Florida State was able to empty the bench in the third and fourth quarters, giving players at every position group on offense and defense a chance to play.
FSU’s participation report listed 14 scholarship or walk-on players who saw their first game experience on Saturday in the rout of UMass. Others who have seen time just on special teams in the first half of the season earned time on offense or defense.
“Someone who jumped out at me was Lloyd Willis,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said of the redshirt freshman offensive tackle. “Lloyd did a nice job with the reps he got, the physicality and effort he gave showed flashes of what he can do. Obviously some of the things he’s capable of.
“We got some good young (guys) work for some of our defensive players. You see Josh Farmer, a guy who has to be in the rotation with just some of the depth issues that we’ve had. We’ve had Dennis Briggs go down, it’s been hit and miss with Malcolm (Ray) and JJ (Jarrett Jackson) being out of games so Josh has been accelerated, but it was good to allow him to go out there. He’s been dealing with a little bit of an injury, but (good) to see him put together a couple drives and getting that consistent work.”
Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller mentioned a high volume of defensive linemen and defensive backs who were able to get in the game and couple that experience with a Sunday evening practice, which typically is one where FSU coaches take a longer look at younger players.
“As much as you say practice is everything, there’s still a feeling of going out there on gameday and suiting up to play,” Fuller said. “I think we played 14 d-linemen, 14 DBs, could be off a number here or there but a good number of people. I think that just helps those guys. On Sunday, they had a taste of it so they come back. I think the ones that got in deserved to get in. Hopefully that helps their development, expedites it a little quicker just because they got a chance to get out there on the grass for us on Saturday, on a gameday.”
Defensive ends coach John Papuchis got his first look at Patrick Payton on the field, while Quashon Fuller and Marcus Cushnie saw extensive playing time.
“We were able to get Marcus Cushnie some normal reps in a normal game situation not just in a pass rushing situation,” Papuchis said. “Get Pat Payton in the game for the first time. Get Quashon Fuller in a game situation. I thought for Pat’s first game, there were some things that obviously go along with that first game, some nerves and jitters, but he didn’t look out of place. I thought he was calm and composed on the sideline. Marcus Cushnie flashed. I thought he made some good plays, had a couple of sacks and impacted the game the way we hoped he could when we recruited him here. Quashon played as fast as he’s played the past several weeks in terms of just how he chased the ball and the fundamentals and technique that he played with.”
Praise for Purdy
Redshirt freshman Chubba Purdy saw his first playing time of 2021 on Saturday, completing 5 of 5 passes for 98 yards and touchdown passes to Camren McDonald and Jordan Young.
“He wasn’t making his mind up early,” Norvell said. “He was truly processing, let the game come to him, and that was a big step. I’m excited he got that opportunity, and what he did with the opportunity. Chubba has a great future in front of him and excited to watch him grow.”
Purdy had an interrupted true freshman season — he injured his collarbone in August and started at NC State before undergoing surgery again in November. Purdy began the spring by practicing with the team but then shifted fully to rehabilitation ahead of preseason camp and the 2021 season.
“Completely different person,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “Last year he shows up and was like, ‘Hey, true freshmen that has no practice. And you’re starting.’ That’s literally it. I mean, you had a week and a half a practice, you got hurt and then you come back and you’re playing a game on the road. So this year, he was out there, we had RPOs called, we had a run game check for him, and we didn’t change the offense at all. He went out there and we said, ‘We wanted to play football with him at quarterback.’ And he led us down and he made the right decisions. …
“For the most part that guy went out there and he was calm. And that’s what you look for when you look for a quarterback, you look for, ‘Are they calm or are they panicked when things happen?’ And you can see a calmness about him that was not there last year when he played.”
Clemson’s stingy defense
Clemson has had its issues on offense but the defense has been among the nation’s best. The Tigers are No. 3 in scoring defense (14.6 points), and they are No. 1 in red-zone defense — allowing just five touchdowns and seven made field-goal attempts on the opponents’ 20 possessions.
“They just don’t give up points,” Norvell said. “You get in the red zone, they’re phenomenal in the red zone. They don’t give up the explosive plays. They limit you in regards to that. Very sound in what they do. You look at probably the best tackling team that we’ve played throughout this season.”
Dillingham said FSU will have to create some big plays because Clemson won’t allow long drives to develop.
“If you watch the film, they don’t miss tackles,” Dillingham said. “It sounds like a fundamental and boring but you get on the free safety at nine yards deep, and you gain nine yards. Some teams you get on the free safety and nine yards deep and you score. Clemson, you get on the safety at nine yards deep, it’s a 9-yard gain. And you got to do that seven more times. And that’s not easy to do vs. a good team. So when we get those opportunities to win those 1-on-1s, we’ve got to win some. Whether that’s the passing game or the running game, we’ve got to make people miss and we have to be explosive because they’re an opportunistic defense as well. And because they’re so aggressive, you’re not just going to be able to methodically move the ball down the field because they’re going to get you at a point.”
OL injury update
Florida State goes into the week with uncertainty over whether the starting guards will be available for the Clemson game. Devontay Love-Taylor missed the UMass game, while Dillan Gibbons left the game in the first quarter. Norvell said it remains to be seen how both progress.
“If not, it’s next guy up, next guy ready,” Norvell said. “Baveon Johnson, obviously you’ve got Brady Scott, those guys have played a lot of football here. They’ve had to do a lot of different things, Baveon playing guard, playing center. Brady, I think, played three different spots there the other day. It’s been a challenge. Those guys are working extremely hard, preparing in multiple spots.”
No FSU-NC State time yet
ESPN exercised a six-day hold for NC State-Florida State as well as Clemson-Louisville and Wake Forest-North Carolina. With Pitt-Duke (noon) and Georgia Tech-Miami (12:30 p.m.) in early windows, it’s fair to expect NC State-FSU to be in a 3:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. time slot — but ESPN and the ACC will not announce a game time for the Nov. 6 games until late Saturday or Sunday.