the first time under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, believing he would see more out of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson ended up getting hurt and missing the spring game.

Florida State allowed its younger quarterbacks to go live this spring. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he did the same last year, when Jameis Winston was a redshirt freshman competing to win the starting job.

“They’ve got to be able to feel things around them and react,” Fisher said. “They get in a false security blanket sometimes.”

Does that cause him extra worry?

“It’s no different than when we run the running backs, and I get nervous in the scrimmages when the backs are running and get tackled,” Fisher said. “Our guys know if they’ve got a kill shot, not to. There’s a certain limit of how we practice with each other. You know those shots that everyone wants to have? We won’t take those on each other even if we’re in a live scrimmage because it’s not productive to the organization. Tough to me is when you’re eyeball to eyeball, not when a guy’s exposed and you can do that.”

The coaches are not the only ones who wrestle with the idea. NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett was not live this spring. But when he was competing for the starting job at Florida with Jeff Driskel back in 2012, both were allowed to go live early on in fall practice. The first day they were allowed to take hits, Driskel hurt his shoulder.

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark CrammerClemson freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in practice and missed the spring game.
“There's a right time and wrong time for quarterbacks to be live,” Brissett said. “We haven't done live practices, but in the fall sometimes we will have a live scrimmage on a Saturday. It helps out with the game speed reps.”

For a running quarterback such as Brissett, that helps. Same for the Duke quarterbacks. Georgia Tech has its quarterbacks live during practice for that reason.

Some coaches believe going live helps separate the competition. But Clemson was the only school with an open quarterback competition to allow its quarterbacks to go live during scrimmage situations. North Carolina, for example, has Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battling to win the starting job, but offensive coordinator Seth Littrell does not believe it is necessary to allow quarterbacks to get hit. “I’ve never done it,” he said.

Virginia Tech also is in the middle of an intense competition, but quarterbacks have been off limits so far this spring. Veteran Mark Leal would have no problem if the coaches changed their minds.

“Honestly, I'd like to be live,” he said. “I think the rest of the quarterbacks would, too, because it gives more of a game feel. If you're not live, sometimes the whistle gets blown early when you don't think you should have been sacked or the play gets messed up because when there's a rush around you, the first thing the coaches want to do is blow the whistle, rather than you continue to play or go through your reads and progressions and finish the play.”

Depth concerns often dictate what coaches do. Pitt only had two scholarship quarterbacks this spring, so there was no way they were going live. Virginia Tech only has three quarterbacks on the roster this spring.

Still, all the protections most coaches take are not enough to keep their quarterbacks injury-free. Miami quarterbacks were off limits this spring, but Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage.

It was a noncontact injury.

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April, 17, 2014
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Well, this rule ought to make games more interesting.

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April, 16, 2014
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Never forget.

ESPN 300: Top ACC targets 

April, 16, 2014
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With Wednesday’s release of the 2015 ESPN 300, here’s a look at five top ACC targets in the 2015 class.


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The New York Times has reported that there was virtually no investigation, either by the Tallahassee Police Department or Florida State University, into the rape allegations against FSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

According to the newspaper's investigation, "Florida State did little to determine what had happened." The paper also reported that a second woman "had sought counseling after a sexual encounter with Mr. Winston, according to the prosecutor’s office."

An excerpt from the article: "The woman did not call it rape — she did not say “no.” But the encounter, not previously reported, “was of such a nature that she felt violated or felt that she needed to seek some type of counseling for her emotions about the experience,” according to Georgia Cappleman, the chief assistant state attorney, who said she had spoken with the advocate but not with the woman."

The NYT also reported that the police investigator who handled the case, Scott Angulo, "has done private security work for the Seminole Boosters, a nonprofit organization, with nearly $150 million in assets, that is the primary financier of Florida State athletics, according to records and a lawyer for the boosters."

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Florida State's handling of the sexual assault allegations against Winston.

UPDATE: Florida State has since released this statement on its website in response to the article.

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April, 15, 2014
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Boston strong.
Florida State UniformsSeminoles.comFlorida State used its connection to the Seminole tribe in influencing the design on its new uniforms.

Somehow, Florida State and Miami both just won.

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I'm no fashion critic (c'mon, you've seen my videos) but these guys are gonna look sharp.

The rivals recently unveiled their new uniforms, and neither one opted for an outlandish, over-the-top style, instead choosing to stick with tradition and class. That, in itself, was refreshing. Unlike the dreadful first Maryland Pride uniforms, Florida State and Miami both managed to preserve their history while at the same time get an upgrade. FSU released garnet, white and black uniforms, while Miami will have four new looks: The orange jersey, “Juice”; the white jersey, “Storm Trooper"; a green jersey, “Surge”; and a new alternate anthracite “Smoke” jersey. At home, the Canes will wear orange. The 'U' logo on the palms of the gloves is a creative touch, but overall it's a simple, sleek and clean look that doesn't lose any of its edge.

