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Showcase offered insight into Seminoles’ priorities

By Bob Ferrante

Orlando Sentinel Correspondent

TALLAHASSEE — No score or stats were kept inside Doak Campbell Stadium for Florida State’s spring showcase, a modified format that coach Mike Norvell has embraced for years. But it did feature 25 minutes of 11-on-11 competition as well as some special-teams drills.

The showcase gave fans a first look at 25 newcomers via the transfer portal as well as early enrollees. And for media who have had an open view of this spring’s practices, what was seen over the course of a month lined up with what transpired on Saturday.

Here are three takeaways:

Offensive identity will be running

With all of the attention on DJ Uiagalelei and the new pieces at receiver, FSU has shown this spring that it has the workhorses to replace Trey Benson’s production (back-to-back 900-yard seasons) as well as the run blocking on the offensive line.

The Seminoles’ run game had moments in 2023, yet they finished 77th in the FBS (150.21 yards per game) and averaged 4.54 yards per carry (46th). But this is wild: Despite having mobile quarterback Jordan Travis and stalwart Benson, it was the lowest per-game rushing total for a Mike Norvell-coached team since his first year at Memphis in 2016 (84th).

FSU led the ACC in 2022, gaining 214.08 rushing yards per game (14th in FBS). The Seminoles will again emphasize the run, which is helped by Uiagalelei’s frame and running ability. Roydell Williams also showed his physicality and capability of making quick cuts, Caziah Holmes had a 20-yard touchdown run and Lawrance Toafili and Jaylin Lucas have been elusive.

“The embrace and the understanding of the importance of the run game is something those guys have taken a great deal of focus on,” Norvell said. “They have really grown in that capacity.”

Seminoles can pressure QB

The speed and relentless rush from Marvin Jones Jr., Patrick Payton, Sione Lolohea and Tomiwa Durojaiye kept coming at FSU’s quarterbacks. But it was also evident from defensive tackle Grady Kelly as well as defensive ends Aaron Hester and Lamont Green Jr.

FSU has an abundance of depth at defensive end to apply pressure on quarterbacks.

“We were able to be disruptive in the pass rush on the defensive front,” Norvell said. “That’s got a chance to be a real strength of this group.”

Passing game needs to be fine-tuned

All eyes were often on Uiagalelei but the pass game is a reflection of pass protection, chemistry and timing with receivers, a quarterback’s accuracy and pass-catchers securing the ball. FSU still has plenty of work to do.

Uiagalelei was (unofficially) 12 of 26 for 177 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. There were at least three drops, which stalled drives and hurt his numbers. But there were also pass break-ups by defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs.

But Uiagalelei was able to sustain drives, throwing downfield often (which opens up the run). He connected with Malik Benson on a 27-yard grab and Williams finished the drive with a 30-yard touchdown run. On another drive, Uiagalelei found Darion Williamson for a 24-yard pass, which set up Holmes’ touchdown.

“It was up and down,” Uiagalelei said. “Thought there was some good; thought there was some bad. It wasn’t obviously the cleanest day. Overall throughout the whole spring I thought I did a good job, continue to keep progressing day in, day out. I just try to get better each and every day. Learn from what I did right, from what I did wrong.”

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