Tampa Bay Times

FSU’s Milton looks to be strong contender at QB

- BY MATT BAKER Times Staff Writer Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTi­mes.

TALLAHASSE­E — After the chaos of having coaches buzzing around for his first 13 practices at Florida State, things got calmer for McKenzie Milton during Saturday’s spring game. It was just him and his teammates on a football field, finally.

“You’re just playing,” Milton said.

Twenty-eight months ago, just playing seemed unlikely, if not impossible, for the former UCF starting quarterbac­k Not after he went down with a gruesome leg injury at USF in 2018.

By that measure, Milton simply taking the field was a remarkable accomplish­ment. But the graduate transfer didn’t just play Saturday. He played well. Well enough to look like a legitimate contender to start his Seminoles debut against Notre Dame in September.

Milton played better than his numbers (6-of-11 for 96 yards and a touchdown) suggest. He moved well in and out of the pocket; his 14-yard rush was the longest by a quarterbac­k Saturday.

His passes looked strong, too. There was a gorgeous 27-yard pass down the sideline to promising early enrollee Malik McClain. A 16-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Robinson thrown where only his receiver could catch it. A 39-yard zip down the seam to Joshua Burrell.

The fact that Milton

preceded that exhibition with a great Thursday practice was a good sign, too.

“Just continued growth,” coach Mike Norvell said.

It’s too soon to know whether that growth will be enough for Milton to become the starter. His top competitor, redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis, had a “phenomenal spring,” according to Norvell. Travis was 8-of-14 for 115 yards and a touchdown Saturday. Like Milton, he led the offense to

two scores (one touchdown, one field goal) in three drives.

Both will be pushed by Chubba Purdy, last year’s four-star signee who was shut down this spring to focus on rehabilita­ting from surgeries. Norvell didn’t say how much separation, if any, he has seen through the spring.

“Those guys are going to push each other,” Norvell said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For Milton, it already is. A career that was in major jeopardy 2½ years ago has another chapter.

Sure, it was only three drives in an exhibition. But it’s the closest Milton has come to a real game since he crumpled to the Raymond James Stadium turf in November 2018.

“It’s been a long time since I was able to do that,” he said. “I won’t take it for granted at all (after) these past couple years.

“It’s just a blessing to be out here and a blessing to be wearing this logo. It’s something I’ll cherish for this next year and just have fun with it.”

Other thoughts from Saturday’s game:

Potential playmakers emerge

Pinellas Park High product Lawrance Toafili gained 45 yards on four carries. Treshaun Ward, a former walk-on from Tampa Bay Tech, had 41 yards on six attempts. Auburn transfer D.J. Williams looks like a nice addition, and McClain was the day’s top receiver. The fact that only Ward was here when Norvell arrived is a good sign for the future.

Offensive line might be a concern

“Might be” is the key phrase because at least four players were out with injuries (including versatile starter Devontay Love-Taylor) and sacks are called generously in these games to protect quarterbac­ks. But there were clear issues, with 11 sacks in the first half. FSU’s recent history at the position suggests the line still has plenty of work to do.

Jermaine Johnson is impact transfer

The former four-star recruit had 36 tackles in two years at Georgia and has made an immediate impression with the Seminoles. He had two sacks and a quarterbac­k hurry before leaving with an injury, which didn’t seem serious. He’s a welcome addition to a pass rush that ranked 119th nationally last year.

 ?? DON JUAN MOORE | FSU Sports Informatio­n ?? FSU’s McKenzie Milton, a graduate transfer from UCF, looks downfield during Saturday’s spring game in Tallahasse­e.
DON JUAN MOORE | FSU Sports Informatio­n FSU’s McKenzie Milton, a graduate transfer from UCF, looks downfield during Saturday’s spring game in Tallahasse­e.

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