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3 posts from April 7, 2013

April 07, 2013

PJ Williams Making the Most of His Opportunities


The Florida State secondary has been without some of their key players this Spring.

The team's Defensive Rookie of the Year Marvin Bracy has missed the entire Spring recovering after surgery for a sports hernia. Nick Waisome is out recovering from a Labrum injury. Tyler Hunter is out. There are plenty of chances for some of the young defensive backs to step up and shine given the number of players missing right now.

The guy who's making the most of those chances is PJ Williams.

“It’s been real good because I know this is going to be my opportunity to step up and make a lot of plays and just prove myself so it’s been real good," said Williams. "I’ve been getting a lot of reps and just competing every day. It’s been a really good spring for me.”

While the starters are out Williams has been running with the first team and that suits him just fine. 

“It really gives you extra push because you’ve got to make plays, you don’t want to be the only one messing up so you’ve got to mature and step up and be making plays with all the other players," he said. "I think I fit in real good because I knew this was going to be my opportunity to come and just do a lot so I think I got a lot better and being with the first team just gets you that much better.”

So far the rest of the team is sitting up and taking notice, from coaches to players Williams has been one of the first names mentioned when you ask who is standing out. 

“PJ I’ve been very pleased with. He’s making progress every day and he’s got a chance to be a very good player," said Jimbo Fisher. "Guy shows a lot of toughness too, physical guy.”

“I think he’s going to be a key player like just in case, depth-wise he can come in and play, he can relieve if someone’s tired and I mean he’s definitely a great player," said Nick Waisome. "He needs to be on the field, he’s been working hard and it’s kind of like coach is going to have to find a spot for him to play.

“He’s a real physical guy, kind of reminds of Xa[vier Rhodes] sometimes, but he stays to his technique and I think he’s good at finishing the play at the end.”

If PJ Williams reminds people of Rhodes it's with good reason. After growing up idolizing safeties like Ed Reed, Williams thought he was coming to FSU to play there. When he moved to corner he gravitated towards Rhodes, who was of a similar ilk- big athletic CB's who came to FSU thinking they'd be playing another position.

“That last year was a good learning year for me," said Williams. "Just looking at technique, looking at him sticking people, he’s a big corner, I’m a big corner so it was big.

“He helped me a lot with that, he told me how he came in and he didn’t get to play much he was like mad and stuff but he told me just get better every day. He taught me just be patient and work hard.”

That patience seems to be paying off this Spring. Williams is impressing coaches and as he likes to say, 'making plays.'

To PJ, playmaking is a mindset. One that he happens to live in.

“It’s always been my mindset," said Williams. "And especially this year getting a lot better, I’m trying to make a whole lot of plays. Just competing and then making plays.”


For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Bobby Hart Growing Up and Growing Into Starting Role


Bobby Hart came to Florida State as a 16 year old wunderkind from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. He had considerable hype given his youth and impressive ceiling.

By the end of his freshman year he was starting for the Seminoles. Heck, by the bowl game when the team started four freshman linemen, he was one of the most experienced guys in the trenches that day.

Then last year happened. A couple of junior college transfers Menelik Watson and Daniel Glauser came to Tallahassee and beat Hart out. As a result the 17 year-old sophomore was forced to ride the pine and learn an important lesson in humility.

“It was definitely tough, for any athlete it would be tough," admitted Hart. "But once you sit back and you understand why you’re in that predicament you mature and you learn from it, it can be a good thing, it just helps you be- in my case- more hungry and not be so complacent when you get back to that spot.”

It wasn't that Hart lost his hunger so much as immaturity got the best of him. As young as he was, to find himself starting for the Seminoles as a true freshman and playing in a bowl game against a team like Notre Dame, it got to his head a little bit.

“In a sense like unconsciously that’s just something you do like, 'oh you did everything to start as a freshman,'" said Hart. "I don’t know it's just like something that set in, you’re just not as hungry as you were before when you got it and now that it’s been taken away from you, now I understand it can be taken away at any moment so you just want to go out there and do everything you need to do in every moment.

“You just see the picture. When I first got here I was very narrow-minded, you just see things as they’re happening. Now I see things as a bigger picture like why things are happening, why I need to do things and stuff of that nature.”

