Spring game: Five things to watch on offense

Haylee Blitch/NoleGameday

The smell of football is finally beginning to waft through the spring breeze in Tallahassee. Florida State is merely days away from taking the field in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Saturday will be the first chance for Willie Taggart, his new staff, and the players to show what they’ve been cultivating over the last couple of weeks. By all accounts, each side of the ball has shown some progress.

The offense has been adjusting to the new gulf coast offense and the tempo it brings. Defensively, Harlon Barnett has been installing his new, more aggressive scheme.

There are definitely still plenty of question marks and that makes people want to watch the machine in action. Here are five things to watch for on offense this weekend, Vanilla Ice not included.

1. Adjusting to Tempo

The biggest change to FSU’s offense this spring has been the addition of tempo. Fans have been lulled to sleep over the past few seasons by the snail-crawling pace that Jimbo Fisher typically operated with. Now, the Seminoles are all about speed and moving quickly down the football field.

No longer will we see Florida State take a knee with a minute left in the first half or methodically drive down the field in seven minutes. Taggart is all about scoring quickly and often. It’ll be interesting to see, on all levels of the offense, how the tempo affects their output.

2. Big plays on the outside

The tempo is the just the first part of the change on offense. The Seminoles will now spread out their playmakers to try and give them space to make exciting plays. Taggart is a fan of receivers who have the ability to come down with the deep ball. He’s got plenty of those types of guys right now

DJ Matthews, Keith Gavin, and Tamorrion Terry are just a few of them. Nyqwan Murray and George Campbell will miss the spring game with injuries. That gives younger players like Donte Sheffield and Ontaria Wilson a chance to flash their skillsets. We’ll see if the veterans in this group are ready to step up and make big plays.

3. The battle at quarterback

The most highly talked about position battle this spring is at arguably the most important position on the football field. James Blackman, Deondre Francois, and Bailey Hockman are all vying for the chance to start in the gulf coast offense. Blackman has been the only one of the trio to stay fully healthy throughout the spring.

Francois is still recovering from the injury he suffered against Alabama and has been limited this spring. He did participate in full pads recently at practice, which was the first time he’s done so since his injury. Hockman has been bothered by minor ailments but he’s still expected to play Saturday.

Blackman and Hockman both have a chance to further close in on the starting job on Saturday. Francois is the best fit for this type of offense but the jury is out on what he does off of the field. Taggart won’t allow a bad apple to ruin this team and he’s quite keen on how Francois was acting during Fisher’s last few weeks in Tallahassee.

4. Injuries up front

Greg Frey’s squad has been decimated by injuries this spring. The Seminoles boast just eight healthy linemen, with one being a walk-on. It’s going to be quite the task to figure out how FSU will field two full lines on Saturday.

Brock Ruble, Ethan Frith, David Robbins, and Andrew Boselli all left the team over the offseason. Frey still has a lot of work to do to develop this offensive line into a capable unit. Saturday will be his first chance to work with them in a game situation.

5. Running backs look to separate from the pack

It’s hard to argue that the most talented position on Florida State’s roster isn’t at running back. The Seminoles have a whopping FIVE former blue-chip recruits. Jacques Patrick, Cam Akers, Khalan Laborn, Amir Rasul, and Zaquandre White. The talent level is insane but it also means that a couple great players aren’t getting the number of touches that they want.

It was the Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers show last season. Rasul played sparingly off the bench while Laborn and White redshirted. Now, it’s time to see if any of these three guys can begin to separate themselves from the rest. All in all, it’s quite a good problem for Donte’ Pimpleton to have as a coach.

Laborn has reportedly been excellent during spring practice and he could break out on Saturday with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield along with toting the rock on the ground.

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