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Orange Bowl Preview: Depleted Seminole offense limps into Miami with holes to fill

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Louisville at Florida State
Brock Glenn will get only his second career start in the Orange Bowl.
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State led the ACC in scoring offense in 2023 and averaged 419.3 yards of total offense.

Mike Norvell would probably like it if the guys who accomplished that feat were going to be on the field for him this Saturday. The ‘Noles are missing a staggering amount of offensive production due to injury and opt outs, so much so that it’s difficult to know exactly what to expect.

As the College Football Playoff Committee helpfully pointed out, starting quarterback Jordan Travis is out due to injury. His backup Tate Rodemaker has decided to transfer, and will therefore not be playing.

That leaves true freshman Brock Glenn, FSU’s only healthy scholarship quarterback, to step up in only the second start of his career. Glenn was 8 of 21 passing for 55 yards in FSU’s 16-6 ACC title game win over Louisville. On the one hand I would expect Glenn to be settled in a little more with a series of bowl practices under his belt. I’d also expect FSU to install a game plan that plays to Glenn’s strengths.

And Glenn’s no stiff. He’s a legitimate Power 5 quarterback. As a high school recruit out of Covington, Tennessee Glenn was the nation’s #9 ranked quarterback recruit. At least at that stage of his development he had good accuracy on short to intermediate throws as long as he was in rhythm, and some decent quickness in the running game. When subjected to pressure against Louisville however he seemed to get happy feet fairly quickly, and while he didn’t throw any interceptions the Cardinals helped him out by not catching a couple of balls that should have been picked. Expect Georgia to come after him early and try to make the freshman hear foot steps all afternoon long.

Making Glenn’s task more difficult is the fact that much of the receiving talent who helped make Jordan Travis a Heisman candidate will not be on the field against the Dawgs. In fact, FSU’s top three receivers (Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson, and Jaheim Bell) will be sitting out. Coleman in particular is a huge loss. The junior had 50 catches for 658 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, and a full half of Glenn’s 8 completions against Louisville went to him. Coleman, Wilson, and Bell combined for 1778 receiving yards in 2023, 53% of the Seminoles’ season total.

I’d expect FSU offensive coordinator Alex Atkins to try to get a tight end involved. Kyle Morlock (19 catches for 255 yards) played in all 13 games this season and has the potential to provide Glenn a safety blanket.

A young quarterback’s best friend is often a strong running game. But the news here isn’t much better for the Garnet and Gold. The Seminoles were 10th in the ACC in rushing with 156.9 yards per game this season. However attrition has taken away weapons there as well. Trey Benson led the Seminoles with 905 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, but has declared for the NFL draft.

But wait, it gets worse. Redshirt freshman Rodney Hill saw action in 12 games and had 50 Carrie’s for 190 yards on the season. But he already entered the transfer portal. Florida State thus has only one tailback who averaged more than 2 Carrie’s per game in 2023: junior Lawrence Toafili (69 rushes for 463 yards and 4 touchdowns).

If there’s any good news for the Seminole offense it’s that the offensive line is largely intact, and has a ton of talent and experience. Tackle Bless Harris started 5 games this season and played in 11 despite battling injuries, but has already announced he’s transferring to TCU. Guard Thomas Shrader saw action as a reserve in 9 games this season but has entered the portal.

Otherwise, it’s an intact, veteran unit up front. The FSU offensive line was a Joe Moore Award finalist, recognized as among the 12 best groups in the nation. Guard D’Mitri Emmanuel (6’2, 309 lb.) has 51 career starts (25 at Charlotte and 26 at FSU). Casey Roddick has started 40+ games over five seasons at Colorado and in Tallahassee. Right tackle Darius Washington has 35 starts across three seasons for the Seminoles. And left tackle Robert Scott Jr. has 32 career starts for the Garnet and Gold. To what extent was the Fightin’ Mike Norvells’ 419 yards per game of offense a function of this veteran group rather than skill talent? We may find out on Saturday.

I expect Georgia to try to make the freshman quarterback beat them. I’d also expect some blitz looks that we haven’t seen this season. The Bulldogs are healthy and, a handful of reserve transfers aside, are pretty deep in the secondary. Look for lots of man coverage and 6-7 men in the box. And expect at least one Malaki Starks interception. Until later…

Go ‘Dawgs!!!