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Spring Position Previews: Quarterback

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Jordan Travis, it’s your show

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Florida State at Florida Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ahead of Florida State football beginning spring football practice, Tomahawk Nation is diving in and breaking down the roster position group by position group. First up, we’ve got the quarterbacks.

For the first time since 2016 (or 2017, if you’d like to consider Sean Maguire’s candidacy vs. Deondre Francois a legitimate one), Florida State is rolling into spring with a clear idea of who will be its top man at quarterback. With the graduation of McKenzie Milton and the transfer of Chubba Purdy, redshirt junior Jordan Travis enters as the guy, with redshirt freshman Tate Rodemaker and true freshman AJ Duffy being the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.

The main change comes in the form of coaching — Kenny Dillingham departed for Oregon to be the Ducks’ offensive coordinator, leading Alex Atkins to earn a promotion to OC while Tony Tokarz was elevated to quarterback coach from an off-field analyst position. Tokarz, a former quarterback himself, will be tasked with elevating the game of Travis and molding Duffy.

Let’s dive in.

The main name to know

For as long as Jordan Travis has been at Florida State (he transferred in from Louisville in 2019), it’s hard to believe that he’s played in just 22 games for the Seminoles. While that speaks to some of the concerns floated about his durability (though, admittedly, those are a bit overstated) it mainly serves as a point of emphasis that he’s realistically still getting started in his progression as a quarterback.

Travis’ main growth came in his ability to emphasize standing in the pocket, going through reads, and attempting a pass, rather than rely solely on his athletic ability — a result of the offensive line’s improvement as much as his own. He improved his accuracy, completion percentage, and touchdown-to-interception ratio, and his importance to FSU’s success was especially evident whenever the team had to turn to an alternative quarterback.

His playmaking ability was highlighted by several of FSU’s new wide receiver transfers in their press availabilities, something Travis surely appreciates just as much as he’s grateful for their presence in the offense. One of the big struggles of Florida State’s offense in the last two years under Norvell has been an inability for receivers to consistently provide opportunities of success for their quarterbacks, a reason why the coaching staff went so hard after the position in the transfer portal.

Travis has the respect of the locker room, the trust of the coaching staff, and the reigns of an offense that failed to put up more than 30 points in seven games last season. It’s now in his hands to change that, and solidify himself as a true top quarterback in the ACC.

The returners

Tate Rodemaker, part of Mike Norvell’s first recruiting class and one-game starter, is the lone returning scholarship player heading into the 2022 spring season. His classmate Chubba Purdy is now competing for a starting spot for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and FSU did not take a high school quarterback in 2021 after Luke Altmyer flipped to Ole Miss.

Rodemaker played sparingly in 2021, appearing in just three games and attempting two passes. In 2020, he had an ill-fated starting debut vs. Jacksonville State, which begat a Jordan Travis-inspired comeback win.

Outside of Rodemaker, the other quarterback returning is walk-on Gino English.

The new face

Four-star quarterback AJ Duffy, FSU’s highest-rated quarterback signee since 2017, early enrolled and will get the benefit of a full spring camp ahead of what’s expected to be a redshirt year for the IMG product, barring an amazing performance from him in spring and fall camp and/or injuries. He comes in benefitting from the “athlete prep” lifestyle of IMG, and a penchant for studying and learning the game, inherited from his father, a coach recently hired by a St. Augustine high school.

Player bios, via FSU Sports Info

Jordan Travis

Has played 22 games at FSU and is 200-for-336 passing for 2,674 yards and 21 touchdowns while also compiling 1,317 yards and 17 touchdowns on 254 carries…holds FSU career records for quarterback rushing yards and quarterback rushing touchdowns…only FSU quarterback to reach 1,000 career rushing yards…rushing touchdowns total ranks 16th on program’s all-time list…only player in program history with three passing and two rushing touchdowns in single game…seven straight games played with rushing touchdown was longest stretch by quarterback in program history…only quarterback in FSU history to have four straight games with at least one rushing and one passing touchdown…first quarterback in program history with back-to-back 100-yard rushing games…owns two longest runs by quarterback in program history.

Tate Rodemaker

2021:

Played in three games…was 1-of-2 passing for seven yards in season finale at Florida…also saw action at North Carolina and vs. UMass.

2020:

Played in four games with one start and was 17-of-29 passing for 130 yards…Seminole Scholar…started 41-24 win vs. Jacksonville State…fourth true freshman in FSU history to start at quarterback… completed 8-of-12 passes for 58 yards vs. Gamecocks…was 5-of-9 passing for 47 yards in collegiate debut at No. 12 Miami…was 3-of-5 passing for 19 yards and added nine yards on two rushing attempts at North Carolina State…had six-yard completion in 56-35 win vs. Duke.

BEFORE FSU:

Three-star rated as No. 27 pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports Composite…ranked as No. 32 pro-style quarterback by Rivals…threw for 6,811 yards and 74 touchdowns, averaging 243.3 yards per game in his career at Valdosta…threw 42 touchdowns as a senior, completing 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,225 yards while leading Wildcats to third round of AAAAAA state playoffs…led offense that tallied 4,695 yards of total offense, averaging 361.2 yards per game…named GACA Player of the Year…as a junior threw for 3,539 yards and 31 touchdowns while adding 133 yards and one touchdown on the ground…chose FSU over Virginia Tech, Pitt and Baylor.

AJ Duffy

Consensus four-star prospect…tabbed 39th in ESPN300 and ranked No. 3 nationally among quarterbacks and No. 7 overall in Florida by ESPN…rated as nation’s No. 8 quarterback prospect, No. 17 overall in Florida and No. 120 overall nationally on 247 Composite…ranked No. 9 at his position and No. 20 in Florida by Rivals…247Sports ranked him as nation’s 14th-best quarterback and No. 27 overall prospect in Florida…selected for Under Armour All-America Game and Elite 11 Finals…transferred to IMG Academy for senior season after junior year wiped out due to pandemic…as sophomore at Rancho Verde in California, led Mustangs to 11-1 overall record and quarterfinal round of CIF Division 2 Southern Section Championship…was 185-of-261 passing for 2,568 yards and 26 touchdowns while also adding 501 yards and four touchdowns rushing…helped lead Rancho Verde to 13 wins and CIF Division 2 Southern Section championship game during freshman season when he was 163-of-234 passing for 2,984 yards and 40 touchdowns with 316 yards and four touchdowns rushing.