Practice notes: Rhodes' knee adds concern

When camp opened Monday, Jimbo Fisher was optimistic about the health of star cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who missed all of spring practice with a knee injury.

Fisher said Rhodes would be a "full go," Monday, but by Thursday it was clear there were still some limitations.

The junior cornerback came off the field for a while during Thursday morning's practice, and when it was over Fisher admitted Rhodes' knee isn't feeling quite as good as the coaching staff had initially hoped.

"He's got to get healthier," Fisher said. "I thought he was a little farther along the first couple of days than he is now, so he's got to pick it up from a health point. We've got to get him back healthy."

The sense of urgency stems in part from Rhodes' potential impact this season. He's one of the top corners in the nation, and projected as a potential first-round pick in next year's NFL draft if he decides to forgo his senior year.

Further complicating the situation, however, is Florida State's lack of experience at the position, particularly in the wake of the dismissal of senior starter Greg Reid last week.

With Reid gone, sophomore Nick Waisome has spent the bulk of this week running with the first-team defense, but he's never started a college game and saw only limited action in the secondary as a freshman last season.

"He's been good," safety Lamarcus Joyner said, "but we've been rotating there at corner with a couple different guys."

One of those players pushing his way into the rotation is freshman Ronald Darby, who has wowed teammates in the early going with his instincts and speed.

Fisher singled out Darby as one of the most impressive freshmen during this first week of camp, and Joyner raved about Darby's attitude on the field.

"He's a great kid, great character, and he wants to play football," Joyner said. "He's out there willing to learn, get coached up, and he's really standing out in my eyes."

While concerns mount at cornerback, however, Joyner said it's been smooth sailing at safety, where he's found a good rapport with first-year starter Terrence Brooks.

"It's going great," Joyner said. "Terrence has waited a long time to have this opportunity, and I'm right there with him."

Thrown to the wolves

The competition at quarterback has played out just as expected thus far, with EJ Manuel running the first team offense, Clint Trickett working with the second team and Jacob Coker third on the depth chart.

But while that's been the norm since spring practice, Florida State's two true freshmen -- Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire -- are getting thrown a whole lot of new information.

Fisher said the freshmen aren't being handled with kid gloves early, and instead have been asked to do a little of everything during the first week of practice.

"Throw it on the wall, see what sticks, find out who can play and what they can handle," Fisher said. "Then we'll go back and review everything, break it down individually and see what they retain."

Winston and Maguire have made their share of mistakes in the early going, but considering the novelty of the situation, Fisher has been pleasantly surprised with how well they've handled it.

"I like them," Fisher said. "Great arms, talent, picking things up as they go. I'm glad we've got them. They've both got really good arm talent, very cerebral."

Dent looks sharp

The early injury concerns surrounding wide receiver Greg Dent appear to have been a bit overstated.

The junior, who finished with 12 catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns last season, suffered a knee injury during the offseason and Fisher was expecting a slow start to fall camp for Dent.

"The dadgum trainers had him on life support, had me scared to death," Fisher joked. "He hasn't missed a rep."

Fisher said Dent made good progress this spring and the reports from summer workouts were positive, too.

Dent has been working with the No. 2 unit through the first four practices this week, but Fisher sounds convinced of the junior's potential for a breakout season.

"He's not fully healthy, but you can't tell," Fisher said. "He's got some more to go and he's making plays, deep balls, catching routes. I've been extremely pleased, and he's got a lot of big-play potential."