ACC: Taiwan Easterling

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
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So long, June ...
Florida State wide receiver and outfielder Taiwan Easterling has signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs and will not return to school, the university announced Thursday night.

“Taiwan and I talked and he’s decided to pursue his career in baseball,” coach Jimbo Fisher said in a prepared statement. “I totally support him 100 percent. He did an outstanding job for us.

“I would have loved to have him back, but I totally understand him pursuing his future endeavors. Baseball is the way for him to go and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The good news: Florida State is still very talented at wide receiver and there's a lot of young stars waiting in the wings.

The bad news: It's one less veteran receiver for first-year starting quarterback EJ Manuel to work with.

Bert Reed (58 catches) and Willie Haulstead (38 catches, six touchdowns), will now likely be the go-to receivers. The Noles are also excited about sophomore Jared Haggins, redshirt freshman Christian Green, and sophomore Greg Dent, who played mostly on special teams as a true freshman last year. Rodney Smith (31 catches, three touchdowns) and Kenny Shaw should also see some time. There are plenty of helping hands available, but there's no doubt FSU will miss Easterling's experience.

Update on FSU WR Taiwan Easterling

June, 30, 2011
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Yes, Florida State receiver Taiwan Easterling has signed a baseball contract with the Chicago Cubs.

No, there is no official confirmation from Florida State that he will not be playing football this fall, though that has already been reported by several media outlets.

Jimbo Fisher is on vacation and unavailable for comment. Easterling is one class away from graduating and in good standing with Fisher. It's not like ACC football players haven't doubled up with baseball before (See: Russell Wilson, Kyle Parker). IF Florida State confirms that Easterling won't play football, I'll let you know, but until then, I'm not assuming anything.
You asked, I answered. Readers (particularly @AsylumGodfather) were calling for more position rankings, so the receivers are up next. This could be the strongest position group in the conference, and one of the more difficult to rank, so I looked back on a few stats to help me separate them, including how some of these guys did against their best competition (i.e. Danny Coale versus FSU, wow). Here’s the final verdict of which teams in the ACC have the best combination of depth and talent:

1. Virginia Tech: With Jarrett Boykin and Coale returning, the Hokies’ passing game has a chance to flourish this fall. Boykin, Coale and Dyrell Roberts were the team’s top three receivers last year for the second straight season, combining for 113 catches, 1,882 yards and 11 touchdowns. Add to that Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles, E.L. Smiling -- it’s a bottomless cup of depth and talent.

2. Duke: Conner Vernon has 128 catches in his first two collegiate seasons and Donovan Varner ranked fourth in the ACC in pass receptions (60) and seventh in yardage (736). Their combined 274 receptions are the most of any active duo in the ACC. They are the top two returning leaders in catches per game, and Vernon is the ACC’s returning leader in receiving yards per game. The Blue Devils also have sophomore Brandon Braxton (14 catches), who could make a name for himself as the third option this year.

3. Florida State: Every Seminole who caught a pass last season returns. Bert Reed, Taiwan Easterling and Rodney Smith return with a combined 50 career starts. Reed ranks second among all returning ACC receivers with 141 career receptions. Willie Haulstead had 38 catches last season, Smith had 31, and there’s plenty of rising talent like Christian Green.

4. North Carolina: Like Florida State, North Carolina returns all of its receivers, including two who redshirted last season. Dwight Jones, who had 946 yards and 62 receptions, leads the group, but Erik Highsmith (25 catches, 348 yards and three touchdowns) must be accounted for as well. Defenses also can’t forget about Jheranie Boyd, who is a deep threat.

5. Miami: The Canes will miss the production of Leonard Hankerson, but they don’t have to if one or two of the other players show more consistency. Travis Benjamin has big-play capabilities and averaged 17.3 yards on his 43 catches last season. There is no shortage of other options with LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Tommy Streeter, Allen Hurns and Kendal Thompkins. Which one will rise to the occasion?

