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Takeaway Tuesday: Camp rewind, depth chart, 2021 season

If you subscribed to the Osceola last football season you may be familiar with our Takeaway Tuesday column. The premise is pretty simple: During the course of each week of the season (and in this case fall camp) we see things that help us formulate opinions all the while knowing what we see, learn and think may totally change our thoughts and beliefs from one game to the next given the fact that at least, in some part, each college football weekend is a season unto itself. With that in mind, here are some of my (and Jerry and Bob’s) takeaways coming out of fall camp and heading into season opener against Notre Dame, knowing that our opinions or thoughts will be influenced moving into week two by what we see on Sunday night.

  1. This will be repetitive if you read the Osceola or listened to the Osceola’s Seminole Sidelines Podcast regularly last fall or this spring. The 2021 version of FSU football will be better than the 2020 version. The fact that Mike Norvell’s second Seminole football team has enjoyed (well, maybe not all of it) the benefit of a full winter offseason program, spring practice, summer conditioning program and normal fall camp all should help in the development of its young roster on the field and further their understanding of what they are trying to get accomplished schematically on offense, defense and special teams. The bonds between the players themselves and between the coaches and players should be stronger. The traditional offseason brings players closer as they push and support each other through those hard offseason workouts and build trust in each other and respect for each other. Chemistry is important on a football team and wanting to play well for your teammates means something. It can ultimately help overcome adversity, especially on Saturdays, or in the case of this week, Sunday. How many wins and losses that adds up to remains to be seen but I think this program is headed in the right direction and that will be evidenced this season in some form or fashion.
  2. We thought FSU might utilize two quarterbacks this season and that looks to be the case with Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton both listed as co-starters. Who gets the start is likely irrelevant, although it may be important to one or both of them, but I think both will play in crucial situations throughout the season. And based off what we have seen they both deserve to play. Travis and Milton have both looked really sharp at times in fall camp. Travis seems more confident and Milton looks more comfortable. All the quarterbacks looked better in fall camp than they did this past spring, Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker included. What we do know is that Travis and Milton are warriors on the field and have the respect of their teammates. Having two playmakers as signal callers who have been difference makers over the course of their careers can’t be anything but a good thing.
  3. Treshaun Ward has a chance to make a significant difference in the backfield this season. He was a standout in the spring and that continued in fall camp. It will likely be running back by committee for FSU this season but his skill set should complement the other backs very well.
  4. I haven’t seen as much of Andrew Parchment as Jerry and Bob have but he certainly seemed more comfortable with the offense from the first to last time I saw him practice. He has a great burst off the line of scrimmage, is long and gets to full speed very quickly. If he can learn the nuances of the offense I think he can be someone that can take the top off the defense, which will benefit the intermediate and quick passing game, not to mention help the run game. Keyshawn Helton has looked very strong in camp as well. It will be interesting to see who will step up out of a young group of receivers that includes Kentron Poitier, Josh Burrell, Malik McClain, Darion Williamson and others.
  5. There are still questioned to be answered about FSU’s ability to protect the passer but the addition of Notre Dame transfer Dillan Gibbons and the return of Devontay Love-Taylor should help fortify a unit that gave up too many sacks in the spring. The depth up front isn’t quite where the staff wants yet but it is deeper than it was a year ago. Baveon Johnson, Brady Scott and Dontae Lucas are all listed as backups on the depth chart but their experiences as starters in 2019 and 2020 should bolster a unit that was very thin last season.
  6. We have also said this before and I think it will prove itself out this season: FSU was forced to play a lot of true freshmen and redshirt freshmen in 2020. That may have not been ideal for the players individually or the staff collectively but the short-term pain of that experience in 2020 could help pay dividends this season and beyond.
  7. FSU will be better up front on defense that it was a year ago. Think about that — as of the time of this writing, three starters from last year’s front four are currently on NFL rosters. Fabien Lovett and Dennis Briggs could be poised for breakout seasons. Lovett had a great spring and solid fall camp. I have been talking about Briggs since he was a true freshman and think Jerry and Bob now both agree that he could be a difference maker for the team. It looks like FSU hit home runs in landing defensive end transfers Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas. We didn’t get a chance to see Thomas in the spring but he looks to have the ability and want-to to be a very productive player for FSU. If this unit can develop some depth as the season moves forward it could be the position of strength we thought the front four would be last season.