[+] EnlargeMiami uniforms
Courtesy of NikeMiami added an anthracite uniform to represent its iconic smoke game entrance.
Florida State embraced its namesake, and used the Seminole tribe patterns as its inspiration, while Miami tactfully included the Ibis on the uniform shoulder, helmet and hip of the pants. The Canes' "Smoke" uniform was designed to represent the school's tradition of running out of the tunnel into the smoke before every home game.

It's good timing for both programs for different reasons. As defending national champs, Florida State has a new look -- one that's in the spotlight again as the nation's premier program. For Miami, the tumultuous days of the NCAA investigation are finally behind it, and the Hurricanes got a fresh start.

“These young men, who unselfishly guided us through some very dark days, now display a renewed attitude and spirit," Miami coach Al Golden said in a statement. "These new uniforms capture that outlook."

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The boldest move of the designs was with Florida State, as Nike used a pattern from the Seminole tribe to accentuate the shoulders and neckline. While some might not like the bigger, bolder look, the authenticity of the pattern should be appreciated.

"These uniforms really enhance and embody the Seminole tribe," coach Jimbo Fisher told his team, "which is what we all represent. Without them, we wouldn't be the Florida State Seminoles."

Check 'em out, and cast your votes to let us know what you think.

Video: Florida State CB P.J. Williams

April, 14, 2014
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Andrea Adelson talks with Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams about stepping into a leadership role this spring and the development of the secondary.

FSU spring: What we learned

April, 14, 2014
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Florida State’s spring camp came to a close on Saturday with the annual Garnet and Gold game, and now the Seminoles are prepping for a second straight national title.

The game is secondary compared to the rest of spring practices, so with that in mind, here are some of the biggest answers the 15 spring sessions presented.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher escaped the spring with a healthy roster.
1. FSU will be at full strength this fall.
In early March, Noles coach Jimbo Fisher noted how healthy his team was and how rare it is to have a squad almost entirely intact for spring practice. As the practices mounted, though, so did the injuries. The silver lining is that none of the injuries are expected to linger into preseason camp. Running backs Dalvin Cook and Ryan Green had shoulder surgery but will be 100 percent by around July. Nick O’Leary missed the final half of spring practices with a second motorcycle accident, but he avoided any serious injuries. There were a few concussions in camp, but Terrance Smith, who suffered one of them, was back for the spring game. The lone setback that could impact fall camp is the foot injury Ukeme Eligwe sustained, which Fisher hinted could be the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which has a tendency to persist for quite some time. The thought is he should be fine for August, though.

2. The secondary is among the best in the country.
Quarterback Jameis Winston said after the spring game that “we got the best [defensive] backs in the country.” He should know, having thrown against the unit for much of the spring and the entire Garnet and Gold game. The secondary of P.J. Williams, Jalen Ramsey, Nick Waisome and Tyler Hunter shut down the No. 1 offense’s passing attack the entire first half, and the unit was without sophomore Nate Andrews. Fisher said throughout the spring that Ramsey is a star-in-the-making and should become a nationally recognized name replacing Lamarcus Joyner. Ramsey showcased his skills by moving around at cornerback, safety and nickel during the game. Fisher and Winston are raving about freshman Trey Marshall, too. Williams is a star in his own right, shutting down No. 1 receiver Rashad Greene.

3. The receivers need to step up.
Speaking of Greene and the receivers, that position is probably the biggest weakness heading into the season. Fisher was upset with the production and consistency his receivers showcased through much of the spring, and the starting unit did not get any separation from the Noles’ secondary. Jesus Wilson has the potential to be a playmaker from the slot, but can he replace Kenny Shaw’s production? Isaiah Jones is 6-foot-4, but his production did not match that of departed 6-foot-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Levonte Whitfield announced himself to the world in the national title game, but he is still needs some refinement as a receiver. The coaches can spend two hours a week breaking down film with players during the offseason, and Fisher said that will be a critical step in Florida State’s development at receiver.

4. The talent is there at linebacker.
The Noles lose beloved figure Telvin Smith and consistent producer Christian Jones, but the depth at linebacker is there so those losses might not be felt all that much. Matthew Thomas is a budding star, and the former five-star recruit will not be kept off the field this fall. Terrance Smith is the leader of the unit and could be a viable replacement for Telvin Smith. Before Eligwe’s injury, Fisher voiced his opinion that Eligwe was having as good of a spring as any player. Reggie Northrup and E.J. Levenberry should each see significant snaps in the rotation, and Ro’Derrick Hoskins could be a dangerous third-down specialist from the position.