6. Clemson: It was the DeAndre Hopkins show last season, and he should again highlight the Tigers’ passing game. As a true freshman, Hopkins had 52 catches, the most by a first-year player in school history. Jaron Brown returns with 10 career starts, and the Tigers also have Marquan Jones (21 catches) and Bryce McNeal (19).

7. Maryland: The Terps have to replace their top two receivers from a year ago in Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon, and no clear frontrunners emerged this spring. Quintin McCree leads all returners with 16 catches, followed by Kevin Dorsey (15), Ronnie Tyler (13), Kerry Boykins (10), and Tony Logan.

8. Boston College: True freshman Bobby Swigert led the Eagles last year with 39 catches and four touchdowns in five starts. The Eagles are hoping to get a significant boost from the return of Colin Larmond Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but the young group should be better regardless because of the experience gained last season.

9. Virginia: The Cavaliers will miss Dontrelle Inman, who averaged 16 yards per catch on 51 receptions, but returning starter Kris Burd finished fifth in the ACC last season in pass receptions (58). The group will also get a boost from the return of Tim Smith, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, and Matt Snyder (30 catches) and Ray Keys (three catches).

10. NC State: NC State has to replace its top two receivers from a year ago, and T.J. Graham is the team’s leading returning receiver with 25 catches. Steven Howard, Jay Smith and Quintin Payton all have experience, and redshirt freshman Bryan Underwood, Tobias Palmer and Everett Proctor have also been competing for playing time.

11. Wake Forest: Chris Givens (35 catches, 13.7 average), Michael Campanaro (10 catches) and Danny Dembry are the lead candidates to start, but the Deacs are missing a spark like Kenny Moore (2007) and D.J. Boldin (2008) provided. There were too many dropped passes in the spring game, so this group has some work to do in summer camp.

12. Georgia Tech: Yes, Georgia Tech throws the ball, just not often enough or efficiently enough to be anywhere but last place on this list. Stephen Hill led the Jackets last year with 15 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He should show progress this fall now that there’s no pressure on him to be the next Demaryius Thomas. If he doesn’t show more consistency, the Jackets could turn to Daniel McKayhan, Tyler Melton or Jeremy Moore.

Florida State spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
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FLORIDA STATE

2010 overall record: 10-4

2010 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB EJ Manuel, WR Bert Reed, WR Taiwan Easterling, LT Andrew Datko, RG David Spurlock, RT Zebrie Sanders, RB Chris Thompson, RB Jermaine Thomas, DE Brandon Jenkins, DT Jacobi McDaniel, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, PK Dustin Hopkins, P Shawn Powell

Key losses

LG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, QB Christian Ponder, DE Markus White, LB Kendall Smith, LB Mister Alexander

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Thompson* (845 yards)

Passing: Ponder (2,044 yds)

Receiving: Reed* (614 yds)

Tackles: Bradham* (98)

Sacks: Jenkins* (13.5)

Interceptions: Rhodes* and Mike Harris* (4)

Spring answers

1. Depth on both sides. Florida State returns all three leading rushers from last year, each of whom had at least 400 rushing yards in 2010. All of the Noles’ top receivers are back, but coach Jimbo Fisher was also pleased with young receivers like Jared Haggins and Greg Dent. The defensive line is deep, and the staff learned that Lamarcus Joyner can play safety at the collegiate level. The kicking game will be a strength, as FSU might have the best punter/kicker combo in the country. Dustin Hopkins booted a 60-yard field goal in the spring game.

2. Defensive improvement: The defense really made some strides in terms of knowing what it has to do, and has become more comfortable in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles found more depth on defense, as playmakers emerged even with players sidelined with injuries. The young linebackers were a particularly promising group.

3. It’s EJ’s offense now. In what was the first spring session he was healthy enough to participate in, quarterback EJ Manuel emerged as a leader heading into his first season as a full-time starter. He showed he can take command of the offense and goes into summer camp with nobody looking over his shoulder. He’s 4-2 as a starter and was able to take another step forward this spring.

