TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When an all-time program great leaves a school, his presence is felt far longer than the last time he played.
This spring at Florida State, it’s not just Jameis Winston’s name being consistently thrown into that conversation. Former receiver Rashad Greene is talked about at length despite leaving almost three months ago, and he’s spoken about in a manner that can be described as nothing short of reverential.
After four seasons starring at Florida State, finishing as the program’s most prolific receiver, Greene is pursuing an NFL career. His absence leaves a gaping hole at receiver in both leadership and production, but his successors said they’re using the lessons Greene passed along to make up for his departure.
“We’re going to take what he told us and do what we have to do,” junior receiver Jesus Wilson said.
Wilson is the most experienced receiver on the roster. He’s started seven games; Greene started 43.
The Seminoles will rely on a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Wilson and Kermit Whitfield are the only juniors at the position, which is why Wilson acknowledged it is his time to take on a bigger role. The 5-foot-9, 181-pound receiver registered 42 catches as a sophomore. He caught only three passes as a freshman.
While Florida State lacks experience and a proven commodity at receiver with Greene graduating and Kelvin Benjamin bolting for the NFL following the 2013 national championship, the current group of Florida State receivers has the talent to potentially make up for it.
Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Jones, who was academically ineligible last season, was an ESPN 300 recruit in the 2013 class. Whitfield also was a highly-ranked recruit in that 2013 class. Sophomore Ermon Lane was the No. 2 receiver in the 2014 class, and Travis Rudolph was not far behind at No. 6. Two 2015 receivers are already enrolled and participating in in spring practices: top-rated athlete George Campbell and sixth-ranked receiver Da’Vante Phillips.
“Just working on our craft and that goes into learning the playbook,” said Rudolph, about the key to turning the promise into on-field production. “What can stop a guy from his highest potential is not learning the playbook.”
Rudolph said he doesn’t assume he will be the No. 1 receiver in the fall, but that it is what he’s working toward -- and he expects his teammates to be doing the same. Rudolph arrived in Tallahassee as one of the more polished high school players, so the expectation was for the 6-foot-2, 187-pound South Florida native to play early. After failing to record a catch in the season’s first three games, Rudolph finished the season with 555 yards. He capped his freshman campaign with six receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
“It went well, but not as well,” Rudolph said. “But I just got my feet wet and now I know how the system is and adjusted. … Now I’m at the point where everything is natural.”
Last season, Rudolph started six games and worked his way to becoming Winston’s No. 2 threat on the outside. Sean Maguire, the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback, worked with Rudolph with the second-string offense to start last fall and he said the difference between Rudolph then and now is “night and day.”
Then Maguire brought up the name from the past, inciting the hype and trying his best to curb it within the same breath.
“I’m not comparing anyone, but I slowly see him going toward Rashad, that route,” Maguire said. “... I was here when Rashad was a sophomore and this is going to be Travis’ sophomore year. They’re both great players, explosive, got that fifth gear to go get the ball and Travis is becoming a leader pretty much every day out there, too.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is not inviting the comparisons, but he isn’t squashing them, either. He said he will wait and see whether Rudolph is the next Greene.
For what it’s worth, Greene had 38 catches as a freshman -- the same as Rudolph. Greene used that season to springboard to 232 more.
“There’s nothing that says he won’t [be like Greene],” Fisher said, “but until someone does that, I’m not going to say they’re going to do that, you know what I mean?”
Will Be Making My College Choice April 3rd! @ Ocean Lakes High School 6pm... Anyone Can Come, No Charge Decision, Decisions, & Decisions.=— Levonta Taylor (@iamlevonta) March 24, 2015
We at the ACC blog would like to welcome Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer back to the sideline. Beamer, in his 29th season as the Hokies' coach, spent the December bowl game coaching from the press box following throat surgery.
The Daily Press writes Beamer's voice is still working its way back, but he still possessed the same fervor while talking about his team.
Here are a handful of links around the ACC for your morning:
- A search firm will present a list of candidates for the Pittsburgh athletic director position to the school's search committee in the coming weeks.
