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  • Writer's pictureMark Schlabach

Notre Dame Opponent Preview | Florida State

Mike Norvell drew a raw deal when he came to Florida State and for a moment there it appeared that is all he was going to get—no time to give it the face lift it so desperately needed. Carter went 8-13 in his first two year’s And if the team was not showing enough improvement in year three then Carter would most likely not be around to see it.

FSU in the first part of 2022 had a reasonable start and after winning three games consecutively they were 4-3. Since the last time I talked to him, the guy has gone 20-1. That is a team that had a flawless 13-1 record last season, which saw them locked out of the College Football Playoff despite the injustice of losing their starting quarterback to an injury.

No coach –Rather no one has managed the portal better than Norvell has done these last couple of years. They brought in the talent and nurtured that talent into players that became NFL draft selections. We will have to wait and see if they can repeat it as FSU got several high profile recruits including those in the transfer market apart from who they have recruited in Norvell’s period.

Due to the numerous talents they must replace, it will be tough to return the performance that they gave in 2023. Of course, on paper it still seems to be a borderline top 10 team, though. They could prove to be Notre Dame’s hardest opponent of this fall season.

Post-Spring SP+ Ranking

They are ranked 12th in the post spring SP + projections. On the offense, they are ranked the 16th; on defense they rank the 10th while on special teams they rank the 8th.

Key losses

This team just had 10 NFL players picked in the most recent draft. It is not simple to replace such kind of talent at any program, says Hall of Famer former NFL defensive tackle, and current NBC analyst Mike Golic.

Selected in the draft 1st round Edge Jared Verse and in the 2nd round DT Braden Fiske were disruptive. Specifically, last fall FSU ranked seventh in the nation for sack rate. Two reasons why were Verse and Fiske. Verse was an absolute game wrecker and finished tied for second in pressures out of Power 5 defenders.

Renardo Green the CB from the 2nd round had spectacular ball involvement and did 14 pass defenses and Jarrian Jones from the 3rd round was exceptional as their nickel. He was first in the country in grounding the ball when the team was in scoring position to expose his passer rating.

Their leading tackler was LB Tatum Bethune selected in the 7th round. The bigger loss is much larger in the form of numbers for Kalen Deloach who is completely undiscovered and passed over by the NBA draft. He lacks this NFL measurements, but certainly was a playmaker for Florida State. He finished with 15. 5 havoc plays.

S Akeem Dent was an out of eligibility multi-year starter as well.

Last year, they failed to retain all the top end superior talent players.

Second round pick wide receiver Keon Coleman, Third round pick running back Trey Benson, Fifth round pick quarterback Jordan Travis, Sixth round pick wide receiver Johnny Wilson and the seventh round pick tight end Jaheim Bell are all now gone.

This likely explains why OT Bless Harris (TCU) was probably overqualified to be a third-tackle, and hence, he had to transfer to another school to start the position. Certainly, they could be big if one of the team’s two best tackles is injured and can’t play.

TE Markeston Douglas (Arizona State) was used mainly as a blocking tight end, but that was of service sometimes.

CB Greedy Vance of the USC participated in significant snaps at slot corner in the 2023. It appeared that he was going to be a second choice there this spring and as a result he transfered for more playing opportunities.

DT Dennnis Briggs Jr. , who played in Illinois, and edge Gilber Edmond, who played in South Carolina, were both proteges of them. Neither of them were projected to start this season. Actually, it is much more of a blow to their depth.

Key additions

If college football had a comeback player of the year award for the season, then probably nobody could be awarded it other than the quarterback DJ Uiagalelei from Oregon State. He was successful in the correct kind of offence and ranked a commendable twelfth on ESPN’s QBR list.

Although he was a big hitter, he was not so good when it came to defending and tackling the opposition; but given a good offence line and a great running game he thrived. He should have that again at FSU, but the offense is different. We will find out in how many ways Norvell alters certain things to Uiagalelei. He also is throwing to a young group of receivers and it was evident in the Spring.

He is quite poor in the intermediate throws as has been evidenced by his on target throw percentage which places him in the bottom 20 th percentile currently especially given the strength that Notre Dame has demonstrated in defending the deep ball this is an area of concern as FSU comes to town.

