Over the next few weeks, Tomahawk Nation is previewing Florida State football’s currently scheduled 2020 season. While questions still surround how exactly the football season will look when it’s played out, we’re proceeding with the status quo. Today, we’re tackling Florida State’s home opener against Samford, FSU’s sole non-FCS opponent.
In 2018, a week after the hype of an entire optimistic Florida State offseason was crushed under the weight of a devastating loss to Virginia Tech, Samford came to Tallahassee for what was supposed to be an easy win (and, hypothetically, a sentimental moment for former Bulldog quarterback Jimbo Fisher when the game was scheduled.)
Instead, the Seminoles snuck out a win against its FCS foe, not taking the lead until the final four minutes of the game.
Could a similar chance for a letdown exist this year in Tallahassee, given Florida State’s higher-profile opening day matchup? Or could this be a chance to fully unleash the Mike Norvell machine, and give players a chance to get some quality reps and build up some confidence?
Spoiler alert: It’ll likely be the second, but there still could be the chance for some excitement.
The main focus of the Bulldogs’ offense is senior quarterback Chris Oladokun, a dual-threat athlete who transferred into Samford from USF in 2019. He only played sparingly in Tampa (given that his years there coincided with both Quinton Flowers and Blake Barnett), but saw action in every game last season, putting up 2064 yards through the air and 642 on the ground for 26 total touchdowns.
While his elusiveness provides a challenge for Florida State’s defensive line, and while Samford doesn’t have any qualms about throwing the ball, the Seminoles’ secondary shouldn’t have too much to worry to worry about. Samford doesn’t return a single receiver who averaged more than 40 yards per game — though the Bulldogs do have a talents in senior reciever Montrell Washington (who also returns kicks) as well as sophomore receiver A.J. Toney, who as a freshman all-conference selection last year:
Leading rusher sophomore Jay Stanton (700 yards, seven touchdown) also returns, but he had five less carries than Oladokun in 2019.
Some other random tidbits you can log in the back of your mind when the game rolls around to impress people around you: Samford had a pretty good red zone percentage last year (80 percent), gave up a huge number of sacks (26) and was outscored 79-30 when it came to getting points off turnover.
On the defensive side, the two big names to know are senior linebacker John Staton, a first-team All-SOCON selection who led the team with 116 tackles, senior defensive lineman Armond Lloyd and senior defensive back Ty Herring.
Outside of those three names, Samford brings back some experience, but none too particularly intimidating. A big reason that Florida State struggled against the Bulldogs in 2018 was an inability to get the offense started: opponents had no trouble moving the ball on Samford last year, especially on the ground (235 yards a game). Samford also struggled to get pressure in the backfield, failing to log sacks in five of 12 games and only putting 14 up on the season (for comparison, the lowest FBS team registered 29.)
Final thoughts on the Bulldogs
Let’s get this part out of the way — if Samford is leading Florida State with four minutes left again, then it might be time to fully accept the transition to basketball school. That’s mainly due to the fact that 2020 Samford is a far ways away from the 2018 edition. The Bulldogs will still be getting used to new offensive and defensive coordinator, and while Oladokun has talent, and will definitely frustrate Florida State’s down lineman way more than they would like when taking on an FCS opponent, he doesn’t have the same supporting cast that Devlin Hodges once did.