TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Saturday’s Florida State football practice closed just as its previous four did, with a round of wind sprints, which the Seminoles whipped through without an issue.
The additional conditioning during bowl preparation is neither a punishment, nor unusual, but in this year’s case could prove very beneficial as the Seminoles prepare for their Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl date with South Carolina.
There isn’t a player on the Florida State roster who has experience playing indoors collegiately, though first-year coach Jimbo Fisher has quite a bit of experience based on his previous stop at LSU, especially in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, where the Tigers took part in both SEC Championship games as well as the bowl game.
Those experiences have taught Fisher that conditioning will be key in order for the Seminoles to be successful.
“You don’t understand the heat and humidity that will come, especially when you’ve been out in the cooler weather like this,” Fisher said. “When you go inside and put about 75,000 people in a dome it will have a humidity effect on you late in the year, especially if you’re not used to it. We’ve got to make sure we have a lot of fluids in us and we’re in great condition.”
Collectively, the Seminoles are excited about the opportunity to play indoors; something that Florida State teams have not experienced all that often. This will mark FSU’s 17th game under a domed roof, but the first since the 2004 team traveled to Syracuse for a regular season game.
For the curious, the ‘Noles are 10-6 in dome games all-time, with all the victories coming since dropping their first four indoor games to Houston in the Astrodome (1967-73). The Cougars were a regular on the schedule during the 1960s and 70s. FSU has played five games in the Astrodome (1-4), nine in the Louisiana Superdome (7-2) and two on Syracuse’s Carrier Dome (2-0).
Of course, there’s the popular notion that playing indoors on artificial turf makes everyone faster.
“Their skill guys will have the same advantage,” Fisher said. “It’s a faster track. You’ll have good footing and you don’t have to worry about … being on rye grass down here, where you’re slipping and sliding. The footing will be a lot better.”
Dealing with crowd noise, however, will be something Fisher intends to address in preparation for the Gamecocks as well.
“It’s a 50-50 crowd; it’s not like it’s an away game,” Fisher said. “At least half of the crowd is yours. … We’ll prepare. Noise can be a factor in a dome. That place will get really, really loud. Even if you’ve only got half the (fans) it can get that way, so that will probably be the toughest venue as far as that goes. We’ll have to start working on some crowd noise, too.”
At least three Seminoles - Antwane Greenlee, Greg Reid and Gerald Demps - do have the experience of playing high school playoff games in the Georgia Dome.
Greenlee, a redshirt junior offensive tackle, played in the Georgia AAAA semifinals as a freshman at Columbus Hardaway.
“It was fast,” Greenlee said. “It was a big experience for us. I think it was one of the largest crowds we had for a high school football game. … It’s definitely loud.
“Other than switching from regular cleats to turf shoes for the offensive linemen - that was a big deal for us – but I feel like we moved faster, so my feet didn’t get stuck in the grass. On turf you’re kind of gliding. That’s the only big difference I can see.”
Junior safety Terrance Parks grew up just 15 minutes from the Atlanta airport, but his only memory of the Georgia Dome come from attending a Battle of the Bands competition. Parks’ Creekside High School team never quite reached the semifinal rounds, which are played on the home field of the Atlanta Falcons.
“We’re just all excited to play in the dome,” Parks said. “When I was in high school we made it one round short of the Dome and got knocked out in the playoffs. I’m happy that we’re not going to have to play outside because it’s snowing in Atlanta right now.”
Parks, like the other Seminoles who call Georgia home, are equally excited to be playing closer to family and friends. Dealing with the indoor elements – good and bad – adds to that excitement.
“It’s built so it seems like the noise comes down on the field,” Parks said. “I feel like it’s going to be loud and exciting. We love to play in loud environments like that. We love the big stage.”
In Greenlee’s mind, there are plenty benefits.
“A lot of guys are looking forward to it; guys like Rodney Hudson, who has a chance at going to the next level and play in a lot of domes,” Greenlee said. “I think it will be a good experience for them also.
“I think it’s a great stage for us. Not only that, but we’re going back home.”
Defensive tackle Anthony McCloud sat out Saturday’s practice after rolling an ankle on Friday…redshirt freshman offensive guard Blake Snider, who suffered a fractured ankle in August and missed the entire season, went through his first contact workout since on Saturday…Fisher reported that there were no academic casualties at the end of the fall marking period. The Seminoles will be traveling 116 players to the bowl game.