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First steps: Rodemaker learns on fly in first college game

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Tate Rodemaker only had a few minutes’ notice that he would be playing against Miami. But as the fourth quarter was about to start Saturday night, Rodemaker began to warm up.

There were early nerves – what would you expect from a quarterback playing as a true freshman for the first time and doing it in a rivalry game? Rodemaker said he settled in quickly.

“I would think of it as practice, like team reps in practice, and just different colored jerseys on the other side,” Rodemaker said. “That always helped me calm down. And there’s fans, but I black them out, so it was a good little experience.”

Rodemaker tossed a few incompletions and then picked up a third-down conversion when he connected with Camren McDonald for a 10-yard gain. On the next play, Rodemaker looked deep for Kentron Poitier but was intercepted.

“After I threw the pick, I didn’t really think too much about it. I tried flush the last play, stop thinking about it and then I got to the sideline,” Rodemaker said. “Coach Norvell is always talking about responding. James (Blackman) talked to me a little bit on the sideline, tried to calm me down. I got back out there on the next drive and I did what I did.”

Rodemaker had a 2-yard rush and an incomplete third-down pass under pressure (there was also an FSU holding, which was declined, on the play). While his third drive didn’t result in any points, Lawrance Toafili helped get FSU’s drive rolling 31 yards on four carries before Rodemaker then connected on four passes, two apiece to Darion Williamson and Poitier. His best pass of the night was a back-shoulder throw to the sideline as he found Poitier for a 14-yard gain.

“We work a lot of back shoulder, so that was a pretty easy throw for me to make,” Rodemaker said.

The Seminoles had first-and-goal at the Miami 5 but the attempt to punch it in stalled out in the final minute. It was an up-and-down quarter, but Rodemaker did complete 5 of 9 passes for 47 yards and the early interception. Rodemaker said Tony Tokarz, an analyst who was elevated to position coach with Mike Norvell back home, as well as Blackman were helpful in giving him advice on the sideline.

FSU coach Mike Norvell has been pleased with Rodemaker’s development in preseason camp. He sees the freshmen mistakes but also how he learns and grows.

“You got experience but I expect him to give everything that he has, wherever he is, whether he’s never played a snap, whether he’s got his first collegiate experience,” Norvell said. “And there is a sense of urgency. But there needs to be a sense of urgency in every player. I like the way that Tate has been working. … His approach to things is something that I have been really proud of. And even when he makes a mistake, the response and taking the coaching and going to the next play, that’s something that he is showing a little bit of that maturity.”

It’s maturity that will continue to build in time. And now Rodemaker has film to review as he moves forward in his development this season.

“That’s very valuable to me,” Rodemaker said. “Just getting game reps, that’s probably the best time to get it is just when nobody is really paying attention to it. But at least I got some reps. I’ve been waiting on those. Next time I will be more ready.”