FLORIDA STATE — Wrapping up day five and the last day in shells, the Florida State Seminoles took to the practice fields early Monday morning. There were a few extra eyes watching the team with ACC Network analysts in town for the ACC football road trip which started at FSU and will air tonight at 7 p.m.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding freshman Azareye’h Thomas (rightfully so) who has had a pretty good start to camp so far and is stacking good practices on good practices. Defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson spoke with the media after today’s practice and said although he is happy to have him and that he’s a great ball player, he is waiting for the pads to come on and the game to get physical to start seeing where Thomas is at.
Lightening the workload for some veteran players today gave newcomers even more of a chance to break out and take a step forward to the next level. Here are a few observations from practice:
The defensive backfield has talent
As mentioned above Azareye’h Thomas has been one of the standout freshmen of fall camp. He’s an instinctual player that plays with good technique and ended the day with another interception that looked seamless. It happened in the flats where his read was and saw the route the receiver was running and jumped it for the pick.
The last play of practice ended with defensive back Renardo Green managing a very athletic interception thrown by Jordan Travis in the end zone. The coverage was good across the board and I’m not sure what the play call was or what they will tell Travis in the film room but it looked a little forced and errant. Green was able to leap into the air and snag it causing the whole defense to surround him cheering. Travis doesn't really ever turn the ball over especially in team drills so their excitement was elevated.
*Kevin Knowles, Omarion Cooper, linebacker DJ Lundy, and Travis Jay were all solid for the most part in coverage on the day.
Running backs showcase depth
The run game is always fun to watch because of the competition between a solid run defense and a solid stable of running backs and an offensive line that is steadily improving. One thing I liked about Lawrence Toafili today is that he was easily lost by the defense and sneakily made a couple of nice touchdown catches and big runs. At one point on what seemed to be a blown coverage, Toafili was able to sneak out of the backfield with no one around except safety Shyheim Brown. AJ Duffy hit Toa for a 30-yard touchdown and probably the nicest one of the day.
Trey Benson was able to break out a few big runs but one that stood out to me was an inside run where offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons pulled across and picked up a lineman creating a big hole for Benson to go through.
*Treshaun Ward was also able to score on a 15-yard run bounced outside in team drills which was the only score of the drive in that particular segment.
Competitive, intense red zone battles
The battle in the red zone today went back and forth but was mostly won by the offense. Duffy and Travis both shined and were able to find multiple receivers for scores and show off their mobility for a few more.
Toafili was once again lost in coverage and managed to find himself stopped in the front corner of the end zone with the ball in his hands for a score.
Green’s pick was one of the more exciting plays of the drill but Duffy received praise from Norvell a few times for finding the open receiver in the mix. Tight end Jackson West was able to grab a touchdown throw when it seemed everything else had broken down. The ball was a little low and West caught it kneeling but it is good to see Duffy taking shots and scoring more frequently.
Malik McClain is emerging as one of the more reliable receivers not just with his hands but by getting open and making defenders miss. He caught a quick throw to the flats where Knowles was covering and did a little juke move to get by him and score.
Tomorrow's practice will be fully padded as the ‘Noles first scrimmage will be on Saturday, Aug 6 in Doak Campbell Stadium.