FSU Beat: Fisher Relaxed, Seminoles Ready

Game week is finally upon us and the Florida State Seminoles are prepared to take on the first of two cupcakes in the form of Murray State, this weekend at Doak Campbell Stadium. At the outset of fall camp, there were a few things the Seminoles were looking to learn about their football team–the most pressing questions surrounding a very young, albeit huge, offensive line. There are plenty of interesting insights to take away from fall camp and yesterday’s release of the week one depth chart, so today we will take a look at some of the key takeaways heading into what could be a special 2012 campaign for the ‘Noles.

No longer young and talented; Just plain talented

Despite the Seminoles bringing in one of the most talented recruiting classes in the nation in 2012 from top to bottom, there are only two true freshman that cracked the entire two-deep out of an available 44 spots. Facts like this are the reason many on the national scene feel good about the chances of FSU contending in 2012. The Seminoles have 11 players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees and return nearly 90% of 2011’s two deep. This is a team full of experience and talent, which explains the high expectations. What it also means is that any inkling of excuses in the event that this team under-performs had better not include the words “young” or “inexperienced”.

Menelik Watson takes RT for now

This is big news for a few reasons. Menelik Watson was a guy that many were hoping would come in and be a revelation at right tackle to help solidify Florida State’s offensive line. Watson is a British born JUCO transfer who has only played in eight football games in his life. He stands at 6-6 and weighs a very impressive and well put together 320 lbs. Despite his inexperience, Watson’s background as a former boxer and college basketball player give him a very unique blend of athleticism to bring to the table. He drew the praise of both Jimbo Fisher and starting QB EJ Manuel on Monday, when both gave him credit for his great work ethic and natural instincts. Watson has yet to play a down of Div-1 football, and the next two weeks will be dress rehearsals at best, but for now it appears that he is the answer at right tackle.

If asked back in December, many would have assumed that true sophomore Bobby Hart would be the starting right tackle for opening day, barring injury. Bobby Hart is healthy and not starting. Last season, Hart started in half the Seminoles’ games as a 17 year old true freshman. What Hart may have found out the hard way is that his seeing the field early may have been much more a product of poor depth and necessity than it was his own merit. Granted, Bobby Hart is an incredibly talented young player with a ton of upside and could very well leave FSU without having entered his physical prime just yet, but playing a 17 year old offensive linemen is never ideal. FSU was in bad shape. While the depth is better this season and Hart is not a starter, he would still be one of the first options off of the bench in the event that an injury occurred.

FSU’s young DT’s are special and unique

Florida State hit the jackpot at the defensive tackle position over the past two recruiting cycles–most notably in true sophomore Tim Jernigan and true freshman Eddie Goldman. Both players were either arguably or irrefutably the best DT prospects in the country for their respective classes. Jernigan showed his worth last season with an incredible season at a position in which true freshmen are seldom able to contribute right away. The buzz on Jernigan was apparent the moment he set foot on the practice fields in Tallahassee, and it appears that Eddie Goldman is drawing similar praise.

What is unique about these two, who have an opportunity to pair as a dominant tandem down the road, is that they each have prototypical body types for the positions that are opposite what they actually play. What makes them special, is that each player could easily be successful at either the 3-technique or 1-technique inside. Timmy Jernigan is 6-3, 298 lbs. and possesses incredibly quick and powerful hands. He proved himself to be adept at gaining penetration last season by leading the team in tackles for loss and sacks among interior linemen. Despite this, he is listed as the team’s 2nd team nose tackle. Nose tackle is usually seen as the space eater, who holds the point of attack and prevents the huge gaps that plague bad run defenses from forming. Jernigan has enough strength and great technique that allows him to play that spot, despite being “undersized” at 298 lbs.

Conversely, Eddie Goldman was confirmed by Jimbo Fisher as a 3-technique, despite standing at 6-4 and weighing 320 lbs. He is massive, but he is also long, which allows him to create space between himself and would be blockers when he uses his hands properly. He also possesses excellent foot quickness and a motor, not just for his size, but by any measure for interior defensive linemen. Both of these young players possess the athletic ability and raw gifts necessary to be interchangeable on the inside. They still have a lot of experience to gain, but fortunately for Florida State, their depth at defensive tackle will allow that development to continue to be brought along at a steady pace. Jernigan will continue to play a prominent role in the FSU front, of course, while Eddie Goldman takes occasional snaps in his debut season.

Waisome vs. Darby

The dismissal of electrifying senior corner and punt returner Greg Reid caught college football fans off guard just three short weeks ago. Reid’s dismissal created a vacancy at the field corner position for FSU that would feature two talented and highly touted young players who have yet to prove themselves at the college level. True freshman Ronald Darby has been drawing most of the praise from teammates and coaches since the start of fall camp, but all those who sing the speedster’s praises are careful not to concede his victory over Nick Waisome. Waisome was regarded as one of the best pure cover corners in the 2011 class. He gives up the edge in size to Darby, standing at 5-9 and weighing 170 lbs. Darby also holds the edge in speed, as he was one of the fastest sprinters in the country.

Ronald Darby stands at 5-11 and just under 190 lbs. Because of the combination of his measurables and the abundance of praise he has received, it is believed by many that he will claim the starting job at some point before the 2012 season is over. As of week one, Nick Waisome is the man with the job. Without question, this is one that could change at some point throughout the year and will be a battle to keep an eye on from week to week.

Upbeat Jimbo Fisher

One observation that Seminole fans and media alike have made is the difference in confidence level of Jimbo Fisher in regards to this team. Fisher is notorious for “coach speak” and saying a lot of words without sharing much information. Prior to this season he was reluctant to explicitly state whether he felt his team was good or bad. He would have consistently inconsistent reactions to the way the Seminoles would practice from day to day. One day they would draw his praise and the next he would be visibly upset and have a laundry list of complaints and criticisms. It is evident that Jimbo Fisher likes this particular team a great deal, and overall seems to be much happier.

Last season was one full of turmoil for Jimbo Fisher, as his family embarked on the journey of battling young Ethan’s Fanconi Anemia and the pressure of resurrecting the Seminole football program mounted simultaneously. The team would suffer copious amounts of injuries, making it nearly impossible to create continuity and comfort on the offensive side of the ball, and at times Fisher himself would seem overwhelmed in game situations. With things being much more calm, both in the head coach’s personal life and surrounding the team on the injury front, Florida State fans can hope that the visible change in Fisher’s mood will result in a very real improvement on the field of play.


Adam Tolliver, @primediscussion on TwitterAdam Tolliver is an Atlanta, GA native and college football enthusiast who has been covering Florida State Seminole sports for three years. He is currently a contributor at Tomahawknation.com and XOFan.com, where he consistently delivers honest and accurate commentary and reporting regarding Florida State Seminole Football and Men’s Basketball. You can find Adam’s personal twitter account @primediscussion, where he spouts out about all things under the sun, or you can follow @Unconquered_FSU, which is exclusively dedicated to FSU Sports.

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