Tallahassee, FL - There has been a renewed focus on the Florida State football practice field this week. The emotional scars of consecutive, end-game defeats have provided the Seminoles with a new resolve entering Saturday night’s game against Clemson.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he detected a “sense of urgency” among the players, who remain in the thick of the ACC Atlantic Division race with two league games remaining.
“After the two losses I can truly say practice has been like the beginning of the season, when we came out with a chip on our shoulders, like we had something to prove,” said sophomore defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel. That’s how we’ve practiced.”
The Seminoles (6-3, 4-2 ACC) cannot afford another league loss as they attempt to maintain – or extend – their half-game divisional lead over NC State and Maryland. Clemson (5-4, 3-3) is just a game back in the division and still very much in the race.
Fisher has maintained all week that the Seminoles need to focus on the areas where they need to improve, instead of worrying about the big picture. In order to do that, the ‘Noles have had to put the heart-breaking losses to NC State and North Carolina behind them and move forward with a sense of purpose and urgency.
“We’re dealing with it,” FSU junior safety Terrance Parks said. “We’re coming off two losses and they were real tough, but I’m surprised to see our team respond the way they are. Everybody has come out with a focus. We’re not hanging our heads low. (Tuesday) we had a great practice. We practiced with intensity. Our minds are right, which is a good sign.”
Fisher said Wednesday’s practice featured more of the same from both sides of the football.
“For the past two weeks it seemed like we played without that hunger that we had the first couple of games in the season,” Parks added. “Yesterday, the enthusiasm was like – that dog is back. We’re ready to go and you can feel it and the coaches felt it.”
“Sometimes it takes failure to recognize certain issues,” said Fisher. “Sometimes if you have those same issues and you have success, you don’t go back and correct them. I hoping we can fight through because I’m going to tell you now, Clemson has a great ballclub. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Manuel still running the show; Ponder making progress
Quarterback Christian Ponder did not practice Wednesday, missing a third consecutive day of practice since team doctors inserted a drain to help remove excess fluid from his right elbow related to his ruptured bursa sac.
Fisher said there is a chance Ponder could be back at practice Thursday. He is expected to have the drain removed in the morning.
“It looks that thing may get to come out,” Fisher said. “It looks like he may get to sling it around tomorrow. We’ll wait around tomorrow and see.”
While EJ Manuel has performed well leading the first-team offense through the first three days of practice, Fisher said he was still not ready to name the redshirt sophomore the starter for Saturday’s game against the Tigers.
When asked if he had ever coached a quarterback who started but did not practice at all during the week leading up to the game, Fisher had a quick response. As the offensive coordinator at LSU, Fisher sent Rohan Davey into action against Kentucky in 2001 and the quarterback responded in a big way.
“Threw for 383 yards yards; took us on a two-minute drive and won the game with seven seconds to go,” said Fisher, noting that Davey had a severely sprained ankle that kept him out of practice all week. He did not know whether Davey would be able to play until Friday night before the game.
Fisher also mentioned that FSU quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig, whom he coached at Auburn, had the same kind of physical toughness and mindset that Ponder possesses.
“[Ponder] loves to play, it’s important to him and he competes,” Fisher said.