Full-speed ahead: Day 1 observations for FSU

Florida State took to the practice field for the first time Saturday morning. Coach Mike Norvell split up the teams, with mostly veterans on the field in the morning. The split-practice format will also take place on Sunday and Monday. The team is, of course, working out in shorts. In the morning practice, McKenzie Milton and Jordan Travis were the quarterbacks. It’s expected Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker will be the quarterbacks in the afternoon practice.

One big takeaway is the team looked crisper and more comfortable Saturday compared to last fall or in spring 2021. It was an efficient, fast-paced day 1. Players seemed comfortable in understanding what the expectations were from Norvell and the coaching staff as they are in year 2. They also seemed to be conditioned for the tempo that Norvell expects, and that’s a credit to their commitment in the offseason as well as Josh Storms’ work through strength and conditioning with the players. Physically the players look better as a group than last August.

“Just a lot better understanding, the confidence in what it needs to look like, how we need to work,” Norvell said at the end of the afternoon’s practice. “It’s still a day 1. But the guys’ confidence in the concepts and schemes of what we’re asking. It’s definitely a marked improvement. But it should be.”

The offseason strength and conditioning program has paid early dividends for a number of veterans. Some examples are Camren McDonald, who has gained a few pounds, and Baveon Johnson is slimmer. 

McDonald noted his is the first time in his FSU career that he has consistency in the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator.

Keyshawn Helton made some big grabs, laying out for one near the goal line. Freshman Malik McClain was working with the veterans, which perhaps is a good sign that he will be an early contributor. There were notably some drops by the receivers. But those drops were mixed in with some good catches in traffic against the defensive backs.

Treshaun Ward looked quick and moved well in cone drills. Jashaun Corbin feels more comfortable and back to full speed as he distances himself from the recovery from a torn hamstring in Sept. 2019 at Texas A&M.

Alex Atkins has discussed moving linemen around to various positions, cross-training for the season ahead in the event of injuries. Dillan Gibbons was working at guard along with Dontae Lucas, Baveon Johnson, Zane Herring and Bryson Estes. Robert Scott, Darius Washington, Lloyd Willis and Brady Scott were working at tackle. Maurice Smith and Johnson were working at center.

Keir Thomas was moving around without any limitations. Thomas did not practice in the spring. He adds experience and provides an upgrade on the front four, along with Jermaine Johnson and Marcus Cushnie. Derrick McLendon and Johnson worked at strongside defensive end, while Thomas and Josh Griffis got some work at the opposite end (FOX). Among the defensive tackle rotation were Dennis Briggs, Joshua Farmer, Robert Cooper, Jarrett Jackson and Fabien Lovett.

Kalen DeLoach appeared to have a good offseason and is in the mix at linebacker. Amari Gainer remarked that he felt prepared through the strength and conditioning program for day 1 but a hot, fast-paced morning on the field was a challenge to his endurance.

The defensive backs looked sharp in day 1. Safety Brendan Gant was among the standouts. Jammie Robinson and Kevin Knowles bring varying skill sets and experience but appear to be a big part of the puzzle in the defensive backfield, especially when FSU goes to a nickel package.

Day One Practice 2 Notes (Newcomers, select underclassmen)

FSU’s newcomers, including true freshmen, select underclassmen and transfers that didn’t go through spring practice, took part in a two-hour practice this afternoon in the Seminoles’ indoor practice facility.

As was the case with the morning practice, Rodemaker and Purdy looked sharp and showed off strengthened arms in this afternoon’s practice, which was conducted in shorts and helmets.

It was easy to see why Norvell brought in Kansas wide receiver transfer Andrew Parchment. He did not disappoint in shorts. He is extremely quick off the ball, gets to full speed very quickly and has great length. Parchment showed a very competitive nature in 1-on-1s against defensive backs.

We also got our first real look at cornerback Demorie Tate, who held is own against Parchment during the 1-on-1 segment of practice. Tate has very good length for a cornerback and moves extremely well. Maryland transfer linebacker Cortez Andrews is extremely well put together at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds. He does show some explosion and quickness coming out of his stance. Of course, we will learn more about the offensive line and defensive front-seven when FSU moves to full-padded practices next week.

Another player that looks to have benefitted from a full off-season is tight end Markeston Douglas, who has trimmed down to 275 pounds after arriving on-campus at around 290 pounds. Physically he doesn’t look like the same player and was more fluid in his movements than this past spring. Norvell also mentioned that tight end Jackson West looked sharp in Saturday’s practice.

FSU will hit the practice field again on Sunday morning in the same split-squad format with the second group taking the field in the afternoon.

Jerry Kutz contributed observations.