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Nothing Tricky About Toughness Plan

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff




April 17, 2007

TALLAHASSEE — Bobby Bowden never hesitated. From the moment he lured Rick Trickett away from West Virginia — the first of five hires in the most extensive staff overhaul in his 32 seasons at Florida State — Bowden said that the new offensive line coach may be the single most important factor in his program’s re-tooled equation. Bowden got no argument from anyone who had the opportunity to watch the new-look Seminoles this spring on the practice fields. Trickett, a small man in stature charged with the large task of shaping up the team’s much-maligned offensive line, has done just that. Collectively, the unit has shed much more than the 200 pounds Trickett claimed to have trimmed from their waistlines. “Jenny Craig is coming to town,” Trickett told his charges during their initial segment meeting in January. Thanks to their rigorous workout schedule, there is a lot less of the “Big Uglies” to go around. The blockers’ new routine included runs at dawn five days a week, countless hours in the weight room, and closely monitored diets with the assistance of nutrition specialists. “I can see my shoes,” FSU right tackle Shannon Boatman said. Center John Frady, a 13-game starter last season, when he played at 315 pounds, dipped well below 280 as a result of the conditioning. “It has taken some getting used to, not having quite as much lead to stop people, but I’m getting used to it,” said Frady, who was challenged this spring by converted defensive tackle Ryan McMahon, a redshirt freshman. “I feel quicker. I have a lot more energy, a lot more stamina.” Based on the spring returns, FSU fans should be able to see the direct results of Trickett’s demanding regimen in the fall. Tailbacks Antone Smith, Jamaal Edwards and Marcus Sims no longer are tip-toeing around the line in search for daylight. Smith averaged nearly 10 yards per carry in the spring scrimmages, as the backs broke off long runs on a daily basis. They can thank Trickett, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, for not only taking significant steps to cut the fat, but to callous his unit as well. Perhaps more importantly, his approach rubbed off in other areas during March and April, when wide receivers regularly were seen laying out cornerbacks with downfield blocks, much to the defenders’ chagrin. To suggest that there was a need for a fresh approach would be a gross understatement. Over the past two seasons, FSU’s rushing offense ranked as one of the worst in the nation. The Seminoles “improved” to 103rd out of 119 Division I-A teams in rushing offense in 2006, mustering 96.5 yards per game at a clip of 3.4 yards per carry. That was up from their 2005 output (94.0, 3.3), which ranked 109th out of 117 teams. Those numbers simply didn’t cut it for a team that was reduced to wing-and-a-prayer play-calling in several big games. New offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, like Trickett a West Virginia native, has hammered the importance of a balanced attack from the day he arrived in Tallahassee. And make no mistake, Trickett’s decision to sign on with FSU had no small role in Fisher’s decision to join the Seminoles. They had worked together effectively at both Auburn and LSU. Rigorous conditioning was just part of the equation. By the time the Seminoles completed their offseason program and headed out to the practice field, the seeds had been planted. The first two days of practice, which moved along at a noticeably more brisk pace from period to period, were spent in shorts, t-shirts and helmets. That’s standard procedure, though the action on the field was decidedly not. Trickett’s troops were engaged in hand-to-hand combat, despite their “non-contact” attire, with Trickett barking out orders and jumping in with hands-on demonstration of how he expected things to be done. To no one’s surprise, the first few days in pads produced a significant number of skirmishes, with the offensive linemen showing signs of adopting their coach’s personality. In an effort to foster that combative mentality, Fisher also insisted that the Seminoles spend a significant amount of time scrimmaging. That was a dramatic departure from the days when Bowden would wince at the thought of seeing his finesse-based offense strap it on against Mickey Andrews’ defense. The fear of suffering injuries with additional scrimmages finally has subsided. “We ain’t pulling back,” Bowden said. “We’re not pulling back. We have been soft, and we are trying to get out of that softness.” Trickett, who occasionally was seen whacking his linemen upside the head with his baseball cap after blown assignments, set the tone. “He brings an attitude and swagger to the unit that we haven’t had in a while,” Frady said. “There’s no question in his mind that we’re going to be a good unit. It’s just a matter of, we have to get the same attitude he’s got. That’s one of the big things we’re trying to accomplish, starting with our defense, to let them see we’re not the same offense we were last year. We’re going to come out there and get after them and keep getting after them, play after play.” FSU’s defenders noticed the difference. “They are playing more aggressive,” veteran defensive end Alex Boston said. “They are reading their blocks. That’s going to make the d-line tougher. Coach Trickett and that whole staff over there is doing a great job. They are finishing plays. They are fighting and bringing more competition to practice.” At one point this spring, after another big scrimmage by the offense, Andrews told his defensive unit that they simply weren’t tough enough to contend with the offensive line. Trickett has fostered a competitive atmosphere, showing no favoritism toward the veterans. Caz Piurowski, a tight end in the fall, spent a portion of the spring starting in front of Boatman. Dumaka Atkins, last season’s backup center, worked at right guard, often alongside McMahon at center. “There’s no job security for anybody at this point,” Frady said. Trickett wouldn’t have it any other way. He wants his charges to play with an edge and a tenacity, which will allow them to get out and attack, leading the downfield charge. That point was made clear when he was asked about Atkins’ progress since moving to guard. “Dumaka has got to learn to turn it loose a lot more,” Trickett said. “He plays under control, and we’re not going to have that. … They are either going to adjust or they won’t. We are going to find the five that adjust.” Trickett did just that at West Virginia, converting a group of unheralded offensive linemen into a unit that paved the way for one of the nation’s most explosive rushing offenses over the past two seasons. That’s the reason Bowden initially approached him about taking FSU’s offensive line job in January 2004, after the Seminoles defeated West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. Rebuffed at the time, Bowden came calling again after two years of dismal results. By the look of things at spring practice, the Seminoles may have found a catalyst capable of turning around their once-proud program.

