TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There’s no official dividing line through the middle of Florida State’s fall camp, although Sunday’s practice felt a little bit like one.
It not only marked the ninth of 20 scheduled preseason practices, but also the last session before the Seminoles head south for three days of work at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
From there, FSU will return home for a week of evening practices and then, all of a sudden, it will be game week.
The Seminoles opener against Boise State is just 20 days away.
“We’re getting a chance to get out of our comfort zone and seeing if we can operate at a high level like we need to,” head coach Willie Taggart said when asked about the week ahead.
“I want our guys to go down and have the same energy and the same mind frame when we go down there, and execute the way that we need to.”
The Seminoles will have meetings on Monday morning before loading the busses for the five-hour trip down Interstates 10 and 75.
Taggart pays respects to Drake: Taggart started his pre-practice media availability by offering condolences to Darryl Drake, the longtime assistant coach who died on Sunday.
A 35-year coaching veteran, Drake was entering his second season as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ receivers coach. He and Taggart both attended Western Kentucky University, and each got their starts in coaching at their alma mater.
“We lost a great man today,” Taggart said. “A great coach who touched a lot of people. I know it’s a sad day for all that knew him.”
The two never worked or played in the same place at the same time, but Taggart still considered Drake a close confidant and a valued mentor during his rise through the coaching ranks.
“He’s someone I leaned on a lot in my coaching profession as I got going, and helped me tremendously,” Taggart said. “And I have a lot of respect for him.”
No timetable for Wilson, other injury updates: Taggart reiterated Sunday that junior defensive Marvin Wilson is fine after tweaking his knee on Friday, but he declined to make any projections on when to expect Wilson back in the lineup.
He did, however, praise the way that redshirt freshman Dennis Briggs Jr. has stepped up with Wilson sidelined.
“Dennis is having a good camp,” Taggart said. “We were just talking about it as a staff yesterday, that especially the last three practices, we felt like he’s come along really well.
“He’s starting to have a better understanding of what we’re doing up front and you can see how effective he is … He’s doing a good job.”
Elsewhere, Taggart said that he still hopes to have receiver Tamorrion Terry back “sooner” rather than later, and that receiver Warren Thompson (concussion), defensive back Isaiah Bolden (hamstring) and offensive lineman Christian Meadows (shoulder) are all recovering from various ailments.
Opportunity awaits receiver McGriff: Willie Taggart knows D’Anfernee McGriff from the recruiting trail. Kendal Briles knows McGriff from their days together at Florida Atlantic. And Tallahassee-area football fans know McGriff as a former standout at nearby Leon High.
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound receiver, McGriff has brought a bit of a local flavor to FSU’s practices.
He caught eight passes and scored a touchdown in two seasons at FAU, but, more importantly, he’s plenty familiar with Briles’ offense, having played in it in 2017.
McGriff is considered a graduate transfer walk-on, but Taggart believes that McGriff could work his way into an elevated status before long.
“He wanted to have an opportunity to come on a team and earn a scholarship,” Taggart said. “And we’re going to allow him an opportunity to do that.”
Extra highlights: There are plenty of candidates, but Travis Jay has a claim as the most impressive freshman of fall camp. He’s a regular in the defensive rotation, has taken some reps as a punt returner and on Sunday grabbed his second interception in as many days. … A cool sign that things are coming together – the Seminoles’ offense spent a little while working on a trick play early in practice, then pulled out that trick play (or at least a variant of it) against the defense later in the day. And yes, it worked to perfection. … Freshman Ryan Fitzgerald took his turn in “field goal to win” at the end of practice, and he drilled his kick straight through the uprights and into the open window that houses the coaches’ film cameras.