FSU fans might not have seen much they liked last Saturday in the Seminoles’ 52-10 loss to Miami, but they did get a glimpse to what the future may hold on the football field in coming weeks and seasons. Mike Norvell and his staff played a lot of true freshman in the second half of the game who were seeing the first action of their career. And some of their performances should give the fan base a reason to be optimistic in a season where FSU enters its third game of the year, against Jacksonville State, looking for its first win of the year.
That group of true freshman included quarterback Tate Rodemaker, offensive linemen Robert Scott and Thomas Shrader and wide receivers Ja’Khi Douglas, Kentron Poiter and Darion Williamson, among others. Running back Lawrance Toafili and linebacker did play against Georgia Tech but saw more extensive action against the Hurricanes and all gave FSU reasons to look forward to the future.
Rodemaker completed just one of his first four passes, which included an interception, but responded by completing his last four passes in a row as the team marched down the field on a 13-play, 67-yard drive. He finished the game 5 of 9 for 47 yards and made some very nice throws on the last drive of the game.
Poitier, Williamson and Douglas combined for six catches, two a piece, in the game. Shrader and Scott both lined up at tackle and also accounted for themselves well.
Toafili and Dix were both used early in the game against Miami and both showed flashes of what may come. Toafili led the team in rushing, totaling 64 yards on eight carries, and he also caught two passes for 35 yards and was the team’s most productive player FSU had on offense. Dix finished as the team’s third-leading tackler in the game.
“I feel like I did alright,” said Toafili of his performance against Miami when speaking to the media this week. “There are some things I can clean up, things I can do better. Just have to keep working.”
Toafili is already the third leading rusher on the team despite his only carries coming against Miami.
“I’m just trying to go as hard as I can and make the best out of my opportunities that I get,” continued Toafili. “And just go hard.”
He also knows there is a lot of room for improvement in his game, especially as a pass blocker.
“Really just getting down to technique and knowing the leverage and other things like that,” said Toafili on improving. “And I’ve been getting stronger and lifting weights and things so getting very used to it.”
And his efforts to improve haven’t gone unnoticed by his coach.
“We knew going into this game that we wanted to be able to provide some more opportunities for Lawrance to be able to impact,” said Norvell. “He did a couple of good things in week one. You see each week he comes out to practice. In the meeting room, you can see the confidence starting to build. Obviously his performance on Saturday was one that I was really pleased with. Not just with the ball in his hands, but also some moments he had to step up in pass protection and throws his body around as a true freshman. You can tell the willingness he has. I think he has a chance to be a great player here, and those opportunities are going to continue to increase as he emphasizes that same mentality in his preparation.”
Toafili also likes the way he and his fellow freshmen are coming together.
“We have always been together, like around each other,” said Toafili of his fellow true freshmen. “And everything we did in practice, we were practicing together. I feel like we just connected very well. We gelled. We have good team chemistry, things like that.”
Scott and Shrader likely would have seen action against Georgia Tech according to Norvell but both were unavailable for unspecified reasons, which led to them seeing their first action of the year on the road.
“It was nerve-wracking,” said Scott of his first college game. “I was kind ofshocked. I was ready, though, because I’ve been practicing, doing all the reps and stuff behind Devontay (Love-Taylor) … But when you really get on the field, it’s like wow. There were times where I feel like I stumbled a little bit, where I was anxious to get the block. But on pass pro, I did pretty good, I didn’t let them beat me. I feel like that was a good thing.”
He believes the confidence offensive line coach Alex Atkins has in him is one of the reasons the stage wasn’t too big for him.
“One time, he was like, ‘warm up,’ I was like, ‘Ok, I’ll get it right,’ ” said Scott. “Right before he put me in there, he was like, ‘Let’s get this money.’ He believed in me so that’s another reason I didn’t worry as hard because he sees something in me. The fact that he put me in there and I just got here, that says a lot.”
Norvell indicated earlier this week that the pair of young linemen will see more action moving forward and Scott says his goal is to simply be prepared when his number is called.
“I thought they did well,” said Norvell of Scott and Shrader. “And those two guys, unfortunately, in week one, they were unavailable due to different circumstances. But it was good to see them get on the field and those guys, we’re going to continue to force feed them the opportunities. And whether that’s looking at different potential as they grow and get better in practice and do what they need to do. They have a great opportunity to earn playing time to continue to, whether it’s a series here or a series there, to continue to compete. But I think both those guys have tremendous upsides, tremendous futures. They both play the game physically, they both are intelligent young men that understand leverage, they understand what we’re asking them to do. And so they’re going to continue to compete, and I look forward to their opportunities to continue to grow as the season progresses.”
“I’m just playing my role,” finished Scott. “If they put me in, I’m going to work and if I’m not, I’m taking the mental reps because you never know what can happen to the offensive line. Sometimes everybody might go down and I’ve got to get ready to get in so I’ve got to pay attention. Whenever they tell me to go in, I’m going in.”
And the moment didn’t seem to big for Rodemaker either, who was rather matter of fact about appearing in his first college game.
“I was a little nervous, but it’s just once I got on the field, just like I did in high school, 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.”
“That’s a challenging situation to ever have to go in,” said Norvell of his quarterback. “But I thought he did a nice job. He definitely embraced the moment. You could tell the first couple plays were happening fast for him. He had the early mistake with the interception but thought he responded really well. Came back and was able to put together a drive.”
The Miami game might not have paid dividends immediately for Norvell and staff but the game may have been the start of FSU laying down its foundation for the future.
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