-- Bob Thomas
Florida Times-Union

Spring 2007 Overview

The PooP

Six years ago, the Sports Journal correctly predicted what was then unthinkable: the return to mortality of a program that had a ridiculous 14 straight top-four finishes nationally. FSU has captured only one of the last three ACC championships, and the Seminoles’ relatively pedestrian records over the past five seasons (8-4, 9-5, 9-3, 8-5, 7-6) have made them look a lot like everyone else. This team still has some amazing top-shelf talent, but its annual talent/depth combination is no longer overwhelming, even by conference standards.

Probable 2007 Starters

Offense

Pos. Name Ht./Wt. Class
QB Drew Weatherford^ 6-3/220 *Jr.
RB Antone Smith 5-9/188 Jr.
FB Joe Surratt^ 6-1/258 Sr.
WR Greg Carr 6-5/212 Jr.
WR De’Cody Fagg^ 6-3/218 Sr.
TE Charlie Graham 6-3/240 *So.
LT David Overmyer 6-5/280 *Sr.
LG Jacky Claude^ 6-4/290 Sr.
OC John Frady^ 6-4/279 *Sr.
RG Dumaka Atkins 6-4/304 *Jr.
RT Shannon Boatman^ 6-7/324 Sr.
PK Gary Cismesia^ 5-11/211 Sr.

Defense

DE Alex Boston^ 6-3/264 *Sr.
NG Andre Fluellen^ 6-4/286 *Sr.
DT Paul Griffin+ 6-1/288 Sr.
DE Kevin McNeil+ 6-3/255 So.
LB Marcus Ball+ 6-0/213 So.
LB Geno Hayes^ 6-2/211 Jr.
LB Derek Nicholson+ 6-2/230 Jr.
RV Myron Rolle^ 6-2/218 So.
FS Roger Williams^ 6-0/200 *Sr.
CB Tony Carter^ 5-9/160 *Jr.
CB Michael Ray Garvin^ 5-8/181 Jr.
P Graham Gano^ 6-1/190 Jr.

  • — redshirted ^ — six/more 2006 starts
  • — injured/missed spring drills

Coming On Strong

Smith, Carr, Fluellen, Hayes, Rolle and Carter have All-ACC ability and were outstanding in April. Also: Griffin, WR Rod Owens, WR Preston Parker, OC Ryan McMahon, DE Everette Brown, DT Letroy Guion, upgraded staff.

Cause For Concern?

FSU is famous for its linebackers, but star Lawrence Timmons left early for the NFL, and two other key players are coming back from serious injuries. Also: rebuilt o-line, tight end, corner opposite Carter, injuries, depth at many positions.

2007 Schedule

Date Opponent 2006 Record
Sept. 3 at Clemson 8-5 (5-3)
Sept. 8 Alabama-Birmingham 3-9 (2-6)
Sept. 15 at Colorado 2-10 (2-6)
Sept. 22 OPEN
Sept. 29 Alabama 6-7 (2-6)
Oct. 6 N.C. State 3-9 (2-6)
Oct. 11 at Wake Forest 11-3 (6-2)
Oct. 20 Miami 7-6 (3-5)
Oct. 27 Duke 0-12 (0-8)
Nov. 3 at Boston College 10-3 (5-3)
Nov. 10 at Virginia Tech 10-3 (6-2)
Nov. 17 Maryland 9-4 (5-3)
Nov. 24 at Florida 13-1 (7-1)

Spring Cleaning

The following scholarship athletes left the program in the last 12-24 months with eligibility remaining but were not listed as departures in our previous (annual) reviews: DB Trevor Ford (transfer/Troy), PK Chase Goggans (chose to graduate), DT Aaron Jones (transfer/Eastern Kentucky), WR Kenny O’Neal (dismissed/juco/Tennessee), LB Lawrence Timmons (NFL draft), DB Clarence Ward (transfer/juco), TE Brandon Warren (transfer).

Chart By: David Glenn