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Summer Scheming ‘23: Florida State Seminoles

Mike Norvell looks to get the Seminoles over the hump in 2023. FSU has climbed up to double-digit wins, but can they beat a top-10 opponent like Clemson?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: APR 15 Florida State Garnet & Gold Spring Showcase Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes and the Florida State Seminoles will face off on Saturday, November 11th at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL. Miami is on the road at NC State the week before the big rivalry match-up, while FSU is also on the road at Pitt. Miami holds a 35-32 all-time series lead over the ‘Noles, but FSU is riding a two-game win streak.

Mike Norvell is heading into his 4th season as the FSU head football coach. At FSU, Norvell’s record is 18-16, and 11-13 in the ACC. Including Memphis, his record is 56-31.

Willie Taggart and prior to Willie, Jimbo Fisher, really left Norvell a mess up north. Florida State had financial issues, offensive line issues, and culture issues all to clean up in order to make the current run the ‘Noles are attempting to go on.

As a player, Norvell was a wide receiver at Arkansas State in the early 2000’s. His cut his teeth in coaching as a GA at Central Arkansas, before assistant and coordinator positions at Tulsa, Pitt, and Arizona State before taking over as the head coach at Memphis.

Per Bill Connelly’s SP+, the ‘Noles are the 11th overall team in FBS heading into the 2023 season. NCSU is ranked 26th on offense and 8th on defense.

Summer Scheming SWOT Analysis

This year’s Summer Scheming will look different than in years past by featuring a SWOT Analysis on each opponent the Hurricanes will face in the 2023 season. SWOT in this iteration will stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Traditions* (not Threats). We’ll discuss one cool tradition from each of the football programs on the ‘23 schedule.

Strengths: QB, Defensive Line, Benson

Clearly returning Jordan Travis at quarterback is the biggest strength FSU has. Travis accounted for 32 touchdowns in 2022, with only five interceptions. He went from a running back at QB to a quarterback of a potential ACC Championship program. Travis averaged 9.1 yards per pass attempt a year ago, and rushed for 417 more yards. He’s a true college star in the making.

The FSU Defensive Line is going to be a top-3 in the nation in ‘23. Miami’s newly crafted O-Line will have its hands full in November. Jared Verse returning for another season was a huge ‘get’ for the ‘Noles. Verse accounted for 17 TFL’s and nine sacks last season. He’s joined by two transfers, one very familiar to ‘Canes fans in Darrell Jackson, a run stuffer that transferred to FSU from Miami.

Trey Benson is an old school bruiser at running back who averaged 6.4 yards per carry with nine TD’s on the ground a year ago. Benson also averaged 11.1 yards per catch out of the backfield.

Weaknesses: Injury prone, “The Hump”

FSU’s biggest weakness the past two seasons has been being one of the most injured rosters in college football. Hopefully between improved depth, common sense, and sports science they can keep their players healthy. No one should enjoy seeing a college football player injured. The cost of surgery on you mentally, emotionally and physically is extremely taxing on a human being.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Clemson at Florida State Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Their other biggest weakness has been “The Hump.” FSU steamrolled their weaker opponents last season but hit a three game losing streak against teams with a pulse. An early win over LSU in Brian Kelly’s first game as head coach there was a nice aside at the end of the season.

But losing to Wake Forest, NC State, and Clemson in a row was a tough one to overcome for FSU. They eventually beat ‘programs in name only’ ie. Miami, Florida and Oklahoma to end the season 10-3.

In order to get into the ACC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff conversation- FSU has to beat a ranked opponent. They’ll have their chance on September 3rd in Orlando as they open their season against LSU.

Opportunities: Transfers, continuity on staff

FSU went hard in the portal, again, and brought in a dozen new transfers to fill in holes on the starting lineup, and the two-deep. The four biggest transfers for FSU were WR Keon Coleman (Michigan St), DL Braden Fiske (W. Michigan), DL Darrell Jackson, Jr. (Miami), and CB Fentrell Cypress II (UVA).

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan State at Penn State Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Alex Atkins returns as the OC for year two in that role, year four on staff. DC Adam Fuller also returns for year four as DC and on the staff. Co-DC Randy Shannon is back for another run with the ‘Noles. “Mr. Florida” has been with FSU since 2021, and is going into year two as a co-DC. Shannon has coached for the Miami Hurricanes, Miami Dolphins, Florida Gators, Seminoles, and UCF Knights.

Staff continuity is key, if you’re seeing the improvements a head coach wants to see. Norvell has to be pleased with moving FSU from three to five to 10 wins with the mess he was left when he took over in Tallahassee.

Traditions: Osceola and Renegade

From the FSU website:

Perhaps the most spectacular tradition in all of college football occurs in Doak Campbell Stadium when a student portraying the famous Seminole Indian leader, Osceola, charges down the field riding an Appaloosa horse named Renegade and plants a flaming spear at midfield to begin every home game. Learn about all of Florida State’s traditions at

FSU offensive scheme

Mike Norvell runs an 11 personnel (one back, one tight end) base offense. But he’s always enjoyed a healthy amount of 12 personnel, too. Getting the run game going has been important to Norvell, especially with the QB, since his time at Memphis. FSU will use motions in order to get favorable matchups and to force the defense to communicate.

