Column: How the Turntables — What a Difference a Year Makes for FSU Football’s Outlook
Florida State athletics

Column: How the Turntables — What a Difference a Year Makes for FSU Football’s Outlook

Offseason optimism for Florida State football is as high as its been at least since head coach Jimbo Fisher left Tallahassee for Texas A&M.

The Seminoles just notched the first 10-win season in six years and finished in the top 10 in the Amway Coaches Poll. With a 10-3 record, FSU closed head coach Mike Norvell’s third season as the highest-ranked team in the ACC. It also ended the year on a 6-game winning streak.

Flash back to one year ago and the sentiments around the program are completely different. Entering 2022, the Seminoles had endured four straight losing seasons. That included a stunning loss to FCS Jacksonville State early in 2021, which served as the low point.

FSU had failed to make a bowl game in three of those seasons. Norvell owned a dismal 8-13 record over his first two seasons, leading many to question how long his leash would be. Some may have been satisfied with just a winning season in 2022 or simply making a bowl game.

As the offseason is underway for 2023, the Seminoles are widely viewed as a preseason top-10 team. FSU is a popular pick to supplant Clemson in the ACC. The Seminoles have not won the ACC title since 2014 — their longest drought since entering the conference in 1992. Some have even begged Florida State as a dark horse to reach the College Football Playoff…

…and for good reason.

Accomplished Returnees and Portal Additions

Fresh off the best season for a Florida State quarterback since Jameis Winston’s 2013 Heisman Trophy campaign, Jordan Travis will return in 2023 after earning second-team All-ACC honors and finishing the year as the nation’s highest-rating signal caller, according to Pro Football Focus. On the offensive side of the football, FSU will also return its leading rusher in Trey Benson and leading receiver in Johnny Wilson. Benson narrowly missed rushing for 1,000 yards. Wilson, at 6-foot-7, is coming off a 200-plus-yard receiving performance in the Cheez-It Bowl and is a walking mismatch.

Safety Jammie Robinson will be missed on the defensive side of the ball. Still, FSU will return 11 of its top 12 tacklers. That includes defensive end, leading sack man and first-team All-ACC performer Jared Verse.

If there was one weakness for FSU this past season, it was depth in the trenches. FSU worked to address the issue with five additions via the transfer portal that play on either the offensive or defensive line. Jeremiah Byers (UTEP) should compete for time immediately on the offensive line while Braden Fiske (Western Michigan) and Darrell Jackson (Miami) should significantly bolster the interior of the defensive line.

When it comes to the transfer portal, however, the trenches are only the beginning. Tight ends Jaheim Bell (South Carolina) and Kyle Morlock (Shorter) bring size and versatility to the offense. Former Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress earned All-ACC honors last season and should be a day one starter. South Carolina transfer Gilber Edmond brings depth to the edge after leading the Gamecocks in tackles for loss.

Meanwhile…

While FSU stands to enter 2023 with great expectations, its instate rivals enter with question marks. Under first-year head coaches Billy Napier and Mario Cristobal, Florida and Miami are each coming off losing seasons.

Those disappointing campaigns were magnified on the recruiting trail in recent weeks with Florida’s Jaden Rashada asking to be released from his National Letter of Intent and Miami commit Cormani McClain ultimately flipping to Colorado and new head coach Deion Sanders. There is reason for optimism for those programs moving forward, but FSU’s ascension should certainly complicate matters for those in Gainesville and Coral Gables.

As of last week, Florida and Miami were among the FBS programs with the most players in the transfer portal:

Although there is an argument to be made about whether FSU belongs in the conversation among the nation’s elite, the 2022 season went far better than even most optimists in garnet and gold would have anticipated. The laundry list of accomplishments and droughts ended this past season was significant.

Entering 2023, FSU will have a new challenge — living up to lofty expectations

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw and has more than 10 years of experience in online and print journalism. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 and has had his work featured at numerous prominent publications such as Fox Sports, the Associated Press, Athlon Sports, Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated among others. Prior to joining Double Fries No Slaw, Mike was the founder and editor of The Daily Nole. He also serves as the managing editor for Fifth Quarter and is a contributor for Athlon Sports, Fish Stripes and Orlando Pinstriped Post. Mike and his wife Jennifer reside in Haines City, Fla. and have two daughters.

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