Fair or not, receiver Kelvin Benjamin may have walked onto Bobby Bowden Field Saturday with more eyes trained on him than any of his teammates.
Although Benjamin had never performed in front of Florida State's fans, a consensus from the spring practice fields was that the redshirt freshman would be a player to watch going forward.
After a quiet start to his day, Benjamin got a small chance to flash his athleticism and size in the second half, finishing the game with four receptions and 46 yards. While head coach Jimbo Fisher said he focused more on featuring Benjamin later in the game, the Belle Glade native also admitted to having some butterflies in the beginning of the action.
"You could probably say I was a little too hyped up," laughed Benjamin. "I was kind of nervous in a way. But I had fun."
The Seminole captains didn't do Benjamin any favors either. Although corner Xavier Rhodes missed spring work due to injury, Benjamin drew coverage from the other two of Florida State's best defensive backs: Greg Reid and Lamarcus Joyner.
"You know, they're real tough," Benjamin said. "But I like a challenge and it makes me get better as a receiver."
The performance capped off a spring that Benjamin called very important, as he shed weight and spent more time with EJ Manuel to work on their relationship. Benjamin explained that developing chemistry with a quarterback takes place both on and off the field.
"We'll go hang out at go to charity events together and stuff like that," he said. "Talk or stay a little later after practice and get a couple of balls in. Then he'll throw you a ball, catch it. If it's a bad throw, catch it. That's what I try to do."
So while his first spring game didn't have a pair of touchdowns or a top-10 highlight, Benjamin is fine with the progress he's made since the end of his redshirt season.
"You just have to go out there, and when they give you the opportunity to catch the ball, make good on the opportunity," he said. "I just was trying to make myself known in practice, come out in practice with an intensity that nobody else had."
Brooks takes one the distance
Late in the second quarter of Saturday's spring game, Terrence Brooks saw receiver Kenny Shaw driving across the field on a second-and-short. Brooks read his keys, then relied on the techniques Mark Stoops has been coaching to his secondary unit this spring.
"I just jumped at it and took it to the house," Brooks said of his interception of EJ Manuel's pass.
He ran the interception back 51 yards for a touchdown, putting his Garnet squad up and breaking open the game against the Gold side, who never led in the scrimmage.
When asked when he knew he would be able to make the play, Brooks joked, "When I caught it."
Jimbo Fisher praised the junior after the game, noting that he quickly picked up the coverage.
"Really good play by Brooks," he said.
Brooks, who started at safety in the game and is expected to start there opposite Lamarcus Joyner in the fall, does not intend for that pick-six to be his last.
"It was definitely a good play and I plan on making more," he said.
Brooks did his job on the play, but he also got a little help from defensive tackle Demonte McAllister, who put up a massive block on offensive tackle Daniel Glauser to allow Brooks to take the interception for six points.
Brooks didn't see the block, but wishes he had.
"Honestly, I heard it," Brooks said. "I tried looking on the monitor to see, but I just heard the crowd's reaction and after I scored I went back and made sure I (saw) who did it."
"But from what I hear, it was a crazy block."
After spring, 2012 team growing closer
The Seminoles will enter the 2012 season with a wealth of game-tested players. Experience is key, players said after Saturday's spring game, but so too is family. And while the team has built what Jimbo Fisher thinks is a solid foundation this spring, it has also become a tighter familial unit.
"We're more close. I can say that," receiver Kenny Shaw said. "We're closer as a team, as a unit."
Shaw thinks that having experience under their belts helps the Seminoles bond, on and off the field. It makes for better leaders, who do so by example.
"I just know in my mind, what to do and how to do it to help my teammates out," defensive back Greg Reid said. "I just try to make that become a habit."
Safety Terrence Brooks believed that his Garnet defense played well in the spring game because of great chemistry.
"We just play together," Brooks said. "Just a lot of communication."
Defensive end Brandon Jenkins has noticed the team grew closer this off-season while working on team-wide communication. It is something the senior plans on making sure continues moving into the summer and fall.
"We can work together in the summer, watch a little film," Jenkins said. "Just do a lot of things with each other."
The Seminoles feel closer than in past years and are ready to work on the foundation they built during spring practice.
"In the past, there was a lot of separation (on the team)," Shaw said. "Different cliques and stuff, but now we're just one unit, and that's what a national championship team needs."
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