The early jitters are over. The butterflies have passed. Now four days into fall camp, players are looking to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Thursday was a defensive-oriented day from the early moments of practice. Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, defensive ends coach Mark Snyder, linebackers coach Raymond Woodie, and defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins all spoke with the media before practice began.
Who’s it going to be? Francois, Blackman, or Hockman? Deondre Francois has shaken off the rust that was evident earlier in the week and he continues to be tremendously accurate in the open field, but struggles to find consistency in the red zone. Don’t look now, but Bailey Hockman is getting better at an accelerated rate. The throws that he missed earlier in the week, he’s now nailing. James Blackman is either spot-on with his targets, or overthrowing them. The question lingers on.
Did the O-Line get bigger?
No, seriously. Not to discredit Vic Viloria, but whatever kind of strength and conditioning Irele Oderinde has facilitated is truly showing. The video in the tweet below shows from right tackle to left tackle — it’s still Dickerson, Minshew, Eberle, Kelly, and Williams.
Abdul Bello, Mike Arnold, and Baveon Johnson continue to stand in as second string.
Christian Armstrong shined bright in the first drills of practice. He's a tremendous blocker in open field.
The Seminoles opened practice with Oklahoma drills, and...well...Cam Akers is still really good.
Right before the play in that video, Akers appeared to get really banged up on a tackle in the same drill. He came up limping and grabbing onto his left thigh before sitting out and receiving some medical attention. Clearly it wasn’t serious, but it shows that his endurance as an athlete is one of his most underrated qualities.
Amir Rasul, Khalan Laborn, and Blaik Middleton also shared some reps at the running back position.
The Noonie show is back
Big takeaway from Thursday — Nyqwan Murray looks close to 100%. WR coach David Kelly was observing one drill, and when Murray stepped to the front of the line for his turn, Kelly stood directly in the line of his route. Murray didn’t flinch, caught the pass, and completed the route with ease. Kelly started jumping around — “Good! Good! Good job getting that fourth step.” Less than five minutes later, the drill was over, but Murray wasn’t. He asked for one more rep, and then this happened.
Warren Thompson and Ontaria Wilson continue to get their reps in as well.
It’s only Upshur from here
Finally, a strong leading candidate for the tight end position. 6-2 junior Naseir Upshur shined on Thursday. He’s differentiated himself from other tight end candidates partly because he’s shown to have chemistry with all three quarterback candidates. He and James Blackman led a drive with the hurry-up offense that culminated in this touchdown grab.
Later on, Upshur made a ridiculous one-handed snag in the end zone that had everybody turning their heads. Keep an eye on No. 82.
Jacques Patrick did not appear to be at practice in any capacity. Sources could not confirm whether or not it was an injury-related absence.
FSU’s defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins was asked about the main differences going from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3. He responded by saying it involves much more attacking and much more teaching. One of the guys that he was teaching up adamantly on Thursday was Marvin Wilson. Wilson tore his MCL and missed most of spring ball because of it. There’s only so much you can determine from watching players without pads and full contact, but Wilson seems to be improving every day.
Demarcus Christmas, Jamarcus Chatman, Peter Osimen, and Robert Cooper are seemingly improving as well, standing out in defensive line drills.
Lay the hammer
Special teams coordinator Alonzo Hampton could be heard screaming “Lay the hammer, J-Rob!” from a mile away. Janarius Robinson has been turning heads in fall practice thus far, and it continued on Thursday when Robinson was implemented in punt-blocking formations. Not one rusher got by Robinson the entire practice. It was almost impossible to get around him.
Linebackers seemed to be at full strength on Thursday. Joshua Kaindoh is still listed as a defensive end, but has been moving around to different spots in the front seven. He stood out as one of the best linebackers during Thursday’s practice. Dennis Briggs Jr. also spent time on the line and at linebacker.
The secondary continues to be led by 5-10 Levonta Taylor. He and Kyle Meyers lined up as the two main cornerbacks of the defense. Stanford Samuels III and AJ Westbrook maintained their respective roles at safety.
In case you missed it, Amari Gainer suffered a fractured foot on the first day of practice and will miss the rest of camp and possibly some of the first games of the regular season.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link. One of the weakest units on last year’s Florida State team was special teams. Thursday, the unit received particularly close attention.
OL Chaz Neal and LB Janarius Robinson were the primary blockers for first-team punter Logan Tyler.
Keith Gavin, DJ Matthews, Nyqwan Murray, Keyshawn Helton, and Tre’Shaun Harrison returned punts in a specialty drill that began with the returner laying flat on the ground with his head towards the punter. The returner would have to jump up when the ball was kicked, track it in the air, and catch it with one hand while the other hand was already holding a football. No one’s messing around this year.