WR Malik Benson (Alabama) being the top junior college prospect in the country at the time signed for The University of Alabama. He performed poorly in ‘23, yet he has the ability to fly (10. 4 100m in high school). It can be said they have high expectations for him.

As for true freshmen, megafense WR Jalen Brown (LSU) couldn’t locate the field. He was thus a first-round pick as a high school player and also had genetics of an elite track athlete. This is by far the more apparent way of gaining playing time in FSU.

RB Jaylin Lucas from Indiana is jitterbug out of back field as he has had three kick return touchdowns in merely two years. He also caught 50 passes in those two seasons and is more at the physique of a player that benefits the most from Norvell’s offense.

FB Second-string running back Roydell Williams of Alabama is the big back addition measuring 5-10 225. It is also seen that he walked for 560 last year and 5. 0 per carry. He could be their RB1 one day.

G Richie Leonard IV hails from Florida and assumed LG for the Gators and he’s a fifth-year senior. He must be favoured to start at one of the guard positions and due to his size and strength, he is a physical specimen. The other one is G Terrence Ferguson – Alabama. He only had 116 snaps last season and that line was not the regular Alabama line. He’s less of a lock rather he is high risk/high reward type of player. I have to say that both of these guys are big fellows, to say the least, and physically imposing to boot.

Edge Marvin Jones Jr. , Georgia, didn’t become a star in Georgia, though, he has elite traits. It was sunny before when FSU secured a UGA pass rusher, who was behind other great players. Jermaine Johnson by this time was a first round pick. Son of the former FSU Seminole Marvin Jones, the young talented performer was observed near the end of spring practicing in the position of pass rusher.

DE Sione Lolohea OF Oregon State is a high motor player who was seen in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. He is a starting caliber player though he may not start at Florida State University.

DL Tomiwa Durojaiye (West Virginia) already has his third program in three years. Usually that is problematic however he is a boom bust type player with NFL characteristics. He prides himself on knowing when to bet big, when to go for the kill; if he hits, he could hit big. He recorded six TFLs in the previous season in 270 plays maximum.

DT Grady Kelly (Colorado State) started for multiple years and should be able to replace one of the seniors in the rotation this upcoming season.

Shawn Murphy a power forward whom was ranked 100th by Rivals, could not even find his way up the depth chart at Alabama. The two are him and LB Cam Riley (788 snaps at Auburn the last two years) who should be contending for primacy since the team is attempting to replace a couple of starters at line backer.

Contrary to this, Earl Little form Alabama was able to secure the starting nickel position beforehand in the spring. The review on him was very encouraging. DB Davonte Brown (Miami) played multiple seasons at UCF mainly as a starter, but he was only a back up at Miami last year. He should add some depth and mixed some of them in with the ones at safety during spring.

There is another group of freshmen who could also become factors as well.

One of the top-200 recruits of the current year’s incoming freshmen, TE Landen Thomas engaged the spectators in the spring academic game at a position that appears to be open for anyone in the playing time scale.

All-purpose back RB Kam Davis (5-10 220) was one of the big names in the 2024 rankings. They may not require his playing, but he sure can be too valuable not to shine.

Another early enrollee deserving of mention is WR LaWayne McCoy, who came in as a top-150 recruit, who also showcased during the spring at what is now a mystery position for them.

CB Charles Lester Jr. is little and goes to a corner in college football where he won’t be on the field unless he’s outstanding. He is the highly-regarded prospect of the entire incoming batch and therefore, it should not be unrealistic that he could contribute to them this coming fall.

Annual returning tops and returning productions

They are 90th in returning production (although they do have the 87th ranked offense and 83rd ranked defense).

American Football entity, The Action Network, developed a measure known as the Transfer Activity and Returning Production (TARP). That metric adds more significance to experience and also adds bonus points for a team having fifth and sixth year seniors on it. On offense, TARP has FSU ranked 15th and that is easily attributable to a service that has a line majorly consisting of old players. MU was a Joe Moore Award semi-finalist last year, and they can be the best O-line the Irish face this fall.

Fas, 1st team All-ACC LT Darius Washington and C Maurice Smith are back. Career, he has made 41 starts and may very well be the best returning center in the conference. For them, RT Jeremiah Byers began all 14 games having transferred from UTEP university. The former has had a record of 43 career starts. All the players are sixth year players.