- Clemson linebacker B.J. Goodson feels comfortable filling the shoes of departed leader Stephone Anthony.
- Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and son Tommy, who coached Clemson, will be part of a new travel show called "Bobby Bowden Goes to War." The documentary brings the Bowdens to Europe to highlight World War II stories.
- Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said he is confident the school will make a strong athletic director hire.
- With hardly any experience returning at A-back, it feels like the beginning of the Paul Johnson era in Atlanta all over again for the unit.
- Here are 10 Miami players that could become much bigger factors in 2015.
- Louisville is splitting first-team reps at quarterback as spring practice gets underway. The Cardinals have a major question mark at quarterback.
- The defense was a little ahead of the offense at NC State on Tuesday, due in part to numbers.
- Prized signee C.J. Stalker is looking to adjust quickly for Virginia.
Glazer, speaking Tuesday to the Tampa Bay Times at the NFL's owners meetings in Phoenix, said he still has confidence despite coming off a 2-14 season that coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht will make the right selection come April 30 in Chicago.
"With anybody we're looking to draft, we do an extensive amount of work on their background, history and all that," Glazer told the newspaper. "We spent time with Jameis and Marcus and went into everything into their background. After everything we've done and where we're at right now, we're comfortable where Jameis is at, we're comfortable with Marcus or whoever else it could be."
Glazer said he views the past season as water under the bridge.
"We look at everything as live and learn," Glazer said. "So if there was an experience that happened and certain things didn't work out, to us it's more important to look into why it didn't work out and make sure we don't repeat the errors of the past.
"That's an area where I've spent a lot of time with Lovie and Jason. And there is no doubt, they're two people who would, A, admit a mistake if there was a mistake and move on rather than dig a deeper hole. And B, work to find out why this thing happened and correct it going forward."
Much of the conversation in the ACC surrounds Florida State's quarterback situation -- past, present and future. While Sean Maguire impresses coaches and teammates with his performance this spring through the first few practices, his predecessor remains in the news and his potential successor is making headlines.
Former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the favorite to go No. 1 overall, is leaning toward spending the draft with his family in Alabama rather than travel to Chicago, his father told ESPN.com last week. MMQB.com caught up with Roger Goodell and posted a story Monday in which Goodell said he would respect Winston's desire to watch the draft with those close to him.
"I think that it’s something we respect when a player says, “I’d like to be with my family on that day.” It’s an important day for them also," Goodell to MMQB.com.
Many wondered if the NFL would pressure Winston into attending the draft, but unless something changes, both parties are fine with skipping out on Chicago.
Winston was the No. 1 quarterback nationally in the 2012 recruiting class, and four years later, Florida State is bringing in the top-ranked prep quarterback again. Malik Henry, who recently transferred to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, participated in a regional camp for Nike The Opening. Henry, No. 3 overall in the 2016 class, was named one of the regional camp's MVPs and received an invitation to The Opening, which is held in July in Beaverton, Oregon.
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer also leads the Elite 11, an elite passing camp for the top high school quarterbacks, and was on hand at the Atlanta regional to evaluate the quarterbacks. He told SB Nation Henry was "as dominant as any kid we had this year."
- A top Syracuse 2015 signee is still working to academically qualify for the fall. Also, Orange is making a return in the Orange's jersey.
- Boston College added a commitment from Brandon Barlow (subscription required).
- Former Miami linebacker Alex Figueroa is lucky to have a second chance, but he is not off to a good start. He posted an expletive-laced video last week in which he burned a Miami flag. Figueroa and former Miami teammate JaWand Blue were permanently dismissed from the university last summer after admitting to police they sexually assaulted an intoxicated Miami student. In November, they avoided jail time by being placed in a pre-trial diversion program, which prosecution sought after the victim did not want to relive the experience in court.
- Clemson was back on the practice field Monday after nearly two weeks off for the Tigers' spring break.
- Five priorities for Georgia Tech this spring as practice began Monday (subscription required).
- Here are a few notes gleaned from Bobby Petrino's news conference to open spring practice, which begins Tuesday.
