Experience has grown across the Florida State football roster.
Entering Mike Norvell’s third year atop the FSU football program, the Seminoles have become much more well-versed in his scheme.
They’ve also grown from the youngest FBS team late in his first season as head coach to a team loaded with returning talent, a byproduct of the youth movement he laid out early in his tenure.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the secondary.
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The Seminoles return nine defensive backs who started two or more games during the 2021 season. They return 10 defensive backs who played in six or more games last year.
Add in Louisville transfer Greedy Vance, who started nine games over two seasons with the Cardinals, and a pair of blue-chip true freshmen in Sam McCall and Azareye’h Thomas, and the competition should be rampant in FSU’s defensive backfield throughout the offseason.
“We have so many guys now that the competition is going to be there every day. I feel like that’s a good thing,” FSU defensive back Jammie Robinson said.
“I’m glad we’ve got depth now because no one can get comfortable in their spot. It’s always next guy up mentality here. I feel like with everybody out here, you don’t have as many reps but you know you’ ve got to make the best of the ones that you’ve got.”
This allowed FSU defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson to hit the ground running during the Seminoles’ first spring practice Saturday. Last week before the start of spring football, he said that he anticipates this making a significant difference in terms of how much he can challenge his players this offseason.
“We are an experienced group at this point so day one this spring can be more advanced than day one last spring,” Woodson said.
“With that, we’re keeping everything the same as far as what we’ve done and who we are and they’ve got a really good understanding of that now. Just having that understanding of the big picture is going to allow us to play faster, communicate better and execute better.”
Depth allows cross training
The impressive state of the Seminoles’ defensive back room allows for quite a bit of tinkering. It’s the time for experimentation, and that was on display during the first practice of the spring.
Kevin Knowles II impressed as a true freshman for the Seminoles, locking down the starting nickel cornerback spot for seven of the final eight games of the 2021 season.
His future may still be there, and he was getting some reps at nickel Saturday. However, Knowles was also displaying his lockdown abilities at outside cornerback, the position where his future may lie.
Vance was going through the same division of reps during his first practice, working back in the slot and on the perimeter.
“We have a lot of experience in that group. I think the confidence in what they’re being asked to do, now we can expand and look at trying to work those combinations…” Norvell said.
“We’ll look at all those things as we find the best combinations and continue to build that competition.”
Freshmen make instant impact
In his first practice as a Seminole, true freshman defensive back Azareye’h Thomas made one of the most impressive plays of the day.
Covering the speedy Deuce Spann, Thomas kept great coverage, tipped an errant pass in the air and then secured it for an impressive one-handed interception while falling down.
It was the kind of play that showed why Thomas could make an instant impact despite the returning depth in FSU’s secondary. The same goes for true freshman Sam McCall, who didn’t have the same type of play as Thomas, but showed flashes in his first practice with the Seminoles.
Both said before the start of spring they are starting their careers focusing on the cornerback spot. But Robinson said after Saturday’s practice that he thinks both of them are also capable of playing safety, adding to the versatility of the Seminoles’ secondary.
“I feel like they’ve got the range, they can be in the back end and also play corner,” Robinson said.
“They’re coming along pretty fast right now for the first day.”
Reach Curt Weiler at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CurtMweiler.
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