When Mike Norvell took the job in the state of Florida in December 2019, his expectations were clear.
“This program,” Norvell said during his opening press conference, “goes back to the top.”
Four games in Year 2, Norvell’s program ended up stuck. For the first time since 1974, the Seminoles will play their home game on Saturday 4-0 against Syracuse.
Although Norvell never set a timetable for how to “get the FSU back to where it should be,” he outlined a roadmap for getting there at that first press conference. We revisited that speech to see what Norvell swore and what his program actually does through his 3-10 start:
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“I can tell you that this is going to be a program designed for playmakers.”
Florida State running back Jashaun Corbin was a playmaker. But the FSU needs more of it.
Norvell said this three times on Day 1 and was able to cite his explosive crimes in Memphis as evidence. But the ‘noles either don’t have enough playmakers or they don’t use them properly (or both); they sit 56th nationally with 19 games from 20-plus yards.
The receivers are not dynamic, which explains why FSU ranks 100th at 6.5 yards per attempt. The Seminoles threw interceptions in each of the last two games in the fourth quarter because the opposing defensive back made a game that the FSU receiver did not.
FSU has at least two playmakers at running back: Jashuan Corbin (who Norvell added as a transfer from Texas A&M) and Tampa Bay tech product Treshaun Ward. But they wear together for only 21 in last week’s loss to Louisville. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said the FSU is committed to the run but needs to find more creative ways to increase its commitment.
Related: Treshaun Ward bet on himself as an FSU walk-on. It is paying off, for his family and the Seminoles.
“We have to get them more of the ball,” Dillingham told reporters this week. “That’s just the bottom line.”
Defensively, the FSU only forced four rallies (88th place). Aside from ending Jermaine Johnson (who is tied in sacks for the national lead), the Seminoles don’t have many obvious spoilers in defense. One of the programs called DBU because it has produced elite defenders in the past has only two interceptions and has made the fourth most explosive passing games possible in the Power Five.
Whether talent, scheme or a combination, FSU just doesn’t make enough moves.
“It will be a program that builds on the true core values of the family such as service, sacrifice, and respect …”
Mike Norvell and his staff spent part of the off-season running youth soccer camps across the state.
These examples are easier to find. The team completed more than 600 hours of community service last year, took over Riley Elementary School in Tallahassee in 2020, and ran free youth soccer camps across the state this off-season. Offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons (a Catholic product of Clearwater Central) used naming, image and likeness legislation to create his own nonprofit, Big Man Big Heart.
Service. Sacrifice. Respect.
Grateful for the opportunity to serve others in our community this year pic.twitter.com/rijYzQ1IcS
– FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 31, 2020
Norvell believes these values are linked to football because, as he said in his first press conference and has repeated countless times since, “how you do something in this world will be how you do everything”. So do some of his former players and coaches in Memphis. But when these values are reflected in the Tallahassee field, they don’t appear in the table.
Related: From 2020: Mike Norvell’s cultural change at FSU could take time, says the former Memphis player
“We will be one of the best football teams in the country because of our time and commitment as a coaching staff and football team.”
Florida State’s specialty teams were fine, but not elitist.
According to SP + Analytics, the ‘Noles occupy 45th national place in special teams. You missed two field goals (including a 37-yarder in overtime against Notre Dame) and two of your eleven extra points. FSU is outside the top 50 on every major statistic, including punt returns (85th at 5.8 yards per return). No. 1 in this category? Memphis.
There were of course highlights. Alex Mastromanno launched a 65-yard punt – FSU’s longest since 2014 – that was shot at 1 against Jacksonville State.
But on his first day, Norvell pointed out that a Memphis program that had failed to hit on a kickoff return two decades prior to his arrival did so 11 times in its four seasons there. He’s still looking for his first touchdown at FSU.
“Close isn’t really enough when it comes to the second leg,” special teams coordinator John Papuchis told reporters this week. “We have to find a way to put it all together.”
“Our Seminole soccer team will play smart. … We will have a soccer team that focuses on discipline and structure … “
The state of Florida has fewer penalties than last year, but it is still in the lower range nationwide.
The ‘Noles look more structured than they did under Willie Taggart, but there are still problems. They are 112th on penalties, although they now have less (7.8) on average than last year (8.9) or below Taggart (9.2).
Dillingham said misalignment cost FSU a touchdown last week. Norvell pointed out other mental flaws, such as fundamentally wrong decisions or looking in the wrong place, that put the team in bad situations.
“Some of the negative games we had were just misjudgments sometimes because we were trying to do too much,” said Norvell.
Every team makes some of these mental mistakes. But, as Norvell said this week, the FSU has not advanced aggressively enough to overcome it.
Related: How is Mike Norvell’s tenure at FSU different from Willie Taggart’s?
“We will finish everything we do. We’ll be a football team that knows how to react to adversity. We will also be a football team that knows how to react to success, because success comes. “
Travis Jay and the Seminoles didn’t stop against Notre Dame.
In losses to Georgia Tech, Pitt and Louisville last year, the FSU was beaten in the second half with an aggregate score of 50-5. Even with the excitement over North Carolina, the FSU almost lost the game, beating it 21-0 in the last 20 minutes.
This year was different. The ‘Noles forced overtime against Notre Dame after trailing 18 in the fourth quarter and overcame a 31-7 deficit to Louisville in a respectable 31:23 loss. Norvell called for the “minimum expectation” not to be abandoned, and the FSU has begun to reach that low bar. This means that they have learned to respond to adversity.
As for the other part Norvell promised? We still don’t know. His team didn’t have much success to respond to.
Related: FSU coach Mike Norvell: I’m ticked, we’re 0-4
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