- The Pitt defense is working to pick up new coach Pat Narduzzi's schemes and principles. It's going to be a process.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The question aimed at Sean Maguire left no room for deflection or wavering. Maguire’s answer was equally forthright, leaving no ambiguities.
Is Florida State now your team?
“Yes,” the redshirt junior said. “I believe so.”
The fourth-year quarterback has spent most of his career as a backup, losing out on a four-way quarterback competition in 2013 and playing sparingly in mostly mop-up duty the last two seasons. He played in nine games in 2013 but threw only 21 passes. He played in only four games last year after a hand injury cost him a large chunk of the season. However, the Seminoles’ playoff chances were thrown onto the 6-foot-3, 224-pound signal-caller’s shoulders 21 hours before a season-defining game against division rival Clemson. It wasn’t a flawless performance but one that was wholly admirable, especially considering the circumstances. Late in the game, Maguire threw a long touchdown to force overtime. The Seminoles eventually prevailed.
It was enough to give Maguire the early leg up in this, the second four-way spring quarterback battle of his career. All indications are Maguire is taking full advantage of getting the first crack at the starting job through the first three spring practices.
“I’m very comfortable where I am, very comfortable with the offense, the team,” he said. “… I’m not worried about when Coach [Jimbo] Fisher is going to make his decision. That can’t affect anything that I do on the field. I’ve got to go out on the field every day whether he announces or doesn’t announce and practice and play the same way.”
Redshirt sophomore John Franklin III, redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino and true freshman De'Andre Johnson are Maguire’s counterparts in the spring competition, but there is a clear separation between Maguire and the remaining three at this point, based on the comments from Fisher and Maguire’s teammates. The position is Maguire’s to win.
In the aftermath following the Oregon loss that ended last season, Winston took hold of Maguire in the locker room and told his fellow Class of 2012 enrollee that the team belonged to Maguire and it was on him to lead the Seminoles. A week after the Rose Bowl, Maguire was organizing 7-on-7 drills to build a rapport with the receivers and running backs.
“All the receivers, Dalvin [Cook], they listen to me. They see me as the leader out there,” he said. “It’s very reassuring and adds to my confidence too.”
Junior receiver Jesus Wilson is the most experienced returning receiver with seven career starts. Maguire was tasked with earning the respect of a young group of receivers, running backs and offensive line, and Wilson said Maguire has done that.
“We got confidence in Sean,” Wilson said. “He’s stepping up, becoming a leader. It’s his time now.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he will respect Jameis Winston's decision if he stays at home with his family for the NFL draft rather than attend the event next month in Chicago.
Goodell made his comments in an interview with The MMQB.com and said that when he met with Winston recently, the Florida State quarterback "was clear that he wanted to spend time with his family."
Winston's father, Antonor, told ESPN.com last week that his son, who is widely projected to be selected with the No. 1 overall pick, does not plan to attend the draft, as he currently prefers to spend that day with family and friends in Alabama, although that "was not set in stone."
Goodell said he is not part of the invitation process for the draft, but he's "not concerned" if Winston is selected No. 1 but wouldn't be available to walk across the stage on draft day because he chose to stay home.
"I think that it's something we respect when a player says, 'I'd like to be with my family on that day.' It's an important day for them also," he told the website.
Ohio State defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1994, was the last No. 1 pick not to attend the draft.
The commissioner also discussed his recent meeting with Winston in New York City, which he said came at Winston's request.
"We certainly welcomed the opportunity to sit with Jameis and his representatives. We had several people affiliated with our office that met with him," he told the website.
The race to replace Jameis Winston as Florida State's starting quarterback was always going to be crowded enough. But De'Andre Johnson has no problem adding to the confusion early on.
Johnson has drawn early praise from the Seminoles' coach Jimbo Fisher through the early part of spring practice. The early enrollee made a number of impressive plays during Saturday's scrimmage, according to the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone.
From the Sentinel:
“I thought De’Andre Johnson had a really nice day today – does a lot of things very instinctively, man, I think that guy’s gonna be a really good player,” Fisher said after Saturday’s practice. “J.J. and John, they responded well.”
