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Florida State Football: Transfers Provide Optimism and Hope for Improvement in 2021

Mike Norvell, Florida State Seminoles Football

Mike Norvell, Florida State Seminoles Football

Florida State has slipped from the ranks of college football’s elite in recent years, and coach Mike Norvell is going to need more than one offseason to change the program’s on-field results. The staff is poised to ink a solid recruiting class on National Signing Day, but the biggest boost in 2021 could come from six key transfers, including quarterback McKenzie Milton and South Carolina defensive lineman Keir Thomas. From 1987-2017, the Seminoles never had a season of fewer than seven wins. However, Florida State doesn’t have a season of more than six victories over the last three years and is just 14-20 in that span. The lack of success in recent years is a big reason why tapping into the transfer market makes a lot of sense for the staff going into their second year in Tallahassee. 

After a 3-6 debut in Tallahassee, it’s no secret Norvell and his staff have a lot of work to do this offseason and on the recruiting trail to get Florida State back on track. The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on all first-year coaches. The lack of an offseason and chaotic regular season prevented coaches from establishing schemes and culture that’s vital to long-term success. With a full offseason to work on those elements, Norvell’s team should be in a better position for 2021.

In addition to the implementation of scheme and culture, Florida State has to find answers on both sides of the ball. The offense averaged only 25.8 points a game and 5.5 yards per play. The Seminoles have averaged under 30 points a game in four consecutive seasons and struggled to generate big plays in 2020. The story isn’t much better on defense. The 2020 unit surrendered 36 points a game – the highest mark over the last 12 years – and gave up 6.47 yards a play (most in the ACC). Additionally, the pass rush struggled (10 sacks), the run defense allowed nearly 200 yards a game and the defense finished near the bottom of the league in third-down stops.

Florida State’s problems started well before Norvell arrived and it’s going to take a couple of years to recruit and develop the program out of this mess. However, help is on the way. The Seminoles are bringing in a handful of transfers to provide instant help on both sides of the ball. Norvell and his staff met some needs on the recruiting trail with incoming freshmen, but these transfers will provide quick fixes at the spots Florida State needs the most help.  

Here’s a look at six transfers and how they could help Florida State show marked improvement in Norvell’s second year:

Florida State Football: Transfers Provide Optimism and Hope for Improvement in 2021

QB McKenzie Milton (from UCF)

Milton was the biggest and most important acquisition for Norvell. No quarterback since Jameis Winston (2013-14) has led Florida State in passing yards in back-to-back seasons. The Hawaii native arrives in Tallahassee after a prolific career at UCF and has made an incredible recovery from a horrific knee injury suffered in 2018 against USF. Milton threw for 4,037 yards and 37 touchdowns and added 613 yards and eight rushing touchdowns during the Knights’ undefeated 2017 season. In three years at UCF, Milton accounted for 8,683 passing yards, 72 touchdowns through the air and 1,078 yards and 20 scores on the ground. He also connected on 61.8 percent of his passes, averaged 8.5 yards per attempt and tossed 22 picks over 1,020 attempts. Milton was one of the nation’s top 10 quarterbacks prior to his injury and gives Florida State an instant (and experienced) boost at the position.

Related: Grading the First-Year Head Coaches from 2020

DL Keir Thomas (from South Carolina)

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There are holes to fill up front after the departures of Marvin Wilson, Janarius Robinson and Joshua Kaindoh. Thomas should help right away after spending five years at South Carolina and finishing with 32 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and three sacks in seven appearances in 2020. The Miami native recorded 142 total tackles (18.5 for a loss) and 8.5 sacks during 47 appearances with the Gamecocks.

DL/LB Jermaine Johnson (from Georgia)

Johnson’s ability to get after the quarterback is a huge boost for a defense that had only 10 sacks last year. The former junior college product played in only 189 snaps at Georgia in 2020, so there should be more playing time available in Tallahassee. The Minnesota native recorded 20 tackles (three for a loss) and 2.5 sacks in 2019 and followed up with 16 stops (five for a loss) and four sacks in ’20.

DB Jammie Robinson (from South Carolina)

Robinson is a big pickup for a secondary that ranked near the bottom of the ACC in pass efficiency defense and is slated to lose starter Asante Samuel. The South Carolina transfer could slide into the nickel role in 2021 after playing the bulk of his snaps (402) in the slot in '20. Robinson played two years with the Gamecocks and recorded 136 tackles (3.5 for a loss), picked off two passes and defended 10. The 5-foot-11 Georgia native seems primed for a key role in Florida State’s 2021 secondary.

DB Brandon Moore (from UCF)

A knee injury suffered in the 2019 opener prevented Moore from playing in ’20. However, when healthy, the Florida native was a solid contributor to UCF’s defense in 2017-18. Moore started seven games in 2017 and ended the year with eight pass breakups and 31 stops. He started all 13 games in ’18 and earned honorable mention All-AAC honors after collecting 43 tackles and 10 pass breakups. Moore was targeted 39 times in ’18 and allowed 21 receptions for 342 yards. He’s on track to return healthy and into action in 2021.

Related: Early ACC Predictions for 2021

DB Jarques McClellion (from Arkansas)

McClellion opted out due to the COVID-19 pandemic and did not record a snap of playing time with Arkansas in the 2020 season. The Florida native played in 24 games (with 20 starts) from 2018-19 after a redshirt year in his first season on campus. McClellion collected 57 tackles, one interception and 11 pass breakups in his appearances with the Razorbacks. Similar to Moore, McClellion provides instant depth (or starting potential) in a secondary in need of experience and talent to improve in 2021.

(Top photo courtesy of @FSUFootball)