Norvell flexes recruiting muscles to land first crop of FSU signees
By Tim Linafelt
Whether by plane, by car or by video chats on his cell phone, Mike Norvell has been tirelessly traveling the recruiting trail ever since his recent arrival at Florida State.
It began on the night of Dec. 8, just a few hours after Norvell agreed to become the Seminoles’ 11th full-time head coach. And it culminated 10 days later on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period, when Norvell and his staff welcomed the type of signing class that, as recently as two or three weeks ago, seemed improbable. Maybe even impossible, given the upheaval in the FSU football program during the month of November.
Even better, as Norvell was quick to remind, they’re just getting started. He’s thrilled with the 17 newest Seminoles, and he expects a few more to join the fray the end of the early signing on Dec. 20. And Norvell and staff will quickly get back to work on any undecided prospects in advance of the traditional National Signing Day in February.
Still, at one point during the first day, Norvell had at least a few moments to exhale and reflect on what he and his staff had put together.
“Obviously we’re very excited,” Norvell said. “There are some key positions that we’re going to look at here for the second signing period. There will be some additions here probably in the next couple days as well.
“But I could not be more pleased with what we were able to get done here in such a short period of time.”
As of end of the first day, when Louisville defensive end transfer Jarrett Jackson made the surprise announcement that he’d be joining the Seminoles, that group consisted of 17 players – all of which addressed a position of need.
There were two quarterbacks – the first two prep quarterbacks to sign with FSU in three years – a running back, three receivers, a tight end and two offensive linemen. On the other side, defensive coordinator Adam Fuller bolstered his ranks with three defensive ends, a big defensive tackle, two linebackers and two defensive backs.
The Seminoles even added their first signee from another hemisphere when Alex Mastromanno, a punter from Melbourne, Australia, joined the mix.
Every major media outlet ranked Norvell’s first signing class at FSU among the top 25 in the country, and there’s still time to climb.
Seeing as Norvell had exactly 10 days to learn the landscape, make connections with FSU’s previous verbal commitments and new targets alike, and then convey his vision for the future, there may not have been a more impressive effort in the country.
Noting the additions of top quarterback prospects Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker, as well as the way Norvell held on to previous pledges Bryan Robinson and Josh Griffis, ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren included Florida State in his list of Signing Day “winners.”
“It shows the strength of what we represent,” Norvell said. “The university, the community, the current players that we have that hosted these young men and talked about the experience.
“Then it also shows the belief in what’s to come. Because I can promise you … if they didn’t feel a connection, if they didn’t feel like this staff was going to help fulfill their goals and dreams, then that would have changed.”
All true. But it also shows a relentless effort from Norvell, as well as assistants Fuller, Kenny Dillingham, Odell Haggins and Ron Dugans, among others, to make it happen.
From Day 1, everyone in Norvell’s orbit had one chief task: Get Florida State’s new head coach in front of as many prospects as they could.
Sometimes that was at a high school. Sometimes in a living room. And sometimes, when he was on the go, a video chat had to suffice.
On most days, the alarm clock went off before dawn and the day didn’t end until after midnight. Norvell and his traveling companions rarely went to sleep in the city where they woke up.
And when Norvell had a prospect’s attention, he had to make the most of it. In some cases, he had a few hours to work against relationships with other schools that spanned years.
“There’s not enough time to give a recruiting speech when you have 10 days,” Norvell said. “So all I try to do is just put my heart out there on the table, tell these young men why I do what I do, the importance of their opportunity and how we see them within this program.
“And I believe that it allows us to build a foundation to what’s going to be there for their future.”