ACC: Avis Commack
Questions answered: After losing two starting linebackers, the position was a concern, but the young players had good springs. Telvin Smith, Christian Jones and Nigel Terrell each seemed more comfortable with the position, and the entire defense has grown entering the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops.
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireFlorida State is expecting big things from quarterback EJ Manuel this fall.
Spring stars: Lamarcus Joyner has shown he can play safety at 5-foot-8, 192 pounds. It’s more his natural position after playing cornerback. First-year starting quarterback EJ Manuel, who was healthy for spring practices for the first time, showed that he can run the offense, provide leadership, and the in-game experience has transferred over to his new role.
Of note: Safety Avis Commack returned after missing last season with a broken leg he suffered while running hurdles with Seminoles' track team in February, 2010. The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior cornerback displayed good cover skills, has a big body, and adds some depth to the secondary as a backup. Offensively, Jared Haggins stepped in for Taiwan Easterling, who has been playing baseball. The converted high school quarterback made a seamless transition to the slot, was capable of playing the position, and earned the praise of coach Jimbo Fisher.
Commack, who is on scholarship with the football team and in his first season with the indoor track team, had his leg surgically repaired at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. He should be out for 12 weeks and return in time for summer drills, according to Florida State Director of Sports Medicine Randy Oravetz.
Commack was going to transition to cornerback this spring.
“It’s just an unfortunate injury,” coach Jimbo Fisher said in a prepared statement. “We were looking forward to seeing Avis at his new position in the secondary this spring. With the right rehabilitation, he’ll be fine and we’re looking forward to his return. I think he can be a valuable member of the team at his new position.”
Commack, a two-time state champion hurdler for Jacksonville First Coast High School, has played in seven games -- primarily on special teams - over the past two seasons. Commack had competed in the 60 meter hurdles in two meets this season.
The injury occurred Tuesday as Commack was completing a hurdle workout before leaving for the ACC Indoor Championship meet this weekend in Blacksburg, Va.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are the reports that came in from Wednesday's practices around the league, as reported by each school's sports information office:
Clemson had its second day of two-a-day practices on Wednesday. The Tigers worked for two hours and 15 minutes in the morning and for an hour and a half in the evening.
Much of the day was spent reviewing the film from Tuesday's scrimmage and correcting mistakes. Coach Dabo Swinney felt better about his team after watching the film on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
"We played better than I thought," said Swinney. "I was very disappointed with the penalties [on offense] and a lack of attention to detail immediately after the scrimmage. And I still feel that way about those mistakes. But after watching the film we played better overall than I thought."
Swinney was impressed with the performance of his defense after the scrimmage on Tuesday and he was still happy with that performance on Wednesday.
"We have a chance to be pretty salty on defense. I look out there and really can't tell the difference between the units. I was talking to Jamie Cumbie yesterday and he said it doesn't make any difference who starts, they are just waiting to have their name called.
"There is great depth on the defensive front and the secondary. The linebackers are doing well also. I was really impressed with Kavell Conner's performance on Tuesday. He has had a terrific preseason."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The bottom line in this incident was whether Goodman actually threw a chair that struck a female in the face, and according to the assistant state's attorney's "No Information" report, there was "no independent evidence or identification ... that would establish the identification of the person that threw the chair ... beyond a reasonable doubt."
Goodman had been suspended indefinitely until the case had been resolved. Judging by this news, he should be back in time for the Miami game, if that's what coach Bobby Bowden decides to do (although the document states that Goodman, Taiwan Easterling, Avis Commack and Corey Surrency were all identified as players who threw at least one chair). With Goodman and Bert Reed back, FSU's receivers suddenly seem quite capable of having a productive season.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The loss of FSU receiver Rod Owens -- for however long it may be -- will obviously hurt the Seminoles' depth at the position, but before some get too excited about his potential absence (that means you, Miami fans), it's not like there isn't talent still on FSU's roster.
Even without Owens and Corey Surrency, who on Monday was denied an extra year of eligibility, Florida State still has enough pass-catching threats to contend for the Atlantic Division. Critical to that goal, though, is the healthy return of Taiwan Easterling, who has missed this spring with a torn Achilles. That's often a tough injury to recover from, and nobody knows for sure right now when he'll be able to return, let alone at 100 percent.
So who else can the Noles count on?
First, Bert Reed. He had 23 catches last year and earned a start in the bowl game against Wisconsin. In 10 games last year he racked up 551 yards of total offense with receptions, rushes, and punt and kick returns. He had three touchdowns.
Jarmon Forston might be the best of the group. He played in 10 games as a true freshman last year and had a catch in six of them. He made arguably one of the biggest impacts of any first-year player in Jimbo Fisher's offense. Forston's 42-yard catch against the Gators was the third-longest reception of the season.
Avis Commack, who played in five games as a true freshman and added 10 pounds in the weight room this winter, is also having a very good spring. And, of course, more is expected of senior Richard Goodman, who missed all of last season with a broken fibula.
