A plethora of exciting elements were present for the 2023 FSU Spring Game this past Saturday. Pregame festivities occurred around Doak-Campbell Stadium, giving fans an early feel of a Fall atmosphere. Former National Champions and Heisman winners served as guest coaches. Newly-designed uniforms from Nike were even debuted.
However, perhaps the most excitement was provided in the form of depth. Quality talent from the roster was displayed all over the field; an amount that surprised even some of the biggest ‘Nole diehards. All the noise surrounding this program should come as a surprise to nobody, however, as Florida State could enter the 2023 season as a top-10 team. What’s more, recruiting is far exceeding expectations, as the Seminoles secured a top-10 class, including the nation’s No. 1 ranked transfer portal haul. Mike Norvell is coming off an impressive 10-3 finish from his junior campaign at the helm of the program. With Heisman candidate Jordan Travis back, there is legitimate hope for this team to make its first Playoff appearance.
Here are a few key takeaways from the 2023 FSU Spring Game, including standout performances from positional groups and players.
The Trenches Look Elite
During FSU’s slump in the latter half of the 2010s, one could clearly point at the offensive and defensive lines as being one of the biggest reasons why. These units struggled under head coaches Jimbo Fisher and Willie Taggart, and ranked near the bottom of the entire FBS, in terms of both performance and efficiency. Not anymore. Norvell has made it a point of emphasis to rebuild along the trenches, a task in which all points point to success.
Led by senior D’Mitri Emmanuel and junior Bless Harris, the starting offensive line looked solid on Saturday. The front opened huge gaps for running lanes and offered solid pass protection. With a staggering 207 collective career starts on the roster, this is one of the most experienced and talented offensive lines in the country. This unit should compete for the Joe Moore Award at the end of the year, given to the nation’s best offensive line.
The defensive line may not have the same depth as that of the offensive line, but it’s not without its share of contributors. Jared Verse, All-ACC defensive end from last season, is undoubtedly the heralded star at the position. He could’ve declared for the NFL draft and been a late-first-round or early-second-round draft pick. Instead, his announcement to return to the Seminoles to “work on the minor things” serves as a huge boost, and he will surely serve as the leader on defense. He was living in the offensive backfield on Saturday, showing he has all the tools to be among the best in the country at his position.
A name to watch out for is redshirt-freshman Byron Turner, who had two sacks in corresponding plays. “That kid’s a freak of nature. You all saw it today with the sacks and production he just had…he’s something special,” said Verse.
The Backup Quarterback Battle is Tight
Offensive coordinator Alex Atkins was a little vanilla with play calling around star quarterback Travis. Most of his throws came underneath or to open flats to the running backs, although he did display his usual impressive poise, pocket presence, and athleticism on improvisational runs. There’s no question Travis is the starter, but who will serve as his backup? True dual threats tend to cause a coaching staff a little worry in regard to injury. This is especially with Travis, who is still working on not giving up his body quite as frequently.
Fortunately, the Seminoles have trustworthy options behind him, with freshman AJ Duffy and sophomore Tate Rodemaker battling for the backup spot. Both quarterbacks played well on Saturday, and the race looks neck and neck. The sample size for Duffy was slightly larger than Rodemaker, but he did seem to have a little more accuracy on his throws. Early enrollee Brock Glenn looked solid, as well, and he threw his name in the hat for some consideration.
Poitier and DeLoach Stole the Show
Kentron Poitier showed massive signs of progression over the course of last season. With 14 catches and four touchdowns, he greatly improved upon his numbers from the previous two years. He’s long and has range, and can be a dangerous deep threat down the sideline. “He just comes and works. He’s really fire. Having him out there now, he’s growing into himself and making crazy plays every single practice. He carries himself really well, and he’s a confident kid, a humble kid. He’s great,” said Travis on his development. His chemistry with Travis flourished, as was seen on display on Saturday:
1⃣3⃣ ➡️ 8⃣8⃣
𝐓𝐎𝐔𝐂𝐇𝐃𝐎𝐖𝐍#NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/oPhfmdZQge
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) April 15, 2023
He also had the play of the day with this one-handed catch on the pass from Duffy:
What a grab by @kentron_p 😱‼️#NoleFamily | #KeepCLIMBing pic.twitter.com/CsFaNpkbfz
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) April 15, 2023
With star receivers Johnny Wilson out and Mycah Pittman recovering from injury, Poitier stepped up in a big way. With his emergence, this wide receiver room has the potential to be the best in the ACC. Keep an eye on West Virginia transfer Winston Wright Jr., as well. He missed all of the 2022 season due to injury. He’s got tremendous speed and has the burst to take the top off defensive backfields.
Linebacker Kalen DeLoach is a more well-known name as a veteran on this roster. He certainly made it known on Saturday. He secured two turnovers on the day, intercepting Travis in the first quarter. As well as causing a fumble and recovering it in the third. Both likely would have been touchdowns the other way under normal circumstances.
The Running Back Room Gets Even Deeper
Opposing defenses might have to worry about more than just the three-headed monster of Trey Benson, Lawrance Toafili, and Treshaun Ward in the backfield. The deepest position group on the roster got even deeper Saturday with the emergence of freshmen CJ Campbell and Rodney Hill. Both displayed nice sets of hands in the passing game. Campbell added a rushing touchdown, with Hill adding one of his own along with a receiving touchdown during the 2023 FSU Spring Game.
The matchup against LSU in Orlando to open the season on September 3rd will tell us plenty about this FSU squad. The Noles should be slightly favored heading into the game. If they can execute and ride the momentum built from last year, it should be a defining season-opening victory. Further, it could be another epic showdown that comes down to the wire. The Bayou Bengals have found their stride, and return just as much talent and depth as FSU does. For now, the Seminole faithful should feel confident about the ceiling for this season after a compelling Spring Showcase.
Photo courtesy: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports