Spring football season is almost upon us.
About 2½ months after Florida State finished its 2021 season with a 5-7 record, the Seminoles will return to the Dunlap Athletic Training Facility to hold their first of 15 spring football practices Saturday
It’s an important offseason for the Seminoles, who will be looking for their first winning season since 2017 and will need to take another positive step in head coach Mike Norvell’s third season in order to accomplish that.
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What should continue to help the Seminoles in this pursuit is how many of their 2022 commits are already on campus. 12 of FSU’s 16 high-school signees and all 10 of its transfer additions enrolled in January and will be participating in spring camp.
This gives the newest Seminoles plenty of time to get acclimated to their new teammates and the new scheme they have to learn. There are plenty of viable options to choose between but here’s a list of five newcomers who should draw special attention this spring.
Quarterback AJ Duffy
Especially with so many transfer additions, FSU’s class of 2022 high-school signees isn’t expected to be loaded with instant contributors.
But among that group, there’s probably the most anticipation to see true freshman quarterback AJ Duffy this spring.
Duffy arrived on campus with plenty of hype as the highest-rated offensive signee in this year’s FSU class. The Murrieta, Calif. native who finished his high school career at IMG Academy is a strong candidate to be the Seminoles’ future at quarterback, especially after Chubba Purdy transferred away near the end of the 2021 season.
Duffy isn’t likely to establish himself as the starter entering his first season with Jordan Travis returning as the starter. However, a strong spring could validate the hype he arrived at FSU with and establish him as the backup entering the 2022 campaign.
Wide receiver Johnny Wilson
Each of the Seminoles’ four transfer wide receivers bring something different to the table.
Winston Wright Jr. brings production after leading West Virginia in receiving yards each of the last two seasons. Mycah Pittman brings pedigree and experience as both a receiver and a punt returner. Deuce Spann arrives from Illinois as an inexperienced but incredibly athletic wide receiver who could become a big-play threat.
But the receiver who may be the most intriguing to watch is Arizona State transfer Johnny Wilson. Wilson was a borderline top-100 recruit in the 2020 class, but managed to play just eight games over two seasons with the Sun Devils.
In five games last season before suffering a hamstring injury, Wilson had 154 receiving yards on 12 catches with his first career touchdown.
While Wilson doesn’t have a ton of production of his first few seasons of college football, his combination of 6-foot-7 frame with explosive speed could make him a lethal threat out wide for the Seminoles. That’s something FSU has lacked of late and we’ll get an idea this spring if he’s ready for that role.
Offensive lineman Kayden Lyles
If FSU’s offensive line is going to take the next step in 2022, Kayden Lyles will have a lot to do with that.
The Wisconsin transfer appeared in 34 games over five seasons with the Badgers, 22 of those on the offensive line. He brings a plethora of experience and, like Notre Dame transfer Dillan Gibbons last year, heads to FSU from one of the most well-regarded offensive line schools in the country.
In terms of his physicality, we may not get a great look at that this spring. Spring practices normally have limited contact and there may not be a ton of opportunities for full-on thumping.
What to watch for Lyles this spring will be how he’s building those connections. If he’s going to be the Seminoles’ starting center as expected, building chemistry with the quarterbacks as well as the rest of the offensive linemen will be important.
Defensive end Jared Verse
Of all the new additions, Albany defensive end transfer Jared Verse is probably the most anticipated entering the spring.
The Seminoles beat out some of the best programs in the country to land Verse’s commitment. He arrives in Tallahassee with big shoes to fill in replacing Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas, who both made huge one-year impacts for the Seminoles in 2021 as transfers from SEC schools.
Verse doesn’t have that pedigree — he was an under-the-radar recruit who originally played two seasons at the FCS level — but his film shows a player capable of being a major factor at this level.
While Thomas was sidelined last spring with an injury, it was clear from the first practice of spring camp the type of impact that Johnson would make on the Seminoles’ defensive line.
It’s not fair to hold Verse to that standard, but if he also looks the part to start spring practice, it definitely changes the perception of FSU’s defensive line unit.
Defensive back Sam McCall
Sam McCall enters his first spring at FSU after finishing as the Seminoles’ highest-rated 2022 signee.
He’s been a bit limited early in his time due to an ankle injury suffered ahead of the Under Armor All-America game, but said back on Feb. 1 that he was at about 90% then.
If he’s healthy and ready to go for the start of spring, he should be quite intriguing to see where he fits right away in the Seminoles’ loaded secondary. He was listed as a safety as a recruit but said he’ll be starting out at cornerback this offseason.
McCall is a freakish athlete capable of lining up in multiple spots who seems fairly polished and ready for football at this level. This spring will validate if this is indeed the case and McCall is likely to see the field right away as a true freshman.
Reach Curt Weiler at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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