Photo courtesy of Kyle Pulek/Florida State athletics
After three straight losing seasons, Florida State hopes 2021 brings a sense of normalcy.
That not only includes winning seasons and bowl games for the Seminoles, but perhaps a full spring and a normal schedule. The 3-6 finish in 2020 left FSU with its fewest wins since 1975.
For context, that was the year prior to the legendary Bobby Bowden taking over as head man in Tallahassee. The current head man, Mike Norvell, is hoping that year No. 2 will be better than his unusual debut.
The Seminoles finished strong on the recruiting trail, securing a top-25 class with the National Signing Day addition of 4-star wide receiver Destyn Hill. FSU was also active in the transfer portal with eight scholarship additions.
The most notable of those was former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton. A native of Hawaii, Milton won his last 23 starts for the Knights, which included a Peach Bowl win over Auburn to cap a perfect 2017 campaign.
A 2-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year, Milton has nearly 10,000 total yards for his career and 92 total touchdowns. Milton however, hasn’t played since a gruesome leg injury late in the 2018 season.
If he can return to form, there is no question that Milton will be the frontrunner to take snaps for FSU. There is another signal caller on the roster however, that shouldn’t be left in the cold.
That’s redshirt junior Jordan Travis.
A transfer from Louisville, Travis didn’t get an opportunity to play at FSU until the ACC finale against Boston College in 2019. To say his impact was immediately felt, might be an understatement.
With FSU trailing 14-10, Travis’ first snap for the Seminoles resulted in a 26-yard rushing touchdown for the South Florida native. Travis would carry the ball just three times against the Eagles, but he totaled 94 yards. His last carry was a 66-yard touchdown that put the contest away in a 38-31 victory.
For the remainder of the 2019 season, Travis was given reps, but used primarily as a runner. He finished the season with 228 yards and three touchdowns on just 23 carries.
Travis maintained that role for the early parts of the 2020 season. With James Blackman behind center, the Seminoles managed just 23 points over their first two games. That led to freshman Tate Rodemaker getting the start against Jacksonville State to open October.
With Rodemaker at quarterback, things did not get better. Against an FCS school, the Seminoles fell behind 14-0 with half of those points coming on an interception return for a touchdown thrown by Rodemaker.
With the season quickly spiraling out of control, Norvell again made a change. This time, it was to Travis.
There were serious questions about Travis’ ability as a passer, but he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Helton on his first possession. Travis led touchdown drives on six of his first seven possessions in a 41-24 victory.
The job was Travis’ to lose and he did little to lose it. After playing well in a 42-26 loss at Notre Dame, Travis led the Seminoles to their biggest win of the season — a 31-28 upset of No. 5 North Carolina.
Unfortunately for FSU, that did not serve as a turning point for the team. Florida State was blasted at Louisville the following week, 48-16. After a strong start against Pittsburgh that following week, thanks in large part to an 88-yard touchdown run by Travis — the longest ever for an FSU quarterback — the Seminoles sputtered in a 41-17 defeat. Travis missed the entire second half to injury.
Travis missed the following contest against NC State — a 38-22 loss — but returned for the season finale against Duke. In a 56-35 victory, FSU had its highest scoring effort in an ACC game in more than six years. Travis passed for 192 yards and two scores on 13-for-18 passing while adding 90 yards and a score on the ground.
Travis again enters the offseason with someone else expected to start at quarterback for the Seminoles. Travis however, should again be a intricate part of the offense in 2021.
When Travis spent the majority of the game at quarterback last season, FSU was 3-2. When he didn’t, the Seminoles were 0-4. In contests where Travis played for the majority of the game, FSU averaged 34 points. In games where he did not, that average was just 13.
Travis finished the season with 559 yards rushing — the most ever by an FSU quarterback — but also proved to be a capable passer. Although he has a lot of room for improvement, Travis completed 55% of his passes last season and ranked fifth in the ACC, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt.
Given the addition of Milton and the potential of Chubba Purdy, it’s easy for Travis to get lost in the conversation. In 2020 however, he was unquestionably the MVP for an FSU offense that still struggled up front and was depleted at the pass catching positions.
Milton will certainly be a welcomed addition for Norvell and crew. Should he can come close to returning to his 2018 form, Milton could be the best quarterback to don the garnet and gold since Jameis Winston.
Milton’s injury past however, makes Travis that much more valuable. Although most won’t project him to start, Travis remains one of the biggest weapons and most explosive players for the FSU offense. It’s hard to imagine him not being a key piece for the Seminoles again this season.