TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State had 11 players drafted by the NFL, more than any other school in the nation.
Despite losing a trio of first-rounders and eight other starters from a 12-2 team that won an ACC title and a BCS bowl game, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t settling in for a rebuilding season.
“Our expectations aren’t changing,” Fisher said Tuesday, just hours before the Seminoles held their first preseason practice. “We expect to be good and we want to be good. We have to coach to be good. We want this team to be the best we can be.”
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But part of the equation is filling in the gaps, and Fisher and his staff have started doing just that.
Backup defensive end Giorgio Newberry will move to tight end, where he will be used primarily as a blocker. The Seminoles lost a pair of tight ends in the past few months — Kevin Haplea suffered a season-ending knee injury and Christo Kourtzidis opted to transfer.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Newberry had 13 tackles in 2012. but now he will effectively become a tight end/extra offensive tackle.
“I think he can be a tremendous edge blocker,” Fisher said. “He can catch the ball. He has good hands. Giorgio played basketball in high school.”
Florida State also lost do-everything fullback Lonnie Pryor, who was a free-agent pickup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. So the Seminoles will also use tight ends as fullbacks, Fisher said. The have just one fullback, Chad Abram, a senior who converted from safety in 2012.
Fisher would like to cross-train defensive linemen as fullbacks, too. He said defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel could be used in that capacity.
Fisher said he would like to use two tailbacks in a game at the same time, a move that will take advantage of the depth at tailback with juniors Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., redshirt freshman Mario Pender and true freshman Ryan Green.
“Keep your best people on the field,” Fisher said.
Fisher again held firm on his previous stance that he has not made a decision on a starting quarterback to replace EJ Manuel, who was a first-round pick by the Buffalo Bills.
Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker will receive equal practice time with the No. 1 offense. While Winston had an excellent spring, Fisher insists that the spring is in the past and he is under no timeline to make a decision on who will start on Labor Day at Pittsburgh.
“You have to do it in the fall,” Fisher said. “Manage the game, manage the huddle … Let the players around you function. Take care of the football and be smart with it.”
Despite the holes to fill this August, and six new assistant coaches, Fisher said he is optimistic about Florida State’s 2013 outlook.
“I feel very good about the group,” Fisher said. “I like this football team. I think we have a chance to be a very good football team. I really do. How far we go will depend on how everybody’s commitment to excellence is.”