TALLAHASSEE — FSU redshirt senior Ochuko Jenije is making the transition from cornerback to safety look easy.
"He's a very good football player," coach Jimbo Fisher said. "He understands football, and I think he's making a very good transition inside."
Jenije started and had three tackles in the opener against Division I-AA Samford and is expected to start Saturday as the No. 17-ranked Seminoles (1-0) visit No. 10 Oklahoma (1-0).
But making that transition is not so simple a move.
"A lot of people think that since you're back there in the secondary, everything is the same," he said. "It's a whole new mind-set."
Instead of focusing on one receiver or one area as a cornerback, a safety must see the whole field to stop the run or help in coverage.
"It's definitely been an adjustment," he said. "I'm still learning every single day, every time I'm out there; every time I'm in the film room."
Jenije, who started all 13 games last season at cornerback and matched first-round NFL draft pick Patrick Robinson with four interceptions, was the lone returning starter in the secondary. Coaches asked the 5-foot-11, 195-pounder from North Florida Christian to change positions last month and, though he had never played safety, he obliged.
"He gives you an extra cover guy inside when you're against those three- and four-wideout teams," Fisher said. "He's doing well with it, and I think he'll continue to do well."
"My teammates, Terrance Parks and Nick Moody, are helping me out big time, too," Jenije said. "It's a major adjustment. I caught myself this last game in, I guess you could say, in corner-mode. (Defensive coordinator Mark) Stoops quickly reminded me on Monday that I do have to help out on the run on some plays. You have to retune your mind for the physicality of playing safety. … I'm just trying to do whatever it takes for our defense to be most successful."
Bittersweet day: CB Mike Harris, whose ailing mother Gwendolyn Harris, 52, died just hours after he made a stellar debut for the Seminoles, said Saturday was a "bittersweet day."
"When I got the call it really hurt me a lot, because I was really looking forward to going out there and playing in front of my mom (one day)," he said in a statement. "That's the reason I came back closer to home."
The 6-foot, 180-pound prospect from south Miami, where he was a quarterback in a spread option offense, moved to the secondary when he went to El Camino (Calif.) College and excelled. Harris, named the team's defensive player of the week after he had four tackles and an interception, will play at Oklahoma this weekend then head to Miami for his mother's funeral, scheduled for Tuesday.
"It was just real sad that she never got to see me play my first game, but I felt like she was there with me and she'll continue to be there with me in the future," he said. "I thank everyone for the text messages and all the support that I've received."
homecoming of sorts: For senior QB Christian Ponder, the game at Oklahoma is as close as he has come to a homecoming during his collegiate career. The OU campus is only a couple of hours north of his home in the Dallas area, and he expects a number of family, high school friends and high school coaches to make that trip.
"I've got so many people asking me for tickets, I'm sure I'll be turning people away," he said.
But Ponder said the crowd won't be a distraction.
"Actually, a lot of people aren't coming up until Saturday," he said, adding that his father, David, a former FSU defensive lineman and NFL veteran, has taken the lead to control demands on his son's time.
And if that doesn't work …
"I'm going to hide him," Fisher said with a laugh. "His dad knows what's going on, and he does a great job with him and I'm sure he'll hinder that. And I'll ask him. I tell him (Christian) sometimes what he's got to learn is to be mean every now and then and say no. The dadgum guy is so nice; he's so nice to everybody. 'Say no,' I tell him, 'For about 10 seconds, pretend you're like me and then quit; don't do it after that.' "
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3347.