The Florida State Seminoles have had one heck of a journey under head coach Mike Norvell dating all the way back to when he took over in 2020.
The ship might not have been fully corrected, and no one should expect it to be (championships are built on foundation and success). However, the improvements and accomplishments that have been made should not go unnoticed, as the Seminoles seem to be turning into a pivotal corner of the season and the future.
Amongst a lot of other critical goals set and emphasized, with some still set to be achieved, he has remained true to the fact that his offense is and will be one built for playmakers.
One of the most critical groups that needed to see improvement in order to be successful was the wide receivers, who are currently coached by alumni Ron Dugans. The group now is statistically fifth in the country according to PFF, grading out at 82.0, which is a pretty vast improvement considering the ‘Noles were ranked 95th at the end of 2021.
So, where did this huge jump in production come from? How does this staff’s ability to address needs through the portal and recruiting reflect on the field?
FSU’s top two receivers are Mycah Pittman and Johnny Wilson (Darion Williamson is graded out higher than Pittman but has only played in three games and has caught every pass thrown to him), who combine for a total of 758-yards and six touchdowns. Both of them are transfers.
When offensive coordinator Alex Atkins was asked earlier this year whether or not it is part of the game plan each week to have a receiver that is schemed up to take over games, Atkins said:
“I think it’s just making the most of your opportunity, you know? It’s not by design; we aren’t going to try and scheme up and do something different; it’s just, you know, a little bit of all of it. But when those guys hear their number called, they’ve been able to make the plays they need to be successful, but I’m proud of that group overall. I always make a point that that group pushes each other.”
So let's break it down. Who is getting thrown the ball, where are they being targeted and what numbers are they putting up?
An Arizona St. transfer and massive human being, Wilson has stepped into the role of being a big target guy with a few more tricks up his sleeve. He’s one of the best-run blockers on the team and prides himself on being the guy who can catch the ball but also tie up defenders for his teammates. His receiving grades for this year are 93.7 midfield between the numbers, which is his second-highest grade per PFF, and deep between the hash, he’s at 94.4.
He’s the leading receiver on the team, and outside back corner end zone fades can cause a big problem even though (as we saw vs. Clemson) sometimes pushing the ball there ends in mixed results. His highest grade of this season has come from 20+ yard targets, where he has 225 yards and averages 37.5 per reception; at deep center, he is averaging nearly 50 yards per reception. (6-13.)
Oregon transfer and return specialist Pittman's grade doesn’t always relate to his impact on the team. He’s a gadget player with 22 receptions off 32 targets and is graded out lower than Douglas, Poitier, and Willamson, but target to reception ratio, he is certainly the sure-handed number two guy taking the majority of his reps in the slot.
Most of Pittman’s targets are at a medium depth where he has 127-yards off eight receptions and three scores, but he is perfect behind the line of scrimmage (8-8) and short (5-5), combining for 155-yards.
Poitier is a receiver that has honestly surprised me going from fall camp until now. He’s another big target that can come down with the ball. Another deep field threat and that seems to be where he is making his money this season; along with Johnny, his highest grades come from between the hash marks and into deep center. His route at the end of the Clemson game was particularly impressive but still could use some cleaning up. His development will be interesting to watch over the next few seasons.
Toa is another player that has been surprising, and his use in the passing game really does keep defenses honest. He’s got 88 yards receiving as a running back, and that comes compiled with Ward being banged up this last game. His highest grade came against Duquesne (90.1) with six catches for 45-yards. Mostly used out of the slot, he filled a major role with Ja’Khi being out, and I would also hope to see Josh Burrell taking some of those running back options but playing time in that role might be limited with Douglas’ return.
Pokemon Wilson has gotta catch them all, and his takeover game is a toss-up between the LSU and Boston College wins.
Mostly out wide, although 11 and 12 snaps in the slot against Lousiville and NC State; he took 29 snaps on the perimeter in the Wake Forest loss and 21 against Clemson, which is strange because he netted -2 yards in that last matchup. His 18 snaps in New Orleans earned him two touchdowns and a grade of 84.9. He’s graded out near perfect in 20+ yardage situations at 99.9.
Out for nearly all of the season, Douglas came in, and one game proved to be the fresh set of legs that the Noles needed before the bye. One target, one reception, and one touchdown but really has the potential to elevate the group moving forward.
The group has shown improvement, and with quarterback Jordan Travis containing to elevate his confidence, you should see more remarkable numbers in the weeks to come.