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Noles News: FSU freshmen continuing to make major impact in 2023

FSU women’s basketball set to take on Tennessee in top 25 showdown tonight

NCAA Football: Florida State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Recruiting

The guest list for Florida State vs. Miami continues to grow:

Class of 2024 commitments

QUARTERBACK: 4 star Luke Kromenhoek (GA)

RUNNING BACK: 4 star Kam Davis (GA)

RUNNING BACK: 4 star Micahi Danzy (FL)

WIDE RECEIVER: 4 star Camdon Frier (FL)

WIDE RECEIVER: 4 star Lawayne McCoy (FL)

WIDE RECEIVER: 4 star BJ Gibson (GA)

WIDE RECEIVER: 4 star Elijah Moore (MD)

TIGHT END: 5 star Landen Thomas (GA)

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: 4 star Jonathan Daniels (FL)

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: 3 star Tye Hylton (FL)

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: 4 star Manasse Itete (CA)

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: 3 star Jayden Todd (GA)

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: 5 star Armondo Blount

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: 4 star DD Holmes (DC)

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: 3 star Jamorie Flagg (FL)

LINEBACKER: 3 star Jayden Parrish (FL)

LINEBACKER: 3 star Timir Hickman-Collins (SC)

DEFENSIVE BACK: 5 star KJ Bolden (GA)

DEFENSIVE BACK: 5 star Charles Lester III (FL)

DEFENSIVE BACK: 4 star Ricky Knight III (FL)

DEFENSIVE BACK: 3 star CJ Heard (GA)

KICKER: 3 star Jake Weinberg (FL)

Football

Florida State approached its situation Wednesday practice with a little extra oomph this week, aware of both the increasing need to find a groove ahead as the playoff race amps up and which team is headed up to Tallahassee this weekend:

Rivalry games are won on the margins, decided by who can make the plays when they have to and excel when they need to.

With this in mind, Wednesday took over a different meaning.

Mike Norvell and his men took the practice field to finalize their preparations for Miami and gain a leg up in situational football. The Hurricanes, to say the least, are not stellar in this facet. In their last four games, the Hurricanes have turned the ball over multiple times, went 21/57 on third down, good for 37%, and rank 70th in red zone offense.

Florida State has a statistical advantage here, but after last Saturday, where the offense went 3/14 on third down, Wednesday came at a crucial time. Jordan Travis led his team past multiple procedure penalties to kick a 48-yard field goal as the 48-second time clock hit 0. The defense fought back during third-down work, and both groups produced big plays during red zone work, as the results ended evenly on the day.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly broke down 25 players, teams, and games that will define 2023 College Football Playoff race — here are the Florida State-specific bits:

The units that could ruin everything:

Florida’s run game: Florida, the last regular-season opponent for playoff hopeful Florida State, obviously hasn’t been great in 2023. The Gators are 5-4 and will be underdogs in each of their final three regular-season games.

They are still a unique out, however. The Gators’ lines are huge, and the duo of Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne has combined for 1,084 rushing yards at 5.6 per carry. They might be able to take advantage of what has easily been FSU’s biggest weakness to date. The Seminoles rank only 88th in rushing success rate and 56th in rushing success rate allowed. FSU will definitely win the passing game, but Florida could win the ground attack in this one. That makes an upset at least a slight possibility.

Miami’s pass rush: Miami plays both of the ACC’s playoff hopefuls (FSU and Louisville) in the next two weeks. The Hurricanes have been inconsistent and unpredictable of late, losing three of their past five, but have been continuously disruptive up front. They rank 13th in sacks per dropback (8.6%) and 23rd in stuff rate — run stops at or behind the line (22.3%).

They can force you into second- or third-and-longs, and while they’ve been a little spotty when it comes to stopping third-and-longs, you still don’t want to be there. FSU’s Jordan Travis has been excellent on passing downs, but this could be an issue for Jack Plummer and the Louisville attack: The Cardinals are only 54th in passing downs success rate.

