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FSU Position Preview: Quarterback

Jordan Travis was undoubtedly the engine that powered the FSU offense to any success in 2021. This season should finally be the year he takes over as the lone QB1 and not subject to splitting reps with someone else. It’s now his team and his time to take the reigns of this offense to see if he can lead the Seminoles to a successful season.

We already knew Travis was a talented runner, often times his legs were the only thing that moved the offense. His unique skillset requires defenses to game plan for his running ability, but even then he’s still hard to contain. Jordan Travis is often heralded as a running quarterback who is not a capable passer. However, I would argue that I think he’s actually underrated when it comes to throwing the football and COULD be poised for his best season yet. Of course he still has to improve and become more comfortable with this offense. Fortunately, reports from fall camp so far have indicated he’s been doing just that.

First, I’ll acknowledge he has a smaller sample set than the quarterbacks I’m about to compare him to. So, we’ll use averages to smooth out the data as best we can. The ACC has a lot of talented quarterbacks and while I can’t say Jordan Travis is the best passer in the conference or doesn’t have room to improve, I can say he’s on par (percentage wise) with some of the better arms in the league. In the table below, we’ll look at three different set of statistics, overall stats, stats when kept clean, and stats under pressure.

As you can see, Travis was the most pressured of the three quarterbacks. Also, statistically FSU had the worst receiving core of the group. For Example, Sam Hartman’s leading receiver, AT Perry, had more yards than FSU’s four leading receivers combined. (As a true freshman!)

Obviously, I understand that has a lot to do with who is throwing them the ball as well. However, the Seminole receiving core has struggled the past few seasons and lacked a clear and consistent threat to passing defenses.

Even in the categories he didn’t lead, Jordan was not far behind the others. He was a very efficient passer when kept clean and given time to throw. He did struggle under pressure, but so did the others. He could improve on his deep passes as you’ll see in the graphic below, however, his short to mid-range passing is very good!

There certainly is no guarantee he could maintain the same percentages if he had to throw it a few hundred more times per season, but almost 200 attempts can still paint a good picture of his passing ability. Also, factor in for 2022 he comes in with more experience, new transfer receivers, (we assume) better o-line play, and being the known QB1…I think Florida State should have no problem winning with Travis behind center.

As you can see, Travis was the most pressured of the three quarterbacks. Also, statistically FSU had the worst receiving core of the group. For Example, Sam Hartman’s leading receiver, AT Perry, had more yards than FSU’s four leading receivers combined. (As a true freshman!)

Obviously, I understand that has a lot to do with who is throwing them the ball as well. However, the Seminole receiving core has struggled the past few seasons and lacked a clear and consistent threat to passing defenses.

Even in the categories he didn’t lead, Jordan was not far behind the others. He was a very efficient passer when kept clean and given time to throw. He did struggle under pressure, but so did the others.

There certainly is no guarantee Jordan Travis could maintain the same percentages if he had to throw it a few hundred more times per season. However, almost 200 attempts can still paint a good picture of his passing ability. Also, factor in for 2022 he comes in with more experience, new transfer receivers, (we assume) better o-line play, and being the known QB1…I think Florida State should have no problem winning with Travis behind center.

What kind of season Could Jordan Travis Have?

To go one step further, Norvell’s offensive numbers, passing wise, since being at FSU have not been close to that of his career averages prior. I doubt he suddenly forgot how to call an offense since he arrived in Tallahassee. Knowing that, I wanted to project what type of season we COULD see from Travis in an offense that matched some of those averages. Over his career as an offensive coordinator or higher, Norvell has had one other mobile quarterback with rushing numbers similar to Jordan’s. I figured that was the best comparison to use for the type of quarterback Jordan Travis is and how he’s used in this offense. When comparing the numbers, they were surprisingly similar.

First, let’s look at career average passing stats for the Mike Norvell offense PRIOR TO FSU (2012-2019). His quarterbacks averaged 466 pass attempts per season with a 62.7% completion percentage and an average of 3,804 yards – 32 touchdowns – 10 interceptions. In 2021, FSU had 340 pass attempts, 194 of which were by Jordan Travis. It’s would seem that Norvell typically likes to throw the ball more but is playing to the strength of the running game he has on offense.

The other mobile quarterback was Taylor Kelly at Arizona State. In Kelly’s second season under Norvell (2013), he played in 14 games and went 302/484 (62.4%) for 3,635 yards (7.5 Yards per attempt) 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Kelly also had 173 rushing attempts for 608 yards (3.5 Yards per carry) with 9 touchdowns. This is purely hypothetical as I’m not sure we will see Jordan throw the ball almost 500 times this season. Nonetheless, here is where the fun part begins…

Let’s first refresh on Jordan’s numbers from last season, 122/194 (62.9%) 1,539 yards (7.9 YPA) 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions as well as 134 rush attempts for 530 yards (4.0 YPC) and 7 touchdowns in 9 games. (I don’t think it’s fair to count the JSU game as he only played a few snaps) As you can see, the completion percentage, touchdown to interception ratio, and rushing numbers are already very similar. So, now let’s do some projecting using season averages assuming Jordan Travis also had 484 passing attempts last season.