Fall questions

1. Backup quarterbacks: Clint Trickett and Will Secord will take their competition into the summer, but Trickett got more opportunities in the spring game and made the most of them. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards. Secord completed 3 of 9 passes for 25 yards, but a clear No. 2 has yet to be named.

2. What will the offensive line really look like? It was a patchwork group this spring, as left tackle Andrew Datko was out with a shoulder injury, right tackle Zebrie Sanders was out after abdominal surgery, and left guard David Spurlock, who started the first seven games of 2010 before suffering a concussion, was only about 50 percent because of a hand/wrist injury. Key reserves like Rhonne Sanderson (foot injury) and Blake Snider (ankle injury) were missing. Jacob Fahrenkrug was supposed to take over at left guard, but finished the spring starting at center. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of LT Datko, LG Bryan Stork or Spurlock, C Fahrenkrug, RG Spurlock or Stork, RT Sanders. Despite the losses of Hudson and McMahon, there is experience up front, but building depth remains an issue.

3. How good is the defensive line? There’s no doubting Florida State’s defensive line will be good, but with the offensive line riddled with injuries, it was impossible to tell how good it can be. Newcomer Tank Carradine didn’t get a chance to go against Sanders or Datko, leaving for an unfair assessment.
Spring game: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, ESPN3.com.

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.

[+] EnlargeEJ Manuel
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireFlorida State is expecting big things from quarterback EJ Manuel this fall.
Questions unanswered: The backup quarterback job is still a race between Clint Trickett and Will Secord. Offensive line issues still linger, particularly at center, where injuries have delayed progress. Three different players have rotated at the position this spring.

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.
It’s time to reload in the ACC. Here’s a look at the position needs for each team in the Atlantic Division for the 2011 signing class:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.

Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.

CLEMSON

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesReplacing Da'Quan Bowers is a top priority for Clemson.
Defensive line: The early departure of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and the loss of Jarvis Jenkins makes this group a priority. Seven of the eight players up front on the final two-deep roster were either juniors or seniors.

Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.

Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.

FLORIDA STATE

Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.

Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.

Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.

Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.

Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.

Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.

MARYLAND

Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.

Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.

Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.

Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.

Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.

NC STATE

Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.

Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.

Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.

Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.

WAKE FOREST

Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.

Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.

FSU shuts out Wake Forest 31-0

September, 25, 2010
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The Seminoles took their first step in leading the ACC Atlantic Division with a 31-0 win over Wake Forest. Taiwan Easterling had a great game for the Seminoles, catching six passes for 112 yards.

Considering the way Wake Forest has struggled recently, this isn't a huge surprise, but the Deacs are going to be in for a long season if they continue to struggle on both sides of the ball. So far, the defense has been the main problem, but Wake's offense wasn't able to do a thing against FSU. Of course, the Seminoles' defense deserves a lot of credit for that, and it's important to remember Wake is playing a true freshman quarterback. It's not going to get any easier with Georgia Tech next weekend, but if the Yellow Jackets' defense plays the way it did against NC State today, it certainly won't be a shutout.

FSU dismisses WR Jarmon Fortson

August, 8, 2010
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Florida State has dismissed junior receiver Jarmon Fortson from the team, coach Jimbo Fisher told ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach on Sunday.
“He has been dismissed for a violation of team rules,” Fisher said. “We wish him the best in everything he does. We love him."

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Fortson was dismissed for multiple failed drug tests.

This is a significant loss to FSU's passing game, as Fortson started six games last year and caught 45 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. It's still a deep group, though, as Bert Reed is the most productive returning receiver, Taiwan Easterling is back after spending the spring with the baseball team, and this recruiting class included five receivers.

The recent suspension of Nigel Carr, coupled with the news of Fortson, isn't something Fisher needs heading into his first full season as head coach. He'll be judged not only for wins and losses, but also for off-field incidents and disciplinary issues. So far, Fisher doesn't appear to be tolerating either.