5. Sean Maguire is a quality backup for Noles.
Earlier this spring, Winston missed a practice to travel to Clemson with the baseball team, putting the pressure squarely on No. 2 quarterback Maguire to perform at a competent level. Following the practice, the third of the spring, Fisher was lukewarm on Maguire’s performance. But Maguire looked the part of a quality No. 2 option for Florida State during the spring game. The Noles got him in rhythm with three straight passes to the flats to open the game, and then Maguire dropped in a 26-yard touchdown on a post route over the defender. Maguire, a redshirt sophomore, said he made the most progress this spring than he’s ever made at any point in his college career.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 14, 2014
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Bo Pelini is the cat's meow.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says spring practice is all about cramming as much information to the mind as possible. Introduce as many schemes, techniques and late-game situations as possible, but remember there is no buildup to a Saturday opponent. The hope is his team will draw on that information when it counts this fall.

It’s best to take that approach when evaluating Florida State’s spring practices and game, which the Garnet won over the Gold 31-14.

This was supposed to be a ho-hum spring for Florida State. That’s the goal when you’re the reigning national champion and return your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Sure, there are issues on the roster, but those were never going to be resolved in 15 spring practices, not with more than a dozen players nursing injuries.

[+] EnlargeSean Maguire
AP Photo/Steve CannonReserve quarterback Sean Maguire said he "learned a lot" in spring practice.
“We got a lot accomplished and we’re starting to form the identity and the personality of this team,” Fisher said. “... We are nowhere close to where we need to be, but I can picture where we’re going to be.”

That picture, Fisher hopes, is one of him holding the national championship trophy, plastered on all 11,520 square feet of the video board at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the first College Football Championship Game will be played. Fans were spoiled at this time a year ago when Jameis Winston launched the ball and his path to stardom on his first throw, a 58-yard touchdown. That was a different time, though. This spring was about improving and getting to August.

Fisher said he saw that improvement throughout camp, and it was clear during the second half of spring practice that Fisher was pleased with the progress. Two weeks ago, Fisher called his team “lazy” and was sour on just about every position. He spoke positively about his team during the final eight sessions.

His starting quarterback made strides this spring, although Fisher said it might not always be visible to the naked eye. Fisher said it is about improving the “subtle things” and “all of a sudden it’s a major change.” The backup position looks better than it did a month ago, too.

“I thought the spring went well. I thought I learned a lot,” backup quarterback Sean Maguire said. “I haven’t gone into a camp or a spring where I was a No. 2, but going into it and getting reps the whole time with the twos, I felt like now I know a lot more than I did.”

There will be questions that still need answers when preseason camp opens, however. It was evident Saturday that Florida State’s passing attack could take a significant step in the wrong direction. Granted, Florida State could have the best secondary in the country, but the Seminoles’ first-team receivers generated no separation from defenders despite Winston getting several seconds to survey the field. On a few occasions, he was forced to his fourth and fifth reads. Winston’s window to fit the ball in will probably be bigger Sunday from the pitcher's mound than it was Saturday from the pocket. Kelvin Benjamin is a potential first-round NFL draft pick, and there is no direct replacement for the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver on the roster. Undervalued receiver Kenny Shaw will be hard to replace, too.

“Early they didn’t get open, but that’s kind of expected,” Fisher said. “Then, as the game went on, they gradually made plays, and we helped them get open with some formations and things.”

That stands to be the biggest issue for Florida State as it exits the spring. The defense underwent major changes, but there is talent at every level, and new coordinator Charles Kelly was an in-house hire.

The spring game -- and the entire spring -- was ugly at time for Florida State, but it is still too early to determine how far this team will go. Florida State didn’t look like a team that has 15-0 written on it, but there probably isn't any team with that look on any campus in mid-April. There are questions, but there is more talent.

“You relax and realize the sky’s not falling and the world is not coming to an end,” Fisher said.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- At SEC media days last summer, someone asked Alabama head coach Nick Saban if he wears any of his four national championship rings.

"To me, it doesn't make any difference how many game-winning shots Michael Jordan made," Saban said. "The only one that matters is the next one. So there doesn't seem to be any purpose to me. I have them. They're there."

You put that championship in a velvet-lined box and store it in your closet. It has no effect on the future.

Florida State, which plays its Garnet and Gold Game on Saturday, will start next season as No. 1, just as the Seminoles ended last season. The Seminoles have 14 returning starters from the team that won the BCS National Championship three months ago. That includes the best player in the country, quarterback Jameis Winston, and the best defensive lineman in the country, end Mario Edwards Jr., and other talented players too numerous to mention.

