Gather around the round table for some thoughts of various Tomahawknation.com writers regarding spring practices.
How important is spring football?
Oline0175: It’s the perfect opportunity to get out and emphasize skill over scheme without sacrificing progress. Coaches get the chance to focus on building a base of technique and fundamentals with their players.
Officially.back: Drills are slowed down, with a renewed focus on teaching, and basic installation. Plus, who doesn’t like the smell of freshly cut turf?
Evan Johnson: The spring game is largely worthless but a lot of culture building occurs during spring. This goes double when a new coaching staff comes in: not just because of scheme installment, but figuring out who leaders are and establishing what the standard for all aspects of the program should be.
Who is a player you are following this spring?
Oline0175: Redshirt freshman Derek McClendon, I believe, is a player that could take over at the “Fox” position and be a very talented player. The defensive end group needs more twitchy players and Derek has flashed that. A third DE emerging would be great news for Adam Fuller and the Noles defense.
NoleThruandThru: You’re naturally drawn to the position you used to play, so I always find myself watching the WR corps. I’ll be closely watching WR Jordan Young. “IROC” oozes potential and could very well be the heir to Scary Terry’s throne next season. He earned a coveted black jersey last week and has flashed a lot in practice, and it’s time to see that translate to the field. I look for Young to establish himself as a legitimate #2 option and starter this season with the departures of Keith Gavin and Tre’shaun Harrison.
Evan Johnson: Speaking of Terry, he disappeared at times last year due to dropped balls, an inability to get open, or be found by the quarterback (the last two not necessarily all on him). The offense needs leaders and I’d like to see Terry fulfill that role. It’s a good sign that early on he’s earned a black practice jersey but he needs to continue that consistency, because he has the talent. If not for the amazing number of top flight receivers last year he might have been one of the top five off the board in this year’s draft.
Officially.back: Jamarcus Chatman. Chatman came in talented, but as a bit of a tweener. Spent last year as an undersized defensive tackle, but super curious to see if he can hold on to his weight gain while maintaining his athleticism, as he should have significant snaps this season.
Jeremiah Zanders: Joshua Kaindoh. The former 5 star recruit has yet to live up to the hype so far and is coming off of a season ending injury. How does the new staff, particularly DE Coach John Papuchis affect his development? He still has two years of eligibility but his breakout season needs to come sooner rather than later for FSU.
Trey Rowland: The running back position, to me, is an enigma. You have a Cam Akers-sized hole leaving the room, and no clear indication of who is going to fill it. Will mercurial veterans like Khalan Laborn or Anthony Grant lock down the RB1 spot? Or, will a newcomer take advantage of the power vacuum left behind in Akers’ wake? Mike Norvell has always had productive running backs, so I’m very intrigued to see what happens at this position during the spring. I’ll keep my eye on Laborn.
TimScribble: Any tight end. Coach Norvell is a big believer in utilizing the tight end in his offense. Who is going to step up? Will Wyatt Rector’s move from quarterback pay off? Can true freshman Carter Boatwright make an impact? Camren McDonald? A mystery tight end? Also, I am curious to see the new special teams players. I want to see Ryan Fitzgerald and Alex Mastromanno in action and see if they can improve the kicking unit from last season.
Who is a player that needs to have a good spring?
Oline0175: The obvious answer is James Blackman or an offensive tackle. I’m going to go a different direction and say Cam McDonald. The tight end room is very shallow you have McDonald, true freshman Carter Boatwright, QB Turner TE walk-on Wyatt Rector and that’s it. McDonald needs to take a firm hold of this position as TE is a crucial piece of the Mike Norvell offense.
NoleThruandThru: Devontay Taylor. Taylor chose FSU for the immediate starting opportunity, and he’ll certainly have every chance to earn it with a good spring. He’s further along in his development and thus has higher expectations. I look for him to finish spring with a good understanding of the new schemes and calls, and to have a starting spot locked down.
Evan Johnson: Corey Durden was rumored to throw his hat into the NFL draft ring last year but decided to come back to school. Durden looks good when he’s on the field but he’s stuck behind Marvin Wilson and will struggle to see the field at times. He needs to take a big leap forward and become the 1b to Wilson’s 1a instead of the 2. With a big year Durden could make a smart decision in turning pro and that starts in the spring.
Officially.back: Khalan Laborn. It's assumed that Laborn is the front-runner for the starting role at RB, but the running back room suddenly looks a LOT more crowded and competitive. How does he handle and respond to this competition?
