TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s one of Willie Taggart’s favorite phrases, and it might be one of his favorite football drills, too.
Taggart’s Seminoles on Friday started their morning practice with the “Do Something” drill – a one-on-one, ball-carrier vs. defender fight at the goal line.
With teammates and coaches gathered around, an offensive player starts the rep when he grabs the ball and goes. It’s his job to score. It’s the defender’s job to keep him out.
“It’s mano a mano, me and you,” Taggart said. “If it’s one-on-one in the game, you’ve got to keep them out of the end zone.”
The drill pitted a variety of players against each other, including freshmen receivers and defensive backs …
AJ Lytton v. Tre’Shaun Harrison. pic.twitter.com/J2AqaK9uCM
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) August 10, 2018
And offensive linemen against defensive linemen …
Landon Dickerson is tough to tackle. pic.twitter.com/QzZAFbxCpL
— Tim Linafelt / FSU (@Tim_Linafelt) August 10, 2018
Lest anyone think it’s a good idea to step in Landon Dickerson’s way, here’s another look at that last matchup. …
Taggart said that starting practice with a tough, physical workout sets the tone for everything that follows.
Through one week, Noles on schedule: While there’s still plenty of room to grow before the season opener on Sept. 3, perhaps the best thing that Taggart can say through the first week of camp is that the Seminoles are further along now than they were at this point in the spring.
That, of course, is the way it’s supposed to be. Foundations are laid in the spring, then built upon in the fall. Especially when a new staff takes over.
Still, those signs of progress are always a welcome sight.
“I think we’re further along, because our guys are understanding what we’re doing a lot better than they were in the spring,” Taggart said. “Things are so much smoother than in the spring. You see the execution is a little better than it was in the spring, just because those guys are understanding a lot better.”
OL Williams happy to be healthy: Jauan Williams appeared to be Florida State’s first-choice left tackle during last year’s preseason. Then, despite a change from previous line coach Rick Trickett to Greg Frey, he appeared to be FSU’s first-choice left tackle in the spring.
Both times, however, Williams’ progress was derailed by a shoulder injury that’s been repaired by two surgeries.
Fast forward a few months, and Williams is in a familiar position: Protecting the quarterback’s blindside (at least that of right-handed QBs James Blackman and Deondre Francois) with the first-team offensive line.
And this time, Williams isn’t having any issues with that shoulder.
“I’m 100 percent and I don’t even feel it,” said Williams, a 6-7, 295-pound redshirt sophomore from Washington, D.C. “It was a blessing, thank the Lord Jesus. I’m just happy to be out here working my butt off. I’m ready to compete.”
Continuity has become a blessing for Williams and his linemates. Although Frey is mixing in different players here and there, the first-team line has been mostly consistent throughout the week: Williams, Derrick Kelly, Alec Eberle, Cole Minshew and Dickerson.
Williams has yet to make his collegiate debut, but he’s at ease knowing that he’s practiced alongside his fellow linemen for more than two years.
“Everybody’s comfortable with each other,” Williams said. “We’re communicating good. Even outside of practice, we still talk and communicate.”
QB update: Like the rest of their teammates, Florida State’s quarterbacks are making strides as the opener approaches. And it’s clear that when Taggart said Blackman, Francois and Bailey Hockman would take part in a true competition, he wasn’t just paying them lip service. FSU’s three scholarship quarterbacks have been all over the practice fields, and playing with so many different combinations of running backs, receivers and linemen that it sometimes gets hard to determine which group would even be considered the “first team.”
“It’s competitive,” Taggart said. “Guys are getting after it. It’s pretty cool. You see one guy make a play and the other guys are eager to make a play after it. That’s fun to see.”
And maybe even more important than the plays they make on the field is the way the quarterbacks handle themselves on the sideline and in the huddle. Taggart has often insisted that leadership skills will be one of the main criteria to winning the job and, to that end, he’s been pleased so far.
“I really like the leadership out of all those guys, the way they carry themselves and the way they are with their teammates,” he said. “It’s been really good.”
Noles begin situational work: For the first time, Florida State debuted a third-down drill designed, as always, to foster competition and speed.
It works like this: Two sets of offenses and defenses (44 players at once) line up across from each other at opposite ends of the field, with the offenses moving toward each other.
The two sets alternate plays with coaches and staff sprinting from one end to the other between snaps. Every play is third down. If the offenses want to keep going and stay in rhythm, they must convert. If the defenses want to get off the field, they have to get a stop.
Taggart came away particularly pleased with his defense, although he also saw plenty to like from his offense. And he suspects he’ll like even more once a handful of details get ironed out.
Freshman DE Peters in the fold: Taggart confirmed Friday that Xavier Peters, a freshman defensive end from West Chester, Ohio, is with the team and will be joining practices once he catches up on the NCAA-mandated acclimation period that his teammates went through at the start of the week.
Taggart admitted that Peters is a little behind the curve compared to other freshmen, but the 6-4, 225-pounder should still make for a welcome addition to FSU’s defense. A former four-star prospect, Peters racked up 78 tackles and six sacks on his way to prep All-America status, and was thought to be a compelling prospect at both end and linebacker.
“Right now, Coach (Harlon) Barnett wants to try him at end, but you never know,” FSU linebackers coach Raymond Woodie said. “He may end up in a two-point stance, but we feel like, as a defensive staff, that his strength is putting his hand in the ground and rushing the passer.”
Full pads to come Saturday: Consider it the first mile marker of fall camp. After three days of shirts and shorts followed by two days of shoulder pads, the Seminoles will don full pads for the first time during Saturday morning’s practice.
Which means that things will get that much tougher and that much more physical. Defensive linemen can no longer charge forward knowing they won’t get blocked, while receivers and backs can no longer streak across the field knowing they won’t get hit.
“Everybody knows anything is possible,” Taggart said. “We’ll separate the men from the boys.”
Other highlights: Nyqwan Murray continues to work his way back from the knee injury he suffered in spring. He isn’t yet participating in team drills, but the senior receiver looks as smooth and agile as ever while running routes during passing drills. … Sticking with the receivers, Keith Gavin seemed to have a nice outing. He made one of the day’s better plays when he ripped a 50-50 ball away from a freshman defensive back and was a favorite target during 11-on-11 drills later in the day. … Freshman defensive back Isaiah Bolden continues to impress. Early in Friday’s practice, he went 1-on-1 with receiver Tamorrion Terry and, after initially appearing to surrender a completion, jarred the ball loose at the last moment. (Terry, by the way, recovered to make a beautiful diving catch on that ball but landed out of bounds.)