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Four Downs: Building blocks during the bye week

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Norvell’s challenge, a perfectly-timed bye week for FSU, Fuller not running from criticism, and more

Norvell wisely working to instill confidence, bye week came at the right time for FSU, Fuller not running from criticism, and a little something special: here are four takes from the week in Florida State Seminoles football:

1. Norvell wisely looking to instill confidence with Seminoles sitting at 2-4

“ A record that we don’t really want to have, but it’s a record that we’ve earned.”

Florida State lost a ton of momentum on the season after a deflating 48-16 loss to Louisville last week, dropping them to 2-4 on the year and 1-4 in the ACC.

“When we found ourselves behind, it was a little bit of a shock to the guys,” said FSU head coach Mike Norvell. “They’ve got to play with the confidence of what they’re capable of doing.”

It was interesting to note the consistently positive tone Norvell applied to this week’s designated media portions. A squad that is 13-18 overall in the past three seasons combined is no doubt receiving a blow to their confidence.

“You’ve got to have faith and belief that really it just takes one play. Then when you get the opportunity, you gotta have the confidence to go make the play,” said Norvell.

Confidence wasn’t just a constant key word this week in media availability, but Norvell’s demeanor was calm overall towards most questions he was asked. Even when posited with a question concerning an aspect of the team that is struggling, or was poor last week, or even both, Norvell was rarely extremely critical of his players.

Of course he isn’t happy with the 2-4 start to the season. But he is wise to realize that the team is reeling and needs more of a pat on the back than a kick in butt after a defeat by 30-plus points.

Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller also said this week that confidence was an issue against Louisville. “You can’t fake confidence, it’s gotta come through success.”

Even when he praised the work of the rushing attack over the course of the last few games, Norvell said it was due to “building confidence” within the offensive line and backs.

It’s the correct approach for Norvell to take. It seems at this point the first-year head coach has tried everything.

Norvell knows the best thing at this point do is instill his players with assurance to have a better chance at working their way out of this rut.

“We’ve got to put them in the best position to be able to play fast, play confident and execute consistently the techniques we’re asking them to do.

2. Bye week came at the right time mentally and physically for Florida State

Florida State was in dire need of a bye week heading into the November and the second half of the season.

A week off could be crucial for the Noles in a few areas. A chance to catch their breath and repair their psyche is huge, but several members of the team will also enjoy the extra time to heal their bodies as well.

Injuries were beginning to mount for FSU and certainly manifested themselves at Louisville last Saturday. Defensive backs like sophomore Renardo Green were out against the Cardinals, which led to UL quarterback Malik Cunningham carving up Florida State and only throwing 1 incomplete pass in a decisive first half.

A few Noles will have an opportunity to rest up during the bye, including their own quarterback, redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis.

FSU offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham admitted the team didn’t have many designed runs in the playbook against Louisville for Travis because of his health.

“To be honest, we didn’t put together a plan built around his running ability,” said Dillingham. “He was a little dinged up, and we wanted to protect him.”

The status of Travis will be key heading into next week against Pittsburgh and beyond. A domino effect occurred within the entire offense when the dual-threat quarterback was hobbled versus Louisville.

FSU’s offense was slightly compromised as the game went on last week and Louisville realized Travis wasn’t running as much as he was in prior games. There were other faults offensively that led to just 16 points for the Noles, but the lack of that aggressive play-calling for Travis in the run game was a huge factor.

We won’t know if Travis and others are 100 percent until the team takes the field against Pittsburgh. Coach Norvell will play it close to the vest, as he has all season.

But if Florida State is going to turn things around in 2020, they’ll have to shift back to the most promising aspect of the team so far this season: the dual threat play-making of Travis.

3. FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller not running from criticism after disappointing first half of 2020 for FSU defense

Take any statistic for Florida State defensively, and no matter what it is, that stat probably isn’t anywhere close to what FSU’s staff or fans would like it to be. Plainly put, it has been a real disappointing first half of the season for Adam Fuller’s defense.

In five games against FBS opponents this year, FSU has allowed an eye-popping 438, 517, 554, 558, and 569 total yards on defense.

