Many storylines so far this spring have focused primarily on the Offense. And rightly so; there’s the ongoing development of Jordan Travis to watch, a “new” offensive coordinator, not to mention a slew of transfer receivers to assess.
However, the new trend this spring seems to be hearing about the performance of true first-year defensive backs Azareye’h Thomas and Sam McCall.
Not even two weeks into their respective careers, and both players are already turning heads at Florida State training grounds. The fact that they work well should surprise no one; both players were considered top-notch recruits. But the fact that both players are doing so well so early bodes well for high school prospects heading into the 2022 season.
READ MORE: Florida State running back enters transfer portal
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Sam McCall was the highest-ranked signer in the recruiting class of 2022; as a five-star composite rookie and the sixth-best rookie nationally (by ESPN300). So far this spring, the Lakeland product has absolutely lived up to the billing. His monstrous athleticism is on display every game and his covering skills are very impressive for such a young player. Perhaps the best thing I’ve observed about McCall is his ability to turn his head in cover, find the ball and play on it. His ball skills just seem advanced for a player his age. In every practice I saw, McCall was challenged in coverage and made plays, time and time again. He’s listed at 6’1” and 180 pounds, but appears to have already added a fair amount of weight during his short time in Tallahassee and looks big enough to hold up to the college game. Still, this frame suggests it has plenty of room to grow. I’m curious to see how he progresses with more time in the weight room.
Azareye’h Thomas was a late addition to the 2022 class. And while Thomas may not have been as heralded as Sam McCall, I believe Azareye’h Thomas could end up being the steal of the class. The four-star Niceville rookie did it all in high school, playing a multitude of spots on defense and on special teams, while getting hit at running back and wide receiver. That kind of versatility showed up in Thomas’ game on several occasions this spring. He was fluid and controlled the coverage. In fact, it often seems like he’s leading the way for the receiver. This kind of seamless athleticism combined with natural ball skills makes Thomas a very promising prospect at defensive back. That said, what impressed me the most about Thomas was his length as a defensive back. Listed at 6’2” and 190 pounds, Thomas is already tall by defensive standards. What sets Thomas apart is his stature. Thomas has an odd stature, for a freshman defensive back. This is essential for DBs as it allows for better blocks off the line of scrimmage as well as making plays on the ball. Not to mention that as a rookie, height can help compensate for a lack of technique or experience in certain matchups, which is essential for a young player.
READ MORE: The Wide Hall puts on a show during Florida State spring training on Thursday
Omarion Cooper, by all accounts, seems to have the jump on one of the corner positions. But, with the news of Jarvis Brownlee’s transfer, the fact is there is a void at the other cornerback position and there are reps to be had. Both McCall and Thomas seem capable of challenging game time early and often. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of veteran players also played this spring. But, it looks like these young guys are going to be tough to keep off the field.
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