Florida State Seminoles Football Offseason Preview
If you talk to people in and around the Florida State football program, they will tell you that it necessarily has taken a long time to dig out of the ditch created by Jimbo Fisher’s abrupt departure for Texas A&M several years ago. Willie Taggart briefly coached Florida State and wasn’t able to make much progress. Mike Norvell followed Taggart to Tallahassee, and in his brief time as FSU’s head coach, he has realized how difficult and slow this transformation process will be.
Florida State has done a good job in recent years of developing NFL-caliber defensive players, some in the secondary and some on the defensive line. This year’s defense has Robert Cooper and Fabien Lovett, two of the better interior defensive linemen in the ACC.
Florida State added 11 transfers in the offseason, including linebacker Jared Verse from Albany, viewed by many as the big-impact transfer of the bunch. We will see if these roster changes breathe new life into a program which is tired of waiting to return to the pinnacle of the sport.
Key Personnel Lost
We were referring to Florida State’s ability to cultivate quality defensive linemen. One example is Jermaine Johnson, who was a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft, at No. 26. It’s true that Cooper and Lovett are there on the defensive line, but they are tackles. Johnson was a defensive end. The Seminoles will need someone to replace Johnson and become a dynamic pass rusher on the outside. Florida State figures to have a defense which can contain opposing running games, especially up the middle, but the Seminoles will be a little weaker on the edges and will need to get other players to compensate for Johnson’s absence.
Another personnel change for the Seminoles is that former offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, who worked with Norvell at Memphis and joined him at Florida State, took the open position as Oregon’s offensive coordinator under new head coach Dan Lanning. It will be fascinating to see how Norvell adjusts to that staff vacancy. It’s not necessarily a negative for Florida State, given that the offense did not max out under Dillingham; nevertheless, it does represent a change in the environment, and Norvell has to know how to make the right chess moves in response.
Important Incoming Freshmen
Norvell recruited six four-star freshmen in what was a top-20-ranked recruiting class for the 2022 cycle. Safety Sam McCall is the highest-rated recruit of those six four-star prospects. He is joined by Azareye’h Thomas, linebacker Julian Armella, quarterback A.J. Duffy, offensive tackle Qae’shon Sapp, and linebacker Jaylen Early. If even two of those six four-star players can make a major impact in 2022, that would be very welcome news for Norvell as he tries to turn around this program.
Key Position Battles
Offensive line has easily been the worst and most alarming position group for Florida State over the past several years, preceding Norvell’s arrival. This is the group which has to straighten itself out and attain a high level of quality in order for the rest of the roster to succeed. Without a good offensive line, this program won’t get off the ground.
Biggest Offseason Goal(s)
Identifying the best offensive linemen and giving them a plan to succeed are the foremost goals for Norvell. His defense should be good. His skill players should be reasonably good, though not necessarily special. His offensive line has to perform well in order for everything else to fall in place this year.