Florida State offensive line coach/coordinator Alex Atkins met with the media Wednesday to reflect on the Seminoles’ spring workouts. Below is a position-by-position overview of some offensive players along with thoughts from Atkins.
Mike Norvell and Atkins are clearly all over Jordan Travis as QB1. They like what he offers as a setter and runner but also the respect he has from his teammates.
“When you call a huddle and we call a game, these guys are waiting for Jordan to repeat the game,” Atkins said. “It’s not like they’re going (to the line of scrimmage). Because they too want to hear about him. He can repeat what the coach just said or what I just said, but they expect him to say it. When I started seeing that, I knew, “Let them run.” It’s not the offense of Mike Norvell, Alex Atkins, Florida State. It will be Jordan Travis’ attack.
Atkins was asked a few times about having three quarterbacks and the potential pursuit of a transfer quarterback. But Atkins avoided that discussion. He took the time to praise Travis as well as the improvement he saw from Tate Rodemaker and AJ Duffy.
“I think we’re very comfortable with the room and I’m very pleased with their progress,” Atkins said. “I was satisfied with these three guys.”
From the start of spring training to Tuesday’s finals, the group of running backs did everything they could to convince that competition and depth are there for FSU to successfully run the ball in 2022. Of course, it helps that Travis is a double threat. But Trey Benson has the size and the speed to be a point guard, although it’s easier to see him carry 10-12 times a game than 25+ after his serious knee surgery he suffered in 2020 at Oregon. And it’s also easy to see Benson maximizing those opportunities with his speed, racking up yards after contact and creating chunk plays.
“Trey is a kid that you have to slow him down,” Atkins said. “You have to tell him to stop, you almost have to protect him from himself because he loves playing. He likes to carry football. We challenged him on some things and he really responded… Looks like he is already been there for a while. It’s as if he fits in perfectly.
A trio of Benson, Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili is one that offers varied skills and versatility. Norvell likes to use three backs during a game and these feel like the top three coming out of the spring, but FSU also has options with DJ Williams, CJ Campbell and first-over Rodney Hill.
Atkins said the group looked “faster, they look stronger, they look more confident”. He also cited Toafili’s physical progress. “He doesn’t look like a skinny guy playing running back anymore,” Atkins said. “He is thick. He runs hard.
Atkins admitted the obvious: the media and fans were curious (and often obsessed) about the four receivers the staff brought in through the transfer portal. He called them the “shiny new toys” and said, “We knew as staff they were going to fit right in.”
There have been some positive signs from the receivers group this spring, especially the way Mycah Pittman trains and the tone he sets. There’s still far too much inconsistent play from the group, including dips, although Johnny Wilson has proven to be a tough one-on-one game in the red zone this spring. Deuce Spann had moments but remains a project.
Atkins mentioned Malik McClain as having a good spring in which “he really showed up”. But even McClain, in his second year on campus, had too many falls or moments when he lost focus.
The floor of the room has been raised, thanks in large part to Pittman, but also Ja’Khi Douglas has become a receiver who is more than just an occasional deep threat and has now settled permanently at the position of receiver .
“I enjoyed not only the new guys stepping up in the room, but the other guys stepping up,” Atkins said. “… Competing to fetch the ball.”
Norvell and Atkins avoided setting a timeline for Winston Wright Jr.’s comeback after a car accident during spring break. Atkins offered perhaps the most encouraging thoughts overall.
“He was here yesterday (Tuesday), in good spirits,” Atkins said. “I give props to our team, our teammates and a lot of people who cheered him on, so I feel excited that Winston can help out. I like his state of mind and I trust him.
Given the chance to observe 12 of FSU’s practices this spring, one position group that didn’t appear to have made any significant headway was the tight end. Norvell doesn’t make depth charts in the spring, but it would probably be Camren McDonald and Wyatt Rector as the 1-2 guy (Rector probably had the most consistent spring from tight ends). Younger tight ends like Jackson West and Marketson Douglas are still not reliable enough in the passing game.
When asked directly who the best blocker in the group was, Atkins didn’t give names but did elaborate on what their roles were. “Blocking is not an option,” Atkins said. “They are all required to do so.”
Atkins also cited McDonald’s leadership. “They’ve been consistent for us not only on the court but off the court,” Atkins said. “Cam McDonald has been a steady rock.”
Spring is about player development and that was evident along the offensive line. Atkins knows what he has in guard Dillan Gibbons, for example, so he was able to rest at times and we saw more Bryson Estes and Zane Herring at guard with starters.
“We had more body but we were still able to get a bunch of reps,” Atkins said. “Just having that depth and that competition always adds a lot of value and just more confidence, to be honest. They feel more confident in what they’re doing and what we’re asking them to do.
Atkins cited center Maurice Smith as a leader, a veteran who often visits young linemen’s rooms and helps cheer on and review movies. He was also asked if there was a possibility that Kayden Lyles could line up at guard and stressed that cross-training is essential to what he wants all linemen to do and be ready for. to play in different places.
Thomas Shrader was also lost in late-season surgery last spring, but returned this spring and was able to get reps. Atkins said Shrader has been engaged throughout the past year despite having surgery and rehab.
“Thomas had a very serious knee injury,” Atkins said. “He had surgery and had surgery last spring and he was in our position meeting the day after surgery. I basically had to fire him. He did not miss any meetings throughout this process. So what I like about Thomas is that he has a tough mentality, a tough mindset.