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Day 4 observations: Competition ramps up before spring break

The Florida State football team held its fourth practice on Friday afternoon and will now take an extended break for spring break.

There are a few big takeaways from the first four days and then we’ll get into some of what we saw on Friday. The overwhelming storyline? Depth and competition are evident. FSU coaches have a full roster with veterans, transfers and 23 newcomers.

Spring practice a year ago was often painful to watch as receivers struggled to simply catch the ball and the offense was stagnant. Now, the 1-on-1 battles between receivers and defensive backs are very entertaining. Once the pads went on Wednesday, depth among the offensive and defensive linemen is also competitive.

“I feel like we’re really much further along and you see guys competing with each other — not just against each other,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “We still have a lot of work to do but we’re seeing good flashes on both sides of the ball. A lot of young players, a lot of newcomers, experienced players that look much, much better throughout their growth and development. That’s what we have to see.”

If there is one player who has stood out in the last week it is Oregon transfer receiver Mycah Pittman, who is catching the ball consistently and showing he is a playmaker. Pittman laid out for a long reception over the middle on a deep ball from Tate Rodemaker — to underscore, diving attempts to catch passes in an FSU practice have not remotely been the norm the last few years let alone that Pittman hauled it in. Toward the end of practice, he caught a touchdown pass in red-zone drills in tight coverage.

“I appreciate his energy and focus and investment of trying to get things done the way we’re trying to do them,” Norvell said. “You’re seeing that confidence, which is emerging. He’s got play-making ability. That’s something that’s shown up throughout these last few days. He had two unbelievable catches, one in the back of the end zone, one that he completely laid out for. It was impressive to see.”

More observations from Friday practice, spring

A couple of All-ACC first-team picks: Corey Fuller in 1994 and Jermaine Johnson in 2011. (photo by Bob Ferrante)

Rodemaker has been up-and-down in the spring. While he throws a good deep ball, connecting with Pittman and Ja’Khi Douglas on occasion, he also has moments where he misfires on a dump-off pass in 11-on-11 on Friday. Rodemaker has shown progress but there’s still a long way to go.

Lawrance Toafili had a physical run in red-zone drills and is squarely in the mix among the tailbacks.

Linebacker Omar Graham had an interception on Friday and that followed up a practice on Monday where he had pass break-ups on consecutive plays. The early enrollee moves well, shows instincts and is a freshman to watch.

Sam McCall also had a pass break-up on a deep ball, enjoying the moment and celebrating as Norvell ran over to praise. Norvell is constantly on the move, encouraging, coaching and correcting. In red-zone drills, touchdown plays are a big deal: A group of assistant coaches run over along with players to celebrate. It feels like a culture of rewarding for hard work.

Kalen DeLoach’s play has been bolstered by confidence earned last fall. DJ Lundy looks slimmer and moves better. There’s little doubting UCF transfer linebacker Tatum Bethune will be impactful for FSU this fall.

A large group of recruits were on campus to take in Friday’s practice. Defensive end Jermaine Johnson was also back at practice, talking with coaches and his old teammates.

Jerry Kutz contributed observations