Defenses are almost always well ahead of offenses in preseason camp. But the gap was considerable in coach Mike Norvell’s view.
“I thought the defense was dominant tonight,” Norvell said after Florida State’s second scrimmage on Saturday night. “We really attacked in all aspects. Controlling the line of scrimmage. Was able to do a nice job creating negative plays.”
FSU is essentially playing with a royal flush on its defensive front, so the deck is stacked against the Seminoles’ rebuilding offensive line. Norvell described the offense making “a play here or there” but then mental mistakes or missed assignments would set up long-yardage situations.
“Right now, we can’t afford to do that with where we are,” Norvell said three weeks before the Seminoles open the season against Georgia Tech. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to continue to get better. Continue an investment in understanding our assignments and what we’re supposed to do, and then obviously continue to get better fundamentally in both of those areas as well.”
This is the second scrimmage in August and the second one Norvell has described as dominant for the defense. While defensive coordinator Adam Fuller later tried to downplay that point, the message that Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham conveyed was clear. Whether through words or body language on the Zoom interviews with the media, neither found much to be pleased at with the offense.
Norvell in particular described a Friday practice that had good battles between the offense and defense but stated in the scrimmage “the defense definitely came out on top in really every aspect.”
He also didn’t shy away from calling on veterans on offense to set the tone.
“A lot of growth that we need to see, we need to see more leadership emerge in the accountability aspect of what we’re doing,” Norvell said.
It would appear coaches are limiting Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden, feeling confident in what the defensive tackles can offer. Norvell praised Robert Cooper and Fabien Lovett, two linemen who have been consistently praised the last two weeks.
“Robert Cooper is having a really nice camp,” Norvell said. “He’s continuing to lose body weight and getting to where he is, very active in helping control the line there. Fabien Lovett is going to be a really, really impressive player. Not just this year, but for his future. So excited about what he brings and what he’s added.”
Norvell said defensive end Joshua Kaindoh “has had an incredible camp throughout.” Fuller mentioned a takeaway by free safety Travis Jay. Norvell also cited growth and leadership from veteran linebackers like Emmett Rice and Leonard Warner, while Fuller also commented on the maturity of freshman linebacker Stephen Dix Jr. and his instincts.
Reflections on quarterbacks
Norvell said true freshman Tate Rodemaker saw more reps with Chubba Purdy out due to injury. “Just getting the game to slow down a little bit for him and continue to build that confidence for where his eyes need to be and the rhythm of what he’s doing,” Norvell said.
James Blackman has been viewed as the front-runner in the competition, and Norvell said he “did some nice things” but later said he made some plays “he would like to have back.”
Mirroring the thoughts Norvell had on the offense in general, he is looking for more consistency from the quarterbacks. “Not letting one play, whether it’s really good or really bad, affect the next play,” Norvell said. “That’s part of their maturity throughout the offense, and that’s going to be a critical factor in their growth.”
Development taking place at tight end
Norvell praised Camren McDonald for his improvement as a run blocker and said he made a few good catches in the scrimmage. Walk-on Preston Daniel and Carter Boatwright saw extensive playing time, Norvell said.
The Seminoles will not practice on Sunday although players will likely review scrimmage film with coaches. Players begin classes on Monday.