James Coleman: Digesting the FSU Spring Game — Offensive Positives and Negatives

Photo courtesy of Don Juan Moore/Florida State athletics

I remember overhearing a man much older than me once declare, “in hindsight or review, it’s never as good as it appears nor bad as it seems.”

Certainly, you can take that teaspoon of salt with a cup of water, honey or a stronger beverage to digest it but it won’t change the taste. Someone asked me for my opinion on Saturday’s Florida State spring game and I simply told them the game was played. If you’re looking for a 10-win team, you need to look elsewhere.

Let’s Be Honest

This team is in transition. If we are being honest, we have a flipped roster but are still two or three years away from competing with some of the top teams in our conference — let alone the nation. Being deprived of “Standard Success”, our fan base will undoubtedly examine every aspect of the game from top to bottom to find a glimmer of hope to over celebrate or a bill of goods to despair.

We first must take into an account that the “Standard” is the standard. That is winning championships or at least competing for them. I will never ask a fan to temper their expectation because as famously quoted “frankly, 6-6 isn’t good enough.” With that bit of honesty specified, let’s also be honest about what a spring game is.

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It’s a televised practice. While you want to put on a good, clean show for your fans, you also don’t want to give away too much of anything. One thing our fans may not realize is that every day, these same 80-plus players are practicing with each other day in and out. They know the plays, the tendencies, the formations and checks to everything, so you can’t ever lean too much into what you’re seeing in a glorified practice. Now, lets dive into some of the good, bag or ugly on the offensive side of things.

As stated before back in November and December, you can blame COVID-19; you can blame loss of spring last year. One can blame the loss of campus time with strength and conditioning coaches or you can choose not to assess any of those things and accept it as it comes.

We won three games last year. That is below the standard the university has set forth and what Coach Mike Norvell has set as his bottom line, so lets discuss some of the positives that could jolt us into getting back to the “Standard”.

The Positives

Recruits Galore

One of the fastest tracks to success, outside of coaching up your guys, is making sure you are getting the guys you need to be successful. As expected, the stadium would not be jam-packed with fans because of pandemic protocols, but we did get a massive presentation of recruits which litter this and the next two recruiting classes.

Getting them to commit to being on campus was a win and a success for Coach Norvell; he understands that in order to win big, he must get the sharks of the ocean and that was on display. We need impact freshmen in both the 2022 and 2023 classes to really get this ship turned around.

Quarterback Play

We had some really great play from quarterbacks Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton. Milton made several throws that beat great coverage with just a great placement on the throw. Of course, that required the wide receivers to make the plays.

While many believed that Milton’s commitment was an automatic bid to start, someone forgot to tell Jordan Travis. He may have missed on a few reads but he made a few throws. His feet were much cleaner in the pocket which helped him get to his second and third reads. We all still know about his athletic ability.

I’m not a coach in the locker room but based off what I saw Saturday, Travis is still the day one starter, barring injury or a fall camp meltdown. There were a lot of reports about how surprisingly well Travis and Tate Rodemaker were playing.

Those reports indicated that Milton had not been so hot, but that was the polar opposite on Saturday. Maybe it was the bright lights that activated Milton, but he looked more like the darling sensation we had seen at UCF with laser sharp throws around and over defenders.

Young Receivers Shine

Speaking of quarterbacks throwing around and over defenders, let’s review who exactly they were throwing to. While the receivers room has been overhauled and we experienced some drops here and there, we got to see a lot of promise. Three wide receivers stuck out over the rest of the offense.

Redshirt freshman Bryan Robinson and the two true freshmen Joshua Burrell and Malik McClain really shined. The freshmen looked physically strong, which is huge considering they’re just getting on campus. They showedd really good speed and made some good plays down the field.

We already knew what guys like Keyshawn Helton and Ontaria Wilson could do in games. Seeing the floor raise with these three young guys is exciting. That’s especially true when it’s been argued that the two best receivers on this team are not on campus yet. That would be a reference to 4-star Destyn Hill and Kansas transfer Andrew Parchment.


That takes us to the last part. It’s something I’m 100% sure that fans will beat down over the next few months into the summer and fall camps. That, of course, was the play or struggle of the offensive line.

Nothing New

First and foremost, we need to remind fans that this offensive line has been under the most scrutiny of any position group during Norvell’s tenure. From an offensive perspective — or maybe an entire team perspective — offensive line coach Alex Atkins had the best performing group of all last season.

I would wager that the group we saw on Saturday will not be the group starting against Notre Dame on Sept. 5, unless the injury bug continues to bite. We did not see Brady Scott or Devontay Love-Taylor. If any coach deserves some reprieve, it might be Coach Atkins.

I fully believe that we will see much improvement from that offensive line as the offseason progresses. Once we get some guys back from injury, things will shape up nicely.

Somehow, FSU needs to find a graduate transfer to play left tackle. That way, Love-Taylor can slide in at guard with Maurice Smith at center. If someone from the group of Baveon Johnson, Dontae Lucas, Brady Scott, Zane Herring, Bryson Estes or Ira Henry can be a formidable guard, that offensive line could do wonders.

Stability Up Front for the Stable Out Back

If the FSU offensive line could gel, we might be able to rattle off those seven or eighth wins that many believe we should. That’s especially true with a backfield of Jashuan Corbin, Lawrance Toafili, D.J. Williams and Treshaun Ward.

None of the four are likely 1,500-yard guys this year. Behind a solid line however, the could combine for well over 2,500 yards of offense.

One important thing is that all four can catch the ball out of the backfield. That will be needed in the quick game and to open chances for downfield targets.