Ah Florida State. Who could forget that fateful night? The sole game of the 2015 season for Tech ended up with one of the greatest endings to a game that Tech has ever had. For those of you who may not remember it (or just want to watch it again), let’s all re-live it.
Now here we are, five years later, and these teams are meeting again. And well, a lot has changed. Both teams have new coaches (FSU is actually on their second coach since) and the teams are pretty much completely different from what they were.
2019 Season Review
Willie Taggart’s second season in Tallahassee was disappointing to say the least with the Noles going 4-5 before firing Taggart and letting Odell Haggins finish the season as the coach, going 2-2 to close out the season.
Before any of that happened, the Noles lost quarterback Deondre Francois, who had started in 2016 and 2018, after his girlfriend posted a video on Instagram that showed him allegedly doing some unsavory things. And that set off the quarterback chaos throughout the season. The Noles mostly ran Wisconsin-transfer Alex Hornibrook and James Blackman at quarterback, but neither was really game-changing.
The Noles’ biggest issue was its offensive line which, despite its talent, was in shambles for most of the season, allowing a whopping 48 sacks. In spite of that, Running back Cam Akers had a great season, finishing with over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
This was all really disappointing for the Noles, who had brought in Kendall Briles to revamp the offense.
On defense, the Noles were also pretty bad. They finished the season 90th in total defense and 119th in passing defense. Like Georgia Tech, they had issues generating a pass rush, but I think Tech’s defensive backfield makes up for it a little better.
Florida State lost other players, including a kicker with a pretty familiar name, but when it comes down to it, the Noles’ biggest loss is Cam Akers. Akers was a monster despite a shoddy offensive line. He had a bit of a sophomore slump, but he ran for 1,000 yards twice and was really just a machine for the offense. With him gone, Florida State is going to have to find some way to replace that production
Players to Watch For
While James Blackman is not necessarily guaranteed to be the starter this year, I’d say he’s certainly got a good shot, given the lack of a spring practice and his in-game experience. Blackman was not awful last season. He completed over 60 percent of his passes and had a positive TD-INT ratio (17/11), but I don’t know that he’s really taken that next step to be a really good quarterback.
What every quarterback needs is a good receiver, and Tamorrion Terry is a pretty solid one. In his two seasons in Tallahassee, Terry has caught 17 touchdowns and has gone for nearly 2,000 yards. If Blackman wants to be successful, Terry is going to need to have another good season.
There were not many bright spots on the Noles’ defense last season, but Hamsah Nasirildeen was definitely one. He led the Noles with tackles with 101 before going down in the regular season finale with a knee injury. Now, I know having a safety leading the team in tackles may not bode well for the team, but any time you get 100 tackles, that is pretty solid!
2020 Season Outlook
Assuming the season happens, it will be a very pivotal year for Florida State. Mike Norvell is in his first season, after coming from Memphis, and well, the fans in Tallahassee aren’t exactly thrilled with the state of the program coming out of the Willie Taggart era. Norvell had a strong start with his recruiting class finishing as a Top 25 class last season, and it seems like Norvell will follow suit this year.
On the offensive line, the Noles will be getting a slight boost with the addition of FIU grad transfer Devontay Love-Taylor. The rest of the line will need to be better, though, if Florida State is to be successful this season.
On defense, well, it will be there and the Noles will have their fingers crossed that things are better. Norvell brought over his defensive coordinator Adam Fuller who will be moving back to a four-man front. They ran a 4-3 in Taggart’s first season before switching to a 3-4 during the second. The secondary, led by Nasirildeen and Asante Samuel, Jr. will lead that unit, but the defensive line and linebackers will need to step it up.
Looking at the game between Georgia Tech and Florida State, it’s tough to predict what’s going to happen. I think this is a good first test for Georgia Tech, and one that’s definitely winnable, given some of the Noles’ struggles. I think this one will be pretty ugly as both teams work to kind of figure out how things are going to work, but I think Tech’s defense will help the Yellow Jackets edge out with a victory.
How do you feel about the Noles this season?