For senior buck linebacker Jacob Pugh, the 2017 season is his final chance to prove he has what it takes to play at the next level. He seems ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Dade City native has flashed his potential in stretches and improved with each passing season at FSU. He has grown from accumulating 12 total tackles and no sacks as a freshman in 2014 to 43 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2016.
So far this spring, he has taken his game to the next level and is making his presence felt by many surrounding the team.
“I’ve been extremely happy with him. He can do a lot of things,” Jimbo Fisher said of Pugh after Wednesday’s practice. ”Big body, can cover, can rush, can play the run, physical.”
Added Fisher, “He’s probably had the best spring of anybody we have.”
“Jacob is an all-around player. He runs to the ball, he covers people, he does everything,” sophomore defensive end Brian Burns said. “He is a key part of our defense.”
With such solid edge-rusher depth already on Florida State’s roster, the emergence of Pugh in his final season in Tallahassee could go a long way towards taking FSU’s defensive line, already pegged with the potential to be one of the best in the country, to the next level.
Stacked punt return group
It shouldn’t come as a surprise on a team with as much skill position talent as Florida State, but the group of Seminoles working as the punt returners in spring practice are positively loaded.
The group of five includes star safety Derwin James, sophomore standout Levonta Taylor, talented wideouts Keith Gavin and Nyqwan Murray and, oh yeah, the No. 1 running back in the 2017 recruiting class, Cam Akers.
Exactly who emerges from this group as the one starter remains a mystery. Murray and Gavin both had experience returning kicks last season, Taylor was a highly-touted return man in high school, and James and Akers have undeniable natural talent, even if they have yet to serve as a returner in college.
Saturday’s spring game will likely serve as the first indicator of who looks ready to rise above and claim the specialist spot heading into 2017.
Offensive line health improves
FSU has seen injuries throughout its roster over the course of spring practice, but the unit perhaps most ravaged by absences is the offensive line.
The Seminoles entered spring already without their returning starter at center, Alec Eberle, who is missing the entire spring after undergoing hip surgery, and rising sophomore guard Landon Dickerson, who tore his ACL in November.
Add in injuries last week to David Robbins, Rick Leonard, Andrew Boselli, Derrick Kelly, and Josh Ball and FSU’s usually solid offensive line depth was suffering, with the ’Noles sitting around 10 healthy linemen.
However, those concerns have taken a step for the better over the last few days. Robbins was participating in a full capacity on Saturday. On Wednesday, Leonard, Ball and Kelly returned to the fold while Dickerson was stretching and shadowing the offensive line, a step towards his return to action.
The position group’s health is still not back to 100% with Boselli still out and sporting a hefty knee brace. Still, the gradual improvement of the offensive line’s health is promising as well as timely, especially ahead of Saturday.