Sunday, July 22, 2012
FSU Notes: Day 1 at the ACC kickoff
By David M. Hale
During his address to open the ACC kickoff event Sunday, commissioner John Swofford said there was strong support for a nine-game conference schedule beginning next season when Syracuse and Pittsburgh come on board.
“I think the (athletic directors) collectively voted for the good of the conference that teams see each other and play each other as much as they can in both football and basketball," Swofford said. "That’s why we went to a nine-game league schedule.”
That might be a problem, Swofford said, for teams like Florida State who play an annual nonconference rivalry game.
While FSU has routinely scheduled high-profile nonconference games in addition to their annual showdown with Florida, that might get tougher when the nonconference slate shrinks to just three games.
This season, FSU's non-conference slate features the Gators along with South Florida, but it opens with two FCS opponents thanks to West Virginia's decision to pull out of a scheduled Week 2 date with the Seminoles.
That could be a problem when it comes to the national-championship picture, but quarterback EJ Manuel said he's not worried.
"We're in the ACC, which is a good conference," Manuel said. "If you go undefeated, that's the only way to get to the national title. If we go undefeated and happen to not go to the national championship, I'll be very, very surprised."
• Brandon Jenkins has slimmed down during the offseason, and he said he's liking the more sleek version of himself.
He gained about 10 pounds before last season, and while he had hoped the added size would improve his performance, he actually felt it slowed him down.
"All that weight, I didn't feel like I was playing at my max speed," Jenkins said. "I felt like something was holding me back. I felt like that 10 pounds was the difference."
Now, Jenkins is back down to around 250 pounds -- about where he was during his stellar 13.5-sack sophomore campaign.
"I feel like my first step will be a lot faster," he said. "I feel faster. I feel like a track runner. I like that."
• With a particularly deep corps of receivers this season, Manuel should have plenty of targets down the field.
But while Rashad Greene, Rodney Smith & Co. figure to have big seasons, Manuel said he's been amazed at how good tight end Nick O'Leary has looked during summer workouts.
"In 7-on-7, we linked up thousands of times," Manuel said. "Every time he's been matched up against linebackers and safeties, he's giving them the business. The guy gets open every single time."
O'Leary caught 12 passes as a freshman last season, but that number should climb this season if Manuel gets his way.
"Nick is a viable option every time he's on the field," Manuel said. "He's definitely a guy I want to get the ball to."
• Jenkins and Manuel were asked which of the younger players had impressed the most so far this summer, and there were plenty of candidates for praise.
"Mario Edwards is a big guy who can move," Jenkins said. "He reminds me of Marcell Dareus from Alabama. He's catching on real quick."
Manuel raved about redshirt freshman receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
"He's extremely good," Manuel said. "He's a huge person, and he's a receiver going up against corners who are (smaller). We're going to take that advantage. We're not going to sit and throw hitches. We want to stretch the field and give KB a chance to shine."
Both players raved about defensive end Chris Casher, and Manuel said receiver Marvin Bracy's speed is astounding.
And then there was this from Manuel on freshman defensive back Ronald Darby: "He reminds me of Greg (Reid), but he's a little bigger and faster. He can play, man. He's very instinctual. He makes plays on the ball like a receiver would. I think he's going to be really good."
• Jenkins was asked how many of his teammates on FSU's defense could one day be playing in the NFL.
"Oh man," he said. "The talent is out of this world."
Jenkins praised Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes, then rattled off seven more names before finally summing things up more simplistically."
"Hopefully," he said, "we'll be celebrating everybody getting drafted."