6 players to watch in FSU football spring game Saturday

If college football spring games are about learning new, emerging faces for a team, then Florida State’s spring showcase should be one of the biggest in the nation.

Mike Norvell’s Seminoles lost most key contributors from last year’s 13-1 squad; only nine starters from the ACC championship win over Louisville are expected to play in Saturday’s exhibition.

Here are our six most intriguing players to watch in the glorified scrimmage at Doak Campbell Stadium:

DJ Uiagalelei

Uiagalelei and Washington State’s Cam Ward were two passers FSU recruited heavily in the transfer portal. Ward eventually ended up at Miami and impressed with a three-touchdown showing in the Hurricanes’ spring game.

Now it’s Uiagalelei’s turn. The former five-star Clemson/Oregon State starter has the arm strength to add a downfield passing threat that was hit or miss with Jordan Travis; FSU ranked merely 33rd nationally with 8.1 yards per attempt last season. With Brock Glenn (who started the ACC title game) and top-60 national recruit Luke Kromenhoek both sidelined with injuries, Saturday’s focus is all on Uiagalelei.

Marvin Jones Jr.

FSU missed out on the son of the College Football Hall of Famer (and former Seminoles star) coming out of high school but landed him in the portal via Georgia. The last Bulldogs pass rusher Norvell added worked out great; Jermaine Johnson was the ACC’s defensive player of the year in 2021.

That’s an unfair bar for Jones or any other transfer. But the Seminoles need another edge rusher to emerge as Jared Verse’s replacement. This will be our first glimpse of Jones’ five-star talent.

Patrick Payton

The edge rusher is arguably FSU’s most proven returner after starting all 14 games last season and recording 14 ½ tackles for loss. That alone would have gotten him drafted after only three years at FSU.

But Payton chose to remain for another year, and the expectations are high. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said before the start of spring ball that Payton should be “dominant” every play. We’ll see how much he has improved since the Orange Bowl and whether he’s looking more like a future first-round pick and all-ACC performer.

Jaylin Lucas

Norvell has a history of maximizing do-it-all players. Lucas appears to be the next one. The running back racked up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards two seasons at Indiana before transferring to FSU. The Seminoles have been raving about his ability — position coach David Johnson called him “electric” — in a group that’s one of FSU’s biggest strengths. How will Norvell highlight his strengths and versatility?

Malik Benson

With both Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson set to be drafted next week, FSU has a void at receiver. Benson is one possibility to fill it.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was the top junior college recruit in the 2023 class and a blue-chip transfer from Alabama this cycle. He also adds a dose of speed that FSU’s receiving corps lacked last season.

“He is showing that he can be a go-to guy,” Norvell told reporters this week.

Don’t be surprised if he’s a go-to player in the showcase.

Azareye’h Thomas

Thomas has been a valuable contributor in 25 games over his first two seasons. Now the defensive back looks ready to live up to his billing as a former top-100 national recruit.

The opportunity is there after the Seminoles lost three starters in the secondary (Renardo Green, Akeem Dent and Jarrian Jones). The talent is, too, in his 6-foot-2, 194-pound frame. And the buzz around the program is that he has put everything together this spring to become one of FSU’s best defensive players.

FSU football spring showcase

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Doak Campbell Stadium

Admission: $10

TV: ACC Network

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