Toafili RB, Lawrance obtained an average of 6. Had 20 catches and they had 7 YPC coming out of it. He is a weapon coming out of the backfield that has the ability to make some long YAC deals.

In terms of offence, Span was not used much, however, he returned a kick for 99 yards against Duke for a touchdown.

Hykeem Williams of WR only caught five as a true freshman. That form er elite recruit, however, has awesome potential. That sprint he was timed at 22. 24 & Above for high school.

Defensively, the team has reasonably solid returning parts of the puzzle even if they will be missing some studs next year. He was Edge Patrick Payton who had averagely committed more havoc per snap (500 snaps) last season than any other player. He registered 44 pressures and 14. Those are 5 tackles for loss and ten pass breakups. Believe it or not, that is not a typo; he threatens passing lanes with his efficiency in shooting or passing.

He appeared as though he was going to enter the portal to get to another place but was managed to be retained to the group. Even though the consistency is not always visible in him, he has all it takes to be one of the top picks in the next NFL Draft.

Inside, the DT Josh Farmer is back and has experience as a starter; however, he got knocked around at times and was not as effective in the second half.

LB DJ Lundy did enter the portal and committed Colorado but recanted on his decision. He is great when it comes to stopping inside the run game, but lack the same ability in coverage.

CB Fentrell Cypress was expected to do better after transferring from Virginia but he did not. The player is 2022 1 ^{st} team All-ACC. He is still a good starting caliber player that should ultimately wind up at the next level.

CB AZ Thomas Jr. could very well turn out to be the toughest corner the Notre Dame is gonna face all season. He was very good in ‘23 and the arrow is pointing up for him.

S Shyheim Brown has played a lots of football for them and is equally good in practically all aspects of the game.

They came in second in EPA per dropback allowed to the opposing quarterback and the pass defense should be great again.

Three big questions

What is the degree of retreat for the defense?

This aspect can explain their inability to lose during the regular season, for they provided solid defenses that gave their rivals a hard time. They scored more points to carry the team after Travis injury and the Crimson Tide football team ended 11th in the combined FEI + SP+. What happened? They finished 15 th of 122 teams in the category of havoc and 7 th in the cf sack rate index.

But once again, when it comes to the pass rush, it could be pretty much similar to what the team recorded last season. The secondary is going to be very good again as well. The biggest questions for them are up the middle, at defensive tackle and linebacker. They ranked 70th in EPA/ Rush last year, so there is potential, at least enough to keep an eye on.

Can they attain all of that skill on offense?

They don’t lack talent at the receiver, but what they will be seeking are players with almost no college experience to replace some stars. As for Norvell, he has not had an issue of garnering the most out of his running backs, so one can expect that they will lean more to the run option with an experienced line in front.

Apparently, it was a roller coaster ride of emotion this spring for Uigalelei who is not surprisingly to have gone through his fourth offensive coordinator at the college level. It will all depend how much he can assimilate himself in FSU’s mechanism and much Norvell is willing to bend and extend for Uigalelei. Which has to be done while they wait for the new receivers to come to formation.

How are they preparing for the next match – South Bend in the middle of November?

FSU is not going to be playing in cold weather very frequently. O’Neil and his charges did not perform well when they came for the 2018 friendly game Ireland 42,International 13 the Irish team with their second- string quarterback. Well, I don’t think it was a very successful performance for them actually, not in November of 1993.

It’s going to be cold and it will be colder at night which the game is scheduled in the evening. A lot of players on their roster are going to be personally cold and new to those conditions and to tell the team and the fans that cold won’t be an issue would be lying.

How they’ve recruited

The percentage of signing of high school recruits stands at 76 in the four mentioned cycles though the percentage of blue-chip recruits is slightly above 50%. For one they have promoted the use of the transfer portal as a means of getting new players, though impactful players have been got via this process. According to the transfer ranking, they have inked 18 blue-chips in the last two years.

The roster is a little in transition and they might give a very small step backward, especially if they are not getting what they want out of their quarterbacks and their receivers. Says who? Clemson, for one, is still the prohibitive favorite in the ACC and if a team doing that puts them in the CFP they should have been in last year.

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