Seminoles Football Preview: Can Norvell Do The Job?

Oct 7, 2017; Tallahassee, FL, USA; View of a Florida State Seminoles helmet on the field before the game against the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

It’s another new era in Tallahassee. For the second time in three years, the Seminoles have changed coaching staffs. Willie Taggart is out, Mike Norvell is in. It’s a new look for FSU in 2020.

FSU Schedule
2020 FSU Schedule

Taggart came in and promised to change the culture, and rebuild this team from the shambles it was left in by former head coach Jimbo Fisher. That didn’t happen quickly enough as he exited after year two.

Insert Mike Norvell.

HC Mike Norvell
Seminoles Head Coach Mike Norvell

New Seminoles Head Coach

The former Memphis head coach heads to Tallahassee after leading his Tigers squad to a top-25 finish in 2019. The offensive-minded coach has put several players into the NFL from Memphis, including running backs Darrell Henderson, Tony Pollard, and running back/receiver Antonio Gibson.

Norvell (W-L, 38-15) never had a losing record as head coach in Memphis. Hopefully, that will continue for FSU. High expectations are present for the Noles, as the years since the 2013 National Championship has been dismal at best.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t had absolute studs on the squad. Led by Dalvin Cook, Jalen Ramsey, Derwin James, and Brian Burns, the Noles have been fully represented in the first two rounds of the NFL draft over the recent years.

With running back Cam Akers gone, his backup Khalen Laborn dismissed, FSU is very thin at the position. Lead man on the depth chart at the moment is transfer Texas A&M (ironic) sophomore Jashaun Corbin.

Seminoles Offense

While there are some guys returning in the backfield from last year, this is where the biggest questions are. Treshaun Ward and Deonté Sheffield are back. They’re going be relied on to produce. Incoming freshman Lawrence Toafili could be asked to contribute as well.

2020 Seminoles Football
Seminoles Tamorrion Terry

The wide receivers are solid. Led by Junior Tamorrion Terry, this corps needs to be in sync on the field to help the offense keep drives going. DJ Matthews and Keyshawn Helton will be key but keep an eye on redshirt Sophomore Warren Thompson.

Seminoles WR Warren Thompson

Although Terry and Thompson were among the ones calling out the school’s alleged neglect when it comes to the COVID-19 testing protocols, these two should be the biggest producers on the field.

Andrew Bosselli anchors a young, but improving offensive line. Which is important, because since that incredible 2013 FSU championship season, whoever was at quarterback had to run for their lives. New offensive line coach Alex Atkins brings experience as an offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Last year as offensive coordinator at Charlotte, he led the 49ers to their first Bowl game in school history.

Now to the quarterback position. Returning starter James Blackman has been added to the Johnny Unitas watch list, and that is for good reason. Despite the offensive line woes, and inconsistent offensive play from other skill positions, Blackman has proven he can lead this Florida State team to victories.

2020 Seminoles Football
Seminoles Quarterbacks )left to right) Jordan Travis and James Blackman

Behind him, and often used in Taggart’s offense last year as a wildcat-type player, quarterback Jordan Travis will make himself known this year as well. He became a fan-favorite as the season went on.

Seminoles Defense

Defensively, the Seminoles look solid. The unquestioned leader is defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Wilson led the team with five sacks, and eight total tackles behind the line. It’s more impressive how he is able to shed blockers and plug up the middle against even the best in the game. No doubt he will be a top pick at his position in the next NFL draft.

Janarius Robinson and Joshua Kaindoh are the other guys on that defensive line to keep your eyes on. Robinson had three sacks and nine tackles-for-loss last year. While Kaindoh was hurt far too early to make a huge impact, his presence was felt while he was out there.

2020 Seminoles Football
Seminoles Linebacker Joshua Kaindoh

Linebacker Amari Gainer also returns to this defensive squad as a monster to be reckoned with. He ended the FSU season with 3.5 sacks and seven stops behind the line from the outside/EDGE position. Emmett Rice also returns for the Seminoles 2020 season. He finished last year second on the stat sheet in total tackles, and can play either outside or inside, which makes him an indispensable part of the defense.

2020 Seminoles Football

I’ve raved about the other units on this defense, but I really believe the best part is this secondary. Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen is a surprise return for this squad, as many believed he would enter the 2020 NFL draft. He chose to return though, adding veteran leadership and a top-notch talent for making plays on the ball from anywhere on the field.

Those corners are an impressive bunch as well. Led by Junior Asante Samuel Jr. this crew is full of absolute ballhawks. There’s a name everyone needs to keep their eyes on, sophomore Akeem Dent.

2020 Seminoles Football
Seminoles Cornerback Akeem Dent

Ever since I saw him play in last year’s spring game I have been impressed with his ball skills. Although he didn’t see a lot of action, Dent was able to get 34 total tackles, including 1.5 sacks, and was second on the team with seven passes defensed.

2020 Season Outlook

Clemson is still the top team in the ACC, but FSU isn’t far off. While we have no idea if we will actually see a 2020 football season, new Seminoles head coach Mike Norvell has a lot of work to do to get this team in championship form.

If we play, the FSU schedule is a tough one with Miami, Notre Dame, Pitt and Clemson among the opponents. At least the games against Clemson and Pitt are home games.

Expect a higher-paced, air-driven offense with Norvell at the controls. We will need to see what the run game can give us, but if it’s anything like it was at Memphis, we won’t be disappointed.

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