Notes: Norvell happy with third-down defense, sees big plays on offense

The calendar says early August and the old cliche holds true: In many areas, the defense is ahead of the offense. This is often the reality early in preseason camps. That included third-down situations on Wednesday as Florida State went 11-on-11 in an early period as well as another period late in the morning.

“It was a dominant third-down performance from the defense,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “A lot of guys flying around. But it’s great film to get to continue to improve offensively. I like what I’m seeing. I like the competitive spirit. I saw some explosive plays there offensively in the run game and the pass game.”

The give-and-take between the offense and defense is a good sign. FSU’s younger receivers are often going up against veteran defensive backs. Early enrollee Malik McClain hasn’t been immune to drops but he continues to impress and has put together four good practices to open camp. Lawrance Toafili also broke off a long run in 11-on-11, but sacks often helped the defense keep the offense from gaining first downs.

In a camp that has put improved strength and conditioning on display, another theme has been the competitive nature of practices. Now that the team has been in shells (helmets and shoulder pads but just shorts), the defense has been able to thud and tackle.

Norvell says he sees good competition on the defensive front, an area where the Seminoles must be improved in 2021 against the run and pass. One player who has stood out to Norvell has been Quashon Fuller, who had just a few tackles in four games last season as a reserve but has shown good burst and the ability to pressure the quarterback.

“Quashon Fuller has had an outstanding four days. He’s growing into what he is being asked to do. I think he’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Norvell said.

Notes and observations

Malik McClain has put together some very good practices. If you’re curious which of the true or redshirt freshmen are at the top of the list for playing time, the conversation begins with McClain.

Jashaun Corbin consistently shows good physicality between the tackles. Treshaun Ward again displayed quickness in running off tackle and getting out in space. Norvell praised guard Dillan Gibbons for his physicality, technique and leadership.

Alex Mastromanno was often inconsistent but also unleashed some punts with good hang time while under pressure.

Coming up

As Norvell and players walked into the locker room to shower, charter buses had lined up to take the players to Jacksonville for practices at the University of North Florida. The Seminoles will practice Thursday and Friday morning in Jacksonville (both practices are closed to the public). FSU will then hold a closed scrimmage on Saturday in Tallahassee.

Norvell said he sees an opportunity to continue team-building and chemistry with players as they stay together in Jacksonville but also a chance to prepare FSU for a road trip.

“There’s going to be five times that we go on the road this year that we’re not going to be able to control the atmosphere, we’re not going to be able to control what situation we find ourselves in,” Norvell said. “Whatever occurs we have to be able to repond as a team.”

Video interview

South Carolina transfer Keir Thomas missed the spring but said he feels 100 percent. “I feel great physically,” Thomas said.