Florida State football has been hard at work over the last couple days.
The Seminoles' first two practices of the week have gone smoothly, with the offense being much more efficient than last week. The offense has held onto the ball for nearly every drive in team periods. Outside of some offensive line struggles due to some workload days on the outside, the offense seems to be finding its footing. Here are some takeaways from Tuesday and Wednesday, with a focus on offensive skill players:
- Jordan Travis has looked determined to leave his mark after getting some time off last week for workload purposes. Travis has had two of his best practices to start the week. The quarterback has exhibited a wide range of skills. He’s shown his normal skills: elusiveness and creativity when the play breaks down, but the most impressive part of Travis’ game this week has been the deep ball, which is much improved. On Tuesday, Travis was throwing dots left and right. His best sequence came in the red zone, when he hit a wide receiver on a back-shoulder throw for a TD before dropping a perfect pass in Joshua Burrell’s breadbasket for another TD.
He opened the week leading the offense down the field for three first downs in tempo, eventually resulting in a short field goal. One of his last throws of the day was an executed anticipation over the middle of the field, where he connected with a WR in a soft spot of the defense. Over the last two days, he’s dropped a litany of perfect deep balls to his wideouts in 1v1s for TDs (literally wrote down in my notes ‘perfect ball’ four separate times). While FSU was working from the three-yard line, he scrambled for a score twice. On his last play of 11v11 Wednesday, he found a TE streaking down the sideline for a shot-play touchdown, his second 30+ yard TD of the day in a team period. He didn’t throw an interception in either of the last two practices. Travis still has steps to take on anticipating and throwing over the middle, but the confidence he’s showing in his arm is night and day from last year.
- Chubba Purdy has also been efficient. Last week’s spike in reps has given Purdy a performance boost. The redshirt freshman has seemingly gotten more comfortable behind center every day. On Tuesday, his best pass came on a back-shoulder throw in the red zone for a touchdown. He’s beginning to take the easier play, instead of trying to do too much, more often scrambling when he has grass in front of him, something Mike Norvell has been preaching to him. He had a handful of eye-opening passes in one-on-ones Wednesday, including a pretty deep ball TD to Kentron Poitier. In the red zone, he rolled out to his right and found a tight end for a touchdown after patiently waiting for an open target. It could’ve been even better had his receivers not dropped a couple of passes, one on a would-be touchdown in the red zone and another on a would-be shot-play TD. The second was a perfect ball down the middle of the field, as he split the safeties and dropped the ball right in the wideout’s arms. Purdy still has steps to take when it comes to pocket throws and his decision-making, but he’s to flash on a more consistent basis.
- Treshaun Ward had a massive Wednesday. The running back broke off three separate runs for big gains, including two for touchdowns. The first two runs, he found a hole in the interior of the defense and broke up the middle. On the last run, he bounced it outside and sped past the defense for a 70-yard touchdown. The only person that could (almost) keep up with him was a sprinting Norvell, as the second year coach held his hands up in excitement. After practice, Norvell said, “He’s a really good running back. He was on the scout team last year for most of the year... He just kept showing up. He’s really emerged as a go-to guy for us.”
- Andrew Parchment was the star of the offense Tuesday. The Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver transfer has had an up-and-down camp, but showed his ability and potential to be a dynamic playmaker. The wideout hauled in 5-6 catches during team periods. In the early tempo drill, he helped Travis move down the field with multiple first-down catches. He dominated the 7-on-7 period. He opened the period with a long reception down the sideline for a fifty-yard gain. A few plays later, he tapped his toes in bounds as he dove to snag a back-shoulder touchdown near the pylon. “I thought he responded well today, came out and made some contested catches. He’s understanding now how we operate and how we practice here at Florida State. He’s taking ownership and buying into that. I think AP is taking strides in the right direction,” said wide receivers coach Ron Dugans after practice on Tuesday. FSU will hope the up-and-down trend ends here for Parchment and he can start to stack positive days heading into September 5th.
- Malik McClain is beginning to stack good days on top of each other. McClain has always flashed the skill, but he’s starting to develop the consistency necessary to be a reliable option for FSU’s quarterbacks. A lot of 50-50 balls, fades, and back-shoulder throws are being tossed at the freshman, and he’s hauling in a good percentage. On Tuesday, he got separation from a defensive back and high-pointed the football for a touchdown just inside the pylon. On Wednesday, he brought in a tightly contested catch in 1v1s. At 6’4, McClain creates a tough matchup for any defensive back. On Tuesday, Dugans praised McClain (along with Burrell) not just for his physical assets, but also for being a ‘smart football player.’
- Wyatt Rector flashed twice on Wednesday. The tight end hauled in two of the aforementioned deep balls from Travis. The first came up the seam, as he beat a linebacker and got wide open down the field for a 40+ yard gain. Then, on one of the last plays of 11v11, he got lost in coverage on a wheel route and took it 50+ yards to the house.
- UCLA Bruins tight end transfer Jordan Wilson is getting more action in the passing game as we get closer to the Notre Dame game. Wilson will likely be used primarily as a run blocker, but in the last couple days, he’s shown dependability down the field with a couple first down catches, and a TD catch in the corner of the end-zone in one-on-ones. Running backs DJ Williams and Lawrance Toafili have both flashed in the passing game. Once Toafili catches the ball in open space, he’s tough to catch. Jashaun Corbin’s best run of the week came on a toss, as he broke to the outside for a third-down conversion. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Darion Williamson hauled in multiple contested catches in one-on-ones and has been a common target for Purdy. Meanwhile, veterans Pokie Wilson and Keyshawn Helton have been ultra-dependable for the quarterbacks thus far. Both are good for at least one first down catch a day, and Helton’s quick feet have made him a near automatic win in one-on-ones.
On the down side, drops have plagued the FSU offense, as there were close to 10 drops in team periods the last two days. The drops have come from young players in the wide receiver and tight end rooms. They’ve flashed at times, but need to find consistency to be reliable for the Seminoles this season.
Defensive notes: The defensive line has had success in the pass rush the last couple days. With the offensive line undergoing some workload days, Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas have had sustained success off the edge. Johnson had a handful of pressures on Tuesday. Thomas’ first step is explosive, and he’s forced multiple quick throwaways in recent days. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Malcolm Ray also collected a Tuesday sack. Freshman defensive back Kevin Knowles has moved all over the field and made it into the backfield for a sack on Wednesday. Meiko Dotson showed off his veteran eye, as he diagnosed and blew up a screen on Wednesday. Travis Jay seemingly gets better and better at cornerback every day. He always keeps his receivers close on one-on-one matchups.
Freshman safety Shyheim Brown has flashed in one-on-one coverage against tight ends with multiple PBUs. Brown has the size and physicality to stick with any tight end, as he poked one away from the big-bodied Wilson. Freshman CB Omarion Cooper had a few wins in one-on-ones Tuesday.
However, on Wednesday, there were breakdowns in coverage, allowing a handful of successful shot plays.