Florida State must carry the expectations of a fan base and a college football nation that expects them to improve upon a perfect 14-0 record. That it is possible -- with the two-round playoff, the Seminoles could be the first team in modern history to go 15-0 -- doesn't make it any less daunting.

Jimbo Fisher is a graduate and espouser of the Nick Saban Institute of The Process. Fisher coached for Saban for seven seasons at LSU. The tenets that Saban preaches in the meeting room at Alabama -- smart choices and personal development, focus and discipline -- are heard from the pulpit at Florida State, too.

It would be only natural to assume that Fisher would consult the Sabanic Verses on the subject of following a national championship season. Not only has Alabama done so in three of the past four years, but LSU, with Saban as head coach and Fisher as his offensive coordinator, did so a decade ago.

Fisher knows what Saban believes. He coached it at LSU. And that's what convinced him that it's wrong.

"One of the things I wish we had done better then," Fisher said in his office recently, "was actually remember we were national champions. We were so focused to me on, 'Forget that. Don't get big-headed. Don't do that,' that I think you lost the aura and the confidence of winning the championship."



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April, 11, 2014
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Enjoy the weekend, gang.
Word travels fast within the small Seminole Tribe of Florida, branching from the Everglades up through the peninsula and navigating around Florida’s Big Bend. It’s a culture built upon the spoken word, and this year the name Justin Motlow is on the minds and mouths of many tribe members, circulating through the half-dozen reservations.

The tribe is eager to get a glimpse of Motlow. On June 13, he will enroll at Florida State. And when he dons the Seminole logo for his first football practice as a preferred walk-on wide receiver, it will double as an homage to his ancestors, he says. Since Florida State adopted the Seminoles nickname 67 years ago, no known Seminole Tribe of Florida member has played football for the school. Motlow will change that in two months.

[+] EnlargeJustin Motlow
Courtesy of Motlow familyWhen he begins practice this summer, walk-on wide receiver Justin Motlow will be the first member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to play football for Florida State.
“It’s always been missing, an actual tribe member playing on the Florida State Seminoles,” said Kyle Doney, a tribe member and a liaison between Florida State and the tribe on the Florida State alumni association national board of directors. “There’s a lot of hope and excitement from tribe members all across.”

Motlow, a 5-foot-11, 182-pound receiver who attends Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School, is one-quarter Seminole. His paternal grandmother is a 100 percent Seminole and is a resident on the Immokalee Reservation. Clarence, Justin's father, was raised on the reservation and fondly remembers his childhood. Growing up, Clarence hunted alligators -- “some by hand,” he said -- and sold the hides to tourists for a dollar. His grandfather practiced medicine on the reservation, and Clarence still abides by Seminole tradition in keeping secret the tribe’s sacred medicine practices.

Clarence calls his son an “urban Seminole,” but Motlow and his sister remain immersed in Seminole culture, as the family attends several tribal events annually. Motlow participates in tribal holidays and gatherings, playing skillet toss and working on his archery. In July 2011, he won gold medals in his age bracket in the 200- and 400-meter dashes at the North American Indigenous Games.

“I feel very honored to be able to call myself a tribal member,” Motlow said. “There’s a lot of heritage and history that goes along with that.”

There is a long history between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida State, whose students voted for the Seminoles nickname in 1947. For the past few decades, the relationship between Florida State and the Seminole Tribe of Florida has mostly avoided the negativity that engulfed several other institutions depicting Native Americans as mascots, which makes Motlow’s impending enrollment even more intriguing. Both the school and tribe publicize the harmonious relationship, and the tribe’s written endorsement of Florida State’s use of the Seminole name and logo persuaded the NCAA in 2005 to remove the school from the list of universities deemed to have “hostile or abusive” mascots.

“[The tribe is] quite proud and happy for him, but they’re also happy he’s getting an education,” Seminole Tribe of Florida spokesman Gary Bitner said. “Word travels fast. [The tribe] feels like it’s another positive point in the relationship between the university and the tribe. ... There is a great sense of pride in the name, and they feel like Florida State has really done it right.”

There was a point just a few weeks before signing day on Feb. 5, however, when it seemed Motlow would not be in this position. He already had made peace with the idea that he wouldn’t play for childhood favorite Florida State, and wasn't sure he would get a chance to play Division I football. He heard from a few Division II and III schools -- programs so obscure he can’t remember the names -- but even that interest was waning. He suffered a setback before his senior football season started when, on the second day of spring practice, he separated his shoulder. Motlow and his doctors did their best to avoid surgery, but it cost Motlow the entire spring evaluation period and summer camp circuit, pivotal recruiting steps before a prospect’s senior season.

