clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winning the red zone can take FSU’s offense to the next level in 2023

Florida State’s offense took a leap in 2022 — but they’ll have to make another to become true contenders this season

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

Last season, the Florida State Seminoles emerged as one of the premier offenses in the country, finally getting a chance to showcase the offensive vision laid out by head coach Mike Norvell and offensive coordinator Alex Atkins.

Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis made a major leap, evolving from a solid college quarterback to a potential contender for the Heisman Trophy in 2023. FSU also received a much-needed boost from transfer portal additions, with running back Trey Benson and wide receiver Johnny Wilson strengthening the offensive arsenal.

In terms of scoring, the Seminoles experienced a significant improvement, averaging 35.2 points per game in 2022 compared to 28.5 points per game in 2021. This placed them 18th in the country, a significant climb from their previous rank of 57th. However, the coaching staff’s commitment extended beyond simply having a strong offense; their aim was to be the most elite in the nation.

Despite retaining 80% of their production* from the previous season, Florida State’s coaching staff went above and beyond by securing additional top transfer players to fill offensive gaps. This included two talented tight ends, Jaheim Bell and Kyle Morlock, standout receiver Coleman, and three experienced offensive linemen—Jeremiah Byers, Casey Roddick, and Keiondre Jones—who had each started for four years.

*Per FSU Sports Info: 96.4 percent of its passing touchdowns, 77.7 percent of its rushing yards, 78.8 percent of its rushing touchdowns, 70.2 percent of its receiving yards, 71.4 percent of its receiving touchdowns, 80.8 percent of its scoring, 89.8 percent of its total offense, 72.8 percent of its all-purpose yards

These additions have altered the trajectory of the Seminoles, bolstering their chances of success. The question remains: Where does FSU need to improve in order to take the next step?

To answer that question, first let’s examine how the Seminoles won in 2022 and what aspects of their offense need to carry over into 2023.

How they won in 2022

Looking back on the previous season, it becomes evident that Florida State’s offense excelled in several areas. They were the most explosive offense in the country and highly effective at converting third-down opportunities.

Led by players like Travis, Wilson, and Benson, the Seminoles executed 97 plays that gained 20 or more yards. This placed them among the top teams in this category, with only two other teams surpassing their record (albeit having played more games). Their success in explosive plays can be attributed to the presence of talented playmakers.

In terms of third-down conversions, the Seminoles ranked fourth in the nation, successfully converting 51.1% of their attempts. This marked a significant improvement from the previous year when they converted only 34.9% of their third-down opportunities.

The team found its identity in the ground game, particularly through the counter-run strategy. They boasted the most successful counter-run game in the country, leading in rush attempts, rushing yards, explosive plays, and yards gained before contact when utilizing this tactic.

Moving forward to 2023, it is crucial for the Seminoles to maintain these important aspects of their offense: creating explosive plays, converting on third down, and dominating the ground game.

Winning in the Red Zone

While the team achieved success in many areas, they faced challenges when it came to producing consistent points in the red zone, despite having ample opportunities to score. Nationally, they ranked below average (70th) in red zone conversion rate, yet they excelled in creating red zone opportunities (ranking 9th).

One factor contributing to their struggles was the occasional failure of gimmick plays, particularly on fourth downs — though it should be noted that they also experienced success with those trick plays, with positives and negatives effectively balancing out. The team’s overall efficiency in converting field goals posed a significant obstacle, with a success rate of only 60% — a number placing them outside the top 100 most efficient in the country. Lost points from missed kicks can have compounding effects, especially when it forces the team to play as if the kicking game is a detriment rather than a failsafe, so Improving this aspect of their game will be crucial in 2023.

During the off-season, the Seminoles strategically added players who possess size and proven skills in the red zone, aiming to enhance their efficiency in that area. Players like Jaheim Bell and Keon Coleman are expected to immediately contribute to improving red zone effectiveness.

Coleman would work all levels of the field but at MSU he won the most reps in the short area of the field (0-9 yards) and deep (20+ yards), converting 62.5% of his contested catch targets and 65.9% of all targets, Coleman also brings good run blocking (71.9 PFF grade), which is of major importance to the ‘Noles and their balanced approach on offense.

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 — leading all tight ends nationally.

He’s got the third-most yards over the last two seasons for a receiving tight end — per PFF, only Georgia’s Brock Bowers has a higher receiving grade for tight ends. His 24 forced missed tackles are tied for the most among all tight ends.

This team does not need to be the most efficient red zone team in the country to improve as an offense, or even to become one of the best in the country in 2023.

But FSU isn’t just looking to have a great offense — they want to contend in and win big games.

In important regular season games against major opponents like Clemson and LSU, and in potential postseason matchups in the ACC Championship and the College Football Playoff if all goes according to plan, they will need to be efficient in the red zone and make the most of their opportunities.

Mike Norvell has made this offense better each and every season — and winning the red zone is the next step the Seminoles need to take to go from a top-15 team to a true CFP contender.