Alex Atkins was asked but admitted he’s not sure how many offensive line combinations Florida State has used through just three games in 2021.
“Not exactly,” Atkins said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t keep up with the count. I just try to make sure we got five out there because they won’t let me send four.”
Atkins has had to juggle — during the week and on the fly during games — as injuries to starters Maurice Smith and Robert Scott and to backup Baveon Johnson have created obstacles and forced the coaching staff to play musical chairs. The Seminoles have started three different line combinations, but coach Mike Norvell estimated the staff implemented four or five groups in the loss at Wake Forest.
“You have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C,” Norvell said on Monday. “I think we found and hit all plans throughout the course of our prep.”
That includes redshirt freshman Zane Herring making his college debut on Saturday. But it also includes cross-training, and Atkins subscribes to the theory that it’s essential in the spring and preseason to be ready to play another spot on the line. When he was looking for a No. 3 option at center, tackle Darius Washington slid over and snapped for what Atkins said may have been the first time in high school or college. Atkins felt Washington was the best option among the linemen to snap and he was certainly needed against the Demon Deacons.
FSU has just 14 scholarship offensive linemen after Dontae Lucas left the team. The Seminoles are without Smith and Scott, and with Thomas Shrader injured in the spring and not having played through three games, the Seminoles are low on options let alone linemen with experience.
When asked if he had ever been in a situation like this at stops like Tulane, Charlotte and other jobs, Atkins paused for a few seconds.
“Can’t recall this many,” Atkins said. “They’re going to look at me to how I react in the moment. And if I’m looking like it’s the first time, chaotic and all that, it’s going to be first time, chaotic and all this kind of stuff. So I got to make sure that my reactions are poised and understanding what we can and put them in the best position.”
Robert Scott practiced on Tuesday and Atkins said Smith also “got a few reps in.” Those are good signs as FSU looks to get the linemen back ahead of Saturday’s game against Louisville (3:30 p.m. on ESPN2).
FSU has a number of true freshmen (Bryson Estes and Rod Orr) and redshirt freshmen who coaches could use. Atkins said Estes was a possibility to get playing time this week or down the road. When deciding which first- or second-year lineman is ready, Atkins looks for a few indicators.
“Depends on how the practice week goes,” Atkins said. “If he’s shown that he can go out and handle it. And also at o-line with the continuity aspect, you can put him next to somebody. We don’t play out in wide splits.”
Purdy gaining confidence
Quarterback Chubba Purdy earned more reps than usual in practice and praise from coach Mike Norvell, who said if Jordan Travis could not play that Purdy would be the Seminoles’ No. 2 quarterback.
“Chubba’s worked really hard,” Norvell said. “Still has his freshman moments in practice. But I love the progression I’ve seen. … I’m excited for what his future is. He understands that he has to be ready. He’s been approaching that in meetings. He’s getting better and more confident in the things we’re asking him to do.”
Referees on field
Referees were also present on Tuesday for the first time during an open practice period. A few times referees were seen communicating with FSU coaches.