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Notes: Norvell sees depth develop at LB, DL

If there has been a word to describe the first portion of Florida State’s camp it is competition. Fueled by an influx of transfers and two signing classes, as well as offseason strength and conditioning gains, coach Mike Norvell sees depth building at a number of position groups. 

One of the areas where the Seminoles must develop options is linebacker. Norvell is beginning to see depth emerge and noted a pair of linebackers who impressed him in Saturday’s closed scrimmage as well as the first week of preseason camp.

“Two guys that really stood out to me were Kalen DeLoach and DJ Lundy,” Norvell said. “Both were very active. You take that not just from the scrimmage but what they’ve done in the body of work in the first week. You’re seeing those guys really starting to separate themselves and how they’re emerging as players. Both are guys who are still young but they’re taking the most of their opportunities there.”

FSU has a pair of veterans in Amari Gainer and Emmett Rice as well as Stephen Dix Jr., who saw extensive playing time as a true freshman last fall. DeLoach started in the opener against Georgia Tech in 2020 but then moved into a backup role and had seven tackles in nine games. Norvell said the staff decided to move him to inside linebacker this spring.

“His nickname is speedy,” Norvell said. “He plays fast. You see not the biggest linebacker in the world but a guy that can really fly around. He is playing with the physicality, speed. He’s got a knack for being able to find the ball in tight spaces and that’s where he’s utilizing his explosiveness and speed at a high level. You really see the confidence of the player starting to emerge. He was the guy that last fall we were really excited about, went in the season, had some ups and downs. The thing that I was so proud of was just how he responded in the spring, how he’s worked in the offseason program. A year ago, there were times that it would jump on him pretty good in the summer training. This year, you see a confident player in body language, the mindset, the approach.”

Norvell was also upbeat when discussing the defensive line. Norvell said “Fabien (Lovett) and Dennis Briggs (are) playing at a really high level coming out of the scrimmage.” Others who caught his eye include Jarrett Jackson, who Norvell said “is an X-factor on the defensive line” as well as Josh Farmer and Malcolm Ray.

Quarterback competition

Norvell hasn’t given much away about FSU’s preseason quarterback competition. There definitely appears to be separation at the top (McKenzie Milton and Jordan Travis) compared to backups Tate Rodemaker and Chubba Purdy, although Norvell reiterated there is no timeline to name a starter and still has plenty of time to do so with nearly three weeks until the opener against Notre Dame on Sept. 5.

“I don’t really get too much into trying to circle a date,” Norvell said. “I just want to be right.”

In Saturday’s closed scrimmage, Norvell saw no glaring issues (turnovers) but saw a mix of what he liked and as well as areas of improvement.

“I think both those guys have done a really nice job,” Norvell said. “I was going back and watching the scrimmage, both of them had explosive plays, moved the offense well, were productive situationally and they did some good things. But then there were some also some negatives that we just can’t have. Both Jordan and McKenzie, they owned the football, they didn’t have a turnover in a situation but there were still times where maybe they were a little slower to their progression of what they needed to do and just understanding the situation of the game and how they could handle themselves a little bit better and more efficiently.”

Coaches confident in Corbin

FSU offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham wasted little time in mentioning Jashaun Corbin’s name as the standout among the running backs in the scrimmage and preseason. Corbin tore his hamstring in Sept. 2019 at Texas A&M but said he has “found my youth again.”

“Just getting back to how I used to play,” Corbin said. “Just knowing when it is time to be physical and when it is time to make guys miss. It definitely feels good just to get back into that mode again.”