TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State hit spring practice with two major questions -- who would start at quarterback this season, and how would the new coaching staff come together?
I got a little bit of insight into both Wednesday, when coach Jimbo Fisher opened the entire 2 1/2-hour practice to the media for the first time this spring. It was my lucky day!
I paid close attention to the quarterback competition between Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. From my viewpoint, Trickett looks to be the clear front-runner, as he should, given the time he has spent in the system and his past game experience. He knows the offense the best of the three; he seemed comfortable and at ease; and his passes were crisp and sharp, and went exactly where they needed to go.
Now, it should be noted that both Coker and Winston have been limited this spring. Coker is still not 100 percent as he recovers from a foot injury, and Fisher acknowledged after practice that his quarterback was unable to display the athleticism that makes him so good.
"But I’m not concerned about that right now," Fisher said. "I know he can do those things. I want him to win from the pocket right now. Make decisions, lead and do those things."
As for Winston, the team is monitoring his throws this spring because of his dual commitment to baseball, especially following games in which he pitches. Winston pitched Sunday out of the bullpen against Georgia Tech, and was a little sore following the game. Again, this is not a concern to Fisher but clearly something the team has to be sensitive to as Winston does both this spring. Winston, by the way, seems to be the most vocal of the three, bringing an extra bounce to practice.
Now on to the new assistants. I was impressed with the energy, passion and tempo they brought to the field Wednesday. This is a boisterous group unafraid to get in the faces of their players. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett used to be the loudest of the bunch, but that title belongs to new defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri, whose booming voice could be heard for most of the practice.
In particular, he was on Giorgio Newberry for a good part of the practice, clearly realizing how much potential his player has as the Seminoles work to replace both starting ends. Newberry has the physical tools, and he looks very impressive in person. Now he has to take the next step and dominate consistently in games.
Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was on his players, too, hollering one minute, then pulling a player aside for a teachable moment the next. Coaches want to teach first and foremost this spring, and you definitely saw a lot of that going on during the open practice.
One more note: Kelvin Benjamin was all the rage headed into last season as a player who could be a star on the rise given his size (6-foot-5, 242 pounds), speed and athleticism. He had a productive first year with 30 catches for 495 yards and four touchdowns, but was maddeningly inconsistent. In the final three games of the season, he had a combined two catches for 16 yards (including a goose egg against Florida).
Benjamin is incredibly impressive in person because he is just so big. He towers over just about everybody on the field. What you now want to see out of him is complete domination. He should be winning his one-on-one matchups more; he should be able to come down with every fade pass in the end zone; he should become an All-ACC receiver. Can he?
That's it for now. Check back later for much more.