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Thoughts and Observations: 2019 Spring Game

The new look ‘Noles played in front of fans for the first time since the disastrous end of season tilt against the Gators. Fans were hoping the new hires along the offensive side of the ball would help with improving what we saw in 2018 and if the defense had taken a step forward. Here are my thoughts on how those expectations compared to the reality of the situation.

Offense

The Kendal Briles-led offense definitely looked smooth during game action for the most part. They lined up quickly and the substitutions were clean.

The trenches looked way better under the direction of Briles right hand man Randy Clements. They held up the pass rush while creating holes for the backs and pockets for the signal callers so they could deal the rock. It was a refreshing experience, to be honest. They still played at about an average level and still need to get better over the summer months to set up for a crucial set of fall practices. After they got tired the defense tee’d off.

The running backs looked excellent on the day. They took what the line gave them and created space on their own. Grant and Laborn looked decisive and quick while Akers showed his playmaking ability and power.

The receivers and tight ends were very inconsistent today. They had their fair share of drops that cost the team. Warren Thompson and Terry had a couple of drops each and so did Adarius Dent.

Those same three came back later on and made huge plays though. Specifically an 80 yard reception touchdown for Thompson. Treshaun Harrison, DJ Matthews and Keyshawn Helton all had great days from the slot position and look to make an impact as the season goes on. McKitty looked a little sluggish as he fumbled the ball out of bounds but he still caught the ball well.

Cameron McDonald capped off an excellent spring with a touchdown catch of his own. Good showing from this unit.

Defense

The defensive line was in a majority 3-4 and we will see this more during the season to offset the loss of Brian Burns. I’d still expect some 4-3 once we improve our pass rush.

The defensive tackle group is strong and will be a strength of this unit. Cooper and Marvin Wilson starred on the day and Durden flashed his usual pass rush prowess.

Kaindoh and Robinson looked better as the line got worn down but I still need to see more impact from these two.

Amari Gainer and Leonard Warner looked awesome today. Gainer has way more awareness than he did a year ago.

Jaleel McCrae is a stud. He was everywhere today and is clearly the best coverage linebacker on the team. His leaping ability and quickness automatically jump out at you. As long as he avoids the injury bug we have a three year All-ACC Starter.

Hamsah Nasirildeen was around the ball and active. Cyrus Fagan is making me think last year was a sophomore slump because he looked great today.

Akeem Dent had a forced fumble and a couple of near picks. He was everywhere on the backend and you can’t miss his dreads flying around either. Complete stud.

Asante Samuel Jr. bulked up and looked great today. Extremely physical to go along with an alpha dog mentality.

Special Teams

The punters looked average and a walk on missed a kick. Lots of improvement needed here. Maybe Ryan Fitzgerald can push for a spot in the summer.

Overall Impressions

The team looked prepared, in control, and kept a good pace.

Offensive Line is probably a better pass blocking line than run blocking, though they did open holes and got a decent push. Clements has done a lot of work but even more remains to be done.

The linebackers did a better job of gap-filling, coverage, and tackling than they did last year. Talent and coaching on full display.

The backend looked good but not great. Need more work in zone and also in space when they’re in man. Still improved from last year. When FSU gets a second defensive back coach next year it’ll help progress this unit faster, though I do like the progress.

The crowd was way better than I thought and provided a good atmosphere for the team and the recruits there.

The ‘Noles still have a long way to go but they have grown exponentially since the beginning of the spring. Now the key is how they grind in the summer.


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