  8. The secondary will be much better than it was a year ago. Cornerbacks Jarvis Brownlee and Travis Jay are both young but very talented players. Jarrian Jones is listed as a co-starter with Jay, and Meiko Dotson (who will back up Brownlee) led the NCAA in interceptions two season ago. Brownlee and Jay should only get better with experience. South Carolina transfer Jammie Robinson was impressive at the nickel-safety or nickel-sam spot in the spring and has been a highly productive player during his career. Brendan Gant has played a lot of football for FSU and will start at BUCK or strong safety, but they will need to develop some depth behind him on the run. Sidney Williams showed flashes of potential after being thrown into the fire late last season, and Shyheim Brown has been very impressive for a true freshman.
  9. The atmosphere in Doak Campbell Stadium on Sunday night will be electric. It will have been almost 22 months since the last time FSU played in front of a capacity or near capacity crowd and it is a night game on top of that. I can’t imagine how geeked up Mike Norvell and the rest of his staff that haven’t coached in Doak Campbell in front of a full stadium, at night, against a highly-ranked opponent, will be when Chief Osceola and Renegade make their way onto the field and then to the 50-yard line. If FSU can get off to a fast start, the home field advantage could come into play late in the game. There are a lot of great game day atmospheres and I have been lucky to experience some of them as the son of a coach and in my own career in football operations but very few compare to Doak at night.
  10. Notre Dame is a very solid football team. If you watch their spring game, in which they sat out several of their top-end players, you can’t help but be impressed. They looked like a talented, veteran football team comfortable with what they are being asked to do. Brian Kelly has the Irish rolling. They have won 10 or more games the last four seasons. The last time Notre Dame had three consecutive 10-win seasons, Lou Holtz was the head coach and I was a student at Florida State. Kelly has also led the Irish to ten-plus win seasons in five of the last six years. Again the last Irish head coach to do that was Lou Holtz. That being said the shelve life of any one team is exactly 365 days and the Irish are replacing nine starters on offense including quarterback Ian Book (the winningest quarterback in Notre Dame history) and four of the their five starting offensive line from a year ago. They are also replacing several standout players from last year’s defense. The Irish also have a new defensive coordinator, Marcus Freeman, but Norvell matched wits with Freeman who led Cincinnati’s defense from 2017-2020, one of Memphis’ AAC conference foes. They say timing is everything and if the Irish are as good as the experts think then FSU catching them in the season opener is better than playing them in the latter part of the year.
  11. Sunday night will be special for my family but particularly for my father, Wally, who coached for nine seasons at FSU (1985-1993), and for my brother, Shane, who was added to the Seminoles’ staff as defensive analyst two weeks. As a family we take pride in our football heritage. Shane and I followed our father into the profession either as a coach (Shane) or in football operations (me). Luckily we have both had a chance to work with our father, Shane at Iowa State, and me at USF. But I know in the back of each our minds we wondered if that path would lead us back to Tallahassee. A big part of the reason we both went into the profession is because of what we experienced while our father coached at FSU. It was truly the most unique experience from that part of our lives and the place we lived the longest as kids and young adults. Shane’s heroes were the very same guys my dad coached at FSU: Paul McGowan, David Palmer, Marvin Jones, Derrick Brooks, Kirk Carruthers, Todd Stroud, Odell Haggins, Bill Ragans and the list goes on and on. To see his football life bring him back to Tallahassee is pretty cool. I am not sure who will be more fired up, my father or my brother, although its likely to be my sister Allison and my niece Lexi (our family’s football savant). I have a picture in my house with all three us, my father, Shane and I together after winning the 1993 national championship game, my father’s last game at FSU. I think we are going to have to recreate that picture after the game Sunday night, my brother’s first with the program.
  12. Win or lose, there will be an overreaction to whatever the outcome of the game is on Sunday night. It is one of the truths of the first week of the season in college or pro football. This will be true in Tallahassee, South Bend, Clemson, Athens and various other college towns over the six days that is the first full week of the college football season. And we hope you will share your opinions with us on the Osceola message boards next Sunday night and into Monday.
  13. Well as I say every week in this column, I can’t wait to see what I think at this time next Tuesday and look forward to sharing those thoughts with you and look forward to reading yours as well. Even though we won’t always agree and I will be proved wrong at times (and sometimes I want to be) and that is fine with me. We are sharing thoughts on something we are passionate about and that always makes for great conversation. I am glad another football season is here and appreciative of Jerry and Bob have given me a chance to stay involved to some degree with I game I grew up with and spent over halfway my adult life working in or around. Here’s to a great 2021 football season.