Opening camp: Florida State

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
10:00
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Schedule: Practice begins at 6 p.m.

What’s new: Everything. New coach, new coordinators, new attitude under first-year coach Jimbo Fisher.

Sidelined: Linebacker Nigel Carr has been suspended indefinitely after facing a felony charge. Nobody else on the two-deep depth chart is expected to be missing.

Key battle: Boundary corner, where redshirt senior Ochuko Jenije, the only returning starter in the secondary, will be fighting off redshirt freshman Xavier Rhodes. Offensively, the tailback position is so loaded that Jermaine Thomas, the top returning rusher from a year ago, is not at the top of the preseason depth chart. That spot belongs to sophomore Chris Thompson. Ty Jones, Tavares Pressley and Lonnie Pryor will also be competing for time.

New on the scene: Defense. The whole thing -- the scheme, the personnel and coordinator Mark Stoops. He’s tasked with turning around a unit that ranked among the nation’s worst in nearly every relevant statistical category last year.

Breaking out: Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. Given all of the issues Florida State has had up front, he’s a player who is poised to make a difference. The staff is expecting a breakthrough season after earning “most dependable” honors this spring.

Don’t forget about: Junior tight end Beau Reliford. He came on to replace Caz Piurowski last year and caught the game-winning touchdown against North Carolina. He could help a receiving corps that lacks proven talent. Taiwan Easterling is back after missing spring practices to play baseball, and he could also help that group.

All eyes on: Quarterback Christian Ponder. The whole nation will be watching, especially during a trip cross country to play Oklahoma, to see if Ponder is truly worthy of the Heisman hype.

Quotable: “That’s why I’m here at Florida State, to win it all.” -- Ponder.

ACC's triple threats

July, 1, 2010
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Last month, Rivals.com took a look at the top “triplets” in college football -- the teams with the best combination of quarterback, running back and wide receiver. ESPN.com’s bloggers have since been taking a closer look at the three-headed monsters in each of our respective conferences. Virginia Tech ranked No. 2 in the Rivals.com ranking and was the only ACC school that made the cut.

After looking into it a little closer, I could see why.

By doing this little experiment, I realized that there are only a few teams in the ACC that are truly threats in all three parts of this equation. While North Carolina has starting experience at all three positions, the Tar Heels didn’t make the cut for their lack of offensive success. Same with Virginia. Several teams came up just short -- like NC State, which doesn’t have starting experience at running back but has a standout quarterback and wide receiver, and Maryland, which is breaking in a new starter at quarterback but also has excellent depth at running back and receiver.

So, upon further review, here’s what I came up with:

Note: I’m only considering teams with players who have at least one year of ACC starting experience and weren’t significantly lacking at one of the positions:

1. Virginia Tech

QB: Tyrod Taylor

RB: Ryan Williams

WR: Jarrett Boykin

Rationale: The Hokies have the ACC’s returning leading rusher in Williams, another 1,000-yard rusher in Darren Evans, the league’s No. 1-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency, and the No. 8 receiver in receiving yards per game. No other team in the conference has three players rated higher.

2. Miami

QB: Jacory Harris

RB: Graig Cooper

WR: Leonard Hankerson

Rationale: Cooper is still rehabbing his knee, but with him in the lineup, the Canes have the No. 5 returning rusher in the league, the No. 4 quarterback in passing efficiency, and the No. 9 receiver in receiving yards per game. Even without Cooper healthy, the Canes have enough depth at both running back and receiver that as long as Harris stays healthy, Miami will remain a triple threat.

3. Florida State

QB: Christian Ponder

RB: Jermaine Thomas

WR: Taiwan Easterling

Rationale: Easterling has the most returning starting experience, but Bert Reed is the team’s leader in returning yardage. Jarmon Fortson is also a returning starter, while Ponder led the ACC in total offense despite missing four games with a shoulder injury. Thomas is the fourth-leading returning rusher in the conference, but there is enough depth that he’ll be pushed for playing time.

