The instant classic between the Florida State Seminoles and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, seen by upwards of 8.8 million people, gave some much-anticipated insight into FSU’s growth as a team, as well as where individual players stand after a full offseason of preparation.
We pulled some Tomahawk Nation staff members together around our wicked awesome e-roundtable and hashed out which players exceeded our expectations, and which players left us needing to see more in the coming weeks.
What or who exceeded your expectations?
NoleThruandThru: Kalen DeLoach (8 tackles, led team). We’ve been waiting to see if DeLoach could deliver on his promise as a prep star, and it looks like he’s finally turned a corner. Deloach was active throughout the night and showed good awareness and speed (despite some mistakes). The FSU linebackers (and their position coach) will be intensely scrutinized throughout the season, but Deloach took a strong step towards being a leader on a unit that desperately needs one.
CoachAB: Boy was I thrilled to watch Fabien Lovett destroy Cain Madden. I mention it because I want to give him a shoutout for his play. However, the player that exceeded expectations for me is Malik McClain. His impact is all over the game, from blocking, being a threat vertically, and his ability to run after the catch. McClain looks different out there, and that’s exciting. He’s a player you can build around.
Juan Montalvo: The Florida State run defense, which held Notre Dame to 65 yards total rushing. We knew the defensive line was going to be effective in the run game. What I didn’t expect was seeing the linebackers committed to filling gaps. The game plan was to stop the run and force Jack Coan to make throws. The game plan worked exceptionally well, and the Irish won some 50/50 balls.
Jon Marchant: Treshaun Ward (76 yards, 1 touchdown). His patience, vision, and burst were all excellent. Honorable mention goes to the physicality of the secondary. Running the alley, tackling—it was really nice to see.
Perry Kostidakis: Jermaine Johnson (7 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks), if that even makes sense. There were lofty expectations for the Georgia transfer, but his instant impact on the line and its residual effects on the rest of the defense can’t be lauded enough. There’s a reason that he was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week, and why that’s just the first of many accolades headed his way this season.
PhenomeNole: I’ll go with the RBs. We all know that Jashaun Corbin is a dependable back, but he lacked explosiveness in 2020 coming off the injury. There wasn’t a ton of hope that he’d regain the game-breaking ability he displayed in his Freshman campaign for Jimbo Fisher’s Texas A&M Aggies, but that was put to rest when he smoked the ND secondary on the way to the 89-yard house call in the 1st quarter. Then you sprinkle in Treshaun Ward, who looks an awful lot like one Devonta Freeman. Ward showed the natural ability to be patient, before exploding with violent cuts to eat up yards. Lawrance Toafili looks like he can break one at any time and gives you yet another different look. Overall the 3-headed monster looks poised to potentially lead FSU to the ACC’s most dangerous rushing attack.
Josh Pick: Redshirt freshman safety Sidney Williams flashed for me. He wasn’t scared to mix it up in run support, and he ended the evening with five tackles.
Where do you need to see improvement in the next few games?
NoleThruandThru: Amari Gainer. Gainer continues to lose discipline and get sucked into traffic on plays instead of setting the edge. Jarvis Brownlee bailed Gainer out numerous times on plays he should’ve been first to the ball carrier. Gainer also relied on arm tackles too often, resulting in missed tackles. Frankly, he was a liability at times. FSU needs him to play with more discipline.
CoachAB: I hate to say it, but Jordan Travis. JT regressed as far as his pocket awareness. What’s frustrating is that he seemingly made major strides this fall and was poised to have a breakout. Three interceptions don’t tell the whole story as only one of those is fully on him. But he was late with reads, indecisive when the play broke down, and missed many wide-open receivers.
Juan: Baveon Johnson and Maurice Smith - while the run offense tore Marcus Freeman’s four million dollar defense to pieces, neither of FSU’s centers bathed themselves in glory. Poor snaps continue. Poor pass blocking continues. And Jordan Travis will fall asleep expecting a Notre Dame player to crash up the middle of his bedroom.
Perry: The turnover battle. It’s one thing to see Notre Dame pull off incredible turnover luck — it’s another to give the ball away on two gimme throws and also nearly turn it over on some bobbled snaps and errant throws. There’s plenty to be improved upon, from special teams to consistent execution across the board to a non-reliance on chunk plays, but turnovers are the lifeblood of secure wins — and FSU could use a few of those, starting this week.
Jon: Jordan Travis. After we heard all camp about his development, he had some negative plays you just can’t have. After rewatching the game, he wasn’t as bad as I initially thought, but it was still disappointing. Honorable mention to whoever was snapping the ball. Just can’t have it. Inexcusable.
PhenomeNole: I’m just disappointed Mike Norvell didn’t run Brian Kelly over with his Slingshot after the game.
Josh Pick: Where were the tight ends in the passing game? I’m not sure if it’s because Travis wasn’t going through his progressions properly (or something else), but FSU needs them to be an option going forward.
What say you, beloved TN members? Who pleasantly surprised you and who disappointed you? Let us know what you think in the comment section!