Biggest games

ACC Championship: After a number of teams saw promising seasons veer off course a bit — North Carolina, Miami, Duke — the race for the ACC championship obviously has a front-runner and a No. 2 favorite. SP+ gives FSU (7-0 in conference play) a 67% chance of winning the title, while Louisville (5-1) is at 30%, and seven other teams are between 0.1% and 0.9%. It’s not too late for someone else to barge in the door ... but it’s almost too late.

Difference makers

Trey Benson: Travis is a known entity at quarterback. He’s sixth in Total QBR, and in Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman (when healthy), he has maybe the best receiver duo in college football. But the Seminoles’ run game is an anchor around his neck at the moment.

That’s not to say the run game is bad. Benson and backup Lawrance Toafili are averaging 6.6 yards per carry, after all. But the Noles are just 88th in rushing success rate, and it’s knocking them behind schedule pretty frequently. Travis and the passing game usually bail them out, but it leaves them vulnerable to droughts. You don’t win the national title with droughts. Benson is explosive, but a few more 5-yard gains in place of 2-yard gains would go a long way.

One thing is for certain — when it comes to the race for the College Football Playoff race, Florida State controls its destiny, as affirmed by the latest rankings:

Prior to the rankings coming out, the doomsayers were out in full force on FSU social media with various scenarios being cooked up that would have the Seminoles being left out in favor of an 11-1 Ohio State, Michigan, or a 12-1 SEC Champion Alabama.

As last night’s poll reinforced, the Seminoles won’t be left out of the playoffs if they go undefeated and win the ACC. No undefeated Power 5 conference champion has been left out in the history of the playoffs.

Jon Loesche took a look at some of the other scenarios and why they wouldn’t keep FSU out of the playoffs.

How did FSU’s offensive line perform against Pitt? As he does each week, Tim Alumbaugh offered insight into the advanced analytics from the trenches alongside Tomahawk Nation ol’ friend ricobert11:

Florida State true freshmen continue to make an impact week in and week out — perhaps none moreso than defensive back Conrad Hussey, who last week against Pitt earned his first career interception and forced a fumble:

Soccer

Basketball

No. 18 Florida State women’s basketball, after kicking off the season with a 99-63 win over Charleston Southern, will take on No. 11 Tennessee tonight at 6 p.m. (ESPN2) in a major non-conference home matchup:

Thursday night's battle between No. 11 Tennessee (1-0) and No. 18 Florida State (1-0) marks the 25th AP Top 20 matchup at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

It's the first since the eighth-ranked Seminoles hosted 19th-ranked Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 5, 2019.

The matchup features two historic programs whom have maintained elite consistency over the last decade. Florida State and Tennessee join Baylor, Louisville, Maryland, South Carolina, Stanford and UConn as the eight schools that have made each of the last 10 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournaments (since the 2013 tournament).

The coaching matchup includes two head coaches who represent their alma maters. FSU head coach Brooke Wyckoff was an All-America forward for the Seminoles from 1997-01. Kellie Harper was one of the top assist makers in Tennessee history from 1995-99.

The Seminoles are going for their 33rd AP Top 15 victory in program history. In her short head coaching career, Wyckoff has already racked up three AP Top 15 wins, which includes a victory over No. 3 Louisville (68-59) on Feb. 21, 2021, a win last season vs. No. 13 North Carolina on the road (78-71) and a win over No. 11 NC State last year as well at home (91-72).

FSU men’s basketball will take on Kennesaw State this Friday in its season opener — ahead of the matchup, FSU Sports Info released this breakdown on Seminoles’ sharpshooter Darin Green Jr.:

With 114 games and a transfer from UCF to Florida State behind him, Green enters the 2023-24 season with 299 career 3-point shots made. He averages nearly 75 3-point shots made per season during his four-year career and made a single-season career-high 91 shots from the bonusphere in his first season as a Seminole in 2023.

