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October 22, 2008

ASI Insider: Coaches still have faith in Surrency

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Coaches, players still have faith in Surrency (By Gene Williams, Warchant.com)

Nobody created a bigger buzz in preseason practices than Corey Surrency. The junior college transfer made noise in every practice and scrimmage by making big play after big play. After a few weeks of practice he was described with words like "unstoppable" and "freakish" by teammates and coaches. But once Florida State's Division 1A schedule kicked in the talented wideout has barely made a blip on the 'Noles' offensive radar.

In fact, over the past four games (FSU's only D1A opponents), Surrency has just three catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns. He had a chance to make two big plays, including what would have been a key touchdown just before halftime, but came up short on both pass. On the two plays, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver had his body in the right position, timed his jump perfectly, and got both hands on the football, but on each pass the ball was stripped from his hands before he could record the reception.

"It was just a weird thing. It shocked him, it shocked me, it shocked a lot of guys," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said of those two plays. "He went up for two balls and one time their guy got in there. They are balls that he usually catches."

When he failed to come up with completions on those two passes last Thursday, quarterback Christian Ponder assured the rookie wide receiver that he still has confidence in his ability and that he will continue to be one of his primary targets.

"That's exactly what I told him," Ponder said. "After that first half when he dropped that touchdown he was really frustrated at himself. I told him, 'I'm going to need you in the next half. I'm not going to stop throwing to you and I know you can catch the ball.' He does it every day in practice and did it earlier in the season. He's kind of faded out a little bit, he hasn't been as involved as he wants to be and we are starting to get him back involved and he's done a great job.

"He's a guy that has really high expectations for himself and I think that sometimes it affects him because he gets a little frustrated. He's still learning a lot and he's gotten a lot better since the first day he got here. He's definitely a guy we need in this offense that we will go to at any point in the game"

With Surrency's drive to be perfect and contribute as much as he can, he was obviously frustrated by not making those plays against N.C. State. As a result, the Seminole coaching staff has made sure that the lanky wideout understands that he won't be penalized for having one bad game.

"I think he's handling it well because what me and coach Fisher are trying to do is show him that we still have confidence in him," wide receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey told Warchant.com. "That's what it all comes down to; believing in himself and having confidence. We told him we are still going to throw to him and that really helped him. We aren't going to shy away from him and tell him, 'hey you got your opportunity and blew it' because drops are going to happen in a game. We just have to go out and eliminate as many as we can. We still think that he is one of our best receivers to go up and try to catch the ball."

While most rookie receivers have plenty of time to iron out the kinks and get used to going up against much faster and more physical defensive backs, Surrency may not have that luxury. As things stand now, he is a senior and this could be his final year of college football. As such, it's natural that he might press and get down on himself when he doesn't play up to his full potential.

"What I tell him is to relax and just go out and let the game come to him," Dawsey offered. "Don't go out and force it and try to make things happen. Let it come to you and it will all work out for him. He seems to get better each week, he is getting more playing time, getting more reps and he understands the offense better each week. I think he'll continue to grow."

Even though Surrency didn't have his best game, he still made a couple significant contributions last Thursday. For one, he came down with a 31-yard pass completion when FSU was facing a third-and-21 late in the second quarter. That play led to a Graham Gano field goal just before half. He also had one of the key blocks on Bert Reed's key touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter, a play that gave FSU a lead that it never surrendered.

"That's the great thing about him, as big as he is he's a physical guy and will block," Dawsey said.

* So far this week, Surrency has declined to speak to the media.

Running wild (By Chris Nee, Warchant.com)

One quick look at the stat sheet reveals an unusual number for Florida State's offense. The Seminoles have passed for 1,218 yards on the season while rushing for 1,296 yards.

"It is crazy to see that we are a running team," freshman wide receiver Bert Reed said.

With 138 rushing yards against North Carolina State, FSU has successfully recorded more than 100 rushing yards in every game this season. That streak is the Seminoles longest since 2004 and marks the first time since 2002 that the Seminoles have done it in the first six games. With the regular season now half over, it has become clear that the 'Noles are winning games on the ground.

"It has been a long time since we could say that, hasn't it," head coach Bobby Bowden said. "That is a good sign. I think that is one of the big reasons our offense has been successful."

When Bowden made staff changes prior to the 2007 season, his new hires preached the basic principles of T.E.D toughness, effort, and discipline. While it took a year for those principles to reveal themselves on the field, it is apparent they are now taking hold with the Seminoles' rushing attack.

"That is where it has to begin," Bowden said of the ground game. "You have to win the battle up-front and our guys are doing that in the trenches. If you can dominate there, you are going to win a lot of football games."

