It felt like Christmas morning.
Florida State practicing for the first time this season in glistening white helmets produced an uptick in energy amongst the players and staff. A switch-up in gear raises eyebrows, and the team warmed up a little harder than usual as they broke them out.
Mike Norvell mentioned that in the last two Wednesday practices, the team had a lot of “inconsistencies” but felt that they were up to the task yesterday and today. Florida State went for longer today than usual as the coaching staff wants to get the players back on the “ normal routine” since last week was a shorter week. The head coach did not offer an update on possible changes from Hurricane Lee, and it sounds like the ACC will take that one down to the wire.
As always, a few themes and players stood out above the rest — here’s a look at some of them.
Wednesday morning can only mean one thing in the Dunlap Practice Facility: time for situational football. Florida State busted out the chains, play clocks, and put the heat on all three phases. The offense won the day against Jared Verse and company, as they were able to drive the ball into field goal range during the two-minute 11 on 11 drill. Jordan Travis did an excellent job picking apart the zone defense FSU played, hitting Johnny Wilson and Hykeem Williams multiple times over the middle. The offensive line gave the quarterback plenty of time to survey his options, contributing to one of their better days in the last few weeks.
Situational football on both sides of the ball is one of the highlights of the Florida State season. The offense is 13/16 on third down, and the defense produced a stop on 17/23 attempts. The red zone numbers are more impressive. FSU has scored in the red zone on every trip (10-10), and the defense only gave up a touchdown on 3 out of 7 tries. Florida State continues to create an advantage with its work in situational football, which will only need more wins.
It has been challenging for the Illinois transfer. Transitioning from a quarterback to a college wide receiver takes time, and then throw in entering into a new system and there’s another level of adversity to overcome. At times last year, Spann struggled to fully find his role on the field.
After another year in the system, he is taking that leap everyone hoped to see.
Spann, who Norvell praised during Monday’s news conference, continues to be an all-around threat for Florida State. Today, he did it all, returning kicks, running the ball, and making extraordinary catches using his 6’4 frame to his advantage. During 7 on 7 work, he made what looked to be the play of the day (more on that later), catching a long deep ball over Fentrell Cypress to score. His talent flashed all over the field, and he was the most targeted receiver during team drills, constantly reading the defense and getting open. Asked about Spann again today, Norvell lauded the receiver, saying, “he is an extremely hard worker... I have a lot of confidence of where he is going to go as a player.” As Spann comes into his own, giving the Seminoles another clear weapon on offense, Norvell, offensive coordinator Alex Atkins and wide receiver coach Ron Dugans continue to deal with the best problem in sports- too many options.
The player with the best hands on the team might not be in the wide receiver room. The former Gamecock threw his hat in the ring today for best catching ability with two incredible plays at the end of practice. During red zone work, Bell ran a wheel route into the end zone, jumping over the defender to catch the ball while miraculously getting not one but two feet down to register the pass as a completion. He then made the play of the day. While working against the scout team, #6 ran a seam pattern, flipped his body, and caught the ball with one hand as he went to the ground. Although he did not record a catch on Saturday, Bell puts so much stress on defense the way FSU lines him up all over the field. Mike Norvell glows when speaking about the tight end as he unlocks so much of the head coach’s offense. If Alex Atkins called Darius Washington the offensive line’s “Swiss army knife,” then Jaheim Bell must have that title for the skill position players.
Florida State will practice behind closed doors tomorrow before hopefully flying out Friday and playing Saturday, but that may change depending on the status of Hurricane Lee.
Head Coach Mike Norvell
OL Darius Washington
DL Dennis Briggs Jr.
Video courtesy TheOsecola.com
WR Winston Wright JR.
Video courtesy Noles247.com