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Which quarterback should FSU start?

There’s a Mil-ton to discuss here.

Brett Nevitt

Florida State had a disappointing end to its primetime Labor Day matchup against Notre Dame, but Seminoles’ football fans have plenty about which to be positive. As expected before the season, Mike Norvell and the ‘Noles have two solid options at signal caller.

Which of the quarterbacks should Mike Norvell choose as his starter for the rest of the season? The seasoned, experienced, steady hand of McKenzie Milton? Or the explosive spark of Jordan Travis?

Before offering perspectives on this, we at Tomahawk Nation wanted to make sure we offered reasoned analysis of this.

This isn’t First Take.

It’s completely unrealistic to think either player will play every snap of every game. Both Milton and Travis have documented injury histories, with Travis playing noticeably hurt in second halves from injuries sustained throughout the game. That said, someone has to take the first snap and the majority of snaps.

Who should Norvell pick as his QB1?

Juan Montalvo:

The sample size of McKenzie Milton in Garnet and Gold is very small, but in two regulation drives and one overtime pass play, KZ showed the experience and calming presence that only a sixth year player of his caliber can bring. This isn’t to say that Travis is inexperienced or uncalm, simply that Milton adds even more to the team.

After rewatching the plays Milton was involved in, it is evident from the jump that he should get the first snap, when available, and all the snaps that he can reasonably take in a “load management” manner. You only have so many snaps Milton can take with his injury status - make sure they count, not in the last five minutes of a blowout.

Here are my notes on key plays from Milton against Notre Dame - including what they showed:

  • First play in, Milton throws a perfect Corner route on a Smash concept to Ja’Khi Douglas. Smash is a staple Norvell concept, and Milton comes in the game cold and hits it like he’s done it for years - because he has.
  • Interior pressure on an intermediate pass for 15 yard gain to Keyshawn Helton. Being able to handle interior pressure is extremely important - and an area where opposing defensive coordinators chose to pick on Jordan Travis in 2020. Where Milton stood tall and hit his receiver across the middle, Travis would have used his legs.
  • Back to back plays on his second drive - on 3rd and 2, fake rollout shovel pass to Darion Williamson; then a scramble where Milton gains a couple yards. Milton recovered past the point of being able to walk without pain - he’s outright nimble, both in the pocket as well as short scrambles. While no one will ever favorably compare Milton as a runner to Travis, arguably the best running QB in college football, Milton is able to prevent big losses using his legs.
  • 3rd and 4, FSU’s final play from scrimmage before missing the kick in overtime. Screen play gets blown up by interior pressure, Milton goes to tuck the ball but it is swatted out of his hands and he falls onto it quickly. Along with another throwaway, Milton showed his ability to identify pressure and minimize losses on dead plays.

While everyone expected that Milton would be a better pocket passer than Jordan Travis, the extent to which he is able to operate the offense with efficiency - not taking losses, managing pressure, and identifying defensive weaknesses - is what separates Milton from Travis.

Travis will and should get snaps - he is possibly the most explosive QB runner in the country - but Milton’s combination of pocket presence (including sense of pressure), football intelligence, and efficiency will help keep a young FSU team ahead of the chains.

McKenzie Milton should be the QB1 and play the majority of snaps - when he can.

Brian Pellerin:

Even in defeat, Florida State is the talk of the college football world. The 4th quarter charge, led primarily by McKenzie Milton in his return to the sport, has Mike Norvell’s program getting rave reviews for heart and determination.

FSU football is back. Doak is back. At least for now.

The momentum is rolling, but it can come to a halt quickly and figuring out who will lead from behind center will be the biggest key in deciding that. But it’s a decision that doesn’t need to be made today.

Jacksonville State has been a decent program in recent years but looked lackluster in their opener. At the risk of getting hit with an @OldTakesExposed tweet, this isn’t a game the Florida State we saw play on Sunday Night should struggle with, which gives Norvell a chance to push off that choice.

Don’t get me wrong, Milton looked like the better quarterback against Notre Dame. When hit with a bad snap or broken play, Milton made the most of it by tucking and getting what was available or hustling out the pocket to throw the ball away. Without those two plays, the game doesn’t go to overtime. Those decisions alone make it clear to me, Milton should get the first crack at starting this week.

But Jordan Travis cannot be cast aside completely.

He got the start against the Irish for a reason. Norvell said in his postgame presser that he had the better camp than Milton and, honestly, didn’t play all that bad.

The first interception came from trying to do too much on a third down play. The second was a tremendous play from Notre Dame’s safety Kyle Hamilton that against almost any other secondary ends in a touchdown more often than not. And the third was a pass that had to be forced on the 4th down attempt in his own territory.

You may say 3 interceptions cannot equal a fine game, but I don’t think these plays alone were enough for Travis to lose his handle on the job. Norvell himself didn’t think so as it took Travis losing his helmet to make the change.

The bigger issue was the struggles on first down and some of that can be attributed to play calling. Other plays were clear miscommunication that could absolutely fall on Travis, but we saw the same issue when Milton was in so it could be the receivers forgetting the plays.

If Travis had a better month at camp, I have a hard time casting him aside completely after a few strong drives from Milton. Use next week’s game as a preseason NFL game. Give both guys a shot and decide after that game who your guy will be. Worst case scenario, you force Wake Forest to prepare for both ahead of their Week 3 matchup.

FSU won’t learn much from Jacksonville State (hopefully), so the ACC “opener” vs Wake Forest will be the next test we will see of the QB duo.

Who do you think FSU should start? Or should they even have a QB1?


Who should be FSU’s primary QB

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    McKenzie Milton
    (987 votes)
  • 4%
    Jordan Travis
    (76 votes)
  • 28%
    Two-QB system
    (446 votes)
  • 0%
    Chubba Purdy
    (13 votes)
  • 0%
    Tate Rodemaker
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    I’m not going to be happy regardless—basically, I just want to complain
    (18 votes)
1545 votes total Vote Now