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An FSU fan’s guide to watching, learning from spring game

How do you take meaningful info out of a practice?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Virginia Tech at Florida State

Every year, Florida State football has a scrimmage to end spring camp, commonly known as a spring game, colloquially as the Garnet and Gold game.

Perhaps its the inclusion of the word “game” in the moniker, but fans are keen to draw extreme conclusions (positive and negative) from the results in the game, focusing on things like stats that are, for all intents and purposes, meaningless in what amounts to practice for a season still over four months away.

The Tomahawk team is here to help break down some of the cliches, why they don’t matter and why they do:

Formations and execution

by CoachAB

It’s fun to watch all the cool things a team will do schematically during the spring game. However, by and large, teams don’t do cool things during the spring game.

The formations and plays will be very vanilla as the install is in its infancy stage at this point. Yes, there are plays in and a decent amount of them but the spring is about technique and fundamentals more.

So what are you looking for?

For me, first thing I’m watching is, “what is the same from last year?” Expect to see trips and bunch looks. Norvell believes in being in personnel groupings that force teams to make a decision and then creating matchups off of that. It’s why he plays with a tight end in the middle of the bunch and a burner in the inside slot. So look to see how much trips and bunch they run and who aligns where them get creative in your heads.

This staff has some evaluation of its roster and an idea of what the players can do. How have they adapted the offense to fit this. What roles are guys filling now? This feels like what I’m going to be watching the closest.

Limit the pre-snap penalties, limit the mental busts (lining up wrong, bad reads), and eliminate communication mishaps. You can get a sense rather quickly for where the focus is if you have early busts or pre-snap miscues. Keep an eye on it so we can discuss afterwards.

Individual performances and body language

by Perry Kostidakis

Jameis Winston’s first-ever throw in a Florida State uniform was a touchdown pass on a four verts call — to a walk-on, over Lamarcus Joyner.

While the hilarious takeaway was to anoint Winston instantly, there’s another hot take somebody could’ve assumed from the play: that David Tyrrell was better than Joyner.

This, of course, is ridiculous (no offense to Tyrell, who went on to be a firefighter the next year), but reflects the reality of taking the performances of players during spring at face value. Winston had the chance to throw the touchdown because Jimbo Fisher purposefully set it up that way, to see if the then-freshman would recognize the chance to be explosive.

On Saturday, the illusion of spring games being more than a glorified scrimmage will further disappear, given that there won’t even be two “drafted” teams facing each other — rather, different players will rotate in as the offense takes on the defense, no difference than a typical day at practice.

Take the sum of the results of player performances rather than any single sole play — and that doesn’t mean stats, either. Does the player look comfortable? Are they engaged on the play at all points, including on the sidelines? Are the same mistakes getting made? Do things look crisper, cleaner?

There were be some ugly plays that will terrify some, there will be some awesome random SportsCenter Top Ten worthy moments that’ll get some others foaming at the mouth, and the truth sits somewhere in between those two reactions. The 2021 Florida State football team is still in its beginning steps and six months away from meaningful football — things won’t look perfect, but they sure better look different than 2020.

(If Jordan Travis throws a 99-yard bomb, though, I’m calling Heisman.)

Quarterback play

by Kevin Little

There will probably 4 quarterbacks that get meaningful snaps come Saturday but the snaps that everyone is most excited for are the ones taken by transfer QB McKenzie Milton. He is an incredibly talented kid and is most likely in the drivers seat for the starting position come fall.

This means that expectations are high — and on Saturday, more than likely, those lofty ideals will not be met.

Milton might end up being the quarterback that the FSU fanbase dreams of four months from now but he will not be that guy during this scrimmage.

Of all of the quarterbacks, he has had the least experience in the offense, the least time to develop chemistry with his receivers, and still has the task of facing a defense that is loaded with transfer talent.

For these reasons, Tate Rodemaker might seem like the biggest standout behind center. Heck, even walk-on Gino English might look like a superstar when passing routes against a mismatch of secondary players they pulled off of the streets but none of this really changes anything.

Ultimately the quarterback’s performances in one practice during the spring will not make or break their ability to lead the team in the fall. The coaches are very comfortable with that fact and you should be too.

More Content

If you are still craving more pregame coverage we have you covered. Some of the old members of the 4 Verticals series of videos got together to discuss some of the things they’re watching out for come Saturday.