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Garnet handles Gold in the 2018 spring game

Willie Taggart and his new staff have officially wrapped up their spring with the Garnet and Gold game. The Garnet side came out on top of Gold, 31-13. This game gave fans their first chance to see the gulf coast offense in action and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

The teams combined for 674 yards of offense and plenty of big plays. Blackman threw the ball out to Keith Gavin behind the line of scrimmage before Gavin found Jacques Patrick in the end zone for a score. Khalan Laborn went up the middle and outran everybody for a 91-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Deonte Sheffield and Blackman connected on a 65-yard score later in the game. Those were just a few of the flashes we saw during the game.

On defense, we saw a unit that seemed to be playing more relaxed within their system. The defensive line feasted for most of the afternoon against an injury-depleted offensive line. The linebackers showed off a renewed physicality in the middle. And the secondary was very good for most of the day outside of allowing a few big plays. Guys like Demarcus Christmas, DeCalon Brooks, Jaiden Woodbey, and Stanford Samuels III played exceptional in Barnett’s new scheme.

1. Tempo provides big plays and mistakes

Willie Taggart’s gulf coast offense has completely changed the philosophy that was previously implemented under Jimbo Fisher. No longer are the Seminoles required to extensively read the defense before the play before ending up snapping the ball with less than ten seconds on the play clock.

It’s all about speed and lethal simplicity under Taggart. Reads have been cut down to lessen the amount of thinking. This offense requires players to read and react quickly rather than having to think too much about their assignment. We saw this on some of the big plays that were created on Saturday.

However, we also saw our fair share of mistakes. The offense had some breakdowns on the ground and through the air. Khalan Laborn broke out on the ground but Amir Rasul, Jacques Patrick, and Cam Akers combined for 32 carries for just 73 yards. It was a tough day for some of these running backs. Some of it was the offensive lines fault but at times the running backs missed an open hole and were brought down for a loss.

The offense was definitely faster. We saw the `Noles routinely snapping the ball with 30 seconds or more remaining on the play clock. It was encouraging that the players didn’t seem too confused with the quicker tempo. Outside of a few signal issues, the two offenses didn’t have much trouble running play after play. At one point, Laborn took about six straight handoffs in a minute and a half. One after another. It was just a sign of how quick this unit should be moving under Taggart.

2. Quarterbacks have a mixed day

James Blackman and Bailey Hockman both had their share of ups and downs. Both seemed to be slightly bothered by the constant pressure they received from the defensive side. The offensive line play wasn’t very consistent. The two signal-callers combined to be sack 12 times.

Blackman finished 16 of 32 for 259 yards and a score while Hockman went 11 of 22 for 203 yards and a touchdown. It was a very mixed day. Both quarterbacks showed off their ability to make plays with their arms. Blackman connected with Deonte Sheffield nine different times. Hockman made some nice passes to Tamorrion Terry and DJ Matthews on the Garnet side.

Deondre Francois was resigned to signaling in plays on the sideline due to his injury. Though it was encouraging to see him trying to be a leader with Blackman and the receivers. He seemed to be very engaged.

It didn’t seem like Blackman or Hockman took much of an edge in the QB battle if any. All three players are still adjusting to this offense and they’ll continue to become more comfortable over the summer.

3. Redshirt freshmen stepping up

Multiple players who redshirted last year showed off their talents in their first collegiate game-like action. The aforementioned Laborn had 14 carries for 130 yards and two scores. He’s cemented himself as a legit contender to get snaps alongside Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick.

The three could make up a monster trio that Taggart could use. When one is getting tired he has the option to throw another elite back to pound defenses. That’s one way Florida State could wear opponents down as games go on.

Terry and Sheffield also staked their claim at wide receiver and look like they belong in the rotation. Terry caught five passes for 129 yards and a score. He could be a deep threat on the outside ala Auden Tate. The 6-foot-5 receiver was excellent at using his length to create plays. He also showed off an uncanny ability to use his feet along the sideline.

Sheffield was targeted a game-high 14 times for nine catches that netted him 117 yards and a 65-yard score from Blackman. He was great at using his speed and athleticism to get open in space.

DeCalon Brooks was the standout on defense. He tied all linebackers with seven total tackles, one sack, and a tackle for loss. Despite his smaller stature, Brooks physicality could wind up being the skill that makes him a starter at linebacker.

4. Defense feasts on depleted OL

Marvin Wilson and Joshua Kaindoh missed the spring game with injuries. Still, the Seminoles were stacked with experienced players down low like Demarcus Christmas, Fred Jones, and Wally Aime. Budding talents like Janarius Robinson, Trey Lawson, and Ja’Len Parks also got plenty of snaps.

The result was ugly for an offensive line that only had eight healthy players. In fact, the five guys up front were forced to rotate between both sides due to all of the injuries. Their play definitely fell off throughout the game due to the increased workload and caliber of players on both defenses.

Grey Frey’s unit ended up allowing 12 sacks while committing a few penalties. Most of the sacks were the result of the offensive line allowing penetration from the defense rather than the quarterback holding the ball too long. It’s hard to take much away from this performance due to the level of injuries.

5. Secondary doesn’t disappoint

The defensive backs look confident within Harlon Barnett’s new scheme. Levonta Taylor, Stanford Samuels, and Hamsah Nasirildeen locked down the outside on Garnet. Jaiden Woodbey and Cyrus Fagan made plays on the gold squad.

Whether it was in the defensive backfield or coming up to stop running plays or screens at the line of scrimmage, the unit flashed their potential. Woodbey led both teams with nine tackles. Nasirildeen and Samuels both delivered some physical hits. Taylor and Fagan both played well in coverage.

Overall, it was an extremely positive outing for a group that lost veterans like Derwin James, Tarvarus McFadden, Nate Andrews, Trey Marshall, and Ermon Lane over the offseason. This young unit could develop into a formidable force. Taylor, Samuels, Nasirildeen, and Woodbey would create a lot of issues for offenses as starters in the secondary.


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