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In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.
Karlos Williams and Jimbo Fisher Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesJimbo Fisher notes the confidence boost last year's championship provides.
As Florida State was beginning to gear up for its just-ended spring practices, head coach Jimbo Fisher chatted about the challenges of being the defending national champions, a position that both he as a coach and the program itself has been in before, but not together.

"We're the national champions and we should remember that, but also that last year was last year," Fisher said in March, previewing comments he would make to Ivan Maisel prior to last week's Garnet and Gold Game. "It's a line you have to walk, but hey, I'd rather be walking it than not!"

The Seminoles aren't the only program who spent spring and will go on spending summer and fall trying to find that balance between seizing the momentum of 2013 success while also instilling a sense of, "but don't get too comfortable, boys, we still have work to do."

So, how does a coach achieve that balance?

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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.

ACC's lunch links

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Well, this rule ought to make games more interesting.
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Craig Haubert breaks down the Seminoles' efforts to translate on-field momentum to success in recruiting.

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Never forget.

ESPN 300: Top ACC targets 

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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.
video Kerryon Johnson, the No. 26 player in the ESPN Junior 300, committed to the Auburn Tigers on Tuesday over Florida State and Alabama. Here’s what his pledge means:


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Kerryon Johnson picks Auburn

April, 15, 2014
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ESPN 300 athlete Kerryon Johnson (Madison, Ala./Madison Academy) grew up a Florida State fan. His first offer came from the Seminoles more than a year ago, and he watched as fellow Alabama native Jameis Winston led them to a BCS national championship this past season.

But when it came time to make his college decision Tuesday, Johnson opted to stay in-state and gave his verbal commitment to Auburn, the runner-up in that BCS title game.

"Auburn is a great program," Johnson told ESPN.com. "It's really on its way back from where it was a few years ago. Honestly, they got to the national championship last year, so they really are on their way to the top quickly."

Johnson, Auburn's sixth commitment for 2015 and No. 26 overall in the ESPN 300, chose the Tigers over Alabama and Florida State. He said he made his decision three weeks ago after a visit to the Plains.

"I've been to Auburn a couple times, and every time I've been there, there's just a feel to Auburn that it felt like in my household," Johnson said. "It's just the whole community. You're meeting people's parents, grandparents, daughters, children. You're meeting everyone. You just feel that family culture, and you know you can trust that.

"All three programs -- great programs, great academic schools, great weight rooms, all of that -- but that feeling right there is what separated them."


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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.

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Bo Pelini is the cat's meow.

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Scene and Heard: Top 10 Predictions
In a conversation with ESPN's Antonietta Collins, national recruiting reporter Gerry Hamilton breaks down the recruiting momentum building at Auburn and offers predictions for where the top 10 recruits will commit.Tags: Trenton Thompson, Kerryon Johnson, Jeffery Holland, Martez Ivey, Torrance Gibson, Cece Jefferson, ESPN 300, RecruitingNation, high school football recruiting, Gerry Hamilton
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