4. Georgia Tech

QB: Joshua Nesbitt

RB: Anthony Allen

WR: Tyler Melton

Rationale: This is where it starts to get interesting. Nesbitt is the team’s leading returning rusher, and he doesn’t show up in the ACC passing stats. Nor does Georgia Tech have a receiver ranked among the ACC’s returning leaders. However, it does have a 1,000-yard rusher in Nesbitt, two running backs with starting experience, and Melton started 10 games last year. By the end of the season, the Jackets should have a little more substance in two thirds of this equation.

Breaking down FSU and Miami

September, 7, 2009
9/07/09
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


There’s one game yet to be played in the ACC (and one helmet sticker yet to be awarded), and tonight’s game between Florida State and Miami will determine the early lead in the conference race. I picked Miami to win this game, but it’s in Tallahassee, and everyone knows anything can happen in such a storied rivalry. Here’s a look at what favors each team:

THREE REASONS MIAMI WILL WIN

1. Sense of urgency. The Canes know the snowball effect a loss can have, and if there’s one thing Miami needs in the first four games of the season, it’s momentum. Miami opens up with three straight conference games before hosting Oklahoma on Oct. 3, and an 0-4 start isn’t unimaginable, especially if they lose their opener. It’s Randy Shannon’s third season, and more is expected than last year’s mediocre 7-6 finish.

2. FSU’s unproven defense. The Noles only return three starters from a group that finished third in the nation in total defense. Two of them are in the secondary, but Patrick Robinson missed a day at practice this week with a shoulder injury and according to the Orlando Sentinel didn’t seem ready to say he was 100 percent just yet. The linebacker corps and the secondary will each feature two new starters.

3. Miami’s offensive advantage up front. Again, this goes back to FSU’s inexperience on defense, but Florida State’s defensive ends remain a question, and that should help give Jacory Harris some time to think. The Canes’ offensive line is also good enough to pave the way for Graig Cooper and Javaris James, who should both have productive seasons. FSU’s defensive line is lacking depth, and four defensive tackles -- Budd Thacker (toe), Demonte McAllister (knee), Justin Mincey (knee), and Kendrick Stewart (knee) -- are on the injury report. Thacker and Stewart might play.

THREE REASONS FSU WILL WIN

1. Quarterback Christian Ponder is the most comfortable he’s ever been with the playbook. He’s aware of everything -- and every mistake -- going on around him. He’s also healthy, and has an entire year of starting experience to build on. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has said that Ponder as the ability to develop into the best player he has coached at the position.

2. The offensive line returns all five starters. This is probably the Noles’ greatest team strength, and it should be an advantage against Miami’s defensive line, which, like FSU, is also banged up. This group should give Ponder the time he needs to throw, and pave the way for young backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones. Miami struggled to stop the run last year, so if the Noles can get their ground game going, it would be a huge advantage.

3. FSU’s receivers are better than some might think. And Miami’s secondary, which ranked last in the nation with just four interceptions last year, still has something to prove. Now that their off-field issues are long behind them, this group looks much more capable of testing Miami’s secondary. Taiwan Easterling has shown no signs of his Achilles injury, and Fisher has said he likes what he sees from this group.

FSU offensive coordinator encouraged by summer camp

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Florida State enters Monday's Miami game as the front-runner to win the Atlantic Division (and last night's subpar performance by NC State's offense further validated that early pick, at least for now.) FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has liked what he's seen this summer from every facet of his offense. And yes, the head-coach-in-waiting is keeping a watchful eye on the entire team, not just his offense. Here's the first part of our recent conversation:

Going into the summer, you had so many questions at wide receiver, but then guys started to shake out their legal issues. How confident are you in that group now?

Jimbo Fisher: Pretty confident. The challenge is how consistent will they perform, week in and week out, and keeping that focus, but we’ve got a good group of guys, and we’ve got a talented group of guys. You’re still always looking for consistency, but we’re seeing it more and more in practice every day.