Fuller was frank and to-the-point during Wednesday’s meeting availability. The first-year defensive coordinator didn’t throw the players under the bus or offer excuses. He plainly stated that the defense simply hasn’t gotten the job done so far in 2020.

“We’re super inconsistent right now…Nobody is excited when they don’t make the play. We’ve got to continue to develop that ownership, because at the end of the day, it’s our defense, Fuller said. “We represent this university in how we play, and right now we are not holding up our end.”

Later when discussing the 48-16 loss last week against Louisville, Fuller called the “huge plays” versus the Cardinals “unacceptable.”

“I’ve gotta put them in a better position,” Fuller said. “That’s just how it has to be.”

Not backing down from criticism, Fuller also explained how he understood the disapproval of the defense by the fanbase online and on social media.

“Listen- you wanna work at a place where it’s really important…If people are passionate about success, they are gonna be passionate about failure or not meeting expectations too. We’re in a position where you gotta respect that,” said Fuller.

“The only way you should react is for your own improvement. I think we should appreciate the passion that we have here,” Fuller continued. “In successful times, it will be a great place to be.”

Besides, in this situation with the struggles the Noles have had defensively, there is nothing you can say on Wednesday of a bye week that is going to be good enough. At this point, all that fans want to see is an improvement on the field.

“My job as the leader of the defense is to make sure I show up everyday and show them how to go about their work. Work equals success when done the right way. Sometimes that happens sooner, sometimes that happens later. We all want it sooner, including me.”

4. FSU Basketball: Scottie Barnes the most exciting signee in Hamilton era

Since it’s the bye week for the FSU football team, we’re going to punt on a football topic for fourth down and head to the hardwood to take a look at the basketball team.

As head coach Leonard Hamilton enters his nineteenth season in Tallahassee, it’s not hyperbole to say that Florida State’s burgeoning basketball program currently sits in the best position it has ever been in the 65-year history of the team.

FSU continues to ride the wave of impressive recruiting classes year after year. But standing at 6-9’ and 227 pounds, consensus top-10 recruit and freshman guard Scottie Barnes could perhaps be the most promising prospect Hamilton has ever signed in his tenure.

Always an ace recruiter even when FSU was a losing team at the beginning of the century, Hamilton has secured a top-notch recruit numerous times. In 2003, he pulled Von Wafer out of Louisiana. In 2007, Solomon Alabi joined the Noles as a consensus five-star recruit.

Forward Chris Singleton was the crown jewel of the 2008 class that helped turn the program into a perennial NCAA-tournament team. Every one of those names had success in the garnet and gold, but lacked the elite ceiling of Barnes and had minor holes in their games either offensively or defensively.

Not until 2008 when guard Michael Snaer out of California signed with FSU did you start to see the type of complete player that Barnes projects to be in the 2020-21 season for the Seminoles. It wasn’t until the famed 2015 recruiting class did Hamilton again land a recruit near the caliber of Barnes in acrobatic forward Dwyane Bacon.

Before Barnes, defensive stalwart and current Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac was arguably the biggest Florida State recruit this century. Fellow one-and-done forward Patrick Williams and current FSU senior guard M.J. Walker were also monumental signings.

However, no past recruit in FSU history combines the size, athleticism, play-making abilities and fit to Hamilton’s system that Barnes already possesses as an 18-year-old. The West Palm Beach, Fla. native was selected to the CBS.com preseason All-American team.

The group of Snaer, Isaac, Bacon, Williams, and Walker will all be remembered very fondly and were key to the uprising of Seminole basketball. But none of them were true point guards, and word from camp is Barnes could be replacing beloved court general Trent Forrest at the one-spot for stretches of games this season.

On top of everything, the overall talent from top to bottom on the current roster is at a level that it has never been in Tallahassee, which will elevate Barnes even more. FSU assistant coach Charlton Young called Barnes a “Florida State guy.”

“He’s the kind of guy that comes once every 25 years, just his size, athleticism, talent, unselfish mentality. He’s built for success,” said Young.

Barnes possesses all of the “high-ceiling” qualities of an Isaac or perimeter defensive abilities of Walker, joined with the rare play-making skills of a point guard. With his talents and the current elite state of the program, the sky is the limit for what Barnes could accomplish this season.