TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The transfer portal has been kind to Florida State coach Mike Norvell.
Florida’s Billy Napier should be hoping for similar success as he dives into the deep end this offseason.
The 16th-seeded Seminoles (8-3) are likely to begin seven transfers on offense when they face the rival Gators (6-5) on Friday night. The list includes dynamic quarterback Jordan Travis (Louisville), leading rusher Trey Benson (Oregon), and leading receiver Johnny Wilson (Arizona State).
The trio has been the backbone of a team that has scored at least 38 points in four straight wins, each with more than three touchdowns.
It wouldn’t surprise anyone if they do the same with Florida, which is facing a humbling defeat at Vanderbilt and has already lost more than 400 yards in seven games this season.
FSU is 9 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. It’s the biggest point spread in favor of the Seminoles at home in the series since 2000. It’s a credit to Norvell, who mined the portal for 35 guys in his first three seasons.
“If there’s a good player who maybe has a little more experience or can come in and make that immediate impact, who still fits into our dressing room and what we’re building, then of course we’ll look into all those things,” Norvell said .
Norvell’s starting lineup is filled with transfers: three offensive linemen, the team’s top two tacklers, and the best pass rusher.
Napier used the gantry sparingly in his freshman year, bringing Montrell Johnson and right guard O’Cyrus Torrence from Louisiana-Lafayette and adding Arizona state receiver Ricky Pearsall. All three have been integral additions. Johnson leads the team in rushing, Torrence is a likely All-Southeastern Conference selection, and Pearsall leads the Gators with three TD catches.
Napier is expected to wade further into the portal pool in Year 2, especially as the Gators lose nine scholarship players to graduation and have already seen eight other guys leave the program in the past month.
“I sometimes think it’s a shame when they do it before the season is over,” said Napier. “I don’t necessarily think that’s a positive thing. But it’s the rules we’re given, right? You can sit and worry about that or you can just focus on the things you can control. … I think we all understand that it happens everywhere.”
Florida could trail three key starters, including one for half the game. Linebacker Ventrell Miller, the heart of the Gators defense, has to sit out the first half due to a shootout against Vanderbilt. The Gators could also be without a safety and leading tackler Rashad Torrence and leading receiver Xzavier Henderson.
Miller’s absence would be the biggest setback, as the Seminoles have run at least 200 yards in six consecutive games—the longest active streak in the country.
“It’s going to be a big loss,” said Florida security guard Trey Dean. “But it will be fine, I promise you.”
FSU’s Travis completes 81.6% of his passes in three November games. He has 11 TD passes and just nine imperfections in wins over Miami, Syracuse and Louisiana-Lafayette. Travis has 21 TD passes this season, five rush scores and a TD reception.
NOT SO SPECIAL
Florida is having its worst performance of the season for special teams. The Gators muffled a punt that led to a touchdown and missed an extra point in a seven-point loss at Vanderbilt.
Since returning a punt 48 yards to set up a score against Missouri in early October, Napier’s team has done little to change the game in that phase.
Florida State units, meanwhile, thrived under Norvell and could have an advantage.
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