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Rebuild or Reload for FSU in 2024? How important is returning production?

ESPN’s Bill Connelly just released his returning production numbers for 2024, which sparks a conversation about whether FSU will be in a rebuild next season based on a low amount of returning production.

While I won’t argue that returning production is good to have, it’s a stat that can be hard to quantify, especially in the portal era.

For example, FSU is losing a lot of production from 2023, but they also replaced a good bit of that through the portal. Here are the percentages (on offense) of production lost and then what percentage of that lost production was replaced.

Lost 92.8%
Replaced 80.8%

Lost 65.8%
Replaced 55.9%

Lost 64.3%
Replaced 20.6%

We also know that FSU returns a majority of its starters on the offensive line as well as added a few quality players to provide competition and depth. Just looking at the quarterback position, Jordan Travis’ production in 2023 was a huge component of getting FSU to 10-0 at the time of his injury. FSU has almost carbon-copied that production over to 2024 with the addition of DJ Uiagalelei as you’ll see in the stat comparison below.

So, while losing 92.8% of its passing production sounds scary on paper, when you look at what FSU has done to replace it, it becomes an entirely different conversation.

Make no mistake, returning production helped propel FSU to a great season last year, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

Of the top 10 teams in returning production from 2023, only 50% had a better winning percentage than the previous year. Only three teams reached 10 wins, and only two teams won their conference.

In my opinion, you must consider the whole picture. What is the QUALITY of the returning production? Was the production lost at key positions, and what was done to replace it?

Returning 100% of production from a team that went 0-12 wouldn’t seem as valuable as returning 50% of the production from a team that went 12-0. Especially if that team also had a good portal class full of plug-and-play transfers that may also bring in production, just at a different school.

The portal era has changed the way rosters are managed from year to year in college football. You no longer have to rely on unproven prospects from the high school ranks to replace proven college-level players. Again, returning production is never a bad thing. However, it’s not necessarily a guarantee of success to come.

Looking at the top 10 portal classes from 2023, 8 of the top 10 teams had a better winning percentage than the previous year, and one of the two that didn’t was within one win/loss of their previous record (UCLA). This is just a small example of how a team can be better off reloading from the portal rather than bringing back a high amount of returning production. 

In FSU’s case, most of the pieces they replaced outgoing players with are less proven. However, on paper, the majority of those players are technically more talented when you look at recruiting or transfer rankings.

Also, unlike high school prospects, most of the “unproven players” have at least one or more years of college-level development. 2024 will be an interesting case study in reloading for FSU. Can the incoming players with a lot of potential replace the outgoing production and allow FSU to not skip a beat this season?

Only time will tell, but a good comparison year is 2022. FSU brought in a lot of players with potential who lacked college production (Johnny Wilson and Trey Benson are two great examples). Those players went on to have very productive seasons, and the Noles doubled their win total from the year before.

Of course, with the second-most returning production last year, the Noles got even better going 13-0 before the bowl game. What all this means is that returning production is never a bad thing. However, in today’s game, production can be replaced, and the quality of returning production may be a more important factor. 

FSU certainly reloaded its roster for 2024 after entering the offseason in what most felt would be a rebuilding year. This is why I believe FSU will be able to put together another good season based on its history of success and having a high hit rate in the portal.

With the current additions and those yet to come in the spring portal session, 2024 looks to be more of a “reload” year than a “rebuild” year. This is why I love that the FSU coaching staff embraces modern-day roster management strategies and uses the portal to supplement the positions of need. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!

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