As Sonnone notes, it's always worth reading between the lines, especially when a player is mentioned unprovoked. But Johnson seems to be doing something right so far, and he may force us all to think beyond Sean Maguire, J.J. Cosentino and John Franklin if he keeps growing throughout the spring and summer.
Here are the rest of your Monday links:
- Andy Gallik impressed scouts at BC's pro day, Adam Kurkjian writes in the Boston Herald.
- Miami's second scrimmage was a sloppy affair, Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- Funny stuff from the NC State football Twitter feed.
- Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick shares some interesting thoughts on the future of college sports with CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd.
- Pitt's spring practices are getting more physical under Pat Narduzzi, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Syracuse quarterback A.J. Long clarifies recent comments he made about redshirting, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
Though the performances of the prospects were at the forefront, there were plenty of recruiting notes and some subtle messages delivered by prospects before the event began.
One of the best pictures of the day was ESPN Junior 300 wide receivers Tavares Chase and Kyle Davis. They could become rivals at the next level with Chase being committed to Clemson and Davis to South Carolina. The kink in the chain is the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Davis being a very "soft" verbal to the Gamecocks with Georgia, Auburn, and Tennessee all being in the mix. Though Chase was decked out in Clemson gear, Davis was very neutral. In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words considering Davis sounded like anything but a solid pledge Sunday.
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BUFORD, Ga. - Despite the cold and rainy weather conditions, more than 400 prospects from all over the Southeast made the trip to Buford High School for the Nike The Opening Regional Camp on Sunday.
Swain, the No. 214 prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, was one of the most impressive receivers and took home the wide receiver MVP as well as an invitation to The Opening. The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete from Citra (Florida) North Marion High School took advantage of his trip to Atlanta by visiting the University of Georgia on Saturday before attending the Nike camp. The visit turned out to be a success for the talented receiver.
“I just got offered by Georgia yesterday on my visit,” Swain said. "It was a lot of fun and I got to meet with coach Richt. He just said to keep working hard and he’ll see me in the spring.”
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Could an immediate reinforcement be on the way for Florida State's re-tooling offensive line? This weekend may go a long way toward determining that.
Former Notre Dame center Matt Hegarty is visiting Tallahassee on Friday through Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel's Brendan Sonnone reports. Hegarty confirmed his planned FSU visit to ESPN.com.
Hegarty started 11 of 13 games last year for the Fighting Irish, at center and at guard. He had told ESPN.com earlier this month that he planned to play football elsewhere upon receiving his undergraduate degree from Notre Dame this May. Hegarty will be immediately eligible to play wherever he ends up.
Hegarty had said that he was asked to switch positions, and Irish coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday that Hegarty would have had the opportunity to be the team's starting left guard. He is presumably looking to play center at his next stop, and that is one of several positions up for grabs on the Seminoles' offensive line, which lost four of five starters from last season.
Ryan Hoefield is currently the projected man in the middle of the Noles' line, though he struggled last season in limited action as a redshirt freshman.
As for who Hegarty or any other center would be snapping the ball to at FSU in 2015, well, that storyline figures to dominate the conversation throughout the spring and likely the summer.
Here are the rest of your Friday links:
- Grantland's Matt Hinton has an interesting article on all of the quarterback movement around the country, starting with former Clemson QB Chad Kelly, who is now at Ole Miss.
- Steve Addazio thinks Tyler Murphy is ready to take on the NFL as "an elite athlete," Mike Petraglia writes on WEEI.com.
- Former Georgia Tech safety Isaiah Johnson is gaining notice after pro day, Ken Suguira writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Malik Rosier stepped up Thursday in Brad Kaaya's absence (illness), Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- UNC's Twitter feed had some fun with a pair of ESPN personalities on #tbt.
- Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly thinks Jameis Winston was the best QB in college football.
- Pitt started slow in its first spring practice with pads, but it ended with emotion, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Here are five things to watch headed into Sunday.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher walked into his opening news conference with far fewer microphones and notepads staring back. That’s because of the number of new faces glaring back at the sixth-year coach in his own football meetings.
