Opponent Analysis: Florida State Seminoles — 2021 Syracuse Football preview

Dontae Strickland
Dontae Strickland rushes downfield against Florida State. Mandatory Photo Credit: Initra Marilyn, The Juice Online.

As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team opponent preview each week over the summer. This week, we’re previewing Syracuse’s matchup with Florida State on Oct. 2 with three major storylines.

BATTLE FOR STARTING QB

Much like Syracuse, Florida State enters the summer with a battle for the starting quarterback spot. Incumbent starter and former Louisville transfer QB Jordan Travis was inconsistent as a passer, completing just 55.0 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and six interceptions, but he proved to be a slippery dual-threat, rushing for 559 yards and seven scores.

He’s going head-towhead with transfer quarterback McKenzie Milton, one of the most prolific passers in UCF history and a former AAC Offensive Player of the Year.

Milton has nearly 10,000 passing yards and 90+ touchdowns to his name, but suffered a season-ending injury in 2018, and hasn’t taken a snap since then. But it’s hard to argue with his legacy of having led the Knights to consecutive perfect seasons.

Also in the mix are Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker, who each took snaps as true freshman in 2020.

OTHER TRANSFERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

While Milton made the most headlines, Florida State added several other talented transfers as well.

After rushing for 400 yards and two touchdowns in his freshman season, DJ Williams played a lesser role at Auburn in 2020, and rushed for just 199 and three scores. He makes up for the loss of La’Damian Webb who entered the transfer portal, and joins a talented backfield that also features Lawrance Toafili (356 yards) and Jashaun Corbin (401 yards).

Kansas wide receiver transfer Andrew Parchment led the Jayhawks with 829 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and will help with depth with Tamorrion Terry now with the Seattle Seahawks.

On defense, FSU plucked a variety of players from other high-major programs, including DLs Keir Thomas (South Carolina) and Jermaine Johnson (Georgia), and DBs Jammie Robinson (South Carolina), Jarques McClellion (Arkansas) and Brandon Moore (UCF transfer).

» Related: Previewing Syracuse’s quarterbacks for the 2021 season

YEAR TWO OF THE NORVELL ERA

Florida State finished their straight straight losing season in 2020 under first-year head coach Mike Norvell, but don’t expect the streak to last for long. He brought in a top 25 recruiting class in the last cycle, and gets a full set of spring practices to implement his system.

He’s got plenty of intriguing talent, as well. Toafili and Ja’Khi Douglas should emerge as elite playmakers this season, and Milton and Travis fit well into the RPO schemes.

The defense got little pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season (ranked 119th in the country in sacks), but with much of that underperforming group now gone and the addition of Johnson (four sacks), the Seminoles are trending upward.

Though FSU starts with a tough matchup against Notre Dame, they’ll have a chance to build momentum, with FCS opponent Jacksonville State and three ACC teams with losing records in 2020 (Wake Forest, Louisville and Syracuse) after that. At the very least, Florida State should be aiming toward returning to a bowl game in 2021.

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About Wes Cheng 2662 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.