Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher never would say the 2016 defense is going to be better than one from last season that lost five starters, including a player who likely will be a top 5 draft pick, but he won’t rule it out.
But for that to happen, the Seminoles must create more turnovers, something coaches emphasized this spring Fisher said Wednesday at his booster tour stop at Wayne Akers Ford in Lake Worth.
“Our DBs are working on ball skills all the time,” Fisher said at the gathering presented by the Palm Beach County Seminoles Club. “Those guys spend a lot of time on ball machines. Spent tons of time catching footballs. When you drop an interception, go back and look how many times the other team scores. Those are game-changing plays.
“What I like about our linebackers, secondary guys, all of them have tremendous ball skills.”
Florida State gained 15 turnovers in 2015, seven fumble recoveries and eight interceptions, which tied for 104th nationally. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who could go as high as No. 3 in the draft, did not have an interception and finished his career with just three. The biggest knock on Ramsey is his hands.
Senior safety Lamarcus Brutus led the Seminoles with three picks. Nobody else had more than one.
Fisher’s highest praise for the defense was for his defensive ends. DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat have the potential to be one of the top tandems in the country.
Fisher said Walker is a player who “plays above his talent level” and Sweat is poised to become “that dominant speed rusher” as his knee continues to heal.
“That’s the thing we’re challenging him with, that’s really coming on in his game,” Fisher said.
Fisher added that Sweat is one of those players with “really, really, really good ball skills. This guy has great hands.”
More praise for Rudolph: Fisher was asked about the Seminoles’ best player from Palm Beach County and, like he has all spring, praised receiver Travis Rudolph.
Fisher said it’s time for the Cardinal Newman High product “to become a significant player and difference maker. He has all those abilities.”
Fisher is depending on Rudolph to play multiple receiver positions.
“I was extremely pleased with the way he played this spring,” Fisher said. “He has the ability to not only beat you deep, which we saw in the bowl game and other times, but he’s a tremendous route runner and (has) the ability to get open, very smart guy, very sharp at football.
“He’s at that stage where he can play flanker, he can play the slot, he can play split end on the boundary. We can move him around to feature him.”
Rudolph led FSU’s receivers with 59 catches, 916 yards and seven TDs last season.
Cook, Maguire updates: Fisher expects running back Dalvin Cook and quarterback Sean Maguire to be healthy for the start of fall camp.
Cook had shoulder surgery about 2½ weeks ago. His sling should be removed in about 10 days. “By the time August comes and contact, he’ll be fully healed and should be ready to roll,” Fisher said.
Maguire had ankle surgery in January. Fisher say they are “building it up” and that hopefully by July 1 he’ll be “dropping and throwing and doing everything.”
Fisher was asked if there is some level of concern.
“Some but not really,” he said. “Our doctors are really good and they’ve been very accurate.”