TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The progress was clear both in the box score and in the film room.
Florida State’s offense still has plenty of room to grow, but coordinator Walt Bell believes that if the Seminoles can continue to make the kind of strides they did from Week 1 to Week 2, they can eventually be downright dangerous.
“Every day, there’s a standard that we have to have to go win a football game, to win a practice, to get through whatever it may be,” Bell said. “If we can keep holding that standard and meeting that standard every day, I think we’ll continue to just get better and better and better.”
In his media session earlier this week, Bell took a lap around the offense, providing updates and insights into every position group. Here’s what he had to say:
Quarterbacks/Deondre Francois: Bell fielded several questions about Francois’ ability to run the read-option, in which the quarterback must read the defense and decide, on the fly, whether to hand the ball to a running back or keep it and run himself.
“There’s still room for improvement. … There’s no substitution for live repetitions. Some of these things are the first time he’s done them in harm’s way. He’s gotten better every week. I thought he was much better in Week 2 than he was in Week 1. Everyone knows he can pitch the ball around.
“As cliché as it sounds … if he can just keep doing that, the sky is the limit for him. Especially in this system. This is a great system fit for him. And I really feel like he can take off.”
Bell also said that while quarterback runs are part of Florida State’s offense, it’s not as big of a component as some might think.
“It’s not the end-all, be-all,” he said. “It’s not like you’ve got to be a guy that carries it 15, 20 times a game. That’s not what we want from him. That’s not what Coach Taggart wanted from his last group. But that is a big part of us. And more than anything else is the threat. Defensively, when you know that that guy can hurt you (with his legs), that changes things in the run game.
Running backs: “I think there were two or three missed cuts,” Bell said. “I think there were three or four issues up front – whether that be O-line or quarterback not putting the ball where it belongs.”
Bell believes that plays are there to be had in the running game, and he brought up a hot-button moment from Saturday’s game to make his point.
With FSU facing a third-and-one late in the second quarter, Francois threw a screen pass to D.J. Matthews that was stopped for no gain, and the Seminoles were forced to punt.
Bell, however, said that the play was designed to be a run-pass option, and that if the ball had gone to Cam Akers, the play could’ve gone for a big gain.
A look at the replay at least shows a wide seam for Akers to run through.
“If we hand that ball off,” Bell said, “it probably goes 80 yards and everybody’s bragging on the run game.”
Wide receivers: Much of the conversation centered around redshirt freshman Tamorrion Terry, who caught two touchdown passes against Samford.
But Bell also touched on the Seminoles’ overall receiver rotation. Ten different Seminoles have caught passes this season, while freshmen Tre’Shaun Harrison, Keyshawn Helton and Warren Thompson have played but have yet to record any statistics.
“At receiver, we’ve got a lot of young guys, and we’re trying to get those guys a bunch of reps.”
In Bell’s mind, those youngsters would do well to emulate Terry and junior Keith Gavin, both of whom he said have been exemplary with their blocking and route-running.
“If we can get 11 guys to play like (Terry) and Keith Gavin did without the ball on Saturday, we’re going to be pretty good.”
Tight ends: Sophomore Tre’ McKitty has been a bright spot for the offense, and Bell’s comments reflected as much.
McKitty is second on the team in both catches (10) and receiving yards (84) and his go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter against Samford gave the Seminoles their first lead of the season.
“For us, he’s not a safety valve,” Bell said about McKitty. “He’s a guy that can go make plays. He’s a guy that we want to go attack people with.
“(We’re) just building, week to week, in terms of packages and making sure we can put him in a position to go win matchups and be explosive. And if we can keep doing that, that’s a huge piece that will, hopefully, make jobs easier for some other guys.”
Offensive line: Florida State’s offensive line has been a topic of conversation for virtually everyone that spoke publicly this week.
Bell acknowledged that there have been some growing pains for the new-look group, but also said that, no matter the circumstance, there’s a standard that needs to be met.
“Up front, we’ve had some injuries and some guys beat up at a position that’s already a little bit thin,” he said.
“No excuses. The five guys we put out there have got a job to do, and they’ve got to do their job at a high level.”
There is some reason for optimism. Whether the result of injuries or ineffectiveness, the Seminoles used six different line combinations against Samford, and the last one might have been the best. With a group that went, left to right, Brady Scott, Cole Minshew, Alec Eberle, Mike Arnold and Derrick Kelly, FSU embarked on an 11-play, 82-yard scoring drive that ended with Francois’ TD pass to McKitty.
“We’re close,” Bell said. “We’ve just got to get it going.