Green will look to hit the 300 made mark for career 3-point shots as Florida State opens its regular season against Kennesaw State on Friday, November 10, at 6:00 p.m. The Seminoles’ game against the Owls marks the second between the two teams and the Seminoles’ first season-opener against a team from the state of Georgia since defeating Savannah State, 79-46, on November 24, 2002. Florida State is 4-1 in season openers against teams from the state of Georgia.

AJ Swinton is officially the first member of FSU men’s hoops 2024 signing class, dotting the I on his NLI on Wednesday:

The Cabin John, Md., native who attends Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va., is ranked as one of the top two-way players in this years’ recruiting class.

“I am extremely thankful and blessed for the opportunity to play college basketball at Florida State University and for a Hall of Fame Coach in Coach Hamilton,” said Swinton. “Coach Hamilton and his staff have a great plan for me and appreciate what I bring to a team. From day one of the recruiting process, Coach Hamilton has told me ‘You can shoot, you can dribble and do all of the important things that do not make it into a stat sheet.’

“I’m excited to be coached by someone who recognized me as a unique creation and who has a track record of developing players like me. Coach Hamilton has proven he can do that, and I trust him. The Florida State community was wonderful during my recruiting and official visit.

Swinton is proficient at scoring from all three levels, which has made himself into an attacking defender. His ability to switch and defend all five positions on the court has made him an attractive player to all high-major programs to his entire prep career. He has become a standout player because of desire a to excel on defense and his unselfish play on offense.

He can both defend and play offense well, is versatile, and loves to create his teammates and makes plays all over the basketball court. Swinton is known as a confident shot maker who is tough to guard at every position because of his size and athletic ability.

Baseball

Randy Burdette, a former Nike and Fanatics Senior Vice President with 25 years of experience in athletics, was named Florida State baseball’s first Director of Program Development on Wednesday by head coach Link Jarrett:

Burdette comes to Florida State after a 25-year career in the sporting goods industry, working with Adidas, VF LSG, Nike and most recently Fanatics. Burdette was the Senior Vice President and General Manager of League and Nike Partnerships with Fanatics and led historic Nike revenue in both NFL and MLB licensed products.

At Nike, Burdette was Vice President and General Manager of North America Field Sports after serving as VP and GM of Licensed Sports for the company. Among Burdette’s accomplishments at Nike, he authored the Nike Licensed Sports Strategy and was the liaison to senior executives at the NFL, MLB and pinnacle collegiate partners, including Florida State.

With Florida State, Burdette will be tasked with directing alumni relations, program innovation, enhancing the game day experience at Dick Howser Stadium, serve as the MLB liaison, assist with on-campus recruiting and scouting and prepare student-athletes for career and life skills.

Softball

Florida State softball announced the singing of four new Seminoles on Wednesday — Addie DeLong, Jasmine Francik, Shelby McKenzie and Isabella Ruggiero:

“We are very excited as a staff to add the players and families of Tribe ‘24. They are an all-in group that has already shown their commitment to being the best for this program. Jasmine in the circle will be an instant contributor, Addie will add speed and depth to the team and Bella and Shelby bring power to the lineup. We are very grateful for those that want to be a Seminole, and we know Tallahassee is a special place that will welcome these four with open arms,” Coach Alameda said.

Addie DeLong | INF | Mechanicsburg, Ohio | Mechanicsburg High SchoolDeLong is a back-to-back league champion and district champion from 2021 and 2022. She also earned several honors in three straight seasons, named the OHC Player of the Year, First Team All-Conference, First Team All-District, First Team All-Ohio all from 2021-2023, and also earning 2023 District Player of the Year. In travel ball she won championships at the IDT Softball Tournament and Easton-Rawlings Invitational while finishing runner-up at the PGF Nationals. In addition to softball, she played high school basketball with two straight OHC league championships in 2022 and 2023 and was named First Team All-Conference in those same seasons while this past season saw her earn Second Team All-District and All-Ohio Special Mention. Like most Seminoles, DeLong brings a well-rounded background that will add to the Seminole family atmosphere. DeLong was a member of the National Honor Society and Vice President in her class with a 4.0 GPA and high honor roll. Addie showed sheep competitively and held the reserve grand champion natural lamb at the Ohio State Fair and plans to major in Health Sciences.