Who do you think is going to be your go-to guy there? Any indications?

JF: It’s funny, there’s been a lot of guys. Rod Owens has had a super camp. Him and Rich Goodman have played well. [Jarmon] Fortson had some big scrimmages. Taiwan Easterling, he’s gotten back. There is no sign of his Achilles. He hasn’t missed a day. He hasn’t missed anything. He’s been good. [Louis] Givens coming back and doing some things. There’s a good group. Those first three guys have been the most consistent, but Bert Reed has had his big plays at times. They all bring a little something different to the table.

How good did it feel for you to be able to give Givens a scholarship?

JF: It was awesome, because he deserved it. He worked his tail off. He’s a great guy on special teams, and the numbers worked out. As people know, your numbers get screwed up sometimes to give a scholarship. There’s all kinds of legal implications, but it was super to be able to give it to him, and it was very well deserved.

How much more are you expecting out of your running game because the offensive line should be so much better, but they’re still young guys back there?

JF: They are, they’re still young. Jermaine has had a great camp, Ty’s gotten healthy now, and is really starting to come on, kept his weight up. There should be a good group. We feel very confident we’ll be able to run the football, and we have to be able to run the football.

You guys made a lot of strides in that area last year. I think it was some of the best numbers you’ve produced in a while. Is that because of the development of the offensive line? How do you see that growth continuing there?

JF: I see it continuing. I think our line grew, they got very good. Rick Trickett did a great job, and two, if you look at it, the ability for the receivers to have nice runs, the receivers did a good job running the football and the quarterback. You added a lot of yards, hidden yards people didn’t really see as much to a lot of different guys. The diversity helps, too.

What about Christian [Ponder]? You mentioned quarterback. I know last year he was banged up with his back, ribs, and all kinds of stuff. How much better can he be this year?

JF: I think he can be a lot better. I think he will be better. Especially as the consistency around him grows, you’re going to see his development grow. His confidence and his decision-making to know what people do and how they do it is going to grow. I think he’ll have a fine year, I really do.

Where did he make the biggest strides since last season?

JF: I think in just pure confidence. I think he knows he belongs here and he could be a heck of a player. When you’re confident in things, he really grabs ahold and his ability to learn and process information is very good.

Check back in a bit for Fisher's take on the Miami game and the NCAA's sanctions against coach Bobby Bowden.

Around the ACC: FSU offense shines in first day with pads

August, 14, 2009
8/14/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's your daily dose of practice reports from around the ACC, as reported by each school's information office:

FLORIDA STATE

Cloud cover kept the temperature from climbing Thursday morning as the Florida State football team donned full pads for the first time this preseason. It didn't take long, however, for the action to heat up as the Seminoles' offense made the lion's share of big plays.

Of course, a big day for the offense also comes with drawbacks.

"The hitting was pretty good, but too many big plays popped out of there," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "As a head coach you don't know who to root for, your defense or your offense. It scares me when big plays come out of there."

Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on long passes with wideouts Jarmon Fortson, Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling, as well as tight end Caz Piurowski, during the first five-minute period of 11-on-11 work.

"A lot of that came against the blitz and we've been working on that all week," Ponder said, offering a hint at the developing mindset on offense. "The blitz for us means big plays and that's what we've been working on and things opened up.

"We definitely didn't have enough big plays last year and stretch the field as much as we wanted to. Things are starting to open up and that's a good thing."

It should come as no surprise that Ponder had ample time to step up in the pocket created by the seasoned offensive line and deliver the football. Improving pass protection has been a point of emphasis since the conclusion of last season.

Junior center Ryan McMahon, who helps anchor the unit along with guard Rodney Hudson, was encouraged by the performance of the unit in its first real test of the preseason.

"Overall we felt we had a better practice today than we did the other day, but I'm sure there's plenty of room for us to improve," McMahon said. "Everybody's attitude was good and it was fun."

(Read full post)

Around the ACC

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
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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

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."

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