TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Competition has built depth in Florida State's football program. Experience has led to more confidence. Mike Norvell believes the change in his team is mostly due to stability.
The Seminoles aren’t where he wants them to be, yet appreciates how far they have come since his arrival in December 2019. Younger players now are productive veterans and leaders. The culture has also dramatically improved along the way.
“That was one of the things that was critical within our program,” Norvell said. “Coming in a few years ago, there had been so much change. And there was not the consistency and expectation.
“Anybody can point to three head coaches, but there were eight coordinators in a five-year period. Those are all different voices, different expectations, different languages. And then for the leadership, when they don’t grow up within that consistency, it’s hard to have that example. And for us we’ve been able to build that.”
Norvell has often mentioned that FSU was one of the youngest teams in college football in 2020 and ’21. Through three recruiting classes and the transfer portal, Norvell has shaped the roster in his image — with 63 of 85 scholarship players in 2022 being those that he brought in.
Florida State has not had a winning season since 2017 and last played in a bowl after the 2019 season. The Seminoles’ 27 losses in the last four seasons illustrate just how difficult the rebuild has been as well as the realities of roster turnover due to coaching transition, from Jimbo Fisher’s departure for Texas A&M in 2017 to Willie Taggart’s dismissal in 2019.
But because the Seminoles often leaned on younger players the last two seasons, they were able to gain experience and learn through mistakes as well as losses. A resolve to turn the program around through its work in offseason strength and conditioning has often been cited by players as shaping the culture.
“We have a lot of leaders in this football team,” quarterback Jordan Travis said. “I can just see it when we do our conditioning. That’s when you see when the leaders come out. Everyone’s exhausted. Someone bends over — it’s not the coach telling someone to stand up. Now it’s the players. You don’t hear anybody complaining. … It doesn’t fall on the coaches. When we lose football games, it’s on us as players. We have to take ownership and responsibility.”
REBUILT RECEIVER ROOM
Norvell upgraded the receiver room by landing four transfers: Mycah Pittman (Oregon), Johnny Wilson (Arizona State), Deuce Spann (Illinois) and Winston Wright Jr. (West Virginia). The transfers have elevated the competition within the room and built chemistry with Travis.
IMPACT DEFENSIVE TRANSFERS
Florida State also landed defensive end Jared Verse (Albany) and linebacker Tatum Bethune (UCF). Verse has been praised for his athleticism and work ethic, but he will have a learning curve as he makes the jump from an FCS school to the ACC. Bethune is frequently cited for his instincts and play-making in scrimmages, and he shores up a position group that has long been viewed as a weakness.
NEW ASSISTANTS, FAMILIAR FACES
Florida State replaced two departing assistant coaches with analysts who were on the staff in 2021. Former Miami coach Randy Shannon is the co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach. Tony Tokarz is now the quarterbacks coach. Alex Atkins, who was the offensive line coach, has added offensive coordinator to his title.
Wisconsin transfer Kayden Lyles was lost for the season to an undisclosed injury, Norvell announced on Aug. 10. Lyles was competing for the starting center job with Maurice Smith.
Florida State will play three straight ACC teams that are ranked in the preseason: No. 22 Wake Forest on Oct. 1, at No. 13 NC State on Oct. 8 and No. 4 Clemson on Oct. 15. The Seminoles, who also play at No. 16 Miami on Nov. 5, will face two SEC schools that received votes: LSU in New Orleans on Sept. 4 and Florida in Tallahassee on Nov. 25.
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