Florida State Defense rules the day in the first official practice of the 2022 football preseason.

It’s back, baby!

We made it!

After an offseason that stretched on for what felt like decades, the Florida State football team was back out on the practice fields Wednesday afternoon for the first practice of the 2022 preseason.

And I’m here to offer some observations from the two-hour session. Although I have to throw out the qualifier that I always offer this early in practice: They aren’t in pads. Just helmets. And, of course, there is not tackling. Or even thudding at this point.

As FSU head coach Mike Norvell said afterward: “We’re basically in pajamas.”

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So, the first day isn’t the best gauge of what a team or a specific player can be. But it is a gauge.

And with that in mind, here we go.

The defense easily won the day. That shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise. The unit returns the vast majority of contributors from a season ago, including eight starters. It showed.

Not only did the FSU offense essentially do nothing in the 11-on-11 portion of practice (more on that in a moment), but the receivers had trouble winning one-on-ones as well.

I thought sophomore Omarion Cooper (big surprise, right?) was the most impressive cornerback on the day. The guy just competes. And even when he’s beat off the line of scrimmage, he always seems to be able to get back in the play and make the pass either really hard to catch or uncatchable.

I thought the two highly regarded freshmen, Azareye’h Thomas and Sam McCall, both had terrific first days as well. McCall had two PBUs in one-on-one drills and another in 11-on-11, where he came on a blitz and then beat down a pass to the running back.

Thomas also had some PBUs in one-on-ones and then made a terrific read on the last play of 11-on-11, where he was able to sniff out a screen pass, beat his blocker and make the play for no gain. He seems to just see the field — and understand the concepts — at a high level for someone so young.

Sophomore Kevin Knowles also had an impressive day, recording the lone interception when he stepped in front of a deep throw from AJ Duffy to Mycah Pittman in one-on-one drills. Pittman seemed to have a step on Knowles, but the ball was a bit underthrown and Knowles made a very nice play on it.

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