Rookie cornerback Azareye’h Thomas picks off two passes and forces a fumble during team drills on Sunday.

During the past two practices, the Florida State offense held its own against the Florida State defense.

On Sunday morning, the FSU defense mostly held the offense down with a vice grip.

The Seminoles’ defensive backs locked down the receivers in every portion of the practice — 1-on-1, 7-on-7, 11-on-11 — and the linebackers and defensive line won most of the battles up front as well.

The result was a dominating effort and some kind words from FSU head coach Mike Norvell afterwards.

“I really liked the energy of the defense,” he said. “I thought the (last) practice the offense did some really good things, competitive plays. I thought there was a really good response from the defense today. I see guys flying around. I like what I’m seeing up front, that forcing unit in the front-seven.

“And I thought the guys in the back end really competed well.”

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Norvell said there were some “good moments” offensively Sunday, but very few came in the passing game. Malik McClain had a nice catch across the middle for a 15-yard gain on a pass from Jordan Travis, and Kentron Poitier had a 30-yard grab against freshman cornerback Azareye’h Thomas, but other than that, the receivers did very little overall .

Meanwhile Thomas continues to stand out.

The four-star recruit was one of the eye-opening performers of the spring, and he carried that right over into fall camp.

On Sunday, he had an interception on a deep pass attempt to Josh Burrell in one-on-ones. He forced a fumble in 7-on-7. And then he had a pick-six in 11-on-11, where it looked like he came off the receiver he was covering to step in front of a pass near the sideline and race uncontested into the end zone.

Thomas did later give up the long pass to Poitier — he was running step for step with the receiver but the ball was underthrown and Poitier made the adjustment to come back and catch it — but Thomas has performed well enough already that it seems apparent he’ll be getting a lot of playing time as a true freshman.

“Coming in, you knew the ability he has as a playmaker,” Norvell said. “He’s a very fluid mover. He’s explosive. He’s got great ball skills. He finds a way, he finds a knack for putting himself in a great position. And he had a couple today that I just love what I’m seeing.

“I’m seeing those positive steps. And he plays with a great deal of confidence for a young player. Anybody can have a good attitude when it’s going good, but when you get beat on a play — and he’s had a couple of those, too — and just the way he’s able to transition to the next play. That’s a learned skill for some guys.”

Not for Thomas apparently, who according to Norvell has shown a remarkable ability to flush the not-so-good plays and then go make some great ones.

All of FSU’s players got more opportunities to do that on Sunday as Florida State, for perhaps the first time since Norvell took over, used both practice fields simultaneously for a couple of periods of 11-on-11 to ensure everyone (first-teamers, second-teamers and third-teamers) got valuable reps.

“What I like is the quality of reps we’re getting,” Norvell said. “And there are still challenges when you have newcomers and you split them up … but I want those guys to get reps. And the quality of reps is what makes it very beneficial.

“I think we’ve got great competition in that young group. And some guys just need (work). I mean, you look at some positions and we’re rolling with pretty good depth. Just to make sure those guys are getting the quality reps they need.”

It sounded as if Norvell will continue to use the two-field plan for the foreseeable future.

He also said after one more practice in shoulder pads on Monday the team will be in full pads starting Tuesday morning.


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