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Coordinated effort part 2: Defense shines, offense inconsistent

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The Florida State football team scrimmaged under the lights of Doak Campbell Stadium for the second consecutive Saturday night. After the scrimmage, coach Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller met with the media to discuss what they saw on the field. One thing was clear, the defense was dominant, the offense struggled and the intensity level is ramping up as the Seminoles are now less than three weeks away from their 2020 season-opening game against Georgia Tech.

Norvell started his press conference by stating the defense had gotten the better of the offense and Dillingham was in quick agreement with his boss when he took the podium.

“One-hundred percent agree,” said Dillingham. “Too many times we got ourselves in second-and-long for a variety of reasons, not just one reason. We have got to be able to be in manageable downs and distances. When you put yourself in bad situations, adverse situations versus a good defense, it is going to be really difficult to have success.”

Fuller was pleased with the defense’s performance overall and thought his unit, coaches and players, took a step forward last night.

“I think our communication as a coaching staff was better,” said Fuller. “We made some adjustments. I mentioned last week I didn’t love where we were at as a staff in our communication. I thought our sideline was cleaner. So I think those things got better. I think just our general pursuit was better. Those were things we needed to get better at and I thought that happened tonight.”

Dillingham was clearly frustrated by his offense’s lack of execution on Saturday night.

“We just have got to be better,” said Dillingham. “It just wasn’t good enough tonight offensively. We put ourselves in bad situations. You can’t do that versus a good defense, you cant do that versus anybody, you put yourself behind the sticks all night, and it is very, very difficult to be successful.”

He also knows he is facing a defense that most people around the program think has a chance to be very good. It is a challenge but his unit must find a way to be more productive.

“No question, but at the same time, we’ve got to worry about things that we can control (as an offense),” answered Dillingham when asked about the defense being really good. “That is what I told the quarterbacks after the scrimmage. It is never about what somebody else does, because you can’t control that. All that you can control is yourself. All that we can control is us. So for us, it is about watching the tape, seeing where we could have improved, what mistakes we made that had nothing to do with anybody else on the field – we have to fix those problems.”

Fuller also said his defense was more consistent last night but there is still only so much you takeaway from a scrimmage.

“We had so many pre-snap issues last week,” Fuller said in regards to areas of improvement. “We were inconsistent with our blocking structure and our hand placement, we didn’t chase the ball with the greatest angles. We had less missed tackles tonight. But it’s hard. We’re not tackling the quarterback. We call sacks and we’re a yard away from him. Does he break that tackle and throw the ball down the field? Nobody knows. It’s a scrimmage. We’re trying to get our guys in the right gaps, we’re trying to get our eyes over. There’s a lot of things that we’re trying to get done.”

The defensive coordinator also thought his unit played with more enthusiasm in last night’s scrimmage.

“Our guys played really hard tonight,” said Fuller. “We had great energy and passion. One of the things I was most proud about, we say, ‘If you take the field, you’re a starter.’ And at the end, we had a young guy group up there, we had some of the older guys in the secondary still out there, but we had some young guys that really flashed. And that was important to me because last scrimmage we didn’t have that. They actually didn’t play up to the standard that we want them to play. There was some improvement all around, so I don’t know if I laughed at any of it, but I thought we did a nice job and gave really good effort tonight.”

Dillingham also addressed the play of his quarterbacks as a group.

“I think they did a nice job,” Dillingham said. “I think there were a few times we could have hung in the pocket a little longer, gone through their progressions a little longer, but one of the positives of tonight were that we had one turnover on a dropped ball and when you are playing a 100-and-something snaps, and that is the one turnover, we shouldn’t have that one turnover, but if there was a positive, it was that as an offense, us owning the football. I like where we are at that position. Obviously we have got to progress, we’ve got to get better, just like everybody else with the details – taking proper drops, all the finer details of that position – but at the same time I want to look at the tape before I really give a full evaluation on how we played, because the tape don’t lie.”

Tate Rodemaker looks for a receiver in Saturday’s scrimmage. (photo courtesy FSU athletics)

Dillingham also sees progress, although not enough to make final conclusions, from the offensive line.

“I definitely think we are closer, but I don’t think that we have enough film yet to make a decision there,” answered Dillingham when asked about identifying the top five players on the offensive line. “This is going to be a competition all the way to the end at a variety of spots, variety of positions. That is what makes greatness is competition and that is going to continue.”

FSU’s new offensive coordinator was also asked about individual performances and how he thought his unit would respond to a disappointing performance.

“To be honest, I look at one picture,” said Dillingham of offensive standouts. “I look at us as a unit. It is not about one person, not about two people, it is about a group, and today as a group I didn’t think we were good enough. Some people made plays but weren’t consistent. In order to be a good offense, you have to have a consistency, you can’t have a good play. I think that is what defined today is 20-yard gain, 7-yard loss, second-and-17. That is the one thing that separates great offense – you have to be able to own the ball and you have to sustain drives. That is where we failed today, we failed to sustain drives as a unit because of self-inflicted wounds and great plays made by the other side.”

Will the offense be able to bounce back in practice Monday and build toward the season ahead?

“I do,” answered Dillingham. “I think that is what this program is about. We are going to be about response. I believe it was Tuesday, we came out and had a great day. We got better. Today, not so good of a day. All you can do is respond. That is all you have. There is nothing else to do. We are going to show up tomorrow, we are going to watch some film and we are going to find out how we can get better. We have to improve. I am going to say the exact same thing when we are good, when we are bad, when it is ugly, when it is great, there is always something to improve on and we just have to continue to get better every single day.”

Fuller was asked the same question about individual standouts and, once again, like it does during most press conferences, defensive tackle Fabien Lovett’s name came up.

“He’s an impact player,” Fuller said. “I’m watching him play and he wins one-on-ones. He’s really aggressive and stout and physical in the run game. He can rush the passer as a three (technique), as a two-eye, as a shade, as a five. He moves really well, especially in short areas. He’s an excellent addition, just as a football player but then as a person as well. He’s part of our group here on defense that we’re counting on. Fabien is a great young man. He’s going to be an impact player for us and part of that D-line group that we’re counting on to run the line of scrimmage here at Florida State.”

He is also impressed with the development of the linebacker corps.

“I think we’re doing a nice job at linebacker,” said Fuller of the linebackers. “It was good to get DeCalon Brooks back. He flashed some. That was good to see. We’re trying to make them interchangeable a little bit. There’s roles. There’s Stephen Dix and DJ Lundy. Kevon Glenn today did a nice job. It’s going to be a group effort at linebacker led with Emmett (Rice) and Leonard (Warner), they’re the older veterans in the group and I really like the ownership those two have taken not only in defense but in special teams. They’re just prideful in their work right now. Some of the younger guys, like I mentioned with DJ and then you got Amari (Gainer) and Kalen (DeLoach), it’s a group that has a good dynamic of some seasoned vets that are really playing their best football or trying to play their best football and then young guys that should get better every day because they don’t know any better. We’re trying to put those guys in the best positions we can, we’re starting to move some parts around, trying to marry some guys that are playing with each other and shaking that up because in a game that’s pretty much how it’s going to go.”

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