March 13, 2019 - by
Practice Report: Nole Drills Return, Defense Bounces Back

Watch the Nole Insiders discuss week two of spring practice

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – “You either want it or you don’t,” a Florida State staffer bellowed to the Seminoles as they made their way out on to the Dunlap Practice Fields on Wednesday morning.

“It’s going to show in the Nole Drill.”

Indeed, FSU opened Day 6 of spring practice with coach Willie Taggart’s “Nole Drill,” the supersized version of the old Oklahoma drill that tasks a ball-carrier with navigating three levels of blockers and defenders – an offensive lineman against a defensive lineman, a tight end against a linebacker and a receiver against defensive back.

The Seminoles have had an aggressive, physical edge to their practices since putting on full pads over the weekend. But if Taggart wanted to take things up a notch, the Nole Drill seemed to do the trick.

 

Because after completing the Nole Drills – during which Anthony Grant, Chaz Neal and Malcolm Lamar all made some good things happen – the Seminoles went through what Taggart called a “damn good practice.”

Particularly on defense, where coordinator Harlon Barnett’s group responded from a sub-par day on Monday with a strong rebound.

“They had a good day,” Taggart said. “We had a red-zone scrimmage at the end, and I thought our defense did really good.

“(The offense) got down on the (1-yard line) a couple times and the defense held them out of there. It was really good to see.”

Even better, Taggart is getting to the point of spring where he’s seeing his offense and defense have success because they’re doing things the right way – and not just because the other side made a mistake.

Over the course of hundreds of repetitions, every player on the roster is going to win some and lose some.

At that point, Taggart believes the true measure of progress is in a player’s ability to move on and get back after it on the next play.

“I want to see how guys respond when things go bad,” he said. “If they respond the right way and guys bounce back, then you see improvement. …

“We’re not exactly where we want to be, but we can get better. And the only way to get better, we’ve got to keep doing it.”

 

OL rebuilding pride

Baveon Johnson may be the new guy on the offensive line, but he’s been around long enough to know where FSU’s line has been, as well as where it needs to go.

A fourth-year junior, Johnson has been taking first-team center snaps while surrounded by a several key contributors from a year ago.

Like everyone up front, Johnson’s stated goal is to move on from a difficult 2018 campaign and build toward becoming one of the best lines in the ACC.

And that process begins on the practice fields, and in March, when Johnson and his cohorts line up across the likes of Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden.

“I’m taking more pride as a leader on the O-line,” Johnson said. “For the nation to fear this O-line, we’ve got to make our team fear this O-line. And that’s what I want to implement.”

They’ve already got one big believer in their corner.

Quarterback James Blackman on Wednesday told gathered reporters to keep an eye on the line during an open portion of practice, and to pay extra attention to the size of the holes running back Cam Akers had to run through.

“They’re making big, gigantic holes,” Blackman said with a smile. “They’re getting better each and every day. They want to go better and I commend them. I just love it. I love seeing them come out here and go hard each and every day and put in that work and get better.”

That extends beyond the field as well.

“They let me know that nobody is going to touch me,” Blackman said. “Even in the lunchroom. Nobody touches ‘Black.’ It makes me feel a lot more comfortable everywhere – class, the grocery store. Everywhere.”

 

Aguayo, specialists locking in

As he enters his senior season, kicker Ricky Aguayo is well beyond basic techniques and fundamentals.

Aguayo knows exactly what he needs to do every time he kicks. His only goal is to make sure he does it on a consistent basis.

“I’m just looking to be more consistent with my swing,” Aguayo said Wednesday. “I’m just looking to put my offense in good position when they get past field goal range.”

Aguayo, a three-year starter who made 11 of 17 field-goal attempts and 30 of 31 extra points a year ago, is off to a fast start this spring, having been nearly perfect in field goal drills despite working with a new long-snapper in sophomore Grant Glennon.

Aguayo and fellow specialist Logan Tyler are gearing up for their final year at Florida State, which Aguayo said is hard to believe after spending so much time together over the last few years.

Aguayo and Tyler each arrived at Florida State in 2016 and have gone through hundreds of practices by each other’s side since then.

“We always talk about it, it’s our last spring,” Aguayo said. “Time flew by, but we can’t really dwell on that. We’ve just got to help our team and do what we can do.”

Extra highlights

Randy Clements’ upbeat, teaching-intensive style is obvious to anyone who watches offensive line drills for a few moments, but it’s pretty cool to see how the players themselves have absorbed the teaching and are using it to encourage their teammates during drills. Chatter between linemen is now often centered around a specific technique or direction, rather than just the usual “let’s go.”  … Keith Gavin found success in the back corner of the end zone on back-to-back scoring plays, the last of which prompted coordinator Kendal Briles to tell him, “Nice job, Wakulla.” Gavin is from Crawfordville, Fla., in nearby Wakulla County. … While the defense grabbed some interceptions and forced at least one fumble, the most impressive play of the day might have come from Asante Samuel, who cut back across his body and dove in front of a receiver to break up a pass near the sideline. … Early-enrollee linebacker Jaleel McRae made a quick impression by playing center field at the goal line and picking off a pass that was headed to the middle of the end zone. … The offense wasn’t totally shut out in the red zone – Jordan Travis threw what might have been his best pass of the day to a streaking Adarius Dent in the back corner of the end zone.

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