Mike Norvell starts his post-practice press conferences the same way, and if you were not paying attention, every day would sound amazing.
In reality, the inflection in his voice gives away how he truly feels and today, everyone could hear that he was satisfied with the result.
“I thought today was a good work day...guys responded well...good speed on speed as we try to push, grow, and develop; I was proud of the way our guys approached today.”
On a weekly routine situational Wednesday, both sides of the ball flashed their dominance. On the first drive of the day, Jordan Travis, with 58 seconds and the ball on his own 25, marched the offense down the field to set up a Ryan Fitzgerald 53-yard field goal, which he drilled.
The defense responded, forcing back-to-back incompletions during third down work as they continue to improve daily.
Three players stood out on a picture-perfect day in Tallahassee on Wednesday.
After not playing against Syracuse, all eyes going into practice this week went to No. 14.
He looks good to go.
Yesterday, he looked to be shaking off the cobwebs as some of his bad habits returned with drops and weird ball-catching angles. Wednesday, Johnny practiced the way he played in the Clemson game. On the opening one-minute drive on the day, Jordan Travis focused solely on his 6’7 giant. On the drive's first play, Wilson found the soft spot in the zone for a first down and a clock stoppage. The ensuing play was a Johnny Wilson signature. Adam Fuller called for man coverage, and Renardo Green took up the challenge of Wilson. Wilson ran a back shoulder fade, and Travis put the ball where only Johnny could make a catch as he plucked the ball out of the air for a 20-yard gain. All the media personnel watching looked at each other as if to say, “How can you stop that?”
Later in the day, Johnny Wilson ran another fade route during 1-on-1s from the three-yard line and came down with another catch. He opened up other receivers during red zone work from the 20-yard line, and the offense looked efficient after stalling on Saturday. I believe that the reason for the red zone deficiencies was Johnny Wilson’s absence. When the area of the field gets smaller, the game turns into who can make a play. Wilson is the perfect red zone target because of his size, and much of the playbook in that area looks his way. With him in the fold this weekend, it should be easier for the offense to execute in that phase of the game, even against one of the best red zone defenses in the country.
Florida State emphasizes special teams more than many teams in the country. This places a bright light on their kickers and punters. After being one of the team's weaknesses last year, Fitzgerald has become a weapon that only a few colleges have. Ryan Fitzgerald drilled a 53-yard field goal today after Jordan Travis threw an incompletion in a play that took 7 seconds off the clock. It was the furthest attempt I have seen him make this year in practice and tied for the longest of the year as I saw him smash a 53-yarder during warmups against Clemson. He made all his other boots during a different 11 on 11 practice period on the day and carried himself night and day from last year. This is on the heels of another long field goal against Syracuse when, in contrast, a team has missed an extra point or field goal against the Seminoles dating back to Boston College. The Seminoles look to have a decisive edge in a game that could get close and come down to three points.
The Kalen DeLoach scoop and score feels like the turning point for this unit. In the last nine quarters, the defense has given up 13 points. After almost blowing the game against Boston College, they look like an 11-man wrecking ball. Wednesday was no different, and they continued to elevate their game as a unit. The defense walled up and forced a long field goal during the one-minute drill, then won the day during third down drills. Sticky coverage mixed in with a pass rush that closed the pocket down quickly forced multiple incompletions and tight-windowed throw.
This unit has a boa-constrictor feel to it. They squeeze teams like a snake as the game gets tighter and the field grows smaller. They do not shy away from big moments and are playing like they are all controlled by one mind. The squeeze was put on the offense today because, as the day went on, it became more and more challenging to move the ball. On Saturday, they will be facing their most difficult challenge yet. Duke runs the ball the best in the ACC and will not shrink in big moments. Mike Norvell mentioned that Saturday would come down to “good against good,” and the team that executes to a higher level will come out in front. If the defense plays like they did the last two days of practice, the Blue Devils may not come out of Tallahassee alive.
That is all from practice this week, as the next time FSU is open to the media will be Saturday at 7:30 P.M.
Head Coach Mike Norvell
QB Jordan Travis
WR Hykeem Williams
Video courtesy Noles 247