Increased competition has been the storyline throughout Florida State’s spring. And coach Mike Norvell sees it in the quarterbacks — but he sees a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback in Jordan Travis.
When asked directly if Tate Rodemaker had developed to a point where he was challenging Travis for the starting spot, Norvell didn’t hesitate.
“Jordan is our starting quarterback,” Norvell said on Saturday afternoon, just after FSU’s second, closed scrimmage of the spring. “Jordan has done a phenomenal job. You better have competition at every position. Does that push guys? Yes, you need to be pushed. Everybody does. One thing I love about Jordan: It’s not for push of another person, it’s the push that he has for himself. And it is exciting to see in the way they’re competing.”
One of the obvious points is Travis now has thrown 350 passes across his four college seasons, with 336 at FSU since arriving in 2019. He has seen significant playing time, and his progress is evident in a higher completion percentage in 2021 (62.9 vs. 55 percent in 2020). Tate Rodemaker has had limited opportunities in games and thrown just 31 passes, while Duffy enrolled early.
Norvell has found various ways to praise the quarterbacks this spring and did so again on Saturday. While admitting that Travis “had some plays today that weren’t his best,” Norvell also cited the redshirt junior’s development as a starter from where he was last fall. “He is in a much better place than he was at any point last year just in skill set and understanding offense,” Norvell said.
Rodemaker has made progress and at times strings plays together. But he has struggled to do it consistently and has tossed too many interceptions in practices instead of seeking another receiving option or throwing the ball away.
FSU is now through 10 practices, with four more ahead in a busy final week that leads up to the spring game on April 9 at 5 p.m. There will also be a final, 15th practice on the following Tuesday, April 12.
Offensive coördinator Alex Atkins feels Rodemaker is more confident as he has had more time in practice.
“Jordan is a little bit different because he’s the guy, but the other guys, as they make plays, and guys see them lighting it up and they build more confidence,” Atkins said. “Tate is giving his receivers some chances, o-linemen are going to be like, ‘Ok, now we’ve got that in so we’ve got to block more.’ When we talk about that, we talk about guys who make other guys overachieve. That’s a trait that is built. It’s building in the young guys just like it was built with Jordan. He didn’t walk in that way. It comes with relationships on and off the field. So as those guys continue to progress and guys see that, of course that’s going to happen for them. I’m looking forward to them going through that journey to be able to get those guys to look at them like that.”
Norvell sees Rodemaker and AJ Duffy pushing themselves to be prepared for expanded roles.
“The thing that Tate and AJ are showing is that they are competing to be ready when their number’s called, whatever that might, whenever that might look like,” Norvell said.
Takeaways in the scrimmage
In every practice this spring, it seems like defensive backs have forced takeaways. On Thursday, it was Sam McCall with a few and a couple days earlier it was Azareye’h Thomas. In Saturday’s scrimmage, it was Akeem Dent with an interception and a forced fumble.
“He had two big picks today and that’s what a safety does, he overlaps things,” defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said. “I know on the last one Jordan saw a 1-on-1 and offenses take advantage of 1-on-1s that they think they have advantages of. Post safeties overlap things and go and make plays. That was a tremendous play. Good to see. And then we had another takeaway down there with a forced fumble, and I think Derrick McLendon picked it up.
“I do think Akeem is feeling comfortable. Akeem is somebody that needs to be put in a position and once you tell him what to do, he’s very good at doing it. And I think he’s getting the reps, those things are filling up for him and he stockpiling those reps at that spot and I think it’s making a difference for him.”
Defense building continuity
FSU’s first-team defense is often loaded with veterans as well as transfers like Jared Verse and Tatum Bethune. The group is building continuity and the results are apparent.
“I thought they played well together,” Fuller said. “We’re starting to play off of each other, the communication is starting to be better. They’re playing more as a defense and not as individual good players. I don’t think we had a problem with that but we’ve seen growth from that. And so it was a good, solid day. Listen, the quarterbacks have a green jersey, so there’s a lot of whistles saying, ‘We got them.’ Nobody really knows. But I think our execution is pretty good. We had a couple times where we weren’t totally on the same page, but people were able to play off each other and make it right. So overall I think they’re doing what we want them to do and they’re doing it with a lot of energy. So that’s important to me.”