Seminoles start practice with Penn State transfer
By BILL KACZOR
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State started preseason practice Monday with one big addition and an electrifying loss.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said offering a scholarship to 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end Kevin Haplea, a Penn State transfer, was an easy decision and that he had plenty of candidates to replace speedy, shifty senior Greg Reid.
Fisher, who said he sensed a "quiet confidence" among his players, last week dismissed Reid for violating team rules three weeks after he was charged with marijuana possession. Reid not only started at cornerback, but had emerged as Florida State's best punt returner since Deion Sanders.
The Seminoles recruited Haplea out of high school in Annandale, N.J., but he chose Happy Valley over Tallahassee. Haplea played in every game for the Nittany Lions last season, catching three passes for 21 yards and one touchdown. He also was credited with opening running lanes for 1,200-yard rusher Silas Redd, who is going to Southern California.
Haplea is among nine Penn State players who have transferred since the NCAA slapped sanctions on the school, including a four-year bowl ban, for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
"He called us," Fisher said. "We did not go after any of the Penn State players and we're not going to."
Florida State was one short of its 85-scholarship maximum when Haplea called.
"It was like getting a free agent," Fisher said. "We had cap room."
Haplea has a big athletic body, can run and catch and has played in a lot of big-time games, Fisher said.
"We loved him out of high school, great student, great guy," he said. "To me it was almost a no-brainer."
Fisher, starting his third season since replacing the iconic Bobby Bowden, said his seniors have matured and learned what it takes to win after failing to live up to expectations with a 9-4 record in 2011.
"There's something about seniors and getting enough of them that have played," Fisher said. "The world just slows down for you, you know what I'm saying? I see a quiet confidence."
Reid's scholarship is going to freshman place-kicker Roberto Aguayo. He had been promised a scholarship after the season if he enrolled this fall. He'll now be able to practice with the team and back up senior Dustin Hopkins.
A Georgia state trooper charged Reid with marijuana possession after stopping him near his Valdosta, Ga. home. Reid, 21, was arrested last year on resisting arrest and perjury charges that subsequently were dropped. He also was suspended for a game last season for an unspecified team rules violation.
"I love Greg to death," Fisher said, but he added, "Rules are rules and what we have to go by. We wish Greg the best. I don't think it's ended his career."
Fisher said Reid may be able to latch onto a lower division school. He said Reid responded maturely when told he had been kicked off the team.
"We had a great conversation, very sad conversation," Fisher said.
Sophomore Nick Waisome will move into Reid's starting position at corner for now, but Fisher said several other players are expected to compete for the position. As for punt returning, Fisher said, "We've got plenty of those guys, too."
They include wide receivers Rashad Greene, Marvin Bracy and Kenny Shaw, defensive back Ronald Darby and running back Chris Thompson, who is returning from a season-ending broken back that he suffered in last year's fifth game at Wake Forest.
"Chris says he hasn't felt this good since he can't remember when," Fisher said.
If the senior feels as good as he did in 2010, that would be a big boost for Florida State's running game. Thompson was the most valuable player in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, led the Seminoles in rushing with 845 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry during his sophomore year.
Several Seminoles, though, are going into practice at less than full speed.
Fullback Chad Abram and Greene are recovering from surgery unrelated to football, but both are expected to be fully recovered before the Seminoles kick off the season by hosting Murray State on Sept. 1. Abram had a urinary system blockage and Greene had an appendectomy.
Wide receiver Greg Dent also should be ready by then after undergoing knee surgery three weeks ago to clean out some cartilage while Mario Pender is recovering from a groin injury but should be able to practice on a limited basis.
Defensive tackle Jacobii McDaniel has an ankle injury and is about 60 to 70 percent, Fisher said. He said another defense tackle, Derrick Mitchell, will miss the first half of the season due to back surgery to fix an old high school injury that flared up.
Defensive back Tyler Hunter is working his way out of Fisher's doghouse after posting Twitter comments including rap lyrics that referred to killing police, which drew objections from law enforcement officials. Hunter's punishment includes meetings with campus Police Chief David Perry and riding along with officers.
"I want him to have a great understanding for what those guys do and what they go through daily and what their families have to go through before he makes an apology," Fisher said.
The coach also has ordered players to stop tweeting.
"We're not banning it," Fisher insisted. "We're going to educate the use of it before it's ever reinstated again. I'm not saying it won't be and it could be, but I think it's a powerful thing - words."
Updated August 6, 2012