Midway through his first preseason camp, McCall appears to be doing just that.
The freshman recorded an interception early on in Saturday’s scrimmage, and he also garnered praise from FSU’s coaches for his physical tackling.
“Saturday went good. Everybody is seeing that I can play,” McCall said after the Seminoles returned to practice Monday. “I showed the coaches I can really come down and hit. That’s what they were mainly focused on, seeing if I can come down and hit. I’m pretty sure they were impressed with that and this morning.”
Said FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller: “That was a great play, it was on our sideline. That looked like a veteran play. The interceptions that Sam makes, they look like real plays. He highpoints balls, he’s got great body control when he goes up. … It was really good to have him make some real positive plays.”
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While also taking reps as a kick returner and in other roles on special teams, McCall was one of several younger ’Noles that head coach Mike Norvell and the FSU staff wanted to get on the field in a game-like setting.
While it might be a lot to ask McCall to play early this season in Florida State’s base defense, there is a very strong chance he will be a valued contributor on special teams.
“We wanted to see different combinations, give guys an opportunity to go out there, especially some of the young guys. Sam McCall came up with an interception tonight, I think on one of his first plays,” Norvell said. “The ball was thrown his way, and he was able to make a great interception.”
“Just knowing that built my confidence up. Knowing I can play on Saturdays now with the big guys,” McCall said. “Roll with the ones. I can roll with them a lot. Showing that I can play all-around.”
McCall was rated as the nation’s No. 58 overall prospect and the No. 11 player in the state of Florida in the 2022 On3 Consensus, an equally weighted, industry-generated average that utilizes all four major recruiting media companies.
An early enrollee in January, McCall said, “it really helped a lot,” that he got most of the defensive playbook down during spring football.
“That transition in high school, I know I had a lot of coaches that I could lean on. It was easy to me,” McCall said. “Basically, it was not hard, only if you make it hard. They told me to come in and just make it easier.”
Even with someone of McCall’s level of talent, technique in college becomes crucial for any player trying to establish themselves.
Over the summer, drills and competition with a group of FSU wideouts helped his game improve, McCall said. He added that he worked diligently on improving his eye discipline to better diagnose routes.
“Real important. I just know that I play on raw ability, so just using my technique, watching a lot of pro guys doing their technique,” McCall said.
McCall also praised the FSU staff most directly responsible for his progression as a player – Fuller and FSU defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson – for teaching him the game.
“The way they take time out of their day. Go through my technique. Make sure that I’m learning the right stuff for the defense,” McCall said. “Footwork, and getting better in the classroom, film room, and all that.”
Older defensive backs McCall has leaned on since arriving in Tallahassee include transfer Greedy Vance, Jarrian Jones, preseason All-ACC selection Jammie Robinson, Sidney Williams, and other veterans.
And the freshman from Lakeland’s Lake Gibson High seems to be popular with his new teammates.
When he was taking part in his post-practice interview Monday, McCall did his best not to be distracted by Jones, defensive linemen Robert Cooper, Fabien Lovett and others who joked with him for once again grabbing the spotlight after Monday’s practice.
“I knew they were going to do that, because after the spring game they were like, ‘Man, you caught your first pick,’” McCall said with a laugh. “So yeah, I knew they were going to mess with me.”
McCall has been waiting for these types of moment for quite some time. He flipped from rival Florida and announced his commitment to FSU in late February of his junior year, then stuck with the Seminoles the rest of the way through.
On the first day of the early signing period in December, he was the first player to fax in his Letter of Intent.
“I knew I was going to be the first guy signed. I talked to Norvell (head coach Mike Norvell), I was like, ‘I want to be the first guy to start this stuff off,’” McCall recalled. “The first guy to start it off. He wants me to be the first guy to come on the field and play as a young guy. So, we are going to see on Saturdays.”
When he signed, McCall didn’t know that fellow four-star CB recruit Azareye’h Thomas would be joining the class as a surprise addition. But since that day, the pair have been on a similar course — shining as early enrollees and now competing for playing time this fall.
“It has been real helpful, knowing I’m not just on my own. I can lean on him, like, ‘Hey, did I do this right?’ when we’re both on the field,” McCall said. “We [help] each other. It’s been real helpful to have another person that I know I will be here with me for three or four years.”