TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Go ahead and exhale, Florida State fans.
Head coach Willie Taggart confirmed after Saturday’s practice that junior defensive tackle Marvin Wilson tweaked his knee but otherwise avoided a major injury.
“Marvin will be fine,” Taggart said. “He tweaked his knee a little bit, but he’ll be fine. We’re just being cautious with it.”
Wilson, an All-America candidate and potentially FSU’s top defender, seemed to sustain the injury early in practice on Friday.
He did not participate in Saturday’s session, although he did attend and seemed to be in good spirits while encouraging his teammates from the sidelines.
And Taggart didn’t mind seeing his young defensive linemen get extra reps in Wilson’s absence.
“We’re getting our young guys and making sure he’s fresh,” Taggart said. “But he’ll be fine. Nobody will have to worry about anything. … He’s a tough guy.”
Wilson, a former five-star prospect, made 42 tackles a year ago (4.5 for loss), and his 3.5 sacks are the most among FSU’s returning defenders.
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Offense turns things up a notch: Maybe Wilson’s absence has something to do with it, or maybe it’s just a coincidence. Either way, Taggart has left each of FSU’s last two practices pleased with the way his offense has performed.
After trailing the defense early in fall camp, the offense has steadily found its stride over the last few days – first with the running game getting on track on Tuesday, then the passing game following suit later in the week.
“Offense is making some big strides,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed with those guys the last two days.”
That includes the Seminoles’ offensive line, which has recently re-worked its combinations of first- and second-teamers.
“The o-line is doing some good stuff,” Taggart said. “We’ve got to keep it going.”
Taggart’s happy with the progress, but he also doesn’t want things to swing too far in any direction.
So the next item on his checklist is to see his defense learn from its mistakes, dial up its intensity and come back to win the day during Sunday’s practice.
He issued that exact challenge in the post-practice huddle.
“They’ve got to bounce back,” he said. “That’s part of it. … That’s the beauty of it, a little adversity. We want to challenge our guys. We’re always trying to create it in practice, some adversity.
“We’re doing it, and you’re seeing some of the guys improve in how to respond to adversity. And you see some guys go back to those same (old) ways. We’ve got to continue to do it to help those guys out of it and learn how to deal with adversity.”
Newcomers, walk-ons step into spotlight: Florida State’s veterans were treated to something a little different near the end of Saturday’s practice.
And some of FSU’s underclassmen and walk-ons were given a chance to shine in front of their teammates and coaches.
With thunderstorms heading toward FSU’s campus, the Seminoles moved inside and held an offense-defense scrimmage with teams made up of newcomers and non-scholarship players.
Players such as quarterback Wyatt Rector, running back Treshaun Ward and receivers Michael Barulich and Billy Young all made plays for the offense, while the likes of Travis Jay, Brendan Gant, Akeem Dent and Raymond Woodie III did the same on the other side.
“I just wanted to see those guys go out and compete, get the coaches off the field and let them go out and play football,” he said. “Sometimes that shows us a lot of how much football they know and how much they picked up in the classroom.”
And, in one of the day’s biggest surprises, Taggart took the non-contact designation off of his quarterbacks and made them live.
Defenders looking to get a clean shot on Rector, though, were in for a bit of a disappointment. The 6-2, 227-pound redshirt freshman proved himself both willing to run and awfully hard to bring down.
He might have even initiated some contact while leading one scoring drive.
“Guys tried to go after him, but he’s a big dude,” Taggart said with a smile. “He was delivering some blows out there. That was neat to see.”
Extra highlights: Travis Jay grabbed an easy pick-six during the scrimmage period and was singled out by Taggart in front of the team for having a good day. … He’ll never do it in a game, but it was hard not to be impressed – and amused – at the way Khalan Laborn flipped the ball behind his back, from one hand to another, while making a cutback move on the right sideline. … It might not even rate among his top-10 best throws of fall camp, but James Blackman’s tight-window throw over the middle to Ontaria Wilson stood out nonetheless. Wilson quietly seems to have had a nice camp, too.