Above- It’s easier to play offense and harder to play defense than ever before. Offenses are allowed the utmost advantages in the 2020’s. It causes defenses to do a ton of post-snap rotating in the back end and that needs communication and teaching. On FSU’s opening TD throw.

Above- Al Blades, Jr. doesn’t rotate back into his deep 12 deep enough or fast enough and DJ Ivey (CB) is smoked on the post route. If Blades is deep this ball is a pick or no throw. Kam Kinchens rotates to the trips-field side and the other safety rolls to the flat.

Above- Miami has been horrible at defending counter for years, too. UNC put the emphasis on that in 2020, and it’s been obvious ever since.

Above- Leonard Taylor comes up field and blocks himself, James Williams wants no part of contact as the safety that’s rotating down into the box. It’s like Williams has no idea how counter works as he plays it outside instead of head on.

Above- Norvell was calling a nearly perfect game. If you’re wondering what you’re getting from FSU’s offense- it’s counter, outside zone, some easy 2-read throws and pretty standard personnel groupings. Pretty simple play above, just read the high-low of the TE to the FB.

Above- More play-action but this time Travis turns his back to the defense and when he flips his eyes back around he misses Ivey having a beat on this WR. Beautiful INT from Ivey, clearly a bad ball (should be leading his WR more to the numbers) and decision.

Above- Counter is Norvell’s base, and this time it’s GY (guard and tight end) instead of GT counter. OL and TE’s everywhere and Miami defenders aren’t prepared to work through traffic or finish.

Above- FSU is out here running Wing-T plays knowing Miami’s DL is undisciplined and their back seven wants no part of the ‘Noles RB Room. Norvell pulling out the book here.

Above- When you know you’re facing an undisciplined team that can’t pursue or tackle in space- you break out the screens. Split flow with a fake and a chip block. RB’s open and has to just shake a DL on his way to an explosive.

Above- A play-action fake off of outside zone, when his deep shot isn’t open he panics and the pass rush gets Travis for a massive sack.

FSU defensive scheme

Florida State’s defense started to give up some major points towards the end of the 2022 season. The ‘Noles allowed 38 against Florida and 32 against Oklahoma, a pair of .500 type ball clubs struggling during transitions.

So... what worked for the Gators? It didn’t hurt to have Anthony Richardson’s big arm, Ricky Pearsall’s 20 yards per catch, or Trevor Etienne’s 6.1 yards per carry. ‘Canes fans, where are the explosive plays and athletes that even the Gators seem to have?

Above- Here’s the first big TD throw from Richardson to Pearsall. They fake the screen and hit him on the deep throw with a back side WR distracting the safety.

Above- If you can run the ball well enough, the play-action game starts to slow the defense down. Linebackers and safeties freeze, defensive ends worry about squeezing and chasing instead of upfield pressure. Jaleel Skinner is the perfect guy for the split flow slide route.

Above- What isn’t open against FSU or anyone else? Late throws to the middle of the field. Rhythm step is hit, then two hitches and run. You don’t get more than that, especially with a mobile, big QB on 2nd and four. Just run for the first down, buddy.

Above- Pearsall fakes a switch or out and works back up the seam. It was just enough hesitation from the DB to beat him deep. This is where teaching route running, tempo’ing, etc comes into play.

Also, for you readers with young kids wanting to play WR or TE- Pearsall doesn’t do a salsa dance over any ladders out there before making his move back up field. No wonky elbows.

Above- Florida showing some fight. 2nd and goal down 14 and they close the gap. They stayed spread, kept an RPO tag there to keep FSU honest and the option open. But this is pounded up the middle with zone insert blocking. Also the mobile QB keeps the edge defender from completely squeezing.

Above- Second level blocking looked great here. OL and TE’s getting to the LB’s and cutting off the rotating safety to pick up the tying touchdown.

Above- Etienne breaks one open on his way to 7.6 yards per carry vs. The ‘Noles. Florida rushed for 262 yards on 5.7 yards per carry vs. FSU in 2022’s rival game.

Canyonero Keys to Victory

1- Protect Tyler Van Dyke. In 2022, Miami QB’s were sacked three times, pressured two and the ‘Canes turned the ball over four times against the ‘Noles. Van Dyke was knocked out early and replaced by Jacurri Brown and Jake Garcia who both turned the ball over. If Miami wants to avoid another embarrassing loss to FSU (45-3 in ‘22) they need to protect Van Dyke vs. that D-Line.

2- Don’t quit. Miami is still one or two years away from being anything to write home to Athlon about, but last year looked like the team and staff quit on the season. The majority of this roster is Mario Cristobal’s, so now he has to prove he is a leader of men that can fight through an entire season, his staff included.

3- Tak’L. I don’t want to sound like the average idiot parent in the crowd at your local high school football game but for Jimmy Johnson’s sake tackle. Miami has been an atrocious “finish” team for years now and Kevin Steele didn’t solve that issue. Benson, Travis and WR Johnny Wilson are tough to bring down (20.9 yards per catch). Miami has Blue Chip prospects all over the defense- prove it! Don’t let FSU run through you for explosive after explosive play.

Prediction: FSU by 10.