The seeds of labor are starting to bear fruit.
At the beginning of the year, Florida State was woeful on third down, but their constant pursuit of perfection came to fruition Saturday night. Duke went 4/12 on third down, with FSU converting at an over 50% clip on their end. Wednesday, as usual, focused on situational football, where the Seminoles are now stars. The defense still won the day, forcing Travis to heave a hail mary at the end of the 1-minute drill and forcing four straight stops on third down, but overall, Mike Norvell seemed happy with the day.
“I thought our guys had a good day overall, but still some areas that we need to improve.”
On a beautiful Tallahassee Wednesday, three themes stood out above the rest.
Special teams stand out
Down 17-7 on Saturday night, Florida State needed a spark. They got it from what Mike Norvell calls “one of the foundations of this program.” Deuce Spann ripped a 99-yard touchdown run back to the house and brought Doak Cambell to its feet. This only happens because of the work FSU puts into this unit, which continued on Wednesday.
Mike Norvell threw his hands up in the air multiple times during kickoff return practice. He loved the way Darian Williamson went and found his landmark and the effort that Conrad Hussey played with. Even when the coaching staff tried to trick this unit with an onside kick, they were ready and recovered the ball. Mike Norvell, in his post-game availability, highlighted how vital this unit is.
“Our guys understand the importance from the top down...there is a lot of buy-in from this team because they have seen the impact; they have seen the difference...if you want to be good, you have to invest in it.”
One of the country's best punter and kicker duos also buoys this unit. Alex Mastromanno and Ryan Fitzgerald continued sending bombs away Wednesday morning as Fitzgerald made all of his kicks on 11 on 11 work, and the Australian punter consistently averaged five seconds of air time. While this unit may not grab the headlines, they are the backbone of this team and deserve the screen time.
Earlier in the season, it seemed like the backend could be a weakness for this Seminole squad. Now, eight weeks into the year, they have turned their play around through the consistency of communication, the corner blitzes, and the underrated job Patrick Surtain Sr. has done. On practice Wednesday, this unit took its play on Saturday and carried it over. Multiple times when playing 11 on 11, Adam Fuller called for secondary pressure and played man defense on the back end. Every time this happened, the play was blown dead because the pressure got home or an incompletion. Kevin Knowles snatched two interceptions on the day, one on the Hail Mary attempt and another during 1 on 1 work in the middle of practice. They forced four straight incompletions during 1-on-1s, and quarterback pulldowns became as common as completions during 7 on 7.
One player that deserves highlighting from this group is Fentrell Cypress. Coming from a defense when he played zone, the transition to FSU took time. According to PFF, in his first game of the season against LSU, he graded out at a below-average 54.3 pass coverage grade. The results came in practice but only translated into game action after the bye. Since then, No.23 has turned out the lights on opposing offenses. He scored an exceptional 85.9 coverage grade last weekend against Duke, and his ability to shut down one side of the field has allowed Adam Fuller to call more blitzes. He looks more comfortable every rep and will look to close the season strong. Jarrian Jones, in his media availability, spoke highly of his teammates, saying:
“He came into a new defense, but he’s a pro, he’s a vet. Head down, he just works, so I would say he’s comfortable.”
Against a challenging matchup against the slow-mesh, look for the cornerbacks to stay on top of their game this weekend.
Your weekly Keon Coleman is great blurb begins now. When he wants, the wide receiver can catch every pass that comes his way. Towards the later part of 11 on 11 work, Keon muscled Kevin Knowles out of the way and caught an in-route 15 yards down the field, which drew praise from the coaching staff. During 1-on-1s in the red zone, he faked like he was running a fade and turned around for the comebacker, which resulted in an easy pitch and catch completion. Jordan Travis darted his eyes at the 6’4 receiver’s way virtually every read and gave him a hefty scoop of targets and passes.
However, what may be the most enjoyable part of watching Keon Coleman at practice is punt returning. Running backs coach David Johnson works with this unit the most, and he and Coleman go back and forth throughout the drills in a playful banter. On this occasion, Coleman lost track of where he was and caught the ball on the one-yard line instead of letting it bounce into the end zone. Coach Johnson proceeded to let the projected first-round pick know that he “will be playing for the Las Vegas Vipers,” which is an XFL team. At the end of the drill, he told Coleman, “Hey, overrated, go one more time,” which No.4 promptly caught with ease and moved on to the next part of the practice. With the receiver room banged up by injuries, the Keon Coleman show should be back underway at noon on Saturday.
That is all this week for open FSU practice, as the next time we will see the Seminoles will be in Winston-Salem
Head Coach Mike Norvell
CB Jarrian Jones
RB Rodney Hill
Video courtesy Noles247