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Takeaways from FSU’s Thursday practice: McKenzie Milton showcases poise, dominates late-game situations

“When bad things were happening around him, he was still able to make highly educated decisions.”

Brett Nevitt

Florida State football had a major emphasis on special teams during their Thursday practice. The Seminoles didn’t wear pads for their fourth practice of the week. Despite the special teams emphasis, the Noles still went through a few periods of 11-on-11, with a strong focus on pressured situations, including two-minute drills, and third and fourth down plays.

One player stood out above the rest: McKenzie Milton. Here are some takeaways from today’s practice:

  • Milton looked determined to take charge from snap one on Thursday. In the early portion of practice, he led the offense into the red zone on a two-minute drill. He completed four passes for first downs, all over the middle of the field. Three of the four came on third down. The coaching staff looked plenty comfortable to run designed plays for Milton outside the pocket and using his legs. His best play came on a roll-out to his left. The QB perfectly placed a throw to Pokie Wilson on an out route, leading to serious yards after the catch. He also threw a back-shoulder dart to Malik McClain for a big gain down the sideline a couple drives later.
  • Milton’s last drive started with the ball on his own 40 and just 61 seconds on the clock. Over the next 48 seconds, Milton orchestrated a beautiful 60-yard touchdown drive. Keyshawn Helton made a diving catch on a deep middle throw to put the offense in the red zone after just one play. After some minimal gains, Milton converted a fourth and short with a quick dart to his right, bringing up first and goal. After a delay of game and false start pushed the offense back to the 20 on 3rd and goal, Milton responded again. He found Wilson up the seam for a touchdown on a perfectly placed pass.
  • After practice, Mike Norvell had this to say about his QB: “Today, [Milton] got in a couple situations in two-minute where you see experience and poise. When bad things were happening around him, he was still able to make highly educated decisions.”
  • A trio of wide receivers had productive days. Wilson hauled in two of the four first down connections in the first period. Helton also had one of the connections in the early portion and nearly broke away for a touchdown. The veterans, Wilson and Helton, look to have gained the most trust of Milton. The freshman McClain has also gained that trust. McClain hauled in the 50-50 ball on the back-shoulder throw, then converted the fourth down on the red zone as he found a soft spot in the defense and had the yardage for the first down. The freshman is getting more consistent with each practice and has the looks of an impact player for the ‘Noles this season.
  • Shyheim Brown was the defensive player of the day. The true freshman had a pair of interceptions, although both came on overthrows that landed in his arms. Brown has already proven to be a playmaker. The safety seemingly always finds himself near the ball and has shown the ability to execute.
  • DJ Lundy has been a consistent standout from the linebacker group. Lundy has done a good job of shutting the outside run game the last couple days, including multiple toss plays, flying towards the sidelines and getting to the ball.
  • Brendan Gant has been a high-impact player from the secondary. Wednesday, he had an interception in a one-on-one play. Among a few good plays today, his best came on a big third-down stop. Gant forced a field goal in the first two-minute drill by diagnosing a screen and shutting it down for no gain.
  • For the second straight day, Ryan Fitzgerald nailed a field goal in a pressure moment. He capped the first two-minute drill with a 39-yard field goal as the clock expired.