So while the loss of Owens has an immediate impact, and the likely loss of Surrency won't help, Florida State's long-range potential will likely remain the same.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Florida State had a scrimmage on Wednesday and it sounds like it went well. The highlight might have been walk-on Louis Givens, who caught a slant pass for a 65-yard touchdown. FSU fans have been calling for Givens to get a scholarship, but the Noles don't give those out until after spring ball is over. It's possible he might get one then. By now, he deserves it.
Sports information director Elliott Finebloom told me the defensive ends and running backs looked good, as did the offensive line. Here is his full report. Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel was there and wrote that it wasn't an entirely good day for the defense.
The coaches are still looking for a few receivers to step up, but they seem to like No. 14, sophomore Avis Commack. Cornerback Patrick Robinson has been practicing well, but questions remain around him. The linebackers have been good, but are still young. Overall, the secondary, defensive tackles and receivers are where questions still linger.
I'm hoping to get Jimbo Fisher or Mickey Andrews on the phone early next week, so there should be some more FSU updates coming soon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
I got a chance on Tuesday to catch up with Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who said he was sporting green for St. Patrick's Day instead of one of the many black T-shirts he earned this winter for his efforts during mat drills. He talked about his prizes along with a few other things -- including the recent NCAA sanctions.
|Scott A. Miller/US Presswire|
|Christian Ponder played through a number of injuries in 2008.|
Here are the highlights of our interview:
How did winter conditioning go for you and where did that effort come from?
Christian Ponder: It went well for me especially. I thought I needed to gain a few pounds and I did put on some weight. It was good to get away and relax for a little bit, forget about football, but once school started we came back with a good attitude. The whole team worked hard, got in shape through mat drills. It was probably the best mat drills I've been a part of. Everyone came in with the right attitude, no one missed. A lot of people got black shirts. It was great. Everyone is in great condition going into spring ball.
Where do you think that came from? Was it because you guys had success at the end of last season and took a few steps forward last year?
CP: I think that definitely had a part in it. There was a little bit of momentum going into the offseason, and I think it definitely helps when you have a lot of guys coming back. We already have the chemistry together, a lot of guys have experience and they know exactly what they have to do. There are a lot of leaders that have come out of this and a lot of guys that are pushing each other.
Tell me a little bit about the offense. You guys need to find a dependable running back, all of your receivers are wiped out ... who's back besides you and the entire offensive line?
CP: Bert Reed's back. Richard Goodman, who was hurt last year and will be a redshirt senior this year, will probably be one of the top leaders we have on the team. He knows what he's doing and he runs great routes. We're happy to have him back. He's doing a great job. Avis Commack, a freshman last year, played towards the end, caught some balls in the bowl game. He's looking really good. Louis Givens, a walk-on, he's doing real well. And running back-wise, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas, they saw a lot of action, they look good. I think they're finally getting comfortable in what they're doing and knowing exactly what to do. They still make some mistakes, but they're still young. We're trying to work back in Tavares Pressley who got injured in August practice. He's still limited, but he looks good when he gets in some reps.
I'm not sure people realize how banged up you were last year. Can you give the run through of what happened?
CP: It all started at the Wake Forest game. I took a shot in the ribs, had bruised ribs on my back side. That lasted a couple of weeks. I started feeling fine, and then the NC State game, I tore cartilage in the ribs, my front, and that hurt a little bit. And then at the beginning of the Maryland game I took a shot in the back. That tightened up and spazzed out. It hurt pretty bad and lasted through the Florida game. Luckily we had those weeks off after the Florida game before the bowl game.
Are you OK?
CP: Yeah, I'm good now. Two months did me a lot of good.
What kind of improvements has Jimbo Fisher told you you need to make and when you watch film of yourself, what do you see?
CP: I need to make quicker reads. I think sometimes I get caught looking at the rush, and looking down, and not reading coverages. That's something I definitely have to improve on, and just getting more comfortable, relaxing and trusting my instincts. So far this spring I've done pretty well. I'm comfortable will all of the guys we have on the offense. Everything is picking up. That whole year experience helped me out a lot, so things should be a lot better.
Did you get bigger, stronger, faster, slower?
CP: I got a little bigger. I'm at 218 now. I actually grew a half inch, and swear to God, I'm the only person listed shorter than they actually are. They took an inch off.
OK, the other thing is I have to ask you this question: How embarrassing has it been to see your whole athletic department go through all the crap it's gone through?
CP: It's a tough situation. We were kind of put in a bad spot. We've got to accept what we did. We're responsible for what we did and we've got to deal with what happened. It's a tough situation. Hopefully the appeal goes through. We'll see, but we can't change it right now so we've just got to deal with it.
How disheartening was it to hear that your coach -- college football's second-winningest coach -- might lose that? That's such a big thing for Florida State.
CP: Yeah, it would be. It's a pretty big deal to have coach Bowden get
that record, but it's not finalized yet. We'll see what happens.
You're the smart quarterback. What's going on with your classes?
