TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State is not even a full week into its fall camp, and there are still more than three weeks until the Seminoles’ season opener against Boise State on August 31.
Still, it’s not too early for coach Willie Taggart to get a feel for how his team is coming together – particularly for his newcomers and for players in new positions.
And that feel will likely be even further solidified come Tuesday, when the Seminoles don full pads for the first time this fall.
The first day in full pads is a milestone for any football team, and Taggart, like the rest of us, is eager to see how the Seminoles respond to the increase in intensity.
“Always looking forward to full pads,” Taggart said, his voice raising a couple ticks. “That’s when, these questions y’all ask, y’all will get some good answers after that.”
Watch: Layne Herdt and Tim Linafelt discuss the first four days of fall camp
Taggart did, however, already have a few answers during a Q&A session that lasted more than 12 minutes.
Among them …
Terry on the mend, others working their way back: Much of the chatter around the first few days of camp has centered around FSU’s talented stable of second-year receivers, and for good reason. Keyshawn Helton, Warren Thompson and Tre’Shaun Harrison have all taken turns turning heads over the last few days.
But what they’ve been able to do is perhaps made that much more impressive given that Tamorrion Terry, perhaps FSU’s top threat in the passing game, has yet to even take a practice snap this fall.
Taggart announced last week that Terry would miss the start of fall camp while recovering from an injury, and on Monday said that he’s pleased with Terry’s progress in his recovery.
“I would say he’ll get back sooner rather than later,” Taggart said.
That, of course, is good news for Florida State’s passing game. And, according to Taggart, it’s good news for Terry, who has been champing at the bit to get back on the field.
“He’s itching to get back, I can tell,” Taggart said. “He’s watching film and seeing other guys make plays, and he wants to be one of those guys, too.”
One of Terry’s fellow receivers, redshirt freshman D’Marcus Adams, is recovering after tweaking his ankle on Friday. Taggart said he hopes to have Adams back soon.
And on the other side of the ball, Taggart said that the Seminoles are being extra cautious with defensive end Joshua Kaindoh after Kaindoh tweaked his hamstring over the weekend.
Kaindoh missed practice on Sunday and Monday.
“We’re just being a little precautious,” he said, “and marking sure we’re not going to make it worse than what it is.”
Lucas makes an early impression: In the span of less than a year, Dontae Lucas has gone from prep All-American to early-enrollee at Florida State to a potential starter on the Seminoles’ offensive line.
The former four-star prospect has been on campus since January and has steadily increased his first-team reps since the start of practice on Friday.
No surprise, then, that Taggart had plenty of good things to say about Lucas, who signed with FSU out of IMG Academy in Bradenton.
“He’s probably the most physical guy up front, when it comes to getting off the ball and getting after people,” Taggart said. “He’s still a young guy, still learning and has some mistakes here and there, (but) I think they’re more just mental mistakes, and the more reps he gets the better he’ll be.”
And the 6-foot-3, 323-pound Lucas isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against some more established veterans, either.
“Watching him block Marvin Wilson sometimes, it’s pretty cool to see a freshman go out and block that guy. If you can block him, you can block anyone.”
Watch: Sights and sounds, August 5
Day belongs to Williams: Sticking up front, left tackle Jauan Williams enjoyed two big highlights on Monday, both of which had Williams and his teammates celebrating in a big way.
The first came during Oklahoma drills at the start of practice, when Williams locked on to his defender and drove him back maybe 10 yards. Maybe an hour later, Williams did it again, this time pancaking his man on the backside of a short misdirection pass.
It’s just two plays, and it’s still early in camp, but Taggart suggested that that type of production has become more normal for Williams. Which is a welcome sight, since the first few days of practice suggest that Williams is the favorite to win FSU’s starting left tackle job.
“He’s different,” Taggart said. “I really like the Jauan that we have right now.”
Williams, a six-game starter in 2018, has added about 15 pounds to his 6-foot-7 frame – up to 310 from 295 – and Taggart believes that the additional strength, as well as the confidence that comes from being another year older, has paid dividends.
“He’s been out, making plays,” Taggart said. “He’s a lot better than what he was before, and he should be. There’s confidence there. I think he’s believing in his coaches and believing in himself, more importantly.”
Committed to ‘multiple’ defenses: Yes, the Florida State defense will be running some 3-4-style looks this fall. No, the Seminoles won’t exclusively run out of the 3-4.
So said Taggart after another round of questions about his defense’s apparent switch in philosophy.
“We’re doing multiple things. We’re still doing what we did before,” he said.
Some 3-4 elements make sense, given that the Seminoles have strength on the interior of the defensive line and lots of youth at defensive end. But they’re also likely to spend a lot of time with five or six defensive backs on the field – some of the spread offenses in the ACC virtually demand it – and they’ve yet to spend much time working those formations this fall.
That will likely change as the offense expands its playbook over the next few weeks, too.
Still, Taggart said that he’s pleased with the progress he’s seen from players who are in new roles. That includes both defensive ends and inside linebackers moving into outside linebacker roles, as well as some juggling of positions in the secondary.
“It’s good to see guys in multiple positions actually going out there and executing and look really good at doing what they’re doing,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with them. I think we’ve gotten faster on defense and we’ve gotten a little more length on our defense as well. That’s been good to see.
“Every guy that’s moved, it seems like they’ve moved to the right position.”