During the past two practice sessions, the Florida State offense held out against the Florida State defense.
On Sunday morning, the FSU defense largely controlled the attack with a vice.
The Seminoles’ defensive backs blocked the receivers in every part of training — 1-on-1, 7-on-7, 11-on-11 — and the linebackers and defensive line won most of the fights up front, as well.
The result was a dominating effort and some kind words from FSU head coach Mike Norvell afterward.
“I really liked the energy of the defense,” he said. “I thought the (final) practice was doing some really good things offensively, competitive play. I thought there was a really good response from the defense today. I see guys flying around. I like what I see up front, forcing that unit in the front-seven.
“And I thought the guys in the back were doing really well.”
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Norvell said there were some “good moments” offensively on Sunday, but very few came in the passing game. Malik McClain had a nice catch down the middle for a 15-yard win on a pass from Jordan Travis, and Kentron Poitier had a 30-yard grab against freshman cornerback Azareye’h Thomas, but other than that, the receivers generally did little. .
Meanwhile, Thomas continues to stand out.
The four-star recruit was one of spring’s eye-openers, and he took that straight to fall camp.
On Sunday, he had an interception on a deep pass to Josh Burrell in one-on-one. He forced a fumble in 7-on-7. And then he had a pick-six in 11-on-11, where it looked like he came off the receiver he was covering to step for a pass at the sidelines and race into the end zone unchallenged.
Thomas later did give the long pass to Poitier – he ran step by step with the receiver but the ball was knocked over and Poitier made the adjustment to come back and catch him – but Thomas has already performed well enough that it seems clear he will get a lot of playing time as a real freshman.
“When you came in, you knew the ability he has as a playmaker,” Norvell said. “He’s a very fluid mover. He’s explosive. He has great ball skills. He finds a way, he finds a talent to put himself in a great position. And he had some today that I love what I see. “
“I see those positive steps. And he plays with a lot of confidence for a young player. Anyone can have a good attitude when things go well, but when you get beat in a play — and he has a few that too — and just the way he’s able to move on to the next game. That’s a learned skill for some guys.”
Apparently not for Thomas, who according to Norvell has shown a remarkable ability to wash down the not-so-good plays and then make some great ones.
All FSU players got more opportunities to do that on Sunday as Florida State, arguably the first time since Norvell took over, used both practice fields simultaneously for a number of 11-on-11 bouts to insure everyone (first-teamers, second-teamers and third-teamers) received valuable reps.
“What I like is the quality of the reps we get,” Norvell said. “And there are still challenges when you have newbies and you break them down… but I want those guys to get reps. And the quality of reps makes it very beneficial.
“I think we have great competition in that young group. And some guys just need (work). I mean look at some positions and we’re rolling with pretty good depth. Just to make sure those guys have the quality reps that they need.”
It sounded like Norvell will continue to use the two-field plan for the foreseeable future.
He also said that after another workout in shoulder pads on Monday, the team will be in full pads from Tuesday morning.
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