Jasmine Francik | P | Rockledge, Fla. | Melbourne High SchoolFrancik was part of the 2022 Class 6A State Championship team and earned a mantle full of honors including the 2022 Gatorade Player of the Year, 2022 Florida Dairy Farmers Miss Softball, 2022 & 2023 MaxPreps First Team All-American, 2022 MaxPreps National Sophomore of the Year, and three-time Florida Today Softball Player of the Year. In her junior season, she threw eight no-hitters which led all of Florida and finished second in the nation with strikeouts at 411. Francik bleeds Garnet and Gold on the field but is very creative off the field as well. Francik was an Honor AP Scholar, a National Honor Society member, and finished first in Florida Future Problem-Solving Scenario Performance.

Shelby McKenzie | INF | Pace, Fla. | Pace High SchoolMcKenzie was named the 2022 & 2023 PNJ Hitter of the Year and was MaxPreps ninth-ranked player in the nation while also being part of the FHSAA 6A All-State Team and a PGF All-American. She was named to the FHSAA All-Academic Team and holds a 4.3 GPA. Shelby comes from a long line of Division 1 talent. Her mother, Amy McKenzie, was a softball player at Alabama, her brother, Jackson McKenzie, currently plays baseball at Mississippi State, her uncles, Andy and Matt Bernard, also played collegiate baseball at Alabama, and her grandfather, Terry Bernard, was a baseball player at Miami.

Isabella Ruggiero | C | West Palm Beach, Fla. | Oxbridge Academy of the Palm BeachesRuggiero was named to the 3A All-State First Team her freshman season before going on to be part of the SunSentinel All-County First Team throughout her high school career while also earning two USA Today HSSA Player of the Year nominations. She was also named to the 2023 Colorado Sparkler/Firework 18U All-Tournament Team and selected to the 2024 Alliance All-Star Watchlist. Off the field, Ruggiero brings a bright personality as well as some great academic success. She was a member of the National Honor Society and the Science National Honor Society member and qualified for magna cum laude honors.

All Sports

FSU women’s golf added four new players to its roster on Wednesday as well — Sophia Fullbrook, Alexandra Gazzoli, Freya Russell, and Christiana Surcey:

Fullbrook (Hertfordshire, England) is currently a student at the St. Albans Girls School. She is a member of England’s National Team and represented her home country in the Home Internationals and the R&A Girls Amateur Championships in 2023 and the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship in 2022. She is currently ranked No. 39 in the European Golf Rankings. Fullbrook won the championships of the Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Golf Tournament and the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship in 2022.

Gazzoli (Palm Coast, Fla.) completed high school through the Florida Virtual School while playing golf at Matanzas High School. As a freshman in 2020, she finished in a tie for third in the individual standings of the 2A State Championship and led her team to their third consecutive district championship. During her career, Gazzoli won the individual state championship in 2022, finished second in 2021 and third in 2020. She won the 2023 Florida State Women’s Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

Surcey (Cartersville, Ga.), who plays at New Cass High School, won the championship of the Girls Division of the Golfweek International Junior Invitational in 2023. She won that championship in a playoff with scores of 66-70 for a 136 total. Surcey finished in 23rd place at the AJGA Atlanta Classic presented by UHY in 2023 and won individual championships at the 2023 Kiva Dunes Junior Classic, the Jason Bohn Junior Classic and the Southeastern Junior championship events sponsored by the Southeastern Junior Golf Tour.

Russell (Troon, Scotland) studies at Marr College High School and has a great deal of international success on her resume. She has represented Scotland as a member of the U16 National Team, the Ayrshire Ladies, the West Scotland Girls, and the Ayrshire Girls. In 2023, she earned victories at the SGF Fairmont Girls Open, the Junior Tour at Gourock, and the SGF Dundonald Invitational and at the SGF Fairmont Girls Open.