With his prospects diminishing, Motlow's father still believed his son could be a contributor on a Division I roster. Clarence Motlow enlisted the help of a friend he knew Florida State would not turn away. Barry Smith, a former Florida State receiver and a member of the Seminoles’ 1979 Hall of Fame class, passed Motlow’s tape to Seminoles receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey, who after watching it showed it to head coach Jimbo Fisher. Justin Motlow had an offer as preferred walk-on not long afterward, and he committed in late January.

Now he’s a celebrity to the 3,963 members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Clarence Motlow has been inundated with calls, texts and emails from tribe officials wanting to see his son play, even offering to fly the family to Tallahassee in the tribe’s jet. The entire community is behind Motlow’s football pursuits, happy he will be the flag bearer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida as it breaks new ground this fall.

“That’s true history. It feels really cool to be recognized,” Justin Motlow said, “but now it drives me even more to succeed because I can’t let my tribe down.”
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- No position on the Florida State roster has taken as many losses as the defensive line over the past two seasons.

Four linemen were drafted a year ago. Another, tackle Timmy Jernigan, is projected to become the second straight Florida State defensive lineman to be drafted in the first round. The last time Florida State had at least five defensive linemen selected in consecutive drafts was 1998-99.

At many programs, losing so many players would be a major cause for concern and, as you'd expect, the defensive line has drawn some of the biggest questions this spring and last. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, however, looks at the situation differently.

Rather than lament potential depth issues, Fisher looks at the pure talent he has available for this upcoming season -- and the versatility they provide. Though only three scholarship defensive ends were available during the spring, two of them were consensus top-10 players at their position out of high school -- Mario Edwards Jr. and Chris Casher.

[+] EnlargeEddie Goldman
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State coaches are expecting junior Eddie Goldman to flourish as Timmy Jernigan's replacement at defensive tackle.
Both began learning every position along the line in order to take advantage of their athleticism. Edwards moved around some last season, but expects to do much more of that in 2014, not only to help with depth but to also give Florida State key matchup advantages.

“It’s kind of fun,” Edwards said. “The offense can’t pinpoint where I will be -- right or left side, inside or out. I feel I can go and play any one of the positions the coaches put me in at and be a factor.”

For Edwards, the process of not only becoming a master at his own position, but also learning several others, has meant more time studying the playbook and game tape. That has allowed the former No. 1 high school player in the country to feel even more comfortable with the defense.

The road has not necessarily been smooth for him. He was out of shape as a freshman, and last spring he had to learn an entirely new defensive scheme while following a strict diet and weight program. Edwards ended up starting, but he did not feel comfortable until midway through the season. That is when the results started to show.

Now that more of the pressure is on him to perform, Edwards says he is ready to dominate.

“I’d like to think this is a big year for me,” Edwards said. “I watched film of last year but not only was I looking at the good things I did, I looked at how many plays I left out there, just because I wasn’t aligned right, I wasn’t doing my job, I may have forgotten what I was supposed to do. I felt like I left tons of plays out there I could have made. This year, it’s reacting more than thinking.”

To help at end, Florida State might end up using linebackers Matthew Thomas and Ukeme Eligwe, whom Fisher called “dynamic rushers.” He did something similar with Christian Jones a year ago, and Jones thrived in that role.

Tackle Eddie Goldman, slated to replace Jernigan inside, was a five-star defensive tackle out of high school. Fisher said Goldman will end up being one of the team’s spring award winners because he has made such drastic improvement. Though not as powerful as Jernigan, Goldman is more athletic and a more natural pass rusher.

“Him and Mario -- it’s hard to handle them one-on-one,” Fisher said. “Eddie, his upside is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous how good he can be.”

Will he meet that potential this year?

“The way he’s playing right now? No doubt,” Fisher said.

Fisher also will play some of his true freshmen, the way he has done with guys such as Edwards, Jernigan and Casher. The Seminoles loaded up on the defensive line to make up for the heavy losses they have taken recently. Four of the seven players Florida State signed were rated four-star prospects out of high school. Two incoming ends -- Lorenzo Featherston and Rick Leonard -- are both 6-foot-7. They will not be tied exclusively to end, either.

“We like that hybrid guy, the versatility,” Fisher said. “You can go 3-4, 4-3, and create a matchup where they get locked on a back, where a back has to block them, that kind of stuff.”

Florida State took advantage of the versatility it had last season to great success. Despite more personnel losses, Fisher expects more of the same in 2014.

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