7.9 YPA x an additional 290 attempts = 3,830 yards passing
4.0 YPC x an additional 39 attempts = 686 yards rushing
(JT averaged 1.67 touchdowns per game passing and 0.78 rushing)
1.67 TD x an additional 5 games = 23 touchdowns
0.78 TD x an additional 5 games = 11 touchdowns

I know this is not an exact science and it’s not as simple as the math makes this look, but it’s a way to project what type of season Travis COULD have in a typical Norvell offense. Those numbers come out amazingly similar to the season Kelly had in 2013. I also looked at 2014, a season where Norvell use two quarterbacks due to injury, and again the projected numbers were very similar to both quarterbacks used that season too.

The point is, Travis is on par (percentage wise) with the production Norvell got from a similar style of quarterback two seasons in a row. IF Jordan Travis continues to progress as a passer, you add in the additions at wide receiver and offensive line; Travis could very have a nice season.

Personally, I’d be thrilled if he had a season that was statistically equal to what Kelly did in 2013. We also have to take into account the type of passer Travis is as well. He’s obviously not the typical stand in the pocket and progress through multiple reads guy. His legs give him an advantage many quarterbacks do not have. It was reported during spring they would not allow him to run the ball, obviously this would be allowed in the game, but it shows they want him to focus on passing the ball more often rather than scrambling.

Whether he can sustain these averages over the course of an entire season remains to be seen, and none of this is guaranteed obviously. He has missed a lot of time in the past which stunted his development, but he gained a good amount of experience last season and if he can stay healthy with a full spring and fall camp Jordan should see further improvement this season. While all this remains to be seen, this is my case as to why I think Jordan Travis COULD have a nice season if all the stars align in 2022.

If FSU now has the pieces to run a more typical offense to what Norvell has done in the past and can put up similar numbers to his career averages prior to FSU; the offense could take a big step forward in 2022. This all relies on Jordan Travis staying healthy which has been a concern, but he is up over 10 pounds which should provide added durability. Hopefully, he won’t have to be put into as many situations where he could take a hit as well. This offense will rely heavily on his ability as he has proven to be the biggest playmaker on that side of the ball to date. I’m excited to see what he can do with a full year as the unquestioned starter.

Jordan Travis downfield passing chart

Looking at the depth chart

If for some reason Travis is unavailable, FSU will likely turn to Tate Rodemaker. Unfortunately, he has not performed well when forced into duty so far. I would argue that it was somewhat of an unfair situation he was thrown into as a true freshman so he gets a little slack. Tate now has more experience and has received lots of praise for his improvement in the spring which has continued into the fall. Rodemaker could be a viable backup this season and contend for a starting spot in the future. He is more similar to the type of passer Norvell typically uses. However, Travis helps to hide some of the deficiencies of this roster. If FSU was stacked at wide receiver and had an offensive line that could provide ample to throw, a more pure passer may be in the cards under Norvell, but neither is the case right now. As for Rodemaker, positive reports from practice are great, but I’d rather not find out in a pressure situation with the game on the line if he is ready yet or not. Hopefully we see a heavy dose of him against Duquesne to see how he has improved even if it is against a lesser opponent.

FSU also has incoming freshman quarterback AJ Duffy. Duffy was a talented prospect coming out of high school and could make an impact for FSU in the future. He may even be the second-best quarterback on the roster. He also has had a few good days in fall camp as well as made some freshman mistakes which is expected. He may be the future for FSU, but again I’d rather not rely on a true freshman in a big game situation, but I would like to see him get some game reps this season if possible.

That is something I hope to see more of this season. With FSU struggling the past few years, it has been hard to get the younger guys experience and see how they perform in game situations even against FCS teams. Hopefully, FSU has a few chances this season for that to happen. It would be nice for Rodemaker, and possibly Duffy, get some in game experience in the season opener.

Final Thoughts

Overall I think the position is better and will perform better this season vs last. Of course, this will depend heavily on how much improvement FSU sees on the offensive line and at the receiver position. And most importantly whether Jordan Travis can stay healthy for a majority of the season.

Mike Norvell is back to calling plays, and should now have a good idea of what Jordan is best at. This staff seemed to get caught up trying to catch lightening in a bottle in 2021 with McKenzie Milton and Jordan splitting reps and it cost them.

Now that Jordan is the sole guy with more weapons around him he is better set up for success. It will still likely be a run heavy offense this season based on their strengths, but there may finally be a better passing game to go along with it. Thank you for reading, Go Noles!

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