Mike Norvell was in his element as the first drills of practice got underway Tuesday morning — as mentioned yesterday, there may not be another person on the planet more excited for FSU to take the field after being off for 14 days.
The Seminoles matched the coach’s energy at practice, one Norvell described as “energetic... the speed we practiced with was good.” The offense and defense each produced up and down moments during the day as the offense looked better in 11 on 11 drills earlier, with the defense finding its stride as practice wore on.
During an up-tempo practice, three themes stood out above the rest.
To start the year, Maurice Smith is in the running for the unsung hero of this FSU football team. Throughout the last week, the coaching staff mentioned how vital he is for their offensive line, reflected in 0 false starts on the road against Clemson. Alex Atkins, yesterday during his media availability, said of Smith, “ he tries to keep me positive, that’s his job.” It is safe to say that the Seminole Center takes the room's pulse and has its respect simultaneously.
Smith constantly talks to his teammates for being on the reserved side, and he put that on display Tuesday. After each rep, #53 could be seen communicating to his fellow offensive linemen even before the coaching staff spoke. He encouraged each player after each rep and gave them pointers as if he were working and playing. When Smith was called into action, he proved why he earned the starting job two years in a row, twice dispatching Malcolm Ray during 1-on-1s and doing an admirable job checking protection with Jordan Travis. With the injury concerns primarily behind him, the Miami native looks to spark the offensive line for the stretch run.
After taking a detour to start the season, the Johnny Wilson bandwagon will be coming full steam ahead after the bye week. On Tuesday, every time I turned my head, Wilson scored a touchdown or made an acrobatic catch, putting his 6’7 frame constantly on display. The Arizona State transfer practiced today with the best energy I felt he has shown since the season began, which translated to the field. During 11 on 11 work, he first caught a short out route from Jordan Travis as an appetizer and then made a back shoulder reception as he launched over Renardo Green, plucking the ball out of the air for the main course.
Johnny Wilson was no match against the scout team towards the end of practice as I counted three touchdowns, each thrown in the air over 30 yards. His ability to get off the press and win on the outside are strengths, but how Norvell moves him into the slot has been ingenious. In the game against Boston College, the Seminoles’ playcaller constantly moved Wilson inside, and this caused mismatches throughout the day. Mike Norvell continued with that trend on Tuesday, and no defense has an answer for a towering 6’7 receiver standing in the slot. Johnny Wilson seems to refound his grove, which should only open up the “downfield shots” Alex Atkins wants to keep taking.
After practice Tuesday, the Virginia transfer met with the media and gave insight into what the defense will be keying in on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s going to be a physical game. We need to tackle and cover our guys just like every other game, but it’s going to be a dogfight. We know they like to run the ball, and we need to come up and tackle.”
One of the weaknesses in the secondary to start the year includes their tackling ability, but Cypress has been a bright spot through the first month. According to PFF, the cornerback produced a 76.1 run grade through four games, which outpaces his pass grade. To start the year, Florida State struggled against running quarterbacks, and they will need their veteran secondary members to get hats to the ball and make plays when they are presented.
Florida State will take the practice field tomorrow morning as they put the finishing touches on Virginia Tech going into Saturday.
Head Coach Mike Norvell
DL Braden Fiske
DB Fentrell Cypress II
Video via Noles247