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Notes: Coaches excited by competitive first scrimmage

Common themes have developed this spring. Florida State has a deeper, more experienced roster. The competition is considerably better within position groups as well as offense vs. defense.

On Thursday, quarterbacks completed passes at a high rate although the defensive backs snuck in a few pass breakups and interceptions. In Saturday’s first scrimmage, which was closed to the media and public, coach Mike Norvell saw the defense issue a response.

“This morning was a good day, a good first scrimmage,” Norvell said. “Saw a really good response with the defense. Thursday was one of those days where everything was clicking for the offense, and I thought those guys came back and really responded well, especially early. Had some good ebb and flows of what you want to see competitively. Offense was able to make some plays later, good balance of run and pass, trying to get a good game flow mix but also throwing them into some very particular situations. Really like where we are through seven days of practice. … We do have to push our tempo more. I thought that was an area (to improve), guys know what to do, now we have to do it faster and more efficient.”

Norvell and coordinators Alex Atkins, Adam Fuller and John Papuchis reflected on the spring practices to date as well as the first scrimmage. Here are some of their thoughts:

Travis growing, confident in role

Jordan Travis has been steady, consistent and confident this spring. In Norvell’s view, Saturday was not any different.

“I expected Jordan to play with a lot of confidence and he’s doing that, he has great ownership of the offense. Had a few things early that we continue to be clear on, but he’s doing a great job throughout the spring of owning the ball, not putting the ball in jeopardy, taking what the defense has given him. There were probably some plays out there where we’re going to be quick on a whistle with some things that we’re doing with him, especially in spring practice, that in a game situation could have a couple different results.”

Coaches again cite the continued growth from Travis as a pocket passer. Having gained more time, comfort and confidence comes with it.

“He’s trusting the pocket,” Atkins said. “He’s sitting in there and making some throws, he’s keeping those guys confident. When Jordan gets in the huddle, you can tell he’s in there because the guys light up a little bit. They’re like, ‘Alright, 13 is back here.’ I like how his relationship with those guys has just gone far and more than anyone can imagine. When he’s in there, operating his knowledge of the offense. He wants to get out there and we kind of limit him a little bit as far as how much offense we’re going to run. He can run it all if you wanted to. He could pretty much check to whatever he wanted to check to. His confidence is growing, trust in the pocket and his arm talent, he’s getting a lot better.”

Rodemaker, Duffy making progress

Backup quarterbacks Tate Rodemaker and AJ Duffy have had their moments but there hasn’t been enough consistency from either this spring. Rodemaker notably throws a very good deep ball. Norvell praised both on Saturday.

“I really, really like what I’m seeing out of Tate,” Norvell said. “His growth and development has been what we expected. I had high expectations when we brought Tate, his knowledge, the ability that he has to not only do what he does with his arm but also be able to keep plays alive with his legs. You see, just us as a whole, what he’s been able to bring to the offense. I thought he had another really good day today. His first play was a touchdown. Great eyes being able to get the ball off his hand quick, it was big. It wasn’t a flawless day for him, there are some things that we’re gonna be able to go back and coach and teach, but I like the steps he’s taken.”

Norvell said Duffy “doesn’t act like a freshman.” Duffy has definitely shown at times that his development is accelerated, a coach’s son who is soaking up the offense quickly.

“AJ Duffy, for his first scrimmage, was really impressive,” Norvell said. “He probably had one of the best throws of the day on a little boot action, 45 yards deep to his left that was impressive. It was a great throw, but he doesn’t act like a freshman. This is somebody who should be in the spring semester of his senior year. Just has a different mentality and he’s prepared for the moment to come in and how he’s competing. He still has a lot of things he’s got to clean up, but his mentality to be able to go out there on the field, I like his presence and the ownership of what he’s doing. I plan on seeing big strides here in the next eight practices.”

Benson’s early impressions are positive

Trey Benson has not looked slowed by a major knee surgery he suffered while at Oregon. Benson arrived ready to work and any thoughts of him being limited this spring have not been the case.

“He’s a competitor,” Atkins said. “If we tried to limit him he would probably try to run through the coaching box and try to get out on the field. He wants it. We’re never going to hinder a kid that wants to get better. Of course we’re going to monitor him but he’s ready to go. He’s running hard, he’s picking up the plays. We’re not babying him at all. He is focused and I love his approach to going in and competing with a pretty established room. I’m liking the progression I’m seeing.”

Competition at corner

Florida State lost a starting corner in Jarvis Brownlee, who had not practiced this spring and entered the transfer portal. But the Seminoles have shown there are plenty of options, including a large group of early enrollees and second-year players.

“We’re rotating a good amount of players there now,” Fuller said. “Duke has been really consistent for us. That’s Omarion Cooper. He’s been consistent. And then we’ve been rolling a lot of other guys. There’s two young players, Sam McCall and Azareye’h (Thomas), we’re putting them in one group so their reps never get skipped and today they integrated a little more with the 2s. But we are trying to make sure we never jeopardize their snaps because everything is so new to them. The rest of the group, there’s Greedy Vance and Kevin Knowles, they’re kind of playing off of each other at nickel and corner. They’re getting reps at both spots. Renardo Green has been moved there. Jarrian Jones has been a little bit nicked up, trying to get him in the action. Demorie Tate is getting snaps. That’s the group we’re rolling with.”

Bethune belongs, driven to improve

FSU saw improvement at linebacker, a leap forward from Kalen DeLoach and development from D.J. Lundy. But there was still a need for a productive veteran and UCF transfer Tatum Bethune fits what FSU needs as coaches continue to reshape the position group.

“Tatum belongs at this level. Point blank,” Fuller said. “He’s smart enough, he’s physical enough, he loves the process of getting better. Again, he’s got high expectations. Anytime you got a player and you say, ‘I thought you did a really good job with this’ and he goes, ‘No, it’s not good enough,’ you got the right guy. It was easy for Tatum with me because the film is the film, but Randy (Shannon) had been with him. … Until you really work with an individual day in and day out like we are now, you still have things you want to check off a list but Randy was absolutely right with Tatum.

“He plays fast. That’s the best thing I can say. He’s got good anticipation (for a) linebacker, which on defense you’re a reactionary player a lot but if you can see things happening when they’re happening that makes play speed really fast. That’s where I think Tatum brings that to us. He’s going to be an impactful player. If he keeps progressing, he’s going to have a place for sure on this defense and a chance to push the level at linebacker that we’ve been playing with.”