It's been one week since Florida State kicked off fall camp and there have been a lot of encouraging signs early on for the Seminoles. The depth along the offensive line has looked remarkably better while the defensive line is stacked with talent inside and potential on the edge. The physicality over the last three practices has been encouraging, capped off by the first practice in full pads on Tuesday morning.
With six practices in the books and a Wednesday off, there's no better time to reflect on what we've seen from Florida State so far. Multiple true freshmen have fit the bill as potential contributors during the 2022 season with their play in camp.
NoleGameday identifies six newcomers who have stood out through the first six practices for the Seminoles.
1. Azareye'h Thomas, Cornerback
The Seminoles return experience across the defensive backfield but that hasn't stopped cornerback Azareye'h Thomas from asserting himself. Long and rangy, Thomas has an ideal build for what Florida State wants its field corners to be able to do. He has a knack for being around the ball at the right times and the instincts not to get lost in coverage downfield.
Thomas forced four turnovers over the course of practice on Sunday and Monday that included three interceptions and a forced fumble. On one play, he stayed tight on a wide receiver while reading the quarterbacks eyes. As soon as the pass was released, Thomas stepped up to make the pick and sprinted the other way for what would've been a touchdown.
There's no doubt that Thomas will play a role on Florida State's defense. The question now is how early will he be a significant contributor?
2. AJ Duffy, Quarterback
There was a lot of up and down play in the spring from quarterback AJ Duffy and that carried over into the fall. Through the first three or four practices, there were moments of brilliance mirrored by the reminder that he's still a true freshman getting comfortable at the college level. Over the last two days, there's been more good than bad.
It felt like Duffy was still gaining the confidence to consistently let passes fly downfield over the first couple of days. He appeared to be thinking too much rather than making the right reads and getting the ball out. During Monday's practice, there was one play that stood out. Duffy sat in the pocket under duress and pump faked. Typically, he's tucked it and scrambled in those type of situations. This time, Duffy refocused his eyes downfield and found Lawrance Toafili in the end zone.
Later in the session, he went low to tight end Jackson West for a touchdown and ran one in himself. Head coach Mike Norvell has been pleased to the point where he believes Duffy is as far along as any newcomer at quarterback he's worked with so far.
3. Julian Armella, Offensive Tackle
The majority of the 2022 class arrived to Florida State in January but promising offensive tackle Julian Armella was a member of the group that enrolled this summer. He arrived in excellent shape and though he's listed on the roster at 315-pounds, there is certainly room for Armella to add another 10 to 20 pounds of good weight in a college strength and conditioning program.
There's a lot to like about his skillset. Armella is long, has quick feet, and is physical. He got his welcome to college football when a defensive lineman put him on his back then hit him with an athletic spin-move on another rep. Armella responded with back to back good practices including on Tuesday morning where he pancaked Jared Verse.
Offensive guard Dillan Gibbons mentioned that he's been impressed with how Armella has begun camp. He's not going to start or probably even play a significant role this fall but the these are encouraging signs for the future.
4. Rodney Hill, Running Back
When he arrived in Tallahassee back in January, running back Rodney Hill looked like someone who had already been in college for a year. He's very well put together for a player in the backfield that is just beginning his career. Outside of the physical attributes, Hill has natural instincts as a runner and is an elite athlete.
The Georgia native is one of the most explosive players on the roster and he's versatile. On Monday, he cutback through a hole for a wide-open touchdown on the leftside in the red zone. The next day, Hill showed his prowess through the air as he caught a pass from AJ Duffy that pushed the offense inside the ten.
There's a lot to like about his game but Hill has an uphill battle to beat out Trey Benson, Treshaun Ward and Lawrance Toafili for a role at the top of the rotation. Regardless, it wouldn't be a surprise if he carved out some playing time throughout the year.
5. Ayobami Tifase, Defensive Tackle
As far as we know, Ayobami Tifase is not eligible to suit up for Florida State this fall while he gets his academics in check. Regardless, this is a player who has a ton of potential to be a star for the Seminoles in the future. The first thing that stands out is his frame. Tifase does not look like your typical true freshman at 6-foot-4, 303-pounds.
Tifase has had his ups and downs. He's given veteran linemen fits and he's also looked like a player who just got to college in June. Regardless, the signs are there and Tifase possesses the work ethic necessary to develop into a productive defensive lineman. When it all comes together, look out because Odell Haggins might have himself another one.
We've also got to mention fellow true freshman Bishop Thomas. He's been getting to the passer consistently during his snaps in team drills. He switched up on Tuesday when he almost intercepted an AJ Duffy pass in the end zone that had to be forced due to pressure.
6. Brian Courtney, Tight End
Head coach Mike Norvell mentioned at a press conference last week that veteran tight end Cam McDonald has missed the first few practices of camp. That has allowed the majority of the unit to get extensive work in his place which can only benefit the group moving forward. True freshman Brian Courtney is one of those players who has seen an uptick in snaps.
Courtney is still new to the position. He played quarterback in high school but Florida State recruited him as a tight end from the jump due to his combination of raw athleticism and his frame. Courtney needs to continue bulking up throughout his college career but there are definitely some interesting tools.
Norvell praised Courtney's athleticism and we've seen why as of late. Last week, he brought a football deep down the field over two veteran defensive backs. During Tuesday's practice, Courtney made a move to create a step of separation and caught a pass from Jordan Travis to move into the red zone. Courtney and fellow true freshman Jerrale Powers are promising pieces for the future.
Stick with NoleGameday for more coverage of Florida State football throughout fall camp.