Florida State Seminoles football is kicking off the first steps of the 2021 season on March 9, heading into a true spring camp for the first time under second-year head coach Mike Norvell.
As we get ready to see the 2021 FSU team take the field at the Dunlap Practice Facility — and eventually, Bobby Bowden Field for the return of the annual Garnet and Gold game — we gathered up the Tomahawk Nation staff to break things down. With spring being both a refresher course and a time for installation, what should FSU fans be looking for?
2021 Florida State Football: Spring Camp
Okay, right off the bat, why is spring practice so important?
CoachAB: It’s an opportunity to establish values and teach fundamentals. For a young program like FSU, these are vital reps.
LastNoleofKrypton: It gives the coaching staff a good chance early to see what these new faces can do; particularly the transfers.
NoleThruandThru: Face-to-face interaction and instruction between coaches and players has never been more important. We’ve seen the videos in the weight room- whether it’s coaches, players, S&C staff, whatever- it comes down to relationships, relationships, relationships.
Perry Kostidaks: So that we can pretend football is actually happening and not six months away, right? In a sense though, seriously — this is the 2021 team’s first true steps on the field together, and the core established now is going to determine how the summer, then fall, shakes out for FSU.
Austin Cox: It’s a time where a lot of positive habits and traits are being built behind the scenes. Players individually with their confidence, or collectively meshing with teammates. Spring practice is a chance for players to build those types of things. We may see enthusiasm with the team even higher than normal this spring, given that they missed out on the majority of this time in 2020.
Kevin Little: Last year the playbook was handicapped due to lost time in the spring. Getting to run through the plays instead of starting at a bunch of PowerPoint slides really helps cement the plays in the players’ minds.
What are the names we should be watching for throughout spring?
Kevin Little: There is still some uncertainty as to where the most natural positions for this slew of newcomers in the secondary will be. So names like Demorie Tate, Jarques McClellion, Bam Moore, and Jammie Robinson will give away a lot of what the defensive personnel will look like moving forward.
CoachAB: Milton, Bam Moore, Joshua Burrell and Malik McClain, the entire OL. List the entire roster here, honestly.
LastnoleofKrypton: Lol he’s right but for me I’ll be watching Malik McClain & Joshua Burrell.
NoleThruandThru: Josh Pick and I have made no secrets about how much we like Joshua Burrell already but every time I see or hear the kid’s name, it reaffirms my belief that he’s exactly the mix of hard worker, avid learner, and burgeoning leader that this program desperately needs. Future team captain- book it! Outside of him, I’m watching Bryan Robinson, Jarques McClellion, Demorie Tate, Travis Jay, and Lawrance Toafili.
Jon Marchant: I’m with ThruandThru, I’m watching Tate and Toafili, but I gotta say, the QB competition will be intriguing. Who will elevate FSU’s pass offense?
Austin Cox: I have my eye on the defensive transfers they have brought in, mainly Jermaine Johnson. In my opinion, FSU needed to bring in some pash-rushers just as much if not more so than offensive tackles. I am really excited to see how Johnson and some of the defensive back transfers fit in.
Perry Kostidakis: I can’t wait to see the players who missed out on all or most of the 2020 season — Demorie Tate, Jordan Wilson, for starters — and see if a tangible difference is made.
What would progress look like at the end of camp?
Jon Marchant: A cohesive team that plays for each other and an established floor to their play.
Austin Cox: Quarterback McKenzie Milton having a regular, smooth camp. I am curious to see if coach Norvell names Milton the starter by the end of spring.
CoachAB: Some form of consistency. This is not something we will know or see unfortunately. These players need to find the ability to be consistent in their work, focus, and how they respond to adversity.
NoleThruandThru: A united and bought-in set of coaches and players.
LastNoleOfKrypton: Progress at the end of camp would be no major injuries; we don’t want anything to stop the progress of this very important off-season.
Kevin LIttle: Better communication on defense. Last year there was little to no cohesiveness in the secondary- particularly on the boundary side of the field. I think that's the area that is most primed for improvement in this upcoming season.
Perry Kostidakis: A nearly-set depth chart, since a lot of FSU’s issues with inconsistency last year, in my opinion, came from the fact that the on-field personnel was a revolving door. Who can take the reigns at linebacker? Who will solidify starting positions in the secondary? It might not happen fully before April 11, but there needs to be indications.
So spring game — what should we take away from a super-sized scrimmage?
LastNoleOfKrypton: Just a player’s natural competitiveness and physicality. There are certain things you can only learn when the metaphorical lights come on.
Austin Cox: It’s tough to take too much away from the actual 60-minute game, but I think comments and quotes from the coaches and players after the game are huge. Mainly from coach Norvell. Normally around the time the spring game is played, head coaches like to discuss which players had the best spring overall.
Perry Kostidakis: Do the players look like they know what they’re doing? Has a semi-regular season and a full spring camp elevated FSU to the floor it needs to be at so it can push through its ceiling?
Kevin Little: This is arguably the least important part of spring practice for the kids but it’s the most fun for us. So take it for what it is. Is Milton healthy? Is there a semblance of a pass rush? Does the secondary know where to be?
