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Day 3 observations: Pads on, energy and competition evident

Florida State took to the practice fields on Wednesday for practice No. 3 of the spring and the Seminoles were in pads for the first time.

After bragging on the receivers’ improvement, the practice opened with a pick six by Omarion Cooper, who caught it after the well-thrown pass bounced off a receiver’s hands.  Fortunately things got better with very few drops the rest of the way.

The first day in pads is a heavy man’s day and we learned FSU has more talent up front than before, including promising newcomers. More on that Thursday.

Norvell is quick to yell and criticize but often is running to celebrate big pass plays or interceptions, high-fiving and it’s evident he is enjoying the competition. He praised the energy after practice and it indeed was fast-paced although he mentioned a desire for the Seminoles to go even faster. It’s evident the Seminoles are more organized and the offense is more efficient compared to the spring of 2021.

Competition between receivers and defensive backs have been entertaining. The defensive backfield is loaded with prospects and two newcomers, Azareye’h Thomas and Sam McCall, are two freshmen with very good football instincts. Aside from Jammie Robinson and likely Kevin Knowles at nickel, jobs are up for grabs and FSU has the ingredients for a successful secondary. Akeem Dent also had an interception in 11-on-11 drills.

Jordan Travis has been very consistent and accurate. AJ Duffy throws a pretty deep ball, competing long passes to the likes of Keyshawn Helton and Ontaria Wilson. Tate Rodemaker has been the least accurate or consistent of the quarterbacks in 11-on-11 drills. Rodemaker has made better decisions than in prior years and he also dropped a deep pass into the hands of Kentron Poitier toward the end of practice.

Treshaun Ward broke off a few lengthy runs during team drills, thanks in large part of course to blocks by tackles and tight ends. While all of the tailbacks have had their moments, Ward is the best of the group at this point.

In pass-protection drills, linebackers overall got the best of the tailbacks. It was the first day of pads and the running backs definitely have a long way to go. Converted safety Brendan Gant knocked over a tailback with a bull rush off the edge.

UCF transfer Tatum Bethune stood out as consistently winning 1-on-1 battles. Bethune is 6-1 and 230 pounds but he’s long and has speed and instincts that make for an intriguing pairing with Kalen DeLoach, who looks bigger than his 211-pound frame. DJ Lundy is down to 239 pounds and he has a chance to be more than just a downhill linebacker.

Mycah Pittman continues to impress and it’s clear he will be valuable as a slot receiver, potentially as a starter, if he keeps putting together practices like he has to start the spring. He’s not immune to mistakes and is being coached hard by Ron Dugans and Norvell but Pittman appears to embrace the coaching and has built good chemistry with quarterbacks.

Ja’Khi Douglas has had three good practices and drops from him are rare. Deuce Spann has flashed his potential but is viewed as a long-term project and needs to be more consistent as a pass-catcher.

Ryan Fitzgerald closed practice with a 48-yard field-goal attempt that he made with Norvell staring him down and even tossing a cleat in an attempt to distract.

Coming up

FSU will hold practice No. 4 on Friday afternoon before taking time off for spring break.

Osceola editor Bob Ferrante contributed