TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The transfer portal has been kind to Florida State coach Mike Norvell.
Florida’s Billy Napier should hope for similar success when he dives in deep this offseason.
The 16th-ranked Seminoles (8-3) are likely to start seven transfers on offense when they host 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’s scored at least 38 points in four straight victories, each by more than three touchdowns.
No one would be surprised to see them do the same to Florida, which is coming off a humbling loss at Vanderbilt and has been gouged for more than 400 yards in seven games already this season.
FSU is 9 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. It’s the largest point spread in favor of the Seminoles at home in the series since 2000. Getting to this point has been a credit to Norvell, who mined the portal for 35 guys in his first three seasons.
“If there’s a right player that might have a little more experience or can come in and make that immediate impact, that still fits our locker room and what we’re building, then obviously we will explore all those things,” Norvell said
Norvell’s starting lineup is filled with transfers: three offensive linemen, the team’s top two tacklers and its best pass rusher.
Napier used the portal sparingly in his first year, bringing running back Montrell Johnson and right guard O’Cyrus Torrence with him from Louisiana-Lafayette and adding Arizona State receiver Ricky Pearsall. All three have been integral additions. Johnson leads the team in rushing, Torrence is likely an 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 since the Gators are losing nine scholarship players to graduation and already have seen another eight guys leave the program in the past month.
“I think it’s a shame sometimes when they do it before the season’s out,” Napier said. “I don’t necessarily think that’s a positive. But it’s the rules that we’ve been given, right? You can sit around and worry about that or you can just focus on the things you can control. … I think we all understand it’s happening everywhere.”
Florida could be down three key starters, one of them for half the game. Linebacker Ventrell Miller, the heart of the Gators’ defense, has to sit out the first half because of a targeting ejection against Vanderbilt. The Gators also could be without safety and leading tackler Rashad Torrence and leading receiver Xzavier Henderson.
Miller’s absence would be the biggest setback considering the Seminoles have run for at least 200 yards in six consecutive games — the longest active streak in the nation.
“It’s going to be a big loss,” Florida safety Trey Dean said. “But we’re going to be all right, I promise you that.”
FSU’s Travis is completing 81.6% of his passes in three November games. He has 11 TD passes and just nine incompletions in wins over Miami, Syracuse and Louisiana-Lafayette. Travis has 21 TD passes, five rushing scores and a TD reception this season.
NOT SO SPECIAL
Florida is coming off its worst special-teams performance of the season. The Gators muffed 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 games in that phase.
Florida State’s units, meanwhile, have flourished under Norvell and could have an advantage.