Column: Where Would Mike Norvell Be Without Jordan Travis?
Florida State athletics

Column: Where Would Mike Norvell Be Without Jordan Travis?

For the first time during his college career, Jordan Travis enters the season as the clear-cut starter.

Florida State has gone a combined 8-13 in its first two seasons under head coach Mike Norvell. Without Travis behind center, things would have certainly been worse.

Each of the last two seasons have begun with disastrous starts. In each case, Travis’ insertion into the lineup brought a modicum of respectability back to the program.

Over the last two seasons, Travis has made 13 starts. In those starts, the Seminoles are 7-6.

During that stretch, James Blackman, Tate Rodemaker, Chubba Purdy and McKenzie Milton have combined to make eight starts. FSU has gone 1-7 in those contests. The lone victory came against Jacksonville State in 2020. In that contest, Travis came in for an ineffective Rodemaker with FSU trailing 14-0 and led five straight touchdown drives in a 41-24 victory.

Finally a Solidified Starter

From the moment Travis stepped onto the football field at FSU, he has produced. In his debut against Boston College in November 2019, Travis carried the ball three times for 94 yards and two touchdowns as the Seminoles collected a 38-31 victory to keep their bowl hopes alive.

Travis already owns the FSU career record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Despite all of his production, the coaching staff has always been a bit reluctant to hand him the keys to the offense — until now.

While Travis revived the offense in 2020, it was unclear whether it would be he or UCF transfer McKenzie Milton who got the opening night start last season against Notre Dame until moments before kickoff. Travis was ultimately given the start, but after Milton led two scoring drives to force overtime in a 41-38 loss to the Fighting Irish, the West Palm Beach native didn’t start again until October.

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After its first 0-4 start since 1974, Travis led FSU to five wins in its final eight games to close 2021. Travis led game-winning drives in victories over Syracuse and Miami. Against the Hurricanes, Travis scored the winning touchdown in the final minute as FSU snapped a 4-game losing streak to its southernmost rival.

Although the Seminoles fell one win shy of bowl eligibility, Travis showed tremendous improvement as a passer and became the unquestioned leader of the FSU offense. The coaching staff has a lot of confidence in freshman AJ Duffy as the quarterback of the future. This season, however, the offense will hinge largely on how Travis performs and whether he can stay healthy.

Lucky to Have Him

All indications are that Travis’ collegiate career will end in Tallahassee. It, however, did not start there.

Travis spent his first season at Louisville in 2018 before transferring to FSU. It wasn’t until the aforementioned 2019 ACC finale at Boston College that Travis was finally thrust into action.

Travis’ debut came less than a week after head coach Willie Taggart was fired. With the creation of the transfer portal and student-athletes having more flexibility than ever before, Travis elected not to look elsewhere following the staff overhaul.

Despite Norvell giving Blackman and Rodemaker the opportunity to start before Travis in 2020, the South Florida native stuck it out and waited his turn. That was again the case in 2021 with Milton.

For a program as tradition-rich as FSU, 3-6 and 5-7 records are hardly acceptable. Without Travis these last two seasons, FSU’s record likely would have been much worse than a combined 8-13.

After a strong finish to 2021, there is finally optimism surrounding the FSU program once again. Corresponding with the strong finish was Travis taking control of the offense.

After leading Memphis to an AAC title and New Year’s Six berth in 2019, Norvell knew he was inheriting a rebuilding program at FSU. Without Travis these last two seasons, the athletics department might have once again been scrambling to find buyout money.

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.