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January 05, 2014

Florida State's Practices Often More Challenging Than Their Games


Florida State is confident about Monday’s BCS National Championship game against Auburn. The Seminoles will tell you that much.

That confidence isn’t borne out of what the Seminoles have done to their opponents this year on Saturdays, either. Though that would be a compelling reason in and of itself.

FSU is 28 points from setting an NCAA record for the most points scored in a single season. The Seminoles have beat their opponents by an average score of 42 points per game. They boast the number one ranked scoring offense and scoring defense in the country.

Detractors will say that FSU played a soft schedule -- they did -- but the Seminoles obliterated that schedule, soft or not..

That, however, is not why Florida State feels good about their chances come Monday night. No, it hasn’t been what’s happened on Saturdays this season that has the Seminoles so confident, it’s what they do every day in practice -- during the week -- that has the Seminoles feeling good as they prepare to face Auburn in Pasadena.

“We go ‘good-on-good’ every day in practice,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher, speaking of his practice of having the Seminole’s starting offense and starting defense practice against each other on a daily basis.

That means on any given day in Tallahassee this season a casual spectator could see the nation’s top scoring offense scrimmaging against the nation’s top scoring defense on the fields of the Albert Dunlap practice facility.

“It is a blessing to be a part of it,” said junior defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. “To play with so many other talented guys. That’s what makes you better, being able to practice with those guys week-in, week-out, just pushing each other.”

Sure, Florida State still does all the usual scout team stuff to prepare for their opponents. And yes, other teams go ‘good-on-good’ in their practices too. The difference between those schools and FSU though? The talent level.

Florida State lead the nation with 11 players selected in last year’s NFL Draft. This year should see plenty more Seminoles hear their name called by the NFL too. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage called FSU -- along with Alabama -- the most loaded roster in the country before the start of the season.

By the year’s end, the results matched the hype.

For instance, FSU’s trio of receivers have garnered plenty of NFL attention this season. Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin all had over 900 yards receiving while they helped carry quarterback, Jameis Winston, to a Heisman trophy.

But as much as Winston benefited from the trio’s highlight reel catches and the prolific numbers they put up, nobody benefited more than the Seminole secondary -- the group that has to practice against them daily.

“Going against that offense, that helps us get better every day, those receivers are just phenomenal, the line is great, the running backs are really good. Getting to go against them every day just gets us that much better," said senior safety Terrence Brooks. "I think it’s a standard that we hold when we practice in everything that we do and that’s why we’re able to do so good.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, FSU’s defense lead the nation in interceptions this season.

It’s been like that all over the Florida State roster this season. Strength battles strength in practice during the week and both are better for it come Saturday. Still, the Seminoles know on Monday they will face a tougher challenge than they have faced in a game all year.

“This team will definitely be the most athletic team,” said defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. “We’ll have to be technique-sound.”

But will the Tigers be better than the opponent Florida State battles against every day in its own practice?

So far the Seminoles haven’t faced a tougher opponent come game-day all season.

“There has not been, and I, well…,” said senior left tackle Cam Erving, a confident smile spreading across his face. “No, there hasn’t been.”


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