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Who are the biggest X-factors for FSU in 2023?

Plenty of returning impact players from last year’s team, but also new playmakers who can take team to the top

Syndication: Tallahassee Democrat Ehsan Kassim/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida State Seminoles football will be heading into the 2023 season with high expectations.

After amassing 10 wins in 2022, the Seminoles bring back plenty of talent, returning a national-best 87% of production with stars such as quarterback Jordan Travis, defensive end Jared Verse, running back Trey Benson, and defensive tackle Fabien Lovett.

But aside from those who have already found their place in Tallahassee, they also have players on their roster looking to take the Seminoles from 10 wins to competing in championship games, ranging from new faces to athletes who have been working for a chance to contribute.

If they step up this season, this team can deliver on the expectations that have been building up.

Wide receiver Winston Wright

Returning to play after not participating in football for a year is a difficult task for any player. But Wright is now fully healthy and cleared for spring football.

This time last year, although the Seminoles brought a lot of talent in at receiver, there was still a question of whether a player on the roster could be a true number-one receiver and win matchups.

With Johnny Wilson’s breakout and Wright returning, they have two potential number-one options.

Having those playmakers will make this offense leaps and bounds better, as it will be increasingly challenging to key in on the run game and Jordan Travis.

Wright was the most accomplished and had the highest expectations among the receiving group that transferred to FSU last offseason; now, he’ll get to demonstrate why on the field.

Tight end Jaheim Bell

Bell is a unique player - although listed as a tight end, he recorded more snaps as a slot receiver and running back in 2022.

Snaps at running back were more out of necessity, as South Carolina lost most of their backfield due to injury. However, it worked, as he carried the ball 55 times for 202 yards over the last four games of the regular season.

The great thing about Bell is that you can put him all over the field based on individual matchups, your own injuries, or the game plan. Mixing him in with all the dynamic playmakers the ‘Noles already have will only make it more difficult for defenses to find answers against them.

He won’t have the same usage rate as a running back that he had over those four games, but given that he fits naturally as a receiver, in-line tight end, and running back, it allows Mike Norvell to get very creative with his personnel groupings.

Early in his FSU tenure, Norvell struggled to find playmakers; now, he has so many that he has to make sure to get all of them involved.

Cornerback Fentrell Cypress

This offseason, the Seminoles needed to address their coverage unit in order to take that leap from good to great. Losing their highest-graded defensive back in Jammie Robinson did not help, but bringing in Cypress is just what this team needed - a true shutdown corner and one of the best to come through Tallahassee in quite a few years.

Cypress hasn’t allowed a touchdown since September 2021 (vs. Wake Forest), and all of last season, he only had one game where he allowed more than 35 yards. He only allowed 18 catches on 350+ coverage snaps and one catch over 20 yards in 2022.

Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller leans on aggressive man coverage in his defenses, where corners can be put on an island. Cypress was brought in with that in mind, and adding his skill set can elevate this defense to a truly elite unit.

Defensive lineman Braden Fiske

The Seminoles went to the transfer portal to add two defensive interior playmakers in Fiske and Darrell Jackson.

While the team did have Robert Cooper and Fabien Lovett, both of them missed significant time last season, so adding to that group was a clear priority for the staff.

Fiske is expected to be limited through spring football, but once he is back, he will bring the interior pressure that Adam Fuller and the defensive staff have been looking for.

His 48 pressures last season would have led all Seminoles last season and is more than double the amount of any interior defensive lineman for the ‘Noles.

With Lovett returning and the addition of Fiske and Jackson, this team can turn what was one of their weaknesses in 2022 (mostly due to injury) into a strength of the defense in 2023.