After 41 straight winning seasons, Florida State has suffered through four straight losing campaigns on the gridiron. Under head coach Mike Norvell, FSU is just 8-12.
As Norvell prepares for his third season in Tallahassee, there is the belief among the faithful in garnet and gold that his best days in Florida’s capital city are still ahead. Fresh off a 5-7 season, here is a look at three reasons why FSU fans should be optimistic about 2022.
1. Momentum from 2021
After their first 0-4 start since 1975, the Seminoles did finish strong in 2021. FSU won five of its last seven games. Three of those victories came over teams that qualified for bowl games. The Seminoles also were the only team to beat Miami over the final half of the regular season.
In its three losses after the tough start, FSU was competitive against pretty solid competition. Against Clemson and NC State teams that combined to go 19-6, FSU was within a score in the final quarter. The Seminoles actually held a late lead on the road against Clemson.
A 24-21 loss at Florida in the regular-season finale would cost the Seminoles a bowl bid. But that didn't change the fact that FSU was a different team over the final eight weeks. There is speculation that Norvell finally has the Noles moving in a positive direction in terms of building a culture.
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2. Returning production
Leading rusher Jashaun Corbin is off to the NFL, as is the defensive end tandem of Jermaine Johnson II and Keir Thomas, but just about every other impact player will return for FSU in 2022. Down the stretch, a big reason for the Seminoles' resurgence was quarterback Jordan Travis.
Known for his running ability, Travis made strides as a passer and should have an even better grasp of the offense in 2022. At his disposal will be six of FSU's top seven receivers from a year ago, including top target Ontaria "Pokey" Wilson. Four starters return along the offensive line, including Robert Scott and Dillan Gibbons. While Corbin is gone, running back Treshaun Ward returns. Ward finished with 515 rushing yards and led the ACC by averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
Johnson and Thomas will leave huge voids along the defensive line, but Robert Cooper and Fabien Lovett should be stout on the interior. Safety Jammie Robinson returns after leading the team in tackles (85), interceptions (four), and forced fumbles (two). Cornerback Omarion Cooper also came on strong late.
At linebacker, FSU returns three players who recorded at least 59 tackles in Kalen DeLoach, Amari Gainer, and DJ Lundy. And on special teams, FSU also should boast a solid, experienced duo in kicker Ryan Fitzgerald and punter Alex Mastromanno.
3. Newcomers at positions of need
For the second straight offseason, Norvell and his coaching staff were busy in the transfer portal. The Seminoles have added 10 players so far and did so at positions that have hardly been strengths in recent years.
With the losses of Johnson and Thomas up front, the Seminoles have to find a way to generate a pass rush. They may have done so with the addition of former Albany defensive end Jared Verse. Verse recorded 9.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss for the FCS Great Danes last season and was an enormous addition.
Although linebacker play was improved last season, it hasn't been a position of strength since perhaps FSU's 2013 national championship season when Christian Jones and Telvin Smith were making plays over all the field. To complement the skill sets of Lundy, Gainer, and DeLoach, FSU added former UCF starter Tatum Bethune, who had more than 100 tackles a season ago and possesses the ability to cover out in space.
For the better part of a decade, FSU has struggled along the offensive line. The coaching staff has added former Wisconsin center Kayden Lyles and tackle Bless Harris, who played at FCS Lehigh, in hopes of addressing this area. Lyles was on the Rimington Trophy watch list last season before an injury.
And while most of the receiving production returns, only two players finished with more than 300 yards last season. Three transfers — Winston Wright Jr. (West Virginia), Mycah Pittman (Oregon), and Johnny Wilson (Arizona State) — have been added in an effort to beef up the competition. Wilson is a big (6-7) target while Wright and Pittman can be used in the slot, in the ground game, and as kick returners.
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— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.