Jeremiah Zanders: Defensive line depth is going to be huge for FSU this season and a key part in that is Robert Cooper. Cooper has gotten in better shape and only gotten stronger during his time in Tallahassee. Now is the time where he needs to take a leap forward and build off of a decent sophomore campaign.
TimScribble: It’s Joshua Kaindoh (if he’s fully healthy) for me. Florida State needs to see if he’s going to make an impact from the defensive end spot. He showed flashes early last season before the injury. If he doesn’t show progress, the Seminoles may need to see who is going to be available in the transfer portal.
What differences do you want to see from the old coaching staff to the new this spring?
Oline0175: I want to see organization. By all accounts the previous staff left a lot of players standing around during practices and that is a no-no. I want to see this group maximize every second of practice so that player development becomes a priority again. If you can’t out talent somebody you better outwork them and this staff needs to make sure they is what happens each and every day.
Evan Johnson: How many players were standing there watching five to six players run a drill with dubious benefit? Not everybody is going to run practices the same, and that’s fine, but there was a stark contrast between Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart in the efficiency of practices.
Officially.back: For me, less emphasis on speed, more emphasis on efficiency. Rushing in practice led to happy whistles in games. It was never a single offender either, so that's more indicative of a broken system.
Trey Rowland: I want to see a fully coordinated and coherent defensive scheme. This team has been consistently misusing, or full-out wasting, talent on that side of the ball for the past 2 years. How many games last year did the defense look totally out of sync from level to level? I’ve been very bullish on Adam Fuller’s ability to make stark defensive improvements, so we’ll see if he proves me right. I hope he does. I say so much wrong stuff that it would be nice to take home a win on this one.
TimScribble: I just want to see competency. I want to see a team that is in unison and players who know when they are supposed to be on the field.
What position group do you expect to see an uptick this spring?
Oline0175: Seeing how I raved about the linebacker room in the position preview, there’s your answer. True freshman Stephen Dix Jr is getting rave reviews around campus and his tape matches the hype. Emmett Rice seems to have stepped up. Leonard Warner is steady as they come. Kevon Glenn had tons of hype coming out of high school. There’s plenty of depth now we need to see it.
Evan Johnson: Defensive back is probably the most talented position on the field for FSU but they seemed to be coached and/or deployed inappropriately under defensive coordinator Harlen Barnett. There’s no reason the Seminoles should be as passive as they were under Barnett nor should they be that porous. Those guys have not forgotten how to play and I expect them to show their recruiting rankings this year.
Officially.back: It's hard to replace Cam "Mr. Do it all" Akers and his production. But if we're thinking group, I'd probably go running back. I expect to see the football shared a little bit more, more 2-back sets, more balls thrown out the backfield, etc.
Jeremiah Zanders: Even though we have seen improvements the last two years i feel the best is yet to come for the wide receiver room at FSU. With Terry returning and a new offensive system that is pass catcher friendly the sky should be the limit for this group.
*DAILY DOUBLE MUSIC*
What player do you expect to breakout this spring?
Oline0175: Tough to call this guy a “breakout” but I believe Travis Jay will be the player with the most buzz come the end of spring. Jay has been a player Nole fans have been excited for since he stepped on campus a year ago. After taking a redshirt it is his time to shine at cornerback.
NoleThruandThru: I love Adam’s answer but don’t want to repeat. Give me the people’s champ: Wyatt Rector! He’s another recipient of the coveted black jersey this spring. Could he be the next Matt Henshaw, successfully moving from QB to TE? I think so, and I think fans will see plenty of Rector in a very uncertain TE group with no clear starters for the multiple TE sets that Norvell likes to run.
Evan Johnson: Florida State has some pretty good bodies at wide receiver but one player I thought would show up earlier was Jordan Young. Now a redshirt sophomore Young has the body type you’d like to see opposite Terry and has shown flashes. Hopefully this is the year he puts it all together and gives FSU a very good spring leading to a 2020 season that puts him on the path as the heir apparent to Terry.
Officially.back: I'll go with the other forgotten Cam, Cam McDonald. Cam is looking to lead his position group and make a name for himself. He's going to be an incredibly significant part of Norvell's offense and he knows it.
TimScribble: I was going to say Travis Jay as well, but I’ll go with Stephen Dix Jr. There’s a lot of buzz around the early enrollee and the linebacker position is wide open for the taking.