Hart is 18 now, he will be 19 next season. He's still young, but his maturation is a welcome sign from coaches and teammates a like.

“Bobby’s actually my roommate so me and that guy, going back to high school and playing with him I can see a lot of maturity," said WR Rashad Greene, a teammate of Hart's at St. Thomas. "He’s taking things a lot more serious, you know coming up to the Spring we always had our talks and I can tell he really wants it bad and he’s going to do all he can to go out there to compete and do the best he can and take the coaching and just be ready at all times. We had all those talks and I can honestly say he’s ready, he’s focused.”

“He has improved probably the most of the whole entire offensive line, obviously he’s younger than us so he had to grow up a little but we as a unit have actually noticed how much he’s grown up," said C Austin Barron, another of Hart's former high school teammates. "Because he knows the role he has on the team right now that he’s the guy, he has to produce and he’s really taken his time and thought about what he has to do and he’s just executing out there and doing really well.”

Hart is challenging for the job as the starting right tackle. A job many believed he would win last year. But then Menelik Watson showed up and plans changed. 

Nowadays Watson is looking like a potential first round NFL draft pick. The fact Hart wasn't able to beat him out seems a bit more understandable given the age difference between the two. Even despite the competition between though, Watson was still able to mentor Hart and help him become a better player.

“Menelik, what he did, he didn’t play much [before last year] but the way he made up for everything was by going full speed everything," said Hart. "So if he made a mistake he made it 100 miles an hour and that made up for everything. When you do that, I picked that up from him, when you do that you don’t make as many mistakes but when you do it’s more understandable because at least you were doing it 100%.”

Now Hart hopes those lessons and his newfound maturity will lend itself to a successful 2013 season.

“Really I’m not worried about whether I’m going to start right now," he said. "I’m just trying to go out there making sure I do everything right, taking all the coaching in, making sure I do everything to my full ability. Then I’ll leave that up to the coaches.”


For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

Mario Pender Looking to Break Out After Lost Year


Mario Pender arrived in Tallahassee a semester early looking to make his mark from day one.

The 6-0 190-pound redshirt freshman chose to forgo his final semester of high school, trading in a tuxedo and prom photos for shoulder pads and a playbook. But it didn't go as planned, Pender had to redshirt and miss his first season on campus with a sports hernia. 

It was hardly the way the story was supposed to be written.

“It is pretty tough, but it’s all mental, I believe it’s all mental," said Pender. "Once you get your mind right I believe you can do anything you want to do. College football it really is tough, but once you pick up everything you’ll be alright.”

It took Pender a while to arrive at that conclusion though. And he didn't do it alone.

“I believe when I had that injury it just kind of set me back off for a second," admitted Pender. "But now I’m getting back into the roll of things I feel a lot more comfortable and a lot more part of things."

A big part of that for Pender came from the advice and mentorship he received from Chris Thompson, as well as Devonta Freeman and James Wilder. All three have dealt with injuries and issues that kept them from the field. So when Pender started to get down they were there to pick him up. 

“Me and Chris talked about that injury a lot," recalled Pender. "He told me just to stay in treatment, get treatment whenever you could, get good treatment, always.”

In turn, he was able to gain something from his time on the sideline. Something he wouldn't have been able to do without their example.

"I was able to take mental reps at that time and watch the three backs run the ball so I beleive it really did help me being able to sit back and watch those backs do what they can do.”

But now it's Pender's turn and he's ready to show off some of his blazing speed as well as a few of the new skills he's picked up in his time at FSU. 

Pender got healthy last season late in the year but the team didn't want to waste a year and burn the redshirt so he continued to sit. But this season they're counting on him to use his speed to replace Thompson as the team's homerun threat. In high school, Pender averaged 11.9 yards per carry his senior year, he was the fifth-rated running back in the country.

In college, the Seminoles feel he can continue to be dominant. But in order to do that Pender will also need to display his toughness. All Spring Jimbo Fisher has preached the need for toughness to his entire team, Pender for one seems to have gotten the message.

He's been seen trucking corners in practice.

“I’ve been pretty much all my life I’ve been a speed back because I’ve never had to come into contact with anyone," said Pender. "But since I’ve gotten to college I’ve realized that this is more than just a speed game, everyone can be fast and I’ve got to show some toughness sometimes.”


For all the latest Florida State news and updates follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...



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