New head coach Mike Norvell inherits a Florida State program in a place that it hasn't been in a long time. After 41 straight winning seasons, the Seminoles are coming off consecutive losing campaigns.
Norvell, the former Memphis head coach, was tabbed to replace Willie Taggart, who was fired after just 21 games. Actual football games are still six months away, but the spring is here.
As FSU transitions to a new head coach for a second time in three years, this has the chance to be a very telling spring.
5 Storylines to Watch During Florida State's Spring Practice
1. The quarterback situation
The quarterback situation for Florida State this offseason may be as up in the air as it has been in a long time. Redshirt junior James Blackman will have a fourth offensive coordinator in as many seasons and he's coming off of a poor performance to end the 2019 campaign. He struggled mightily, tossing four interceptions, including the decisive pick that was returned for a touchdown, in the Seminoles' 20-14 Sun Bowl loss to Arizona State.
Blackman has a big arm, but a slender frame. He's been largely inconsistent in virtually two full seasons as a starter. The other returning player who could be in the mix is redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis. Travis came on late for the Seminoles last season, but was utilized almost exclusively as a runner. How Travis fits the vision of Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham remains to be seen.
The wild cards in the race are a pair of true freshmen. Chubba Purdy, a four-star prospect who flipped late from Louisville, has a tremendous ceiling, but won't be joining the team until after the spring. Valdosta, Georgia, standout Tate Rodemaker wasn't as highly regarded by recruiting sites, but has enrolled early and was thought to be a better prospect than his three-star rating. How the quarterback situation plays out is anyone's guess, but Norvell and company have options.
2. Can the offensive line become a competent group?
Since at least 2017, the Florida State offensive line has been largely regarded as one of the worst position groups among Power 5 teams. FSU is bringing in four recruits this offseason, but none were greater than three-star prospects and only guard Zane Herring enrolled early.
The good news is that the Seminoles found a graduate transfer in Devontay Love-Taylor from Florida International, who is expected to compete for time right away. FSU also has three players who showed promise as true freshmen last season in Dontae Lucas, Darius Washington, and Maurice Smith. Brady Scott, Baveon Johnson, Andrew Boselli, and Mike Arnold have been unspectacular, but are experienced. If nothing else, FSU has a decent amount of bodies at the position to create some interesting internal competition.
3. A new defense
Florida State is just two seasons removed from giving up more points per game than ever before in its history and things didn't get much better last season. The Seminoles allowed six of their 13 opponents to hit the 30-point mark last season and three to hit 40.
Adam Fuller comes over from Memphis to join Norvell in Tallahassee and to try to resurrect the defense. FSU has a promising defensive line with Cory Durden, Marvin Wilson, and Janarius Robinson, but all other positions are question marks. There isn't a shortage of talent, but it hasn't culminated in a product that any coordinator would be proud of in recent years.
The Seminoles toyed with a 3-4 look last season, but will go back to a 4-3 look this season under Fuller with a stand-up end/linebacker hybrid on the edge. Linebacker hasn't been a strong suit for FSU for some time, but it is still deep and talented in the secondary. Fuller has had success defensively everywhere he has went and tends to improve defenses almost immediately.
4. Early enrollees
With a new coaching staff, few positions are guaranteed for returning players. With that said, the Seminoles will enroll eight players early this spring, who look to make their presence felt before ever playing a game.
A couple players to watch will be wide receivers Bryan Robinson and Ja'Khi Douglas. Tamorrion Terry headlines the position, but outside of Terry, D.J. Matthews and Keyshawn Helton, who is coming off a season-ending injury, the Seminoles are largely unproven out wide.
Stephen Dix Jr. also has a very good chance to earn some immediate playing time at linebacker. Herring and Rodemaker are likely sleepers at their positions. Australian native Alex Mastromanno is a candidate to unseat walk-on Tommy Martin for the punting duties.
5. Culture change
Dating back to the latter parts of the Jimbo Fisher era, the culture around FSU has been in question. Willie Taggart's teams were among the nation's most penalized and the team seemed to lack discipline.
It will be hard to tell how much difference it has made in one spring, but this offseason, Norvell and staff have instilled disciplinary measures from attire to bringing back the infamous "mat drills" of the Bobby Bowden era. Ultimately, the change in culture has to be reflected in wins on the field.
(Top photo courtesy of @FSUFootball)