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Looking back to the 2015 Rose Bowl vs Oregon, it’s hard not to say that this game started the eventual decline of the Florida State football program. More specifically, the play where Jameis Winston lost his footing and fumbled the ball perfectly into Oregon linebacker Tony Washington’s hands for a scoop and score. That moment sealed the game for the Ducks and also snapped a program-best 29 consecutive wins for the Seminoles.
The Noles followed that 2014-2015 season with back-to-back 10-3 campaigns, but there was a new emerging superpower in the ACC with Clemson. The rise of the Tigers meant that Florida State would no longer be able to compete for a conference title, due to Clemson’s reign over the Atlantic Division.
We’re going to look at how the Seminoles get back to the top:
Recruit The Sunshine State Well
Ideally, when you recruit in-state players, they have a good understanding of the program and a higher appreciation for the rivalries. Especially in the talent rich state of Florida, where many players end up playing somewhere in college. In all honesty, it hasn’t been long since FSU vs. Miami or Florida used to always be a top-10 showdown, and all the players were fueled on hate for the other team.
To get back to the elite-tier, head coach Mike Norvell needs to go out and surround his program with players that have a high hate value for the other in-state schools. Any other top tier talent is still obviously a priority and welcomed. Though having those in-state guys to fuel the rest of the team is really undervalued.
In the 2021 recruiting cycle, the Seminoles didn’t have a particularly good haul, ranking only 23rd nationally. Norvell only reeled in five of the top 300 players in the class, and the best player from Florida was wide receiver Malik McClain, who ranked 270th nationally and 42nd best at his position. Fortunately, things look to be heading in the right direction for the 2022 class.
Currently the Noles boast the #10 class in the country, which is highlighted by recent five-star corner commit Travis Hunter from Georgia, and five-star Lakeland, Florida athlete Sam McCall. Of the 36 Florida prospects who are ranked inside the top 300, only a handful are verbally committed to a school. With a good showing this season, it’s possible that Florida State could swing in and flip some of these players that may have grown up fans of the Noles.
Establish The Quarterback Position For The Future
The arrival of McKenzie Milton from UCF doesn’t guarantee anything for the Seminoles. Even though he’s a capable signal-caller and proven winner, he may still have some rust on him from the catastrophic leg injury. If he comes back fully healthy and produces, it’ll at least buy the Noles some time to find a replacement after his one-and-done season.
Last season was just like many that preceded it in terms of quarterback play, but worse. As a team they only threw 10 TD passes to go along with 13 interceptions and a 54% completion percentage. Also, the team allowed 29 sacks in only nine games played, which boils down to over three sacks allowed per game. Not good.
There are many factors that come along with the inefficiencies in Tallahassee, and all of them working together attribute to major failures. With Norvell’s expertise and Milton’s experience, they should be able to come up with a suitable game plan to put points on the board. Milton’s ability to make unscheduled plays will also help out the line by seeing less blitz packages.
Get Fast On Defense
When you think of the long lineage of great Florida State teams, the strength seems to always be on defense. The 2014 national championship team had so many studs that played so fast, such as Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith and Lamarcus Joyner. There’s just something different about college football when the golden-arrow studded lids are flying around to deliver the boom.
Looking at the defense next season, there are certainly both positives and negatives. A positive would be that all three leading tacklers – Amari Gainer, Emmett Rice and Stephen Dix Jr. – are returning. Another positive which may be seen as a negative is the youth of the team, but that means these players are going to be coached up to how the staff wants them to play defense.
The negatives are a bit more staggering and none more so than the departure of the incredible cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.. Also out the door are former five-star safety Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, who is heading to Boston College, and the only player who had more than one sack last year in Janarius Robinson. A full spring should help alleviate some of these departures, but they need to get better fast, as Notre Dame comes to town September 5th for the week one matchup.
Will FSU Ever Climb Out Of The Hole?
Without a doubt because there is still something appealing about the garnet and gold to all high school prospects. The rocking atmosphere in Tallahassee when the Noles are solid also plays a huge part. Norvell needs time and the fan base must have patience and allow him to get a full team of his own recruits. Giving him the Willie Taggart treatment will be a huge disservice and will set the program back even farther.