August 9, 2018 - by
Practice Reports: Noles Put On Pads, Take Things Up A Notch

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Chuck Noll, the Hall-of-Fame coach who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, once famously told his players, “I will never give you a motivational speech. If I have to motivate you, I will fire you.”

Willie Taggart might never have channeled Noll during his interactions with the Florida State football team, but through four days of camp this much is clear: The Seminoles don’t need any rah-rah speeches or gimmicky ploys in order to go out and have a fierce, competitive practice.

The thought of getting one over on a player from the opposing side – or the idea of getting beat – has been more than enough.

That was especially true on Thursday, when the Seminoles donned shoulder pads and started “thudding” for the first time.

It brought an increase in physicality, an increase in intensity and an increase in penalty flags, too. Too many for Taggart’s liking.

But FSU’s season opener is still more than three weeks away, which means there’s plenty of time to sharpen details before things get serious. For now, Taggart is pleased that he has a team willing to compete every day.

‘Nole Drills’ are back: With his players in pads, Taggart started things in style with the “Nole Drill” – a ramped-up version of the classic Oklahoma drill that debuted in the spring.

The drill uses seven players and requires a ball-carrier to navigate a three-level gauntlet: an offensive lineman versus a defensive lineman, a tight end against a linebacker and a receiver against a defensive back.

 

Taggart picked up the drill while serving as the running backs coach on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Stanford. To reach the end, a running back must display vision, agility and a little bit of toughness. The blockers, meanwhile, must keep their defenders engaged in open space while those defenders are tasked with breaking free and making a clean tackle.

The speed and intensity of the drill lends itself to plenty of highlight-reel plays and hard-earned bragging rights.

Old-school punt return practice: “Nole Drills” weren’t the only spring throwback. Special teams coach Alonzo Hampton put a few potential returners through the paces on Thursday, and, as he did in March, required them to track down and field punts while already holding a ball in their hands.

Veterans Keith Gavin and Levonta Taylor took a crack at it, as did freshmen Tre’Shaun Harrison, Isaiah Bolden and Keyshawn Helton.

Bolden, a defensive back from Wesley Chapel, Fla., looked especially smooth in closing ground and cleanly fielding a punt about 15 yards in front of where he started. Never mind that it was out of bounds.

Hampton, who spoke with the media for the first time Thursday, also debuted a drill that ought to look familiar to anyone who played football, baseball or volleyball in high school.

He had FSU’s returners lay flay on their backs and wait for the ball to be kicked. Then, the players leaped up, found the ball in the air and then attempted to make the catch.

All told, Thursday marked the most extensive special-teams work of camp so far. All those returns meant plenty of punting for Logan Tyler and walk-on Tommy Martin, and kicker Ricky Aguayo was called into action a few times during red-zone work toward the end of practice.

“Special teams has to be a priority, and we commit a lot of time to it,” Hampton said. “And I think when you do that, the kids understand the importance of it.”

Woodie building depth through cross-training: Raymond Woodie believes that every linebacker at his disposal has both the talent and the ability to succeed. But he also knows that there just aren’t that many of them.

After losing three starters to graduation, depth at linebacker is one of the questions the Seminoles must answer this season. The Seminoles officially list seven scholarship linebackers, although numbers in practice are still a little thin while two veterans – Emmett Rice and Josh Brown – work their way back from injuries.

Woodie, however, isn’t feeling sorry for himself. As far as he’s concerned, there’s still a lot to like about FSU’s linebackers. They’ve got some experience (Rice, Brown, Adonis Thomas and Dontavious Jackson all logged significant snaps last year) to go along with some promising second-year players, and they expect to have more reinforcements along the way.

“Our group is not big,” Woodie said, “but the guys that are in there are doing the things they need to do to compete.”

To help bolster the ranks, Woodie is giving all of his linebackers reps at all three positions. So while he might not be able to go three-deep across the board, he can at least develop reserves who can step in anywhere, should the need arise.

“You’ve just got to be able to teach them not one positions, but several positions,” said Woodie, who has served on Taggart’s staffs at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon. “… We can create depth that way.”

Practice Reports: Noles Put On Pads, Take Things Up A Notch

 

Other highlights: Another day, another dominant outing for Brian Burns. While putting on pads might have slowed down his pass-rushing some (offensive linemen can now block him, after all), he still used his 6-foot-5 frame to bat down balls and disrupt the passing game. … Count running back Anthony Grant among the week’s impressive freshmen. Position coach Donte’ Pimpleton called Grant “a pleasant surprise” earlier this week, and the 5-11, 190-pound Georgia native has looked right at home while working with the reserve offense. … Adonis Thomas had a productive day, recovering a fumble (forced by Walvenski Aime) and delivering a hard hit to a running back trying to evade his pursuit. … Receiver Tamorrion Terry and defensive back Jaiden Woodbey combined for one of the day’s best highlights. Each went up for a high pass, each grabbed the ball at the exact same time and each held onto it as they fell to the ground. The battle continued from there, with officials finally blowing the ball dead and leaving possession with the offense. … Former FSU receiver Kez McCorvey (1990-94) attended Thursday’s practice.

You’ve got to fight, fight, fight for FSU…: Finally, Taggart ended practice with what might turn into a favorite tradition for Florida State fans. As the team went through its stretches, the FSU Fight Song echoed across the practice fields, and, this time, the players sang along:

Taggart said the team has collectively been learning the words throughout the week.

 

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