TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s no gray in Nate Andrews’ beard, although that hasn’t stopped teammates from teasing him about his place as the elder statesman in Florida State’s secondary.
“The whole defense always makes fun of me,” Andrew said with a smile after FSU’s practice on Saturday afternoon. “They always say I’ve been here 10 years.”
No, it hasn’t quite been that long, but Andrews has seen – and been through – a lot since arriving as a freshman in 2013.
He spent that 2013 season as one of the team’s most pleasant surprises, an under-the-radar recruit who grabbed the most interceptions (four) among a secondary loaded with future NFL draft picks.
The years that followed, however, have been beset by injuries, the worst of which was a torn pectoral muscle that cost Andrew most of the 2016 season.
That would have been Andrews’ senior year. Instead, he received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and is back for one more year.
Now with the wisdom and perspective of a fifth-year senior, Andrews is ready to make the most of his final lap.
“It was tough,” Andrews said of last season. “I didn’t know at first, but I just kept the faith. It’s good to be back.”
For coach Jimbo Fisher, the feeling is mutual. Andrews is one of just seven fifth-year seniors on the Seminoles’ roster, and is the most-experienced member of the FSU secondary.
Having Andrews’ veteran presence, as well as his versatility – he has played safety, “star” and “money” during his career – back in the fold could come in handy for a defense looking to replace the leadership of the departed DeMarcus Walker and Marquez White.
“We’re glad to have him,” Fisher said. “Because Nate has been a super player for us and, more important, a super guy.”
Izzo in search of favorable matchups
While much the preseason buzz around FSU’s receiving corps surrounds Nyqwan Murray, Auden Tate and Keith Gavin, the Seminoles also have high expectations for tight end Ryan Izzo.
Izzo’s 19 catches last year are third-most among FSU’s returning receivers. And with the passing game set to move forward without stalwarts Travis Rudolph, Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield – as well as running back Dalvin Cook, who had the second-most receiving yards on the team last year – Izzo knows he and his fellow tight ends could bear a heavier burden this year.
“After having all those playmakers leave last year, we knew that we were going to have to step up,” Izzo said. “We were going to get an opportunity.”
Step up and, maybe, step out.
Izzo said he’s spent time this spring lined up either out wide or in the slot, where he can use his larger frame (6-5, 245 pounds) to find a favorable matchup against smaller defensive backs.
It’s a role Izzo is used to: as a prep standout at Pope John Paul XXIII High in New Jersey, Izzo played almost exclusively out wide.
“I like it a lot,” he said. “Back in high school, I was split out most of the time. Getting that role back, being there more often is something I’m looking forward to.”
Seminoles look to up the energy in second scrimmage
Izzo didn’t mince words when describing FSU’s effort in its first scrimmage last week.
“We didn’t do what we had to do,” he said. “Simple as that.”
As a result, Izzo and the Seminoles are looking for an improved effort on Monday, when they hold their final scrimmage before the Garnet and Gold spring game on April 8.
And Izzo, a redshirt junior, believes it’s up to the team’s veterans to set the tone.
“We didn’t have the energy we needed,” he said. “So I think it’s time for the leaders to step up, start talking more. Me, Deondre (Francois), even ‘Noonie’ (Murray). And then Trey (Marshall) and Derwin (James) on defense.”
While a second scrimmage can often be a good gauge of a team’s progress, Fisher said they’ve run the full spectrum during his tenure at FSU.
“Sometimes they have been better, and sometimes they have been bad,” he said. “That is just how it goes. You have to keep the mindset of your team and you have to keep pushing and be competitive moving forward.”
Fisher meets ‘Moonlight’ staff
Barry Jenkins, the FSU film school alum who directed the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” visited campus Friday in advance of a screening of the film at Ruby Diamond Auditorium.
In addition to meetings with FSU students and university president John Thrasher, Jenkins also paid a visit to Fisher’s office, where the two talked movies and football on Friday afternoon.
The Florida State College of Motion Picture Arts is located in Building A of the University Center, right around the corner from the Moore Athletic Center at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The best of the best.@BandryBarry and the @moonlightmov crew stopped by our offices today. pic.twitter.com/lvP7tCfcYd— FSU Football (@FSU_Football) March 31, 2017
“That was great,” Fisher said. “When you win an Academy Award, that’s the epitome of what you do. To come from nowhere like they did and be able win it. He’s just a great, great people. It was great to see Florida State represented so well. Very proud of them and happy for them. Happy to be a part of Florida State.”
Jenkins even joked that he’d put Fisher in a movie one day.
“Yeah,” Fisher said with a smile. “I’d be a heck of an actor.”