Florida State takes a break on Tuesday after three days of preseason camp, which featured six split practices. Veterans typically practiced in the morning and freshmen as well as a few newcomers in the afternoon.
One of the big takeaways from three days of practices is the impact of a full offseason of strength and conditioning, led by Josh Storms and his staff. Players who needed to gain weight did so and those who needed to slim down have also done so. This helps coach Mike Norvell as he prepares the offense for the tempo that he wants to play as well as the defense, which will face teams that will go fast.
“I needed that,” defensive tackle Fabien Lovett said. “We all needed that. Last year we didn’t get that. Being with Storms and being able to build that bond and keep working out and getting better and keep getting stronger. We got the full effect. You see how we look now. It’s a huge difference from last year to this year.”
Lovett had 14 tackles and a sack in 2020, starting a few games but mostly playing in a backup role. He is listed at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds but his quickness has often been on display this spring and in camp. Lovett appears to be in line for significant playing time in a defensive tackle rotation that could include Robert Cooper, Dennis Briggs, Joshua Farmer and Tru Thompson.
Helton back to 100 percent
Keyshawn Helton tried to practice last August, about 10 months after his Oct. 2019 knee injury at Clemson. While he tried, Helton didn’t have the speed and couldn’t cut nearly as well last fall.
“I’m 100 percent confident in what I can do right now,” Helton said. “Last year I had just started hard-cutting right before fall camp so obviously going into the season, confidence wasn’t all the way there. I felt good to play but it wasn’t like it is now.”
Helton said he felt a difference this spring compared to the 2020 season, in which he grabbed just 14 passes for 14 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The speed is back and he’s been among FSU’s most consistent pass-catchers in camp. Helton is also a respected leader in the position group, and he’s spent time helping Andrew Parchment as well as younger receivers understand the offense.
Dix feels prepared going into year 2
Stephen Dix Jr. was among the true freshmen who saw significant playing time in 2020. He admits to being thrown into the fire and the challenges that came with seeing early playing time as well as starting in FSU’s final five games (31 of his 45 tackles came in that stretch).
“The playing time that I received last year as a freshman was more than I expected. But I responded the best way that I could,” Dix said. “It made me tougher, mentally tough, just going up against the competition I’m going up against and made me more mentally stronger and confident. … I can feel the game slowing down.”
Norvell said Dix has added about 30 pounds since the Orlando standout arrived at FSU in January 2020 and the head coach joked there’s not much body fat on him. Dix credited the nutrition staff as well as the strength and conditioning coaches for helping him reach his goals.
“They just handed me the blueprint and I followed it,” Dix said. “You guys see it. It has truly paid off for me. I’m heavier but I don’t feel heavy. When I go out there and run, I still feel like I’m 225 when I’m 240 almost.”
Following the day off on Tuesday, the Seminoles will practice in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning before holding practice in Jacksonville on Thursday morning and Friday morning at the University of North Florida campus. A closed scrimmage will be held Saturday evening in Tallahassee.