FLORIDA STATE — The days are inching closer to kickoff and the Florida State Seminoles are putting in the work. Running backs coach David Johnson arrived at practice jogging with his group, chanting “mindset” in a low tone as they approached the Sod Cemetery and crossed under the archway into the Dunlap Training Facility.
Head coach Mike Norvell mentioned after practice how grueling these past two days were and that today was the first extensive work they’ve had digging into the Duquesne game plan.
“With two back-to-back days, real physical work. the numbers of the work. We had guys hitting top speeds that they haven't hit all camp. That was a grueling practice yesterday when it came to the workload. Today we wanted a very similar approach.”
The team was able to break into two teams again and get some repetitions and looks arranging players around that are similar to what they’ll see in 10 days time.
Here are three observations from today:
Back and forth competition on both sides of the ball
The defensive backs and receivers were fun to watch in 1 on 1’s and 7 on 7. Wide receiver Ontaria Wilson had a couple of big catches but one in particular that I saw was him crossing the end zone about three steps ahead of defensive back Malik Feaster for a score.
*Feaster is still getting acclimated to a new defensive and offensive scheme so we can’t really judge him on a couple of plays. Wilson was having good day to start off with.
Renardo Green showed his vertical ability picking off quarterback AJ Duffy. Sidney Williams was also able to get some air later on but only got his fingertips on the ball.
Shyheim Brown came away with an interception on a pass intended for Malik McClain. I don’t know what the play call was or what his route was supposed to be but it looked like McClain thought the safety was behind him and didn’t have the right angle to block him out and make the catch.
*McClain made up for that “mistake” a few plays later with a nice catch on Green. There wasnt really anything Green could do even with tight coverage. The ball was just placed where only McClain could get it.
One play that stood out defensively was from linebacker Kalen DeLoach. He noticed something off in the coverage and changed it by directing the cornerbacks to not press and shifted the linebackers. When the play started, the quarterback tried to find Lawrance Toafili out of the backfield and DeLoach was already there (It’s questionable if the ball was catchable but the fact that he noticed and adjusted was good.)
It seemed like a few of the linebackers alongside DeLoach were good in coverage. Another short pass to Joshua Burrell was stopped from what could’ve been a huge gain by Brenden Gant. Gant made it to the ball fast enough to push Burrell out of bounds.
Coaches, players, bringing energy as camp winds down
From the start of practice, after hearing Johnson and his group calmly instilling their mindsets it seemed that even after 17 days of practice that the energy was still there and strong. Some coaches kind of joked with each other but mostly you could hear Norvell and Odell Haggins (which is pretty normal) from opposite sides of the field — offensive coordinator Alex Atkins as well.
There were also some player coaching player moments when a defensive back messed up his assignment and the receiver made him do push-ups to make up for it.
Big men battling in trenches
Offensive lineman Bless Harris excelled through the day, he was patient and technical and looked comfortable at his position. Offensive lineman Julian Armella showed his football IQ and drive battling against Jared Verse in their heavyweight matchup that has been going on all off-season. Armella seems to be his own biggest critic and pushes himself to be better every day.
There are still teaching moments that the veteran defensive line is giving to some of the newcomers. After slinging Harris to the ground on one play, Dennis Briggs showed him how he was able to get his hands in the right place which made him win the rep.
Defensive linemen Joshua Farmer and Robert Cooper both had good days, they knew what buttons to push against each offensive lineman and bull rushed their way to the quarterback multiple times in pass rushing drills.
*It seemed to be that the quarterbacks had enough time to throw the ball for the most part, however, there were multiple plays that would’ve ended in sacks or a different outcome had they been going full contact with the quarterbacks.
The team will officially have a Duquesne Wednesday tomorrow and a mock game on Saturday as they prepare to head into game week.