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Schedule Preview: Jacksonville State Gamecocks

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Can FSU avoid last year’s near pitfall?

Don Juan Moore

As we get closer and closer to the start of the 2021 Florida State Seminoles football season, Tomahawk Nation is breaking down each opponent the Noles will face over the course of the year.

Out of all the craziness that was the COVID football season, Jacksonville State may have played the wildest schedule. While most teams finished their schedule during the traditional Fall season, there were some teams that decided to play during the Spring. Jacksonville State? They decided to play both. After playing four games in the month of October and finishing 3-1, the Gamecocks then played seven games from February through mid-April and an additional two games in the FCS playoffs. Jacksonville State ended the season 10-3 with a 20-14 loss to Delaware.

Opponent: Jacksonville State Gamecocks

Date: Saturday, September 11

Time: 8:00 p.m.

Last matchup: 41-24, Florida State

FSU’s game against Jacksonville State established Florida State’s offensive identity last year. After the struggles of quarterback James Blackman, Coach Mike Norvell turned to true freshman Tate Rodemaker at signal caller. Rodemaker threw a pick-six in the first quarter and the Gamecocks jumped out to a 14-0 lead before turning to Jordan Travis at quarterback. Travis was able to lead FSU to a comeback win in the second half.

Offense

Jacksonville State pinned their hopes on quarterback Zerrick Cooper last year (232 yards passing vs FSU) before he went down with a leg injury. The Gamecocks then turned to Zion Webb, who seized the opportunity. Webb finished with over 1,700 yards through the air and right under 400 yards rushing. Webb finished with 18 combined touchdowns. Florida State should expect more of the same as JSU will run an run-pass-option (RPO) offense. Jacksonville State averaged 189 rushing yards per game last season behind Webb and a host of running backs, including Uriah West and Joshua Samuel

The passing game may look the same for Jacksonville State, but who is catching those passes will be much different. FCS All-American tight end Trae Barry and his 500 yards receiving have transferred to Boston College. The Gamecocks top receivers outside of Barry were inconsistent last year, but look for Dave Russell and Logan McVay to potentially step up at the receiver position.

Defense

Schematically, the Gamecocks will run a 4-2-5 and attempt to pressure with their defensive line from the one gap. JSU looks to bring back their top defensive lineman in Chris Hardie and DJ Coleman. Last year, the duo combined for 16 sacks. In 2020, Jacksonville State made huge strides on defense last year, holding opponents to 190.4 passing yards per game and just 92.3 rushing yards per game. This was nearly half of their 2019 yards allowed (380.2 passing, 155.2 rushing).

Final thoughts on Jacksonville State vs. Florida State

Last year’s game was Coach Norvell’s first of his tenure at FSU. It was as a close to a must win as your second game for a team can be for the coach, as a loss would have most certainly wiped out all confidence in his leadership. Florida State will need this game to look like a traditional FBS vs FCS matchup if it hopes to carry the momentum of a successful offseason.