Finally, 2020 has come and gone, thankfully. Hopefully for all of us 2021 will be a better year. We are still dealing with COVID-19 and it doesn’t look to be going anywhere, anytime soon. It currently has both FSU’s men’s and women’s basketball seasons in a holding pattern but with vaccines for the Coronavirus starting to be distributed there maybe a return to some sense of normalcy by this summer or next fall.
That got me thinking about the 2021 football season, which for all practical purposes Mike Norvell’s team begins preparation for on Wednesday as students at FSU return to classes (online for the first two weeks) for the start of the spring semester.
It also got me thinking about what I will be paying attention to and some of the storylines that may or may not develop as we begin a new calendar year and the Seminoles’ second year under Norvell. And hopefully by the time we get to March, and the start of spring practice, FSU will have found some way for the media to attend practice. Even if it is watching from the upper deck of Dick Howser Stadium, with only one writer per organization, so that we can offer you a more detailed and in-depth picture of what Norvell is attempting to build upon in his second trip around the sun in Tallahassee.
Here are 20 things I will be paying attention to, or have questions about, as FSU’s football program starts working off its 2021 calendar.
- Who will replace Director of High School Relations Carlos Locklyn after his departure to become an on-the-field coach at Western Kentucky. Normally this hire wouldn’t be at the top of this list but it is because of the unique situation programs are facing due to the NCAA recruiting dead period set to run through April 15 (and there’s no guarantee it will not be extended yet again). With the lack of true recruiting ties in the state of Florida, Norvell will have a chance to fill this slot with someone who does and it would seem prudent to move in that direction. He could hire a current high school coach in the state, a current Football Operations person from another program with ties to the state, a retired coach with strong ties to high school coaches in the state or by reassigning responsibilities within his existing staff. This hire isn’t as important as an on-the-field coach, and that pains me a little being a former Football operations guy, but I think the circumstances they are working under currently in recruiting make this a much bigger hire than it would be normally.
- Will there by any more staff changes between now and the start of spring practice? The silly season for turnover with assistant coaches in college football typically doesn’t end until after the traditional National Signing Day the NCAA observes on the first Wednesday in February. There may or may not be more programs looking for head coaches in the coming days due to turnover in the NFL, which could have ripple effects across college football.
- All FSU fans will be watching the progress of McKenzie Milton’s rehabilitation and return to full strength and speed. Sources familiar with the situation have told the Osceola they believe Milton is about 85-90 percent recovered from his injury with nine months to go to the start of the 2021 regular season. If completely healthy by August, I don’t think there is any doubt who the starting quarterback will be for FSU in its opener against Notre Dame.
- Assuming Milton is healthy and is the starter, how does Jordan Travis, FSU’s most-dynamic returning playmaker, factor in to Norvell’s game plan each week? Will he play multiple positions, slot receiver or running back, in addition to quarterback? A lineup that could include both Milton and Travis certainly gives Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham come creative license with the 2021 offense.
- The continued development of redshirt freshman quarterbacks Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker. If Milton is the unquestioned starter, can either of of these two players separate themselves as FSU’s quarterback for 2022 and beyond?
- Will a more-traditional spring practice and off-season strength and conditioning program mean the 2021 team will report to fall camp in better shape and be mentally and physically tougher than this past season’s team, especially early in the season?
- Will FSU, currently set to return just seven offensive linemen with any real playing experience from last season, go after one or more offensive tackle prospect in the transfer portal between now and the start of summer school?
- The continued development of the offensive line. Will two or three of the young offensive tackles, Robert Scott, Darius Washington, Lloyd Willis, Rod Orr, Jalen Goss or Chaz Neal assert themselves between now and fall camp, which would allow Devontay Love-Taylor the opportunity to move to guard in 2021. The transfer portal could impact who ends up where in the fall.
- I have the same question at linebacker. Will FSU sign a middle linebacker in the transfer portal? Stephen Dix Jr. saw the bulk of the snaps there this past season but the team and Dix could benefit from bringing in a veteran at this position.
- Will Kalen DeLoach, Jaleel McRae or DJ Lundy develop into solid players at either of the three linebacker spots?
- Will Kansas transfer Andrew Parchment give FSU a true “go-to” playmaker at wide receiver and allow Norvell and Dillingham more chances to attack defenses vertically?
- What does a healthy Jordan Wilson do for the tight end/H-back position and the offense as a whole? Is he versatile enough to be a threat as a receiver in the passing game and as a lead blocker in the power run game?
- The competition to see who will make up the starters in the secondary, which will feature at least five new faces in the fall. The group includes Arkansas transfer Jarques McClellion and may include South Carolina transfer Jammie Robinson who is rumored to have interest in transferring to FSU.
- Will Georgia transfer defensive end Jermaine Johnson give FSU the edge rusher it has been looking for to get to the quarterback?
- What position changes may take place between now and the start of fall camp and the season opener?
- How many scholarship tight ends will FSU have on its roster in the fall? The Seminoles currently have seven scholarship tight ends on the roster and that doesn’t include walk-on Preston Daniel, who played significant reps as a true freshman in 2020.
- Will there be more players entering the portal after the conclusion of spring practice in April?
- Will the FSU coaches be able to finally hit the road recruiting on April 16? If so, it will have been more than a calendar year since a coach has seen a prospect in-person and on a high school campus.
- Will fans be allowed back into Doak Campbell Stadium at 100 percent capacity in the fall? And what do in-game attendance figures look like at FSU and across college football once the “new” wears off returning to games by the mid-way point of the 2021 season?
- How much does FSU improve in its attempt to climb back to the upper tier of the ACC during the 2021 season?
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