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Florida State practice notebook: October 14

The FSU defense continues to try and find an identity.

Notre Dame Athletics

Update, 11:45 AM

Mike Norvell spoke to the media today, much happier than last Wednesday when he called out the ‘Noles for their effort in practice. He was pleased with their situational work and effort in practice today. On today’s practice, he said, “Thought our guys had good work through situations... You see true effort to go out there and get better. Good day. Excited for the rest of this week in our preparation.”

Florida State took a large step forward at Notre Dame last week, a large part of that came in their level of effort. The next step will be playing through their fundamentals with that effort. Norvell said, “I do believe we are playing harder, with a better sense of urgency. But we have to stay within our fundamentals. I think our guys are aware of it.”

Norvell also believes that the players are seeing that progress in the program. He also believes they see it in the numbers they provide them, not just the product on the field. “Absolutely believe our guys see the progress, the steps in the right direction. Not only they can see that with their eyes, but even their analytical data.”

The Seminoles’ head coach has praised their effort from Saturday night, and specifically near the end of the game where they played hard to the very last second. They make sure to show guys where they are and where they aren’t meeting the standard on film. Norvell said, “You try to show the standard when guys are meeting it, but also when we don’t meet it. I was pleased with how our guys played with effort at the end of the game.”

Update, 11:52 AM

We heard from starting quarterback Jordan Travis today who spoke on the Notre Dame game and the upcoming opportunity against North Carolina. Travis’ throwing hand got banged up near the end of the Notre Dame game, but he’s been able to practice each of the last two days. On his health status, he said, “I feel 100%, I am doing good, my hand feels good, everything is doing good.”

Last week, Travis’ number one target was Tamorrion Terry. Travis knows it’s important to get the ball in his hands so he can go out and make plays. On Terry, Travis said, “He is one of the most talented receivers I have ever been involved with in my life.”

There was much talk about the lack of a deep ball Travis could throw before he took over, but he’s hit multiple shot plays in the last two weeks. When he can hit the deep ball, it just opens up more lanes for the versatile running room. On hitting the deep ball, he said, “I feel like it has opened up a lot of things, the run game for sure. People have been respecting my arm more.”

FSU faces another tough challenge on Saturday on Bobby Bowden field against no. 5 UNC. Travis knows they’re a good team, but he’s more focused on himself and his own team. “They’re a very special team. We just have to focus on ourselves. We just have to go out there and play football just like last week.”

Update, 12:05 PM

The last player we heard from today was veteran Seminole linebacker Emmett Rice. Norvell praised Rice for his play in the second half at Notre Dame, saying it was one of his “best halves of football.” On that second half and the intensity the team brought, Rice said, “I did sense a different feeling from previous years, we showed we can keep fighting, and that is a plus. We just have to show we can fight from the first play to the last.”

The defense is working hard in practice on working together as a group. When they work as a group, it can negate some of the individual mistakes that players make and limit the big plays. On what they’re doing in practice to fix mistakes, Rice said, “We start with the overall picture of running to the ball. The pursuit. Communicating with one another.”

The Seminoles have put together back-to-back solid second halves of defense. Rice feels like they’re close to putting together a complete game. He said, “I feel like we’re pretty close, we just have to put it all together.”

When it comes to adversity for the defense, Rice just feels they need to respond as a group. On responding to the adversity, he said, “It’s not about what’s going on, it’s about the response- that’s what we can control.”

Through four games, the Florida State Seminoles defense has failed to consistently execute.

There have been games where they’ve found success on early downs before giving up a big play on third or fourth — other games where they’ve allowed that success no matter the down. An inability to protect the boundary side of the field, in addition to the struggles of the Seminoles’ front seven to win battles and generate pressure, has led to a constant rotation of personnel and a lack of true defensive identity.

“Listen, we want the improvement to go from one step to a total flight of stairs. We want that to happen overnight — we’re driving to make sure it does.” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said on Monday. “But, we got to understand and make sure they understand about what they were getting better at, what they still need to get, what needs to improve.

“I’ve got faith in our players. I really do. Is it perfect Monday through Saturday? No, but our job as coaches is to show them what it looks like every single day, and whether you have some success or whether you have some failures, they need to see what that looks like.

“You can’t fake confidence, you got to make it real. But confidence is built with work. And work is built with preparation constantly. The results are what we all look at, right? Players, coaches, everybody. And you just got to make sure that you keep the players’ focus on the things that are critical for them to have long-term success.

We’re in the middle of it right now. It’s always difficult when you’re not having the outcome that we want. But these guys have given us their hearts. And we got to make sure that we continue that on the same plane.”

FSU has another big offensive challenge on its hands this Saturday, facing off again against the No. 5 team in the country, this time the North Carolina Tar Heels and their record-setting quarterback, Sam Howell.

We’ll be hearing from Norvell today, as well as defensive players and potentially coaches. You can follow along both in the comment section and on our Twitter, and in the meantime, drop any questions you have in the comments and we’ll try to get to them.