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Roundtable: What to expect from FSU heading into spring

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Looking into the crystal ball for spring.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Florida State Seminoles football will kick the spring practice season off with its first day back on the field.

While spring practice doesn’t have the hype that surrounds fall days leading up to the actual season, it serves as a crucial time for a team’s development, from personnel to identity. From transfer portal additions to true freshmen to established starters, there are plenty of storylines that’ll be at play over the next month and change — and the Tomahawk Nation team is here to break them down.

What position group are you paying the most attention to?

NoleThruandThru: The wide receivers, of course! This spring provides a lot of intrigue for the WR corps, which saw the addition of four players from the transfer portal who will all be active participants this spring. Each addition brings a unique skill set and all four will be hungry to prove they’re ready for a big role. I’m curious to see which of them stand out on the field and in the locker room, and I’m also excited to see which returning Seminole wideouts step up. This spring could be make-or-break for several FSU wide receivers, so the depth chart for Ron Dugans’ unit after spring is complete will be a key storyline.

Trey Rowland: To be honest, I think wide receivers is the obvious choice. But, since my thoroughly basic colleague NT&T took that answer (jk my dude, smooches,) I’m gonna go with the linebackers. There were many times throughout the season, particularly at the beginning of the year, where opposing offenses took advantage of FSU’s deficiency at linebacker. That got better throughout the year as Kalen DeLoach progressed, but I still think the ’Noles never really found a great option to pair next to him. Can DJ Lundy overcome some of his limitations in coverage? Will Amari Gainer look fully comfortable at the position? Will newcomer Tatum Bethune make the previous points moot and just take the other spot for himself? Spring practice should help us get answers to these questions.

TimScribble: It’s defensive end for me. Jared Verse was a huge victory for the staff, but they chose to pass on additional options up to this point. Will spring practices change their mind? Or will some of the younger players like Patrick Payton and Byron Turner prove to be dependable players? Not to mention the health of Dennis Briggs.

FrankDNole: The defensive line. Replacing 2 NFL draft picks will be difficult, but during spring practice, we will learn the progress of the New Kids on the Block. Hopefully, the raw talent is there.

Jon Marchant: Easy, receivers. They were easily the worst position group on the team last season. They have the furthest to go but also have the potential to make a pretty big leap. I would like to see it.

Tommy Mire: I am with Frank and Tim. Although the receivers and linebackers will be a major focus as they should, I would really like to see how the newcomers blend in and develop into a cohesive unit on the defensive line throughout the spring. Jared Verse (from what little I’ve seen of him in person) looks to be a force to be reckoned with and I’m excited to see which players step up and take it to the next level.

Perry Kostidakis: Even though it’s set in stone who will be starting, I’m watching the quarterbacks very intently. How will Jordan Travis handle being the undisputed guy? All signs point to well, but there’s a new expectation on him after the staff has gone all-in on Travis leading the team. Will Tate Rodemaker be able to showcase himself as a serviceable backup, or will early enrollee AJ Duffy get the chance to move up in the pecking order?

After practices and the spring game are completed, who will be a fan favorite?

NT&T: I’m going to go with DE Jared Verse. The highly sought-after transfer is already getting rave reviews from the strength and conditioning staff, with Josh Storms calling him “a certified freak of nature” recently. There are big shoes to fill at defensive end with the departures of Jermaine Johnson II and Keir Thomas, and Verse can take the steps into doing so with a strong spring.

Trey Rowland: My answer here is Winston Wright. The West Virginia transfer was by far the most productive receiver that FSU got out of the Portal. While reviewing his film on The Triple Option, I was really impressed with his agility and route running. Wright has a legitimate chance to do some damage on the outside and as a mismatch lining up in the slot. When you couple his skillset with Florida State’s recent lack of potent weapons at receiver, Wright is poised to come out of this spring as The People’s Champ.

TimScribble: I’ll stick with the transfer hype and go with Tatum Bethune. Fans have long clamored for a competent linebacking group, maybe even more than a left tackle. And last year they finally saw glimpses of linebacker growth with the play of Kalen DeLoach. But outside of DeLoach, to put it nicely, there was quite a drop off. Now, the Seminoles suddenly find themselves with two above average linebackers, which could lead to Bethune and DeLoach being quite popular with the fanbase.