A big part of the 'Noles' success on the ground has been the running of quarterback Christian Ponder, who has amassed 291 rushing yards on the season. Regardless of who is running the football, the ability to both run and pass is the cornerstone of what offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher hopes to accomplish on offense.

"Coach Fisher is a balanced guy so you really don't know what to expect but luckily we have established that running game," Ponder said. "If that is our identity, that is fine. We just have to capitalize on those things and we have."

While the drastically improved rushing attack is a surprise to some players, it hasn't been for Antone Smith. Through six games, the senior running back is having his best season racking up 483 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

"It wasn't a surprise to me," Smith said of the team's success running the football. "I was healthy coming in and I have a lot of great guys behind me who when I get tired come in and hold it down. Our offensive line, I can't say enough about those guys, they are just blocking down the field and doing a great job of getting their guys and fighting until the whistle blows."

Through the first half of the season the Seminoles rank 17th in rushing offense and are averaging 217 yards per game on the ground.

Thomas ready to resume his pivotal role (By Chris Nee, Warchant.com)

Coming into the game against North Carolina State, Jermaine Thomas had seen the field in four of the Seminoles first five games. In those games, the freshman running back amassed 29 touches for 213 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He was called into duty for only one touch against the Wolfpack, a negative one-yard rush. His lack of playing time as of late is largely due to a right hip pointer that has been bothering him the past couple weeks.

"They kind of held me back a little bit," Thomas said. "I think it was a smart move to help me get prepared for the game coming up this week and to let it heal up a little bit more."

Prior to Monday's practice, Thomas had basically five days of rest in hopes that his hip would no longer be an issue. After fully participating in practice this week, the Jacksonville product said he was filling no ill effects.

"I am ready to go," Thomas said. "It is just a little tender but it is good enough that I can play. Last week I could barely move but I can catch, run, and go a 100 percent now."

With having seen action in some major playing time so far, including a season-long 30-yard rush against Miami, Thomas says that he no longer feels like he is in an adjustment stage. Instead, he is now a pivotal role player when senior Antone Smith needs a break in the backfield.

"I don't feel like a freshman no more," Thomas said. "My biggest goal coming into Florida State was to contribute to the team as soon as possible and I think I am doing a pretty good job of that right now. I just want to continue to help the team out when my number is called. That is why I am always prepared."

Notables

* Redshirt freshman wide receiver Bert Reed has been suspended for Saturday's Virginia Tech game. Bowden would not comment on Reed's situation after Tuesday's practice but said he would probably announce something later in the week.

* Starting right guard Will Furlong, who had foot surgery this week, will be out 6-8 weeks according to Bowden.

* Bowden said he doubts that linebacker Dekoda Watson, who is getting over a hamstring injury, will be able to play this Saturday.

* Tony Carter, Rod Roberts, and Antone Smith participated in Tuesday's practice wearing blue non-contact jerseys.

* Terrance Parks and Kendrick Stewart (ribs) did not practice. Stewart told Warchant.com that he expects to play this Saturday despite his injury.

* The team practiced in shells (shoulder pads, helmets, shorts) so it was not full contact. The team stayed away from full contact because so many players are banged up.

* In case you missed it: audioGene Williams' Tuesday interview on Rivals Radio

* The new Warchant.com Newsletter is being sent to Seminole fans every week. Make sure you are on the list to receive the latest on Warchant.com events and Seminole athletics each week. Click to sign-up.

Practice Highlights: (FSU press release):

- During inside drills the offensive line did a good job as they broke Antone Smith on three nice runs, Marcus Sims on two and Carlton Jones on one. Defensively Budd Thacker had a sack and Nigel Bradham had a tackle for loss.

- In 1-on-1 Tony Carter broke up two passes while Michael Ray Garvin and Korey Mangum also broke up passes. E.J. Manuel went deep to Greg Carr and Cameron Wade. He also connected with Rod Owens but the play of the drill was a Corey Surrency leaping catch on the sideline.

- During pass rush Paul Griffin, Budd Thacker and Moses McCray all had two sacks. Justin Mincey, Jamar Jackson, Everett Dawkins and Everette Brown all got to the QB as well. Rodney Hudson was the only multiple winner for the offense and he got three wins. Ryan McMahon, AJ Ganguzza, Brandon Davis and David Spurlock also got victories.

- In skeleton the two biggest plays were deep balls. Drew Weatherford went deep to Taiwan Easterling and D'Vontrey Richardson connected with Rod Owens.

- In 11-on-11 the defense had a nice drill. Carter had another break-up as did Jamie Robinson. Brown had a pressure and Thacker had a sack. Antone Smith turned in a nice run.


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