Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher approaches the midpoint of his team's spring practice schedule confident that the infusion of new talent being weaved into the Seminoles lineup will provide the reigning national champions the ability to repeat.
The Seminoles, who had 11 players drafted by NFL teams a year ago, are expected to have another prominent group selected in May. New defensive coordinator Charles Kelly has several holes to fill on defense, where tackle Timmy Jernigan, linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones and defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks are among those expected to be early draft picks this year.
"Defense did some real nice things," Fisher said following Wednesday's practice on an overcast, chilly day in Florida's capital city. "I see some really athletic guys over there. At all three levels, front, linebackers and secondary."
He also said that Kelly from coaching linebackers and the special teams has been seamless. Kelly replaced Jeremy Pruitt, who left for Georgia after just one year as the Seminoles' defensive coordinator.
"Same terminology, same defense, same everything," Fisher said.
While the Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston led-offense averaged 51.6 points a game during Florida State's 14-0 title run, the defense limited opponents to 12.1 points a game — with many of those points being scored long after the outcome was decided.
Fisher wants to keep it that way and believes he has the players to achieve that goal.
"We have a talented team," he said. "It's how they jell, how they mature in wanting to be consistent."
Fisher listed several players following Wednesday's practice that he believes will be among the next wave of defenders to keep the Seminoles on top.
He was particularly high on rising sophomore defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who started all 14 games as a freshman for the Atlantic Coast Conference and national champion Seminoles.
"Jalen can do about anything he wants to do," Fisher said. "He's playing safety, he's playing nickel, he's player corner. He knows all three positions. He's so athletic."
Fisher also praised his returning secondary.
"We have a lot of guys that can play," said Nate Andrews, a rising sophomore who led the Seminoles with four interceptions last year. "It feels like we can pick up where we left off."
His coach doesn't disagree, but notes last year is history.
"We can't worry about that," he said. "Go play the games (2014). Hunt a new championship."
The fifth-year Florida State coach also praised the spring performance of defensive lineman Eddie Goldman, linebackers Terrance Smith, and Ukeme Eligwe, along with running back Karlos Williams, who switched from safety to tailback last season.
Fisher also said Winston would practice with the team this weekend, but is scheduled to fly to Boston to help the baseball team take on Boston College in an ACC series that is scheduled to be played at Rhode Island University because of weather conditions in Beantown.
"We'll get him back up there for the games," said Fisher, who has compiled a 45-10 record after replacing an aging Bobby Bowden following the 2009 season.
Florida State has won 28 of its last 30 games, including 16 straight coming off its come-from-behind win over Auburn in the national title game.
The Seminoles' annual spring game is scheduled April 12.