At this meeting with reporters -- almost exclusively of the local variety -- on the first day of spring camp, there was no talk of complacency or repeats or dynasties. There were hardly any questions about that former polarizing quarterback (of course there would be some). Instead, the afternoon session’s buzzwords were rooted in education: coach, patience, teach.
There is an obvious contrast in the Florida panhandle this spring. The Seminoles will have lost more than 30 players to the NFL draft over the past three years -- chief among them Jameis Winston. The Seminoles had a 29-game winning streak -- chief reason for it being Winston -- snapped in last season's finale.
So, Florida State, we’ll take that black hat from you while you exit stage left into relative (and welcomed) obscurity for the time being. The 2015 college football spring prospectus is focused on Alabama, TCU and USC. The only quarterback we’re interested in right now is the one in Columbus, Ohio -- whichever one the Buckeyes choose (or maybe don’t choose).
“I guess I’ve been in [coaching] long enough to have been on both ends of it,” Fisher said of the preseason hype, which besieged FSU last spring. “They’re relatively similar from a coaching standpoint in that you’ve still got to go develop your team. I know y’all don’t look at it that way, but we do.
“… But it does feel different.”
The Seminoles have been freed of the “media hoopla,” as Fisher referred to it, that embroiled the 2014 season. Though there is the lingering question of whether they can withstand the constant cycling and remain at college football’s summit, most of the outside pressures have been lifted as the early belief is the 2015 Seminoles will step back. (Colleague Mark Schlabach has them No. 15 in his Way-Too-Early Top 25.) The offense is being overhauled and is auditioning for a quarterback. The defense is rallying from the loss of two former five-star linemen and its starting corners. The core of the 2014 team and a dozen of its members are all off to certain NFL futures.
Roberto Aguayo, one of the few draft-eligible players that elected to remain in school, said it feels like a new era has been ushered in around campus.
“We’re forced to have that chip on our shoulder. We had it last year but now it’s more realistic,” he said. “Obviously we don’t have a starting quarterback right now. … Jameis is a one-of-a-kind quarterback and now we don’t have him.”
Florida State is embracing the challenge, which all elite programs go through every few seasons. The better the recruiting, the quicker the roster churns over and the higher the demand placed on young players to make earlier impacts. Although Florida State has recruited better than any program outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that talent is still undergoing the required maturation. Dalvin Cook and Jalen Ramsey present the freshmen exception rather than the rule as most first-year players serve as understudies. With a young roster, Florida State’s staff is tasked with molding it so the newer Seminoles are ready to contribute come September.
“To me, that’s why it’s exciting to watch these new pups develop into football players,” Fisher said. “Sometimes it can be a frustrating thing, but at the same time it’s very fun. You have to remember to keep your patience because you see the talent. … I think we have to continue to make sure we’re dotting I’s and crossing T’s and making sure they know exactly what we want. Because if we do that, I think we have a chance to be another very, very good football team.”
It’s too early to size up the picture of the 2015 season after a single brush, but Fisher was chipper following the Seminoles’ first spring practice. Redshirt junior Sean Maguire started the quarterback competition with a leg up based on his experience, but he took control of his first practice with his voice as much as his arm, said Fisher, notorious for coaching his quarterbacks hard.
“It looked like he wanted that job and was in control of things,” Fisher said. “… I was very pleased with his demeanor and execution and decision-making.”
“… Again, it’s day one.”
In more than one way.
This year’s group of wide receivers just might top them all. An astounding 15 wideouts from the Sunshine State are listed in the ESPN Junior 300. It’s the deepest wide receiver class to come out of Florida in recent memory.
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Goodell Has Sit-Down With Jameis Winston
TBD South Carolina North Carolina TBD Duke Tulane TBD Alcorn State Georgia Tech TBD Elon Wake Forest
TBD Maine Boston College TBD Wofford Clemson TBD Texas State Florida St TBD Bethune-Cookman Miami (FL) TBD Troy North Carolina State TBD Youngstown State Pittsburgh TBD Rhode Island Syracuse TBD Virginia UCLA TBD Louisville Auburn