CP: Right now I'm in my second semester of my MBA. It's not too bad right now. I'll finish next spring, so I'll have summer and fall to do something else. I don't know, I have to figure out what I'm going to do.
Is the MBA harder than you thought in terms of juggling football?
CP: No, it's actually easier than I thought. I think so far grad school is easier than undergrad.
CP: Only one of my classes has an actual test. All my other classes are take-home tests. The others are presentations. I'd much rather do a presentation than take a test.
CP: So far it hasn't been bad.
Then again, you're talking to somebody who took "coaching football."
CP: Nice. Awesome. I took coaching over the summer. It was a great class.
Does one of the coaches actually teach it though?
CP: She was the old volleyball coach.
Oh, see, that doesn't count. I had Cam Cameron.
CP: (He laughed). Nice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sorry for the delay, but Spanky's on Franklin Street was calling my name for dinner.
Here's what happened throughout the league today, per the latest available report from each team:
- The defense stole the show in the Eagles' second scrimmage, and that's not a surprise. But eight sacks and four interceptions?
- The offense had 64 net rushing yards. Yikes.
- Chris Crane completed 14-of-25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
- Junior Rich Gunnell led all receivers with three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
- Sophomore Billy Bennett connected on field goals of 26 and 38 yards while senior Steve Aponavicius nailed a 29-yarder.
- True freshman Ryan Quigley punted the ball three times for 104 yards (34.3 average) with a long of 36 yards while sophomore Billy Flutie punted once, a 33-yarder.
"The defense brought a whole lot of blitzes today," Crane said. "It's comforting to know this defense will be playing on our side of the ball this fall. It's a benefit to play against them every day."
- Rodney Gallon confirmed today that he is no longer a part of the Seminole football team. He told the FSU sports information office he will be enrolled in school this fall and is excited to complete the final nine hours toward his degree. Football is just not part of his future right now but completing his college degree is a priority.
- Preston Parker was held out of practice due to a cervical sprain. Tony Carter also suffered a cervical sprain and did not finish practice. Freshman Terrance Parks suffered a right knee contusion at the end of the session as well.
- One-on-one was run in the red zone and Corey Surrency caught four TD passes. Three came from E.J. Manuel and one from Drew Weatherford.
- Weatherford also had TD passes to Bert Reed, Avis Commack, Jarmon Fortson, Rod Owens and Chase Walker.
- Manuel not only had the three TDs to Surrency, but he also completed touchdown passes to Owens and Fortson. Christian Ponder, who was working mostly with the inside group, came over and completed a touchdown to Commack.
- In the 11-on-11 drill, Weatherford squeezed a pass between two defenders and it was deflected but Bo Reliford kept his concentration and hauled in the touchdown pass.
- Quarterback Josh Nesbitt didn't practice this afternoon with a shoulder injury and neither did Andrew Gardner, Sr., OT (also a shoulder). Both are day-to-day and neither is in jeopardy of missing the opener. Nesbitt got a "stinger" when a teammate fell on his shoulder.
- Practices will be closed beginning Monday. It was good while it lasted.
- The Yellow Jackets spent two periods this morning working on 3rd-and-5 situations. Back-up safety Troy Garside intercepted a Bryce Dykes passas.
- Senior quarterback Calvin Booker connected with sophomore Demaryius Thomas on a 35-yard touchdown completion.
- The Terps worked on clock management and ended with two-minute drills.
- There is still a battle at strongside linebacker where incumbent Moise Fokou is trying to hold off Adrian Moten for the starting nod. Regardless of who starts, both are likely to play extensively, including on special teams.
- During the full-team drill, wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Torrey Smith caught touchdown passes.
"We came out today and they were tired and sore," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This was a character practice. We had a pretty good practice. I had to push them, but that's my job. I told them I'm going to get every ounce of energy and every ounce of talent out of them."
- The Hurricanes continued to stress special teams, and the defense focused on run blitzing drills with specific emphasis on red zone and run formations.
- After five practices in the past three days, coach Randy Shannon is giving his guys Thursday off.
- They'll scrimmage on Friday.
"The other day I didn't like the way we were practicing, but we came out this morning and this afternoon and finished up strong," Shannon said. "We had a lot of enthusiasm and we made a lot of plays on both sides of the football so we're excited about that. It was a big improvement from the other day."
- The Demon Deacons had their second two-a-day practice in preparation for tomorrow's scrimmage, which I will attend.
- In the first practice, during 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Riley Skinner hit running back Josh Adams on a long pass down the left sideline on the first play of the drill.
- Cornerbacks Chip Vaughn and Brandon Ghee each made a couple of nice pass breakups.
"I would like to see some improvement from the younger classes," said coach Jim Grobe. "We have older guys that are doing pretty much what we thought they would be doing at this point -- having good camps and making minimal mistakes. I think the key to a season is to have the younger guys step up. No matter how good your upperclassmen are, you are going to have to play young guys at some point, whether you are comfortable or not. So I would like to come back to the office after the scrimmage tomorrow and feel like our young guys made pretty good strides."