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Spring game preview: What we’ll be looking for Saturday

After going 3-6 in 2020 there were plenty of questions for head coach Mike Norvell and his FSU football team heading into this years spring practice period. On Saturday Seminole fans will get their first chance to see what strides the football program has made since last season and through the first 14 days of spring practice. Here are just a few of the things that the Osceola staff will be paying close attention to on Saturday night.

What we will be watching: FSU’s offense

Who will be QB1 coming out of spring practice?

Jordan Travis, McKenzie Milton and Tate Rodemaker have all gotten a ton of reps with both the first- and second-team offenses this spring but none of the three have clearly stood out against the others. Travis and Milton have spent the most time with the first-team this spring and it looks to be a two-man race heading into the summer but can one of the two separate themselves in a game-like setting?

Has FSU’s ability to protect the passer improved since last season?

FSU’s struggles to protect the passer have been much publicized over recent seasons including in 2020, where the Seminoles gave up the fourth-most sacks in all of college football for teams that played nine or fewer games. They struggled to protect the passer in both of the team’s first two scrimmages this spring. How much have they improved in this area over the course of the spring?

Who will step up at WR outside of Ontaria Wilson, who seems to be the only established starter from what we’ve seen?

Going into the spring, it was necessary for FSU to see a younger receiver emerge. Look beyond the drops, and there have been many in the open portions of practice the media has watched, and it is clear Kentron Poitier has taken a step forward in the last month. Poitier has the frame (6-foot-3, 208 pounds) and a year of experience, although limited, with four catches for 39 yards in 2020. Coaches like to say receivers “flash,” which means they make a great catch. Poitier has done that. But then coaches use the word “consistent” and it raises the question: Is Poitier consistent enough? Not yet. But he has shown he should be in the mix for playing time this fall. If you’re looking for positives in a position group that is seeking development from true freshmen or redshirt freshmen, Poitier’s spring is a source of optimism.

What we will be watching: FSU’s defense

Will the addition of Jammie Robinson and Brandon Moore to the Seminoles secondary help improve FSU’s pass defense?

FSU’s defense quite frankly hasn’t been very good over recent seasons against the run or the pass. Norvell and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller used the transfer portal to try and strengthen a secondary that finished 98th in pass defense in 2020. The secondary has some potential young stars in CB Jarvis Brownlee and S Travis Jay but how much will proven players like Moore, who made a reputation for himself as a lockdown corner at UCF. And Robinson, who lined up as a slot corner or nickel corner at South Carolina, could help improve the FSU defense’s ability to limit their opponents’ success in the passing game in 2021? The secondary returns most of the personnel for last years squad which secondary coach Marcus Woodson said was among the most talented groups he had ever been around. Will this unit live up to that potential this upcoming season?

Could this year’s defensive front be a position of strength after failing to live up to expectation in 2020?

A major factor to the defense’s problems in the secondary, has been the the lack of a pass rush. The Seminoles will get some help from Jermaine Johnson, a 6-4, 260-pound rush end. who transferred from Georgia. He’s been encouraging to watch against both the pass and the run. The ‘Noles also found Keir Thomas (6-2, 275), who transferred from South Carolina. Derrick McClendon is now the starter. The next best pass rusher comes from inside. Fabien Lovett (6-4, 315) transferred from Mississippi State in 2019. His presence has been noticeable this spring.

The defensive front can look lighter, with Dennis Briggs (6-4, 279), and heavier with Robert Cooper (6-2, 335). One would expect those two and Lovett to play situationally this fall. The coaches will use the spring game to see where these three are most effective as well as to find some quality depth.

Does FSU have a dominant linebacker?

It’s been years since FSU has enjoyed the presence of a dominating linebacker and the Seminoles are still looking. Emmett Rice was a promising possibility before he went down and will be out an “extended time,” Norvell said. Amari Gainer, Stephen Dix Jr. and D.J. Lundy are the next men up. The coaches have worked the versatile Gainer in the middle as well as edge rusher. Dix and Lundy have enjoyed a lot of reps in the middle with the No. 1 and No. 2 defense. Hopefully, the spring game will help us see their development and whether one or another is ready to emerge in this vital defensive role.

Osceola publisher Jerry Kutz and writer Bob Ferrante contributed