Hopkins needs to adjust to new rules

K Dustin Hopkins (Steve Chase)

One of Florida State's most potent weapons the last several years, Dustin Hopkins and his Howitzer of a leg on kickoffs, might be neutralized with the brand new rules put in place by the NCAA in 2012.

Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins has had one of strongest legs in the country for quite some time now, which allows him to continually boom the ball into the end zone on kickoffs for touchbacks, but now those touchbacks are going to be a little less rewarding in 2012.

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Supposedly for safety reasons, which is debatable, the NCAA moved the placement of the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35, which should mean even more kicks ending up in the end zone, although now a touchback is taken out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20.

As a result, Hopkins has been working this spring on kicking the ball higher and shorter since he has a coverage unit loaded with speedsters that can tackle, but nobody truly knows what's going to happen until the new rule is put into practice this fall.

"I know Coach Fisher has mentioned trying to do some placement kicks, just sky the ball as high as I can," the gregarious Hopkins said prior to Monday's workout. "Also, kick some touchbacks. I'm sure it's going to be a game-by-game situation, but it's definitely different. Your margin of error is really small when you're trying to play with a couple of yards and a couple of milliseconds in hang time. But it makes all the difference with the guys we have returning and how fast they are. It'll be interesting to see."

The Houston, Texas, native had his left knee scoped in the offseason and doesn't feel 100 percent just yet, evidenced by the fact that he missed the one field goal he tried Saturday in the first scrimmage.

Dawkins: Matias, Jackson have 'come a long way'

Everett Dawkins has fielded a lot of questions this spring about his former fellow defensive tackle, Cameron Erving, who somewhat surprisingly made the switch over to the offensive line and has been working with the first team at left tackle.

But Dawkins doesn't get a chance to butt heads with Erving very often in practice, as he's an interior defender and spends most of his time taking on guards Josue Matias and Tre' Jackson.

Each a sophomore and having started one game this past season as true freshmen, Matias and Jackson both have the potential to be very good players in the middle of the O-line, which can improve a Seminoles run game that was downright ineffective in 2011.

"They've come a long way," said Dawkins. "From last year, I guess, we went up against them last year. They had to go against us all the time, so you know it's kind of one of those things where you've got to get better eventually, and I think definitely they've gotten better. They're more physical. They're just technique-based. They've just taken all the stuff [offensive line coach Rick] Trickett has taught them, and they're doing good with it so far."

As for Erving, Dawkins doesn't think it's unreasonable for the 6-5, 304-pounder to be a standout left tackle right out of the gate because he's so gifted physically, even though he never even played offensive line in high school.

Trickett: 'I'm also trying for No. 1'

If you ask Clint Trickett, there isn't just one quarterback controversy in Tallahassee -- there's two.

Supposedly being pushed for the backup job by freshman Jacob Coker, who was a highly-regarded recruit in 2011 and redshirted his first year, Trickett actually has game experience and played rather well in starter E.J. Manuel's stead more often than not this past season.

Unafraid of the competition, the Tallahassee North Florida Christian product refuses to look back over his shoulder and is instead focusing in on the player in front of him.

"First off, Jacob is a great quarterback, and so is E.J.," Trickett said. "Everyone says that there is a competition between me and Jacob, and there is, but there is also competition between me and E.J. That's how I look at it. I'm going to hold on to No. 2, hopefully, but I'm also trying for No. 1. And that's no disrespect towards E.J., obviously. That's what he felt when Christian Ponder was still here. That's just college football."

While Manuel got every single one of the first-team reps in Saturday's scrimmage, for obvious reasons, Trickett and Coker split time with the second squad.

Joyner: 'We all just have to put it together'

FSU should be nothing short of loaded on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, as eight starters return from what was at times a dominant unit last season and there is five- and four-star depth at each and every position.

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However, linebacker Nigel Bradham is gone, which means the 'Noles need to find a new vocal leader on defense, and safety Lamarcus Joyner is as good a candidate as any.

Always a bit of a contrarian with his comments to the media, the second-team All-ACC selection from this past year isn't allowing himself to be seduced by all the size and speed he and his teammates can put on the field at any given time.

"My thing is you always want to lead by example," said Joyner. "Every year Florida State has talent, and years before. We are just going to have to see what happens when the season kicks off. I can't really explain it into words, but we have a lot of talent and potential. We all just have to put it together."

He liked what he saw from Terrence Brooks, Karlos Williams and Tyler Hunter at the safety position throughout Saturday's scrimmage, with Brooks currently slated to start alongside Joyner and Williams and Hunter looking like capable backups.


John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.

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