FrankDNole: Winston Wright, who opted to play at FSUs despite the FSU WR coaching staff that has underachieved for the past few years, IMO.

Tommy Mire: There are a few, to be honest. The one that hasn't been dubbed a “fan favorite” yet and who I would like to see get that label would be Johnny Wilson. The 6’7, 225-pound wide receiver is every bit of what he’s listed at and for a receiver of that size and caliber to have a great spring would speak volumes on an improving wide receiver room that has been the object of scrutiny for a while.

Perry Kostidakis: Call it a straight sweep on transfer selections, cause I’m going with Mycah Pittman. He’s already started endearing himself to the fanbase via his YouTube channel, and he’s got a chance to emerge as a key contributor both as receiver and on special teams.

Who needs to have a big spring?

NT&T: Numerous names come to mind, but I’ll choose RB Lawrance Toafili. Toafili looked primed to be a major future contributor during his freshman season, but last year there were more instances when he looked like he’d regressed versus fewer flashes of brilliance. With several new and returning names below him looking to take on bigger roles, Toafili needs to show that he can be a consistent and reliable part of the RB rotation this year as it looks to replace Jashaun Corbin’s productivity. I think he’ll rise to the challenge.

Trey Rowland: To me, the answer is Jordan Travis. Not that I think that he is in any danger of losing his spot, but I think that a steady showing from Travis will help bring some more stability to an offense and program that has had such a chaotic recent history. I believe that he has the talent to be a very good college quarterback and to lead a productive offense in 2022. However, he has to continue to show that to his coaches, his teammates, and the fanbase, in general. Ideally, you want the QB position to be rock solid every year. Depending on the type of spring Travis has, FSU fans will either feel comfort in Mike Norvell’s decision to not pursue a quarterback in the Portal so far, or they will chalk it up as another questionable decision in the Norvell tenure.

Jon Marchant: I'm gonna back up Trey - I think Jordan Travis needs to have a big spring and I think he will. I'm expecting to see the passing game execution take another leap and I think that's what we'll get.

FrankDNole: I don’t like to be wrong, so I am going to agree with Rowland and Marchant, that way we three are all wrong in the unlikely event it happens. But I think it will be Jordan Travis, who if can get some protection and stay healthy, is going to make a bigger name for himself with a good spring and an above-average season.

Tommy Mire: I’m gonna go not so much against the grain but aside from what the hooligans said above (and what I said about Johnny Wilson.) I think that Josh Burrell needs to continue to progress coming off of injury. It is time to stop taking mental reps and show them what you're made of.

Perry Kostidakis: After moving from safety to linebacker, Brendan Gant has an opportunity to take advantage of his natural talents and perhaps elevate his game. It’s hard to entirely learn a new position in the short period that is spring, but it’s his main chance to do so — as soon as fall hits, it’s game prep time.

Who will have a big spring?

NT&T: This is a fun question to consider because it seems like there are multiple guys along the defensive line primed to break out, but I’ll say LB Kalen Deloach. By the end of last season, Deloach made a strong case for FSU’s most improved player. I think that will carry over into the spring, and I’m hoping that new LB coach Randy Shannon can help Deloach unlock his full potential. The LB corps desperately needs leadership and production, and Deloach should make an excellent tandem with new transfer addition Tatum Bethune.

Trey Rowland: DT Fabian Lovett is going to eat. You heard it here first.

Jon Marchant: I believe in Malcolm Ray - it's time to see what he can do.

FrankDNole: Thanks for asking. I hope I do. I am going to try to do some traveling to try to destress and decompress from all the pressure I am currently under.

Tommy Mire: I think defensive back Sam McCall will have a great spring. The highly sought out Lake Gibson five-star already has the measurables and he should shine in an already talented secondary. Runner up would be offensive lineman Kayden Lyles (that guy is a monster.)

Perry Kostidakis: It’s going to be really fun to see what running back Treshaun Ward does as the likely top name in Mike Norvell’s goofy gaggle of backs. Last spring, he played so well he earned a scholarship. After a successful 2021 campaign, he’s got a chance to break out and take the same home breaker role that Jashaun Corbin had last season.