One of FSU’s most famous faces met with the media today for the first time since the Seminoles started fall camp. Defensive line coach Odell Haggins took the podium after Wednesday morning’s practice to discuss the competition at the defensive tackle and nose guard spots and their role in new coordinator Adam Fuller’s 4-3 defense.
“I’m very excited and the guys are very excited because it puts you in different situations where you can go out and play football, where you’re not being a round peg in a hole,” Haggins said of he and his position group looking forward to being on the attack in Fuller’s scheme. “It uses your ability as a football player, as a defensive lineman. We’re attacking, moving and striking blockers and the kids love that.”
FSU should be deep at the two interior defensive line spots where last year’s three starters return (the Seminoles ran a base 3-4 defense). And Haggins knows what he has in the trio of senior Marvin Wilson, junior Cory Durden and junior Robert Cooper. The players behind them aren’t as proven or have as much experience but the veteran coach likes what he has seen so far from a group of players that includes junior Fabien Lovett, who transferred from Mississippi State this summer, sophomore Jarrett Jackson, who transferred from Louisville this winter and Malcolm Ray, who redshirted as a freshman at FSU last season.
“They’re doing a good job,” said Haggins of Lovett, Jackson and Ray. “They’re doing the best they can do learning a new system and coming to a new program. They’re doing a good job. Malcolm Ray is steadily getting better. I tell him every day get 1 percent (better), keep grinding, get better at the little things. That’s what I tell all the guys, get better at the little things, 1 percent, if we can keep doing that, those days will add up.”
Haggins is making sure he is getting the unproven trio plenty of snaps in scrimmage situations in fall camp.
“It’s very important,” said Haggins about the importance of developing depth behind Wilson and Durden. “Coach Norvell wants us to develop some depth, guys like Malcolm Ray and Fabien. Fabien played a lot of reps in the scrimmage and I told him after the scrimmage, I said, ‘Fabien, one thing about it, things didn’t look great at times, but you would not quit and I love that about you.’ Malcolm Ray did some good stuff too. Limiting the reps on Marvin, it’s going to help the young guys develop and be football players. It’s going to be a long season. You want to build depth.”
Cooper has continued to reshape his body since last year and Haggins believes that will lead to improvement in his performance this season.
“I tell you what, it’s been great,” Haggins said when asked if a slimmer Cooper has helped his performance. “You can tell losing the weight has helped Robert out a lot. I’m enjoying seeing Coop run as a football player because when he first got here, he was really heavy and felt a little insecure that he couldn’t play as many plays as he wanted. Now, he can get out there and play football. The thing about him, he’s developed better fundamentals. I tell him every day, I say, ‘You can be unblockable if you get great, great fundamentals.’ That’s our job, me and (defensive ends coach John Papuchis’) job, to make sure he’s fundamentally sound.”
He also thinks the conditioning of his players this year will be better due in large part because of the type of practices coach Mike Norvell conducts.
“That’s the great thing about it,” said Haggins when asked about the conditioning of his group. “The way we practice with coach Norvell, we practice 100 miles per hour, running from drill to drill. That’s great for a big man because it keeps you alert, and it works you mentally. With the guys that we have out here on the defensive line, we’ve just got to keep pushing them and understanding every little thing you do is going to affect the defensive line play. You’ve got to play with great technique, play with great fundamentals. Having that depth, it’s going to be good.”