Florida State’s spring game offers us an early peek at the progress the Seminoles have made this spring. And there’s plenty to take in, whether you’re in the seats at Doak or watching the TV broadcast (Saturday at 5 p.m. on ACC Network).
Let’s set the table for the game. By now, you’ve probably heard the format will not be one where the Seminoles are split into two teams. We will instead see offense vs. defense, and that allows the offensive linemen to maintain some cohesion as they go up against a veteran defensive front four.
“There will be offense vs. defense — I want good on good as much as possible,” FSU coach Mike Norvell said. “What I’m excited about with our team is you’ve seen a lot of repetition within multiple groups. We have guys that might be projected starters right now that are getting good reps with the 2s because we have guys that are pushing.”
Norvell doesn’t normally address injuries but has said the Seminoles will be without versatile offensive lineman Darius Washington. Expect a few others to be out but there’s still a roster full of veterans and newcomers (freshmen and transfers).
It will also be interesting to see how good the tackling is as most periods of FSU’s practices don’t feature tackling to the ground. There have been exceptions, including, physical, goal-line situations on Thursday, but while defenders often know what’s coming on a play it is a game where they will still be tackling elusive defenders.
What we’re watching
By Jerry Kutz
My suspicion is the quarterback and defensive end positions will lead the discussion. As former defensive ends coach Jim Gladden likes to say, “The quarterback is the most important position on a football team and the second most-important is the position that concentrates on putting him on his back.”
Here’s who and what I’ll be looking at:
- I want to see how Tate Rodemaker and AJ Duffy perform with fans in the stands.
- I want to see who emerges at defensive end when the lights are on. Will it be Dennis Briggs, Jared Verse, Derrick McLendon, Quashon Fuller, Patrick Payton, Leonard Warner, George Wilson or Dante Anderson?
- I want to see if the defense will dominate the offense as they have at times this spring.
- Within that battle, how will FSU’s No. 1 offensive front fare against a stout No. 1 defensive front?
- I want to see the competition between FSU’s receivers and FSU’s defensive backs. Who will win the one-on-one battles?
Here’s how I’ll watch:
I’ll set my TV to record the game so I can come back to review plays over again.
I like to sit high in the endzone, where I can look down on all 22 players to see what you often can’t see on TV. The all 22 view gives you a look at OL play. Are running lanes opening? Are the backs hitting them on time. Are LBs and DBs filling those lanes? Is pass protection sound? Is the defensive front running twists and stunts to get pressure and how is the OL handling it? Are receivers getting open? Are QBs seeing them? Throwing on time? Is the secondary sound?
Being at the game allows you to choose what you look at vs. TV, which focuses tighter on the ball, which is good but doesn’t allow you to watch where the ball is not.
What we’re watching, part II
By Bob Ferrante
How do you measure progress? Mike Norvell likes to use the words “work” and “climb.” Progress takes time, hard work when fans and media aren’t watching. We have seen it in a number of players and position groups this spring, progress we can cite when comparing to March and April of 2021.
Here’s who and what I’ll be looking at:
- Which position group has taken the biggest step forward this spring? It’s easily at wide receiver, where Mycah Pittman has set a tone for the group. While we’re easily seduced by the tallest receivers, and FSU has a number of them now, the 5-foot-11 Pittman has been the most consistent. There’s optimism we’ll see fewer drops and more catches that make us say, “Wow.”
- Fabien Lovett’s decision to return to FSU in 2022 has gone under the radar. If you can never have too many big bodies on the interior of the defensive line, Lovett offers a transfer who is in it for the long haul (it’s his third year at FSU), should be productive and will likely make the linemen around him better. As well as the linebackers, too.
- We’ve tried not to over sell Jared Verse this spring. He’s not Jermaine Johnson, a fifth-year end with SEC experience. Verse has a calendar year of experience (at the FCS level) and there’s a feeling he will continue to flourish but that his 2023 season could be even better than this fall (if he too has the long view of his career, similar to Lovett’s).
- That said, the transfer who could make the biggest impact on FSU’s defense just might be linebacker Tatum Bethune. If it feels like a perfect match — a team that needs production and leadership while playing for a linebackers coach who he has known and played for in Randy Shannon — perhaps this could stabilize a position group that has struggled for years.
- Jerry asked the pertinent question about the quarterbacks, so let’s move on to another big piece of the offense. We’re all a sucker for a good comeback story and Trey Benson is still writing his. The tailback suffered a major knee injury and looks like he will be impactful in 2022.
Share your thoughts on the message board before the game and come back after the game to discuss what we saw.