By Tim Linafelt and Zach Stipe
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jimbo Fisher knows he has talented players on his team.
Those players will get to show off that talent once spring practice begins later this month.
But on Thursday, and for the past few weeks, Fisher has focused less on his team’s talent and more on developing its mental and physical toughness.
That’s the goal of FSU’s annual Fourth Quarter conditioning drills, a month-long exercise regimen that puts the Seminoles through a variety of strenuous workouts.
“(It’s) the discipline part of it,” Fisher said after FSU held its last Fourth-Quarter session on Thursday. “The effort part of it, the pride you take, the mental and physical toughness to be able to push through things. To be able to know when you’re tired and a guy’s counting on you, can you still push?
“It’s all the things that have nothing to do with talent. This has nothing to do with talent.”Video
To that end, Fisher is pleased. He said this year’s team is “fun to coach,” and that he’s anxious to see how the attitudes formed during Fourth Quarter Drills carry over to the practice fields.
He’s also anxious to unleash the eight freshman early-enrollees who got a jump on their college careers by participating.
He singled out defensive back Derwin James and quarterback De’Andre Johnson – both of whom have battled recent illnesses – for their efforts and said that they have quickly acclimated to their new surroundings.
“This (early-enrollee) group here jumped on it really quickly,” Fisher said. “They were one of the quickest groups we’ve had. As an overall group, all eight of them, they did it really quickly.”
Those eight newcomers of course weren’t here for the 2014 season.
For the ones who were, Fourth Quarter drills offered a first chance to get back on to the field – and maybe let out some aggression – after a disappointing loss to Oregon in January’s Rose Bowl.
For a program that won 27 games over the last two seasons and lost just one, the sting of defeat can linger a little longer. FSU is entering a new season having lost its bowl game for the first time since 2008.
“They don’t like that image of themselves,” Fisher said. “Any time you’re a competitor, you always do that. You want to flush it and move on and go prove that wasn’t us.
“A lot of them don’t like it, I know that. (Now) you get a chance to do something about it.”
Ryan Green Moving to Defensive Back
Fisher confirmed that rising junior Ryan Green will move to defensive back after playing his first two years at running back.
“He looks really good,” Fisher said. “I’ve been pleased with his movement out here. He’s as explosive and athletic as anybody on this team – bar none. I think he will be special there. I think he has the chance to be a really good player there.
Green totaled 39 carries for 194 yards (5.0 ypc) and one touchdown as a reserve running back in 2013-14. He was a four-star prospect at both running back and cornerback at St. Petersburg Catholic high school and was recruited by many schools as an athlete.
Several Seminoles have had success moving positions during Fisher’s tenure – most notably Xavier Rhodes and Cameron Erving. Rhodes entered FSU as a wide receiver, but eventually starred at cornerback and was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Erving began his career as a defensive tackle before becoming an All-American offensive lineman who is projected to be a first- or second-round pick later this spring.
“If I didn’t see that they had NFL potential to be great at one position rather than the other then I wouldn’t do it,” Fisher said.
Maguire Emerging as a Leader
Fisher wouldn’t say if he had plans to name a starter at quarterback by the end of spring practice, but did compliment the signal-callers looking to replace Jameis Winston – especially rising redshirt junior Sean Maguire.
Maguire has the only in-game experience any of the scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, including one start in which he tossed for 304 yards to lead Florida State to an overtime win over Clemson last fall.
"I see a very good leader,” Fisher said. “He had a hand that was tight (today), but he had been having great Fourth Quarter drills. The presence, the command, talking more to guys – ‘It’s my time.’
“He's been in live action, been in big games, and knows the offense and the system."
Rising redshirt sophomore John Franklin III, rising redshirt freshman J.J. Cosentino and true freshman De’Andre Johnson will all be vying for reps at quarterback this spring as well.
Sophomores standing out
A significant portion of FSU’s rising sophomore class, most of which arrived last summer, got its first taste of Fourth Quarter drills, too.
Fisher reeled off six names of second-year players who have made big strides in the offseason.
That group includes receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane, defensive linemen Derrick Nnadi, Jacob Pugh and Lorenzo Featherston, and offensive lineman Roderick Johnson, who Fisher said “looks like he’s been here 10 years.”
“He’s a veteran already,” Fisher said.
‘I don’t want to play against him’
Like most of the football world, Fisher watched as former FSU quarterback Jameis Winston wowed at last week’s NFL scouting combine.
Following his performance, Winston has vaulted to the top of several mock drafts and is a strong candidate to be selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But Fisher, who recruited Winston and coached him for three years, said that Winston didn’t do anything at the combine that he didn’t regularly do in Tallahassee.
“Nothing that guy does shocks me,” Fisher said. “His intelligence level and ability to process information, learn and make guys better – but throwing a football, he’s one of the few that’s really, really blessed.”
Fisher noted that he’s not familiar with the Buccaneers enough to say what they should do, but he did offer a consistent message for when teams ask about Winston.
“Here’s what I tell them,” Fisher said, “I don’t want to play against him.”
Other Odds and Ends
Fisher confirmed that linebacker Kain Daub will transfer and cleared up that early-enrollee wide receiver Davante Phillips had groin surgery and will likely miss spring practice. Several players – such as fifth-year senior linebacker Terrance Smith and redshirt freshman tight end Mavin Saunders – were held out of Thursday’s final Fourth Quarter Drills workout because of minor injuries, but are expected to be ready for the start of spring practice.