March 6, 2019 - by

Practice Report: Noles Embrace The Chill On Day 2

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With temperatures in Tallahassee plunging overnight and settling around 35 degrees by Wednesday morning, Florida State coach Willie Taggart considered moving practice inside the Dunlap Indoor Practice Facility to give his team a respite from the cold.

Turns out he never even got the chance.

Because after completing their stretches and warmups inside the IPF – same as always – the Seminoles continued with their usual routine and, before Taggart could suggest staying put, headed straight outside where, unseasonably cold weather or not, they went through 26 spirited periods in front of gathered fans and media.

And most of them did it in short sleeves.

Whether a cold-weather practice will provide FSU with any tangible benefit this fall remains to be seen.

But a team that doesn’t think twice about going to work despite unusual circumstances? That’s enough to bring a smile to any head coach’s face.

“It’s very encouraging,” Taggart said. “I was planning on it, then those guys took off and ran outside. So, we’re practicing outside. Which is a change of culture there. Those guys wanted to train in that weather. …

“They had fun doing it, too. And then they’re competing. And usually when these guys are competing, they’re not complaining about anything. They just want to go out there and try to find a way to win.”

Indeed, Taggart enjoyed watching his offense and defense go at it, whether in 1-on-1 drills, 7-on-7s or the full-team session that closed Wednesday’s practice.

Even better, no matter who got the better of a given rep – and there was plenty of back and forth throughout – Taggart was happy to see a sharper, cleaner practice than he did a few months ago.

To say nothing of how things looked this time a year ago.

“A lot of confidence, guys flying around,” he said. “It was a little crisper than what it usually is, just because they know what they’re doing. But there was a lot of energy in practice, guys competing at a high level. We’ve got to see if we can stack these days back to back.”

They’ll get their next chance on Friday, in the first of a series of closed practice sessions leading up to the Garnet and Gold Spring Game on April 6.

In-depth with position changes: Taggart has long said that his goal with FSU’s on-field roster is to get his best 11 players on the field and in the best position to succeed.

And there’s no better time to experiment and test different personnel combinations than during the spring, when there’s still nearly six months until kickoff.

The Seminoles have debuted a few subtle position changes so far, with the most obvious being a switch between Jaiden Lars-Woodbey and Hamsah Nasirildeen.

Lars-Woodbey is headed to safety after playing linebacker as a freshman, and Nasirildeen is now down in the box after spending his first two seasons in the defensive backfield.

“Day 1, I think it worked,” Taggart said. “But we’re going to see as we go. They’re really good football players, and it’s our job to put them in the best position to be successful. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

As for Nasirildeen, Taggart said that his big frame (6-4, 215), combined with his surprising speed makes him a natural fit to get closer to the line of scrimmage.

“He’s a freak of an athlete,” Taggart said. “The kid can do a lot of things for us. We look to him as one of our best football players, so we want him closer to the ball so he can make plays.”

Another defensive back seemingly on the move is rising senior Levonta Taylor.

After spending three years as a cornerback, Taylor has thus far been working at safety, in a spot that coordinator Harlon Barnett would like to see as something of a do-everything role.

“He’s a young man that can cover,” Taggart said. “Not only is that his strength, but it will help strengthen our defense, too, because he can cover (and) he can do a lot of different things out there. He’s such a great athlete.”

Taylor said that the transition shouldn’t be too difficult. The responsibilities for his new job aren’t all that different from when he played “nickel” cornerback for the Seminoles a few years ago.

“It is fun so far,” he said. “It’s challenging because (unlike playing cornerback on the boundary) the receiver has two ways to go. You have to just know where your help is, where the leverage is.

“It’s pretty fun, because you get to move around, blitz and get sacks.”

Samuel an early standout: Speaking of defensive backs, rising sophomore Asante Samuel Jr., has quickly emerged as one of the early stars of the spring.

And certainly one of the most talkative.

A 5-10, 178-pound cornerback from Sunrise, Fla., Samuel has spent the first two days of practice talking a big game from the sidelines and then backing it up with his play on the field.

Samuel, who started three of FSU’s last four games last season, is fast, he’s physical and he’s brash.

So basically everything that makes for a good cornerback.

Samuel had one of the day’s top highlights with a diving interception. And after one successful one-on-one rep earlier in practice, he trotted back to the sideline and yelled, “Where you gonna throw, Coach? Nowhere!”

Practice Report: Noles Embrace The Chill On Day 2

Samuel might get under his opponent’s skin every so often (or maybe more than every so often), but he also makes his opponents really, really want to beat him.

And that kind of competition is a welcome sight.

“He’s a dude,” Taggart said. “Asante, he’s a war daddy. He’s highly competitive. He’s going to tell you about it and go back it up.

“He’s growing up, and he’s got the respect of his teammates.”

Extra highlights: One more for the DBs – freshman Akeem Dent has wasted no time making an impression. The early-enrollee from Pahokee looked like he more than belonged during his first practice on Monday, then followed that up with three total interceptions on Wednesday, including back-to-back picks during 7-on-7 drills. … Running back Anthony Grant impressed his teammates by running a route across the middle of the field and then wrestling a pass away from a linebacker to earn a completion. Grant has worked primarily with the second-team offense this spring. … A cool sequence for Ontaria Wilson; He dropped a pass during 7-on-7s, completed his punishment pushups, then came right back a moment later for a deep touchdown catch down the left sideline. … Redshirt freshman receiver Jordan Young has also had a nice start to spring, and he flashed some nice athleticism and ball skills in making a sliding catch over the middle of the field. … Tight end Camren McDonald gave great effort to track down a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage and knock the ball away from a closing defensive back. … A sign of veteran leadership from Janarius Robinson: After jumping offside during a rep, the junior completed the up-downs he owed before position coach Odell Haggins could tell him to hit the turf.


Willie Taggart

RB Cam Akers

Stanford Samuels III

DT Cory Durden

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