Even though he has won only eight of his first 21 games, and even though his predecessor got fired after less than two seasons, Mike Norvell is not entering the 2022 season on the hot seat.
Partly because of the mess he inherited and partly because of the goodwill he has fostered with a tireless work ethic and endless positivity, Norvell actually enters his third season at Florida State with access to greater resources than perhaps any coach in school history.
The university's administration opened the checkbook wide this offseason, bringing in several new support staff members — analysts to help with game-planning and assistants to help with recruiting — in an effort to catch up to other national powers.
Now, it's up to Norvell to start winning at a clip that will prevent his seat from getting warm heading into 2023.
Working in his favor is a defense that made major strides last fall. If the offense, which picked up some valuable pieces through the transfer portal, can show similar growth, the Seminoles should be eyeing their first bowl trip since 2019.
Previewing Florida State's Offense for 2022
One year after bringing in a high-profile transfer to compete with Jordan Travis for the starting quarterback job, FSU is now putting all of its chips on the dual-threat signal-caller. FSU posted a 5–2 record in Travis' last seven starts, and he should have a better supporting cast around him.
The Seminoles bolstered their wide receiver room with four Power 5 transfers, and they also beefed up their offensive line and backfield. Former Oregon wideout Mycah Pittman emerged as the team's best receiver in the spring, Wisconsin transfer Kayden Lyles should bolster the middle of the OL and the running back room features a deep group led by redshirt sophomore Treshaun Ward (515 yards, four TDs, 6.4 ypc).
FSU's offense wasn't horrible last year, but it had too many drives disrupted by negative plays. The Seminoles gave up 351 yards on tackles for a loss — only 11 teams allowed more in the regular season — and that was a major reason why FSU ranked 105th nationally in third-down conversions (34.9 percent). Once the offense got behind the chains, its drives were typically sunk.
On the flip side, the Seminoles were outstanding in the red zone. Not only did they score on more than 90 percent of their trips inside the 20, but they also cashed in with touchdowns on 73.8 percent (No. 6 nationally).
FSU's hope is that added experience and talent on the offensive line will reduce the drive-killing negative plays, and some additional playmakers at the skill positions will help overcome them when they do occur.
Previewing Florida State's Defense for 2022
If there was one tangible area of improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 under Norvell, it was the play of coordinator Adam Fuller's defense. A unit that was one of the worst in the country in 2020 — and again through the first four games of 2021 — improved substantially during the final two months.
A few important personnel changes keyed that success, with the biggest ones being freshmen Kevin Knowles and Omarion Cooper winning starting jobs in the secondary, and veteran Jammie Robinson moving from nickel to safety. That solidified the back end, and a very good defensive front — led by likely future NFL stalwart Jermaine Johnson II (70 tackles, 18 TFLs) — took care of the rest. The vast majority of that two-deep on defense is back this fall. But it's important to note that Johnson and fellow defensive end Keir Thomas combined for 18.5 of the team's 33 sacks last season. And both of them have moved on.
The Seminoles should replace some of that production with former UAlbany star Jared Verse, who was one of the top prospects in the transfer portal this offseason. After racking up 14.5 sacks in 15 games at the FCS level, Verse will line up next to a very stout pair of defensive tackles in Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper.
FSU also picked up a huge addition at linebacker, as former UCF star Tatum Bethune (108 tackles in '21) rejoins former position coach Randy Shannon, who now is the Seminoles' co-defensive coordinator.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2022
Previewing Florida State's Specialists for 2022
The kicking game should be solid with veterans Ryan Fitzgerald and Alex Mastromanno returning at placekicker and punter, respectively. Fitzgerald hit 10-of-13 field goals last season, with a long of 53. And while Mastromanno doesn't boast a huge average (42.7), his streak of 93 consecutive punts without a touchback is remarkable. He downed 18 punts inside the 20 last season.
FSU's biggest problem on special teams has been the lack of a quality return game. Not only have the Noles lacked explosive plays, but their punt returners have also struggled with muffs and letting too many balls land and roll for extra yardage. Pittman excelled in that role at Oregon, averaging 10 yards per return, and quickly claimed the top job this spring.
After going 3–6 in 2020 and 5–7 last fall, Norvell needs to at least lead FSU back to bowl eligibility to show that he's making progress. A 7–5 or 8–4 season could be within reach and would do wonders for his tenure. While the schedule is challenging, with non-conference games against LSU and rival Florida, the Seminoles have several things working in their favor. FSU gets an off-week before a big early game at Louisville, and rivals Clemson and UF also have to come to Tallahassee.
National Ranking: 36
Podcast: Top 25 Megacast! Complete Top 25 Breakdown, Rankings and Predictions Explained