NoleThruandThru: Chemistry between the QBs and WRs and who’s further along than others; which players are being cross-trained; how the team communicates on the field; which guys step up as leaders and which guys don’t.
CoachAB: Fun watching the players in Doak? Honestly, all the things I listed above. Scheme is going to be vanilla but how do the players go out and compete?
Pick your MVP of spring camp
CoachAB: Cam McDonald for me. Think he’s poised to have a huge year.
LastNoleOfKrypton: Jermaine Johnson; he’s going to show that he’s a different class of pass rusher that we haven’t had here in a few years.
NoleThruandThru: Offense: Keyshawn Helton. Defense: Emmett Rice.
Jon Marchant: I’m also going with Johnson, I think he’s the key to FSU’s rejuvenated pass rush.
Austin Cox: For offense I’ll go with redshirt freshman offensive tackle Robert Scott, and on defense I’ll pick redshirt senior linebacker Emmett Rice.
Kevin Little: Lawrance Toafili. I think he’s going to get a lot more touches this year and last year he showed flashes of a really high ceiling.
Perry Kostidakis: I’m going with Travis Jay — he’s shown excellence in so many areas but hasn’t solidified one single spot as his to own, and it’s not for lack of talent.
Pick your Newcomer of the Spring
CoachAB: Jermaine Johnson count? Because I think he’s going to be a stud for FSU and technically he’s new to the program. If you are looking for a freshman here then I’m going to go with Jackson West. I’m already on record saying I think he makes a pro bowl.
LastNoleOfKrypton: Malik McClain; I think his combination of speed, athleticism, and toughness can lead to freaky things once he develops.
NoleThruandThru: Offense: Joshua Burrell. Defense: Demorie Tate.
Austin Cox: I’ve got a tie at newcomer, between redshirt sophomore running back D.J. Williams and redshirt junior defensive back Jarques McClellion. I think McClellion is going to establish himself as a starter and Williams brings the type of power inside running every team needs.
Kevin Little: I’ll have to agree with Burrell. I think he has an immediate impact due to his reliability in a position that has been devoid of that as of late.
Perry Kostidakis: How am I the only one bringing up Bryson Estes? Norvell has already raved about the freshman, saying he should be pushing for starting time this year. He’s going to be a bit rough around the edges given the fact he’s an early enrollee, but I’m looking forward to what he does.
Pick your surprise of the spring
LastNoleOfKrypton: Surprise of the spring? Demorie Tate; he’ll remind everyone why he was a borderline 5-star recruit.
Austin Cox: Wide receiver overall is a pretty wide-open position right now, and I am expecting at least one of the three members of Norvell’s first recruiting class to break out. Kentron Poitier is probably the most likely, but I could see Bryan Robinson or Darion Williamson having a big spring as well.
Kevin Little: Jarrian Jones gets more run at safety and looks a lot more natural than he did when he was forced to play boundary corner last year.
Perry Kostidakis: We see Travis Jay take some reps on offense and during the spring game, as well as seeing McKenzie Milton, Jordan Travis and Chubba Purdy on the field at the same time (going with just KZ and JT felt too easy.)
NoleThruandThru: Jordan Wilson- he’s going to show everyone just how important he is to this offense as a TE and an additional OT in different packages.
CoachAB: Hmm. My surprise of the spring is Jalen Goss. If it’s true he’s up to 285 pounds then he may be a viable tackle option. Talent has never been a problem.
Jon Marchant: I’m gonna have some fun out in left field and go with Preston Daniel, I hope that kid put on some strength under Coach Storms and becomes a piece Norvell and Dillingham can use.
Give me 2 sentences to neatly tie a bow on this roundtable and your thoughts heading into spring camp
CoachAB: Can this group carry over their efforts from winter workouts? Look for Norvell and company to continue to push their message and find the guys willing to commit.
LastNoleOfKrypton: Consistency in the staff and the players have lead to a different atmosphere from the winter workouts; I’m looking forward to seeing that camaraderie transfer to the practice field.
NoleThruandThru: Will all this recent social media hype about a changing culture carry over to the football field? I think it will.
Jon Marchant: I really hope when this spring ball period is done that FSU has finally turned a corner. They don’t have to be really good, it’s not about wins or losses right now, it’s about becoming a family again.
Austin Cox: It’s a luxury at Florida State to be heading into a season where a 7-6 or 8-5 record would be a big positive step in the right direction. Take advantage of lowered expectations, go 7-6 or 8-5, and set the program up for 2022 with a nice recruiting class coming in.
Kevin Little: I have no doubt that Norvell has gotten the offense on the right track — the question will remain to be whether the defense can support them. The secondary is what I’ll be spending most of my time watching.
Perry Kostidakis: This is probably the most important stretch for this coaching staff so far, because now, things are real — no missed spring, no (hopefully) unexpected pandemics, entire coaching staff back. Use this month to set the platform for the summer so that when fall hits, searching for rationalizations doesn’t have to happen.