Notes: Corbin showing confidence post-injury, Norvell on fourth-down mindset

Jashaun Corbin was back on the field, but the physicality and burst wasn’t always there. It would take time for the hamstring to heal, the Florida State coaches and tailback knew. And it’s beginning to show.

Corbin ran 14 times for a season-high 77 yards and had a 28-yard touchdown in Saturday’s loss at NC State. 

“Definitely playing with a lot more confidence,” Corbin said. “I’m really getting back into the swing of things. I feel like I’m starting to trust that I’m feeling fine now. So now I’m playing more relaxed, more confident, so things are starting to get back more naturally.”

Corbin is hitting his stride, perhaps just in time to help FSU’s ground attack for the final three regular-season games. Playing at Texas A&M in 2019, Corbin was rolled up after a 4-yard catch against Clemson and his season was over in early September.

While he opted to transfer to FSU, he wasn’t a full go through the spring and preseason. Corbin has played in all of FSU’s eight games but needed the added recovery time to become the punishing runner that he is. That was evident again on Saturday when he burst through the line on fourth-and-1 to break a few tackles and finish off a 28-yard touchdown run.

“My thought was to get the first down and keep the chains moving, extend the drive,” Corbin said. “It was a great block by our offensive line, who set it up for me. And I made a safety miss, and the rest is history. All credit to the coaches and the guys who are blocking for me.”

Corbin has 65 carries for 329 yards (5.1 yards per carry), and he has also been a consistent receiver out of the backfield with 16 receptions for 99 yards. But his role was also expanded on Saturday as he saw more snaps in the shotgun as a wildcat quarterback.

“He’s the type of guy you want on your football team,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “Great kid, smart kid, passionate, brings it every single day. He was a vital part of what we did (Saturday). We needed a vet to step up with two freshmen in there. We had to develop a plan to where if one of those guys at quarterback did get rattled, we needed to be able to put somebody back there who could calm us down and not make them have to make every play. His maturity and his intelligence allowed us to line up in wildcat and really take a lot of pressure off those young quarterbacks.”

Corbin said he took direct snaps as a wildcat quarterback in high school, and it’s likely a part of the Seminoles’ offense as they face Clemson on Saturday. He feels more confident in his hamstring now as well as making the right reads as part of the play call from coach Mike Norvell and Dillingham.

With Corbin, La’Damian Webb and Lawrance Toafili, not to mention the impact quarterback Jordan Travis can have with his legs, FSU has been effective running the ball. The Seminoles ran 34 times for 147 yards (a 4.3-yard average) at NC State, which is below previous games but reflective of playing four freshmen on the offensive line as well as a first-time starting quarterback in Chubba Purdy.

The Seminoles had been a top-25 rush offense but their national rank has slid to 48th (184 yards per game). But Corbin is excited about the prospects of the running back group and the Seminoles’ future, despite the 2-6 start to the season.

“I enjoy coming out here with my brothers side by side,” Corbin said. “I enjoy coming out here working with them every day regardless of what’s going on. I enjoy everything being here, being in the weight room after practice we don’t get these times back. … And I know we will be successful in the future.”

Going for it

Florida State isn’t converting at a high rate on third down, just 36.6 percent of the time in 2020 (86th in the FBS). This has often prompted Norvell to go for it on fourth-and-short, and the Seminoles are 14 of 26 on fourth-down opportunities.

Norvell is clearly willing to roll the dice, regardless of whether FSU is in its own territory or not. It was perhaps most evident in the home loss to Pittsburgh but also again at NC State. He went into detail on some of his philosophy on Tuesday.

“We want to maximize every down that we have,” Norvell said. “Sometimes maximizing the down is punting the ball on fourth down or kicking a field goal, but if we feel that we’re in a position to go for it and utilize that fourth down and extend drives or give us an opportunity to stay on the field then we’ve got to understand those situations and we prepare for those situations. To say develop a mindset, yes, but that really should be the mindset of whatever the situation calls for, we’ve got to go out there and perform and execute.”

If the theory is that good teams execute in the right situations, FSU’s third-down struggles are emblematic. The Seminoles were just 3 of 14 on third downs at NC State but FSU was 5 of 7 on fourth downs. On defense, FSU struggled by allowing NC State to convert on 10 of 15 third downs but did make a fourth-down stop.

“We talk a lot about those cash-down situations, that’s third and fourth down,” Norvell said. “It’s the same thing defensively. You can get a third-down stop, but if you allow a conversion on fourth down, the drive continues. Really, those are big factors that we look at. When we look at our conversion rates, I take both third and fourth down into account for that. We weren’t very good on third down on offense the other night and it hurt us, but we converted 75 percent or close to that on fourth down so we were able to keep drives rolling. It helps flip the field position and keeps us on an aggressive mindset. We’re always going to look at that, but it’s something we talked to our players about back in preseason camp, why we do what we do and the belief in that. They support it and understand that.”

Emerging freshman

Sidney Williams saw extended playing time on defense the last two weeks, often due to injury in the defensive backfield. A true freshman, Williams has built the chance based on his performance on special teams, Norvell said.

“Sidney was a late signee for us in last year’s class,” Norvell said. “He’s a young man that had some injuries his senior year with some limited film but, man, I’m so excited about what his future is. He has come in, has gotten better every day. He started to make an impact on special teams and showed really good speed, physicality. His work ethic and the performance at practice has really allowed him to put himself in this position.”

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