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Young Florida State quarterback focuses on his feet

With Florida State fans raving about what quarterback Christian Ponder can do with his legs, running opposing defenses ragged, he has been focusing more on his feet.

"At times, I've had a tough time setting my feet (to throw from the pocket)," he said recently. "I get kind of antsy."

In wins against Colorado and Miami, he ran 27 times for 187 yards. But he also completed just 24 of 53 passes (45 percent) for 278 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions as a result of being antsy and throwing off of his back foot.

If the Seminoles (4-1, 1-1 ACC) hope to win a third straight game tonight at North Carolina State (2-4, 0-2), they need Ponder to use his feet more correctly.

"It goes back to the habits I formed in high school," he said. "It's something I've just got to break."

Some of it is confidence in his young line, which is growing with each game. Some of it is confidence in himself, which similarly is growing as he plays more. He's just a redshirt sophomore about to make his sixth start.

"It's all about setting my feet and making the throws," Ponder said. "And I can make the throws. It's something I really have to think about and really practice hard. Coach (Jimbo) Fisher knows everything there is to playing quarterback, so he's definitely going to help me and really teach me."

Getting started: The men's and women's basketball teams begin practice Friday with very different rosters.

The men return three starters, Fs Uche Echefu and Ryan Reid and G Toney Douglas. Echefu isn't expected to be ready after offseason surgery on his left knee (though he's close to 100 percent) while Douglas will move from point to shooting guard.

Coach Leonard Hamilton is looking to incorporate six heralded newcomers, including F Chris Singleton, Clearwater High G Luke Loucks and G Derwin Kitchen, a junior college transfer. He also counts redshirt freshman C Solomon Alabi, who is back from surgery on a broken right leg, as an addition.

"I am cautiously optimistic about this team because unlike some young teams I've had in the past, this team has demonstrated a higher level of maturity than what I've been accustomed to with newcomers," said Hamilton, who hasn't taken FSU to the NCAA Tournament in his six years.

"They seem to have a sense of urgency about how they go about their business. They're extremely confident. Needless to say, I think they're talented enough and with the attitude they've displayed, they'll be able to accelerate their progress."

Women's coach Sue Semrau, meanwhile, welcomes back starting Gs Tanae Davis-Cain, Mara Freshour and Courtney Ward and starting F Jacinta Monroe from the team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament (the program's fourth straight). But five other players, all of whom have starting experience, including G/F Alysha Harvin and F Cayla Moore, are also back.

"It's almost a luxury to have veterans teaching," Semrau said. "That's something we haven't had the last couple of years with the number of seniors we've had."

That nucleus has been helping a heralded class headlined by dazzling C Cierra Bravard, who figures to provide immediate help inside, and F Kayli Keough, a former Land O'Lakes standout.

"We're just excited to get everybody in a flow," Semrau said.

SI honor: Sports Illustrated has a list of college football's all-time best with one restriction, no more than one player from a school, which meant for some tough choices to be sure. One Seminole made the cut of 26 players (11 on offense, 11 on defense and four specialists), and that was … drum roll, please, Deion Sanders at cornerback.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Young Florida State quarterback focuses on his feet 10/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 16, 2008 5:28pm]
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