So far this season Florida State's special teams unit has been highly talented, but a little inconsistent. Overall, things are solid. The Seminoles boast a fearsome kick coverage unit and solid kickers. The return game is potent, but has had several long runs called back on holds, clips or blocks in the back.
There's been a muff, and last weekend at USF, backed up into the student section, the Seminoles had a punt blocked.
This week, with the prospect of a much louder, more hostile crowd. The Seminoles are working to shore up some of those mistakes.
“We went back to technique," said Senior DE Toshmon Stevens."It wasn’t that we didn’t know what to do, it was just that one person made a mistake and didn’t count the right person [on the blocked punt]. And when you do that you get beat.
"Stats say if you get one punt blocked you have an 80% chance of losing, so we’re going back to basics. The coaches are really on it, I’m really on it, I’m asking the rest of my teammates that are on special teams to be really attentive, make sure you finish the plays, make sure you point out your man. We’re just making sure we don’t have these small glitches in our system anymore."
Toshmon Stevens has become the de facto captain of the special teams. He's a standout on kick coverage and he understands every nuance of what the Seminoles are doing in that phase of the game. He told me a few weeks ago how much pride he takes in what he's been able to accomplish on the unit.
"Special teams when I first got here wasn’t a big thing," said Stevens. "It was just a place where people who weren’t good enough to play on defense or offense [went], but when I decided to get on it I made up my mind that that was my way, that was my role, my only role so I was going to do it to the best of my ability."
Nowadays if you ask any Florida State coach who the most valuable special teams guys are, Toshmon's name is one of the first ones tossed out there. Last week on the blog was an article about how the culture inside the Florida State lockerroom needed to shift in order for the program to right itself.
In order to do that, you need more than just coaches and recruits. You need holdovers, players recruited by the last coaching staff to buy into the new program. Stevens did that and lead by example, in the process he helped take the quality of special teams play back to its old standards.
"It took a while but I got my teammates to buy into it for obvious reasons," said Stevens. "But once they bought into it I showed them that if we can do this right we can help our team win. If you watched our game [against Clemson], you saw we made the turnaround when Lamarcus Joyner got that 90-yard return. So I mean it makes a big difference, those are the big yards that no one ever talks about, no one ever talks about how you made a big hit on kickoff, or a big block on kickoff return or stopped their man from making a tackle on a play but these are the things that make your team win."
That's the kind of thing you want to hear out of a team leader.
Tomorrow night, when the Seminoles go on special teams. Do yourself a favor for a few plays and find number 96. If you can take your eyes off the ball and watch Stevens you won't be disappointed.