Monday, April 15, 2013
FSU's spring winners and losers
By David M. Hale
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- While Jimbo Fisher won't be etching anything into stone after Saturday's spring game, there were clearly a few players who took big leaps forward during the past month and a few more who saw significant opportunities slip away.
The performance: Winston entered the spring third on the depth chart, but tops in potential. He didn't disappoint. By spring's end, he was splitting first-team reps with Clint Trickett and dominated FSU's spring game, solidifying his place as the fan's choice for the starting job even if Fisher hasn't made anything official.
What comes next: Heisman? National championship? The Hall of Fame? With Winston, there doesn't appear to be such a thing as setting the bar too high. Fisher might be trying to temper expectations, but that's likely a lost cause. Winston still has plenty of work to do before he reaches the vast heights predicted for him, but he's only burnished his resume during the past month. What comes next for him though? "It's baseball season," he said after Saturday's spring game.
Trouble with the NCAA kep Demarcus Walker out of spring practice and kept him from earning a significant role.
The performance: There's not much argument about Williams' potential, as Fisher believes the sophomore could be NFL-bound by the end of his FSU career. But after a freshman campaign spent largely on special teams, Williams finally got a chance to grab the spotlight amid a rash of injuries in the secondary. He made the most of the opportunity, capping off a solid month of practices with an interception he returned for a touchdown in Saturday's spring game.
What comes next: If Florida State is dealing with an overabundance of quality quarterbacks on offense, it might have an even bigger surplus in the secondary on defense. Williams got a ton of reps this spring because four other defensive backs were out with injuries, but the competition gets stiffer in the fall when Ronald Darby, Tyler Hunter and Nick Waisome return and top recruit Jalen Ramsey joins the fray. But Williams did enough this spring that he's not likely to be lost in the shuffle, and even if he can't earn a heavy slice of playing time in 2013, he is primed to blossom into a star in 2014 and beyond.
The performance: Between an ill-advised move to tight end and a serious knee injury in fall camp, 2012 was a lost year for Hicks, but he seems to be making up for lost time now. He was moved back to defensive end before spring practice began, and while there was a bit of rust to be shaken off, he adjusted quickly. Hicks earned raves from teammates and coaches for his performance, with new ends coach Sal Sunseri suggesting he was one of the most talented players at the position.
What comes next: Given the massive overhaul at defensive end, Hicks' strong spring has likely earned him some serious playing time. Whether he can grab a starting job remains to be seen, but as Mario Edwards Jr., Giorgio Newberry and Chris Casher all had up-and-down performances this spring, Hicks now seems as likely a candidate as any.
The performance: Mostly, it was just a lot of standing around and watching. The highly touted freshman enrolled early at FSU in January and was enjoying a relatively smooth transition until the NCAA got involved. A snag with an online course he took in high school caused an investigation, and there's still no resolution. That kept Walker on the sidelines all of spring practice, essentially undermining what could have been a legitimate opportunity to earn some quick playing time at a position of need.
What comes next: Hopefully for the Seminoles, an answer from the NCAA. Fisher said the course in question has been used by other athletes from the same school without problems, and he believes the issue will eventually be settled. But with appeals following appeals, it's tough to say when Walker will finally be cleared to practice. Even if he opens fall camp without restrictions, though, he's missed his best opportunity to get a leg up in the competition for playing time.
The performance: Bracy's been impressive this spring -- just not on the football field. The speedster spent the spring working out with FSU's track team, and while his future could be incredibly bright as a sprinter, he definitely didn't do himself any favors in the sport that's funding his scholarship. Fisher said Bracy was a regular in team meetings and film study, but no time on the practice field likely means minimal action on game days.
What comes next: Bracy's speed makes him an obvious weapon, even in a niche role. Despite the lack of practice time -- and, for what it's worth, injuries limited his practice time last fall, too -- Bracy could easily fit in as part of the return game or on end-arounds and other gimmick plays. But, as Fisher noted, if other teams are aware that's all Bracy can do, those plays are telegraphed well before the snap, and that's not an ideal scenario.
The performance: It's hard to knock Coker's performance this spring, as he turned in some solid work throughout camp and even had a few nice throws in the spring game before finishing on a down note with two INTs. Coker was limited, too, by a broken bone in his foot that kept him from showcasing his athleticism, which is among his best attributes. Still, there's no ignoring that in a crowded field of contenders, Coker didn't do enough to stand out this spring, which puts him well behind going forward.
What comes next: Technically speaking, the job is still Coker's for the taking, but he's got an awful lot of catching up to do. If he winds up as a backup, it becomes a serious question of whether he'd be interested in sticking around long term only to watch Winston blossom into a star. Coker has three years of eligibility remaining, and while he insists he wants to spend them at Florida State, the reality is he has enough talent that there's likely a starting job waiting for him somewhere else.