FSU put shoulders pads on Sunday morning in its third practice of the preseason and for only the second time under head coach Mike Norvell and his staff. And in true linebacker form, Amari Gainer for was happy to get in a little contact work on the practice field for the first time since March 12.
“It is thud, but it is an intense thud,” Gainer said when asked if he was excited to be allowed contact in practice. “It was fun getting out there, being back in pads and just moving around. It was fun.”
He is also enjoying the versatility he has in playing the strong outside linebacker position, called the STUD, in defensive coordinator Adam Fuller’s new 4-3 scheme.
“For the STUD, it is like we either have pass, we play pass, we will play the run, we will play both,” continued Gainer. “So it is kind of just like an entanglement with both. It is great to just be out there pass rushing, kind of doing different things in different schemes. I love it.”
Gainer also gets a chance to line up inside the tackles in his new role.
“It is coming along good,’’ said Gainer of seeing more action in the middle of the defense after playing on the perimeter in last season’s 3-4 scheme. “Just being receptive to learning new concepts, new fundamentals. It is just good being coached up. I’m just ready to be out there. I just love it.”
One thing that has helped the young linebacker with that responsibility is the added weight he has put on this offseason.
“I fluctuate from like 225-230,” said the redshirt sophomore. “I still have my same speed. I feel like the corona-break was a big advantage for me because I was able to get my speed up a little bit more, get a little bit more flexible too. Any time that you get some speed, and also maintain strength, is always a good thing in whatever position you play.”
The Tallahassee (Fla.) Chiles High School product also believes he has benefitted from the detail and intensity of linebackers coach Chris Marve.
“I love Coach Marve,” said Gainer. “He always is on me, just getting on me about little things. Just any fundamentals. It doesn’t matter if you are a walk-on or a scholarship player, he is going to coach you the same. Coach Marve is a really great coach. He actually just talked to us yesterday about purpose, just knowing your purpose, and just the way you approach anything is how you are going to approach everything. I love Coach Marve.”
Despite being just a redshirt sophomore, Gainer sounded like a veteran when asked about the outside noise of the 2020 possibly being further delayed or even cancelled at some point in the future. “I’ve always been taught to just control what you can control,” said Gainer. “So the only thing I control is my mindset and what happens the next day. So the next day I am blessed, I can wake up and work, that is what I am going to do.”
Marve said after Sunday’s practice that Gainer has been impressive to be around during the first three days of practice and has continued to pick up right where he left this past spring.
“Well A.G. is an extremely hard worker,” said Marve of Gainer. “A young man who has an insatiable desire to be the absolute best in everything he does quite frankly. If you see him, when we first got here, in early January, the young man is probably 200 to 205 pounds. And now he is closer to 230. So you are talking about over the course of eight months of preparation that he has put in, an investment that he’s made, not only in his mental space but also his body, has been tremendous.”