Year One under head coach Mike Norvell did not go the way that anyone in Tallahassee could have hoped. During a bizarre 2020 season, the Florida State Seminoles suffered through their third straight losing season, finishing 3-6.
The three wins for FSU were the fewest since 1975. For perspective's sake, that was the year prior to Bobby Bowden's arrival as head coach. The Seminoles didn't win a single road game last season but did end the year on a high note with a 56-35 victory over Duke.
Despite a dreadful campaign and uncertainty as to what will take place in 2021 as far as the pandemic is concerned, all hope is not lost in Tallahassee. Below are three reasons for optimism.
Norvell finished with a top-25 class on the recruiting trail, but he also landed some impressive additions via the transfer portal. The most notable is former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton suffered a gruesome leg injury late in the 2018 season, but if he can return to form, can be the best quarterback for FSU since Jameis Winston. Now 23 years old, the Hawaii native was a two-time Offensive Player of the Year in the American Athletic Conference and was 23-0 as a starter in 2017 and '18. For his career, he has nearly 10,000 total yards and 92 total touchdowns to his name.
Milton however, isn't the only transfer worth mentioning. Former South Carolina defensive lineman Keir Thomas and defensive back Jammie Robinson should each make an instant impact for coordinator Adam Fuller's defense. Wide receiver Andrew Parchment is two years removed from an 829-yard, seven-touchdown campaign with Kansas. UCF transfer Brandon Moore and Arkansas transfer Jarques McClellion will each add depth to the secondary. Former Georgia linebacker Jermaine Johnson comes to Tallahassee after tallying four sacks last season. That would have led FSU.
2. A full spring… hopefully
There are still question marks about what spring practice will look like in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic canceling team practices last spring had an adverse effect on an FSU team breaking in a new coaching staff. The Seminoles are set to begin practice in March and hold their spring game in April. Being able to do that without interruption will be incredibly important.
Not only is FSU bringing in eight scholarship transfers, but it has six early enrollees who hope to make an early impact. Wide receivers Malik McClain and Joshua Burrell, plus tight end Jackson West will have a chance to work themselves into the rotation at thin pass-catching positions. Having Milton and Jordan Travis compete at the quarterback position could also prove to be a positive.
3. The early schedule
The ACC unveiled its 2021 schedule, and for Florida State to have a good season, it will need to play well early. Beating Notre Dame on Labor Day weekend in Tallahassee seems like a tall task, but the Fighting Irish are replacing some key pieces, including a very experienced quarterback in Ian Book. After that, FSU faces an FCS opponent in Jacksonville State and then three straight ACC teams who finished with losing records in 2020.
FSU will close September with a trip to Wake Forest and a home game with Louisville before opening October at home against Syracuse. The Oct. 9 contest at North Carolina will be extremely difficult, but that is followed by a bye week and a homecoming date with lowly UMass. The first half of the schedule could equate to five wins before the end of October. That could be huge for the team's confidence as it closes with a gauntlet that includes Clemson, NC State, Miami, and Florida. A trip to Boston College, who finished 6-5 in 2020, to wrap up ACC play won't be easy either.
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.
(Top photo by Ross Obley, courtesy of seminoles.com)