August 6, 2019 - by
Practice Report: Running Game Gets In Gear On First Day In Full Pads

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The run itself was impressive enough.

Late in Florida State’s Tuesday practice – the Seminoles’ first in full pads – running back Khalan Laborn took the ball around the left side, turned the corner and then sped down the sideline for a touchdown of about 80 yards.

It was one of the top offensive highlights on a day that otherwise leaned toward the FSU defense, and it had coach Willie Taggart wearing a broad grin as he congratulated Laborn in the end zone.

The end result, of course, was worth smiling about. At least for the offense.

But even more so when considering everything involved to make it happen.

That includes:

  • A healthy and speedy Laborn, showing no signs of the knee injury that cost him most of last season.
  • Good blocking up front that allowed Laborn to reach the corner.
  • A clean block to seal that left edge and ensure that Laborn could get upfield.
  • At least two downfield blocks by receivers that helped give Laborn a clear lane to the end zone.

Take a look at any FSU fan’s offensive wish list for 2019, and variations of those four things are likely to appear.

WATCH: Layne Herdt and Tim Linafelt break down the first day in full pads

“I’ve been really impressed with the way we’ve been running the football,” Taggart said. “If we continue to do that, the o-line keeps doing what they’re doing, the receivers blocking the way they do on the outside, it’s going to be good for those backs that we have.

“Those guys that we know are really, really good will be able to go out and do the things we know they’re capable of doing.”

Indeed, it’s probably fair to say the defense still has an edge on the offense in this phase of camp. (And that’s typically the case for every team across the country.) But when the Seminoles’ offense did make its dents, it was usually the running backs leading the way.

Laborn seemed to get the majority of touches, but Cam Akers, Anthony Grant, Deonté Sheffield and even freshman walk-on Treshaun Ward all stood out at times.

Which aligns with what Akers expects for the Seminoles’ ground game in 2019.

“Be productive and be consistent,” he said. “That’s all you really can ask for. Do our part, go out and make plays and be special.”

Veteran Meyers still a factor: With six freshmen in the fold, perhaps its only natural that much of the chatter around Florida State’s secondary has centered on the newcomers.

But Kyle Meyers, a senior cornerback with 38 career appearances and 10 starts, on Tuesday delivered some forceful reminders that the Seminoles have a strong veteran presence in their defensive backfield, too.

During a third-down drill midway through practice, Meyers prevented a conversion with a hard, clean hit that knocked the ball away from its intended target.

A few moments later, he did it again.

Practice Report: Running Game Gets In Gear On First Day In Full Pads

“He’s having a heck of a training camp,” Taggart said. “Kyle’s physical, he’s smart. I mean, he’s a good damn football player.”

And potentially a big part of FSU’s secondary this fall. The 6-foot, 174-pound New Orleans native has experience at multiple positions, and, if he’s not in the first starting lineup, could be a top choice for extra-DB packages and as a steady reserve for a number of players.

“I’ve been really impressed with where he is and the way camp is going for him,” Taggart said.

Veteran moment for newcomer Roberts: Ryan Roberts has only been a Seminole for a few weeks, but the fifth-year senior lineman – who transferred to FSU this summer from Northern Illinois – showed off a veteran’s awareness midway through Tuesday’s practice.

Roberts, a two-year starter at right tackle with NIU, was taking a breather on the sideline when a reserve lineman suffered a mild injury and had to be helped off the field. At first, another lineman who had been involved in the drill was helping the training staff get the big man to the sideline.

But when Roberts saw what was happening, he immediately rushed over and took his hobbled teammate on his shoulder, allowing the other lineman to return to the drill without missing a snap. It was just a small thing, but it was a cool moment for a player firmly in the mix for a starting job.

Next up … the dog days: The first day of practice, the first day in shells and the first day in full pads are all finished. The Seminoles are now set to enter the meat of fall camp, with practice after practice leading toward the first team scrimmage expected at the end of next week.

Between now and then, the Seminoles will be grinding on the practice fields, with just two days off scheduled for the next two weeks.

Yes, a few days at IMG Academy in Bradenton next week will provide a change of scenery. But otherwise, the Seminoles are going to, as Taggart put it, “see who loves football and who doesn’t.”

“The thing we can’t do, is we can’t get tired,” he said. “Keep fighting. You’ve got to be able to execute. It’s a part of camp – you’ve got to embrace the suck.”

Extra highlights: Freshman defensive back Jarvis Brownlee missed practice with a tweaked ankle, but Taggart said it was not serious and that Brownlee should be back soon. … It had been more than 25 years since a member of the Ward family made plays on the FSU practice fields, but that changed Tuesday when Caleb Ward, a redshirt sophomore receiver, made a couple highlight-reel catches – and with his father, Charlie, watching from the sidelines, too. … The kickers had a perfect day during their portion of practice. Ricky Aguayo was 4 for 4, freshman Ryan Fitzgerald 3 for 3 and redshirt sophomore Parker Grothaus was 2 for 2. … Freshman Raymond Woodie III made a receiver pay by picking off a pass that likely should have been caught. It was Woodie’s second interception of camp. … Keith Gavin – who is quietly having a productive camp – had one of the offense’s top highlights, going up and over two defenders in the back corner of the end zone for a deep touchdown.

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