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D.J. Uiagalelei Returns to ACC to Lead Florida State Offense

Seminoles offense
© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season for Florida State was bittersweet at best. A promising season and a dominating run through the schedule saw the team finish 13-0 and end as the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Seminoles didn't even get a chance to compete for the national championship after being excluded from the College Football Playoff by the selection committee.

Despite a disheartening injury to starting quarterback Jordan Travis with just two games left in the regular season, the team rallied together to finish undefeated and captured the ACC title in a battle with the Louisville Cardinals. The decision by the CFP Committee to leave out the undefeated Seminoles from the playoffs was a heartbreaking one for the team and Seminoles fans everywhere.

Now as the calendar turns to the 2024 season, the Seminoles have several questions to answer ahead of the first kick against Georgia Tech when the teams take the field Aug. 24 in Dublin, Ireland.

New Look Florida State Offense

Key departures: Jordan Travis, Trey Benson, Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson, Jaheim Bell

Key arrivals: D.J. Uiagalelei, Roydell Williams, Malik Benson, Kam Davis, Jaylin Lucas

Seminoles offense
© Liam Rooney/Tallahassee Democrat / USA TODAY NETWORK

At quarterback, the team saw Travis depart for the NFL. Travis was one of the program's all-time leaders, leaving the team with some large shoes to fill. With redshirt freshman Brock Glenn and true freshman Luke Kromenhoek on the roster, coach Mike Norvell and his staff sought help in the transfer portal. Enter D.J. Uiagalelei, the one-time foe who spent three seasons with the Clemson Tigers before his 2023 season with the Oregon State Beavers. The redshirt senior, who has a solid arm and the ability to push the ball downfield, enters this season having thrown for more than 2,200 yards in three straight seasons. While accuracy has been a concern, Uiagalelei and the coaching staff have been working to address the concerns and make them a non-issue.

Will the time spent away from the ACC have helped Uiagalelei grow into a better quarterback? Early reports out of spring practices are that he has embraced what the coaches have been building and is poised to have a great season for the Seminoles.

Running back saw another key player depart to the NFL in Trey Benson, the team's leading rusher from 2023. He showed his dynamic playmaking ability over his two seasons with the Seminoles and surpassed 1,000 total yards in each season. Benson's unique combination of speed and strength made him a force for FSU and paired with Lawrance Toafili made a formidable running back duo.

Fast forward to 2024, Toafili returns along with Caziah Holmes, Alabama transfer Roydell Williams and Indiana transfer Jaylin Lucas. For Lucas, the move to Tallahassee reunites him with his brother, Ja'Khi Douglas. Lucas brings a dynamic runner as he lines up in the backfield and a dynamic returner with three kickoff return touchdowns in his career. In addition, the group welcomes true freshman Kam Davis. The former high school quarterback is a power runner with a solid 5-foot-10, 215-pound frame that has the agility to make anyone miss. It's gonna be a fun group to watch to see how the group evolves and who emerges to lead the group.

The Wide receivers are a group that has seen the most change from last season. All-world receivers Keon Coleman, Johnny Wilson and Swiss Army knife Jaheim Bell all depart for the NFL and should hear their names called in the upcoming draft. The trio accounted for 60 percent of the teams receiving touchdowns in 2023. Returning are Ja'Khi Douglas, Destyn Hill and Hykeem Williams who should all be ready to take big steps forward. Incoming Alabama transfer Malik Benson joins the Seminoles and has already noted the difference in the locker room culture and how much he has been welcomed to the Seminoles team. Incoming freshman Camden Frier has been making a name for himself with his work ethic in the weight room as well as on the field. He's got sneaky speed to separate and tracks the ball well down the sideline. While the group doesn't have the height or reach that Coleman and Wilson brought to the team, this group is certainly faster and a stronger group to win in traffic.

The offensive line remains mostly intact, returning all but two starters from last season's team that blocked for the highest-scoring offense in the ACC. The team added veteran linemen Richie Leonard from Florida and T.J. Ferguson from Alabama. Overall, the offensive line has started 185 of 322 career games. It's said games are won and lost in the trenches and having that much experience along the offensive line will give the Seminoles offense a chance to shine. The big guys in the trenches have proven they can protect the pocket and create running lanes. Both are essential for the continued success of the Seminoles.

Embracing Seminole Culture

Uiagalelei has shown that he's making every effort to learn the offense and is poised to continue his streak of throwing for more than 2,200 yards in a season, and embrace the culture of the Florida State. Although the bulk of the production has moved on to the NFL stage, there is quality in the ranks and the future is bright for the Seminoles to keep climbing.


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