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The FSU head coach said the team is deferring to the school's administration when discussing how coronavirus may affect the team's spring practice. Tallahassee Democrat

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体育在线365Florida State football needs to show improvement in quite a few areas when the 2020 season starts.

First-year FSU coach Mike Norvell is considered one of the top young coaches in college football. He took the Memphis program that he was at before arriving at FSU on the best run the Tigers have ever had.

体育在线365Now he will attempt to rebuild the Seminoles' program, which stepped off a steep cliff in 2017 and has yet to make its way back up the mountain. 

Expecting a total rebuild and a return to dominance in year one of the Norvell era isn't practical, but what should be expected is that FSU will improve.

体育在线365But in what areas will the Seminoles' improve. Here's a look at one area FSU should improve in all three phases.

Third-down offense

FSU was on of the worst teams in the country at converting third downs in 2019. The Seminoles finished the season 103rd (35.6%) in the country. It was worse in 2018 with a 29.1% conversion rate (127th).

Memphis finished 2019 with the 19th best third-down conversion rate (46.1%) and 2018 with the 13th best rate (47.1%). Norvell's offense never finished a season converting less than 40% of its third downs during his four years at Memphis.

体育在线365Memphis was in third down on 19.6% of its plays last season. The Seminoles were in third down on 21.1% of all plays. It comes out to less than one more third-down situation per game between the two teams. 

The difference didn't come in short yardage situations. Memphis converted 58.8% of the time when faced with third downs of three or fewer. FSU converted 56.5%.

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The majority of the difference came when the offenses faced third downs between four and nine yards. FSU converted 35.8% of the time, while Memphis converted 48.1%.

The Tigers threw the ball 62 times in those situations with 17 rushes. They converted on 32 of the passes and seven of the rush attempts.

The Seminoles threw the ball 57 times and converted 23 first downs on those passes. They ran the ball 24 times and converted six times. 

The Tigers also converted better on third downs of 10 yards or more. Memphis converted on 27.4% of those third downs with 45 pass attempts and 17 rushes.

体育在线365FSU converted on 15.4% of the attempts with 37 passes and 28 rushes. None of the 28 rushing attempts went for a first-down. This number does include sacks because the NCAA still qualifies sacks as a rush. 

The Seminoles should improve this season with Norvell at the helm, though the loss of running back Cam Akers to the NFL is going to hurt. His ability to run through contact made a significant difference in third down conversions last season.

体育在线365But Norvell has proven the ability to adapt his offense to the personnel that he has available, and there are quite a few new running backs on the roster that should be able to help. 

Behind the line

One area that the FSU defense has struggled in over the last two seasons has been stopping teams behind the line of scrimmage.

The Seminoles have done a good job holding opposing offenses to under 3.6 yards per carry during that span, but the lack of negative plays have hurt the defense.

The Seminoles averaged 5.69 tackles for loss (79th) per game during the 2019 season and 5.75 (72nd) in 2018.

Memphis averaged 6.93 tackles for loss per game in 2019 (27th), 7.43 (21st) in 2018, and 7 (28th) in 2017. 

体育在线365Last season's switch to a hybrid 3-4 defense and the subsequent bouncing back-and-forth between three and four-man fronts hurt FSU's ability to get into the backfield with consistency due to the play of the linebackers. The defense reacted far more than it attacked the last two seasons.

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FSU will be moving back to a 4-3 defense under first-year defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, which will put the emphasis back onto the defensive line.

体育在线365The defensive line will be a position of strength for FSU in 2020 due to the trio of talented interior defenders – senior Marvin Wilson, redshirt junior Cory Durden, and junior Robert Cooper – that are returning. 

Defensive end is still a question, but redshirt senior Janarius Robinson did lead FSU with nine tackles for loss in 2019. 

Special teams... All of it

体育在线365FSU's special teams unit has been one of the worst in the country for the past few seasons. 

体育在线365Punt returns, kickoff returns, return coverage, punting, and field goals. Every single part of the unit has struggled significantly at some point. 

体育在线365FSU finished 80th in punt return average, 103rd in yards per punt, 126th in field goal percentage, and 112th in yards per kickoff return allowed in 2019.

The Seminoles did finish 13th in kickoff returns in 2019, but finished 78th in 2018. They were also 32nd in yards per punt return allowed in 2019, but were 108th in 2018.

Norvell puts an emphasis on special teams, which was seen during the first three practices of spring football before the coronavirus shut down sports across the country. 

体育在线365Memphis finished in the top 35 in college football in field goal percentage (fifth), kickoff returns (ninth), yards per kickoff return allowed (27th), and yards per punt (35th) in 2019. 

体育在线365This is an area that FSU should see significant improvement in this season. It was a weapon in Norvell's hands at Memphis, but getting to the point where it isn't a detriment in 2020 would be significant progress for FSU. 

Reach Wayne McGahee III at wmcgahee@jameswburdick.com or follow him on Twitter @WayneMcGaheeIII

No one covers the ‘Noles like the Tallahassee Democrat.

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