Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's only June, but Florida State's wide receivers are working with a sense of urgency and purpose not usually detected until August. They're lifting in the mornings, running in the afternoons, and participating in individual seven-on-sevens. They're catching about 100 balls from the JUGS machine every day.
And most importantly, they're trying to stay on their best behavior.
"It seems like the receivers are trying to get into trouble, and it's not like that," said walk-on Louis Givens, who is expected to be a major contributor this fall. "All of us are good guys, but we get caught in the wrong situation at the wrong time."
Rod Owens was suspended earlier this spring for a DUI charge, and Preston Parker was kicked off the team in February for multiple incidents. Richard Goodman, Bert Reed and Cameron Wade are all facing charges for their involvement in an on-campus fight last season. And to top it all off, Corey Surrency was denied an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.
After making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this group is intent on cleaning up their image -- starting now.
"Our mentality is to set the right impression," said Reed, who added his priorities this offseason start with being accountable to his teammates and coaches. "That's what our main focus is right now. Coach wouldn't have recruited us if we weren't good guys. We're all good guys. We just made mistakes and we were making mistakes at the wrong time -- back to back to back.
"We're making too many mistakes and hurting our team, obviously. It's hurting us at the same time but it's building up so much it's starting to hurt our team. I really feel like it's got to be dealt with. The athletic department is dealing with things, and we're kind of putting them in a bind right now."
Both Reed and Givens insist, though, that the off-field incidents haven't put the Noles in a bind on it. They point to Jarmon Fortson, Avis Commack and freshman Josh Gehres as players who made significant progress this spring. Tight end Caz Piurowski should also have an increased role in the passing game, and it would help dramatically for FSU to get Taiwan Easterling back from a ruptured Achilles.
"I wouldn't say we really lost a step," said Givens. "All these guys who backed up the guys from last year are here now, and they could have played last year and not missed a step. The spring was really strong."
Plus, the Noles have Reed, whose 23 receptions last year leads all returning receivers, and Givens, who caught two passes for 33 yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Reed has bulked up from 166 to 178 and has made the weight room a priority. He said part of the problem last year was that receivers weren't holding their blocks long enough to spring a big play.
"I've been working hard in the weight room," he said. "I want to block, I want to get in somebody's grill. That's been one of my main goals, if not my main goal, is just to put on some more weight, knowing you're going to take a little bit more pounding being in on every play, and playing outside receiver, I feel like guys can jam you, so I have to be prepared for that."
The receivers have also benefited from the steady progress of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is entering his second season as a starter.
"Ponder is putting it on the money," Reed said. "It doesn't really matter who the receiver is. That's what he's showing us -- it doesn't matter who it is out there running the route, he's going to put it in your chest. It's up to you to catch the ball, and all of us guys can catch the ball. We catch 100 balls a day from the JUGS. We have enough talent to play."
Their talent was never a question. Now they're out to prove discipline isn't one either.