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Norvell, Haggins see athleticism, leadership in DL signees

FSU signed 15 prospects on Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period, with much of the emphasis on the class dedicated to bolstering both the offensive and defensive lines.

Mike Norvell and his staff have signed five offensive linemen. But that does not include Bless Harris, who is transferring from Lamar, and Anatavious Woody, an Alabama prep standout who is committed and expected to sign with the Seminoles in February.

They also signed defensive tackles Daniel Lyons and Bishop Thomas along with outside linebacker/defensive end Aaron Hester. Defensive line coach Odell Haggins is happy to have the three newest members of the defensive front on board and says they might be joined by some other newcomers between now and next fall.

Lyons is a three-star prospect from Homestead (Fla.) High School who was ranked by 247Sports as the 62nd-best defensive tackle prospect in this recruiting class but was one of the coaches’ top targets over the last year or so.

“Going and watching him play in-person throughout this season, I was fortunate to be able to do that and this is a guy with unbelievable athletic ability,” said Norvell of Lyons. “Can run sideline to sideline, really a tremendous leader for his football team but somebody that when he jumped in this class, a lot of different people were trying to come after him during the recruiting process, but he held firm. Getting him signed here today was a great feat.”

Haggins agrees with Norvell.

“Daniel is 6-4 and 280-pounds and is very athletic and can bend,” said Haggins. “He is a special human being. He is a leader. You could tell he was a leader when we evaluated him and talked to his coach. Not only is he a very good football player but he is a leader.”

Thomas didn’t play this past season, but Norvell and Haggins saw enough potential in him to offer a scholarship based of his sophomore and junior season performances.

“Bishop Thomas, another guy that you know is a very unique athlete,” Norvell said of the 6-1 and 300-pound Orlando (Fla.) Bishop Moore three-star product. “When you watch his high school film. He was unable to play as a senior, but you go back to his junior film, and this is a guy weighing 290 pounds that is playing slot receiver. You don’t see that very often, but tremendous athletic ability.”

Haggins thinks Thomas’ size and athleticism will allow him the opportunity to compete for playing time at both interior defensive line spots.

“Bishop is an athletic guy that can play three-technique or nose tackle,” said Haggins. “You look at some of his tape and this kid is playing as the slot receiver and catching the ball. He reminds me of Corey Simon. He is going to be a kid that can play on all three downs.”

While listed as a linebacker or edge player (hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end) both Norvell and Haggins like the ability that Aaron Hester displayed in getting to the quarterback in high school and expect that to be something he only gets better at once he arrives on campus.

“Aaron is a guy that is just a great talent because of the versatility of what he can do,” said Norvell. “I think he has the ability to play out as an outside linebacker but, as he continues to grow, he is going to be able to do a tremendous job of coming off the edge. He can be a guy that can impact the quarterback in our pass rush game.”

Hester, who is 6-3 and 221 pounds, from Jacksonville (Fla.) Fletcher High, has also impressed Haggins.

“Aaron is a kid that plays hard, physical and the kid has a non-stop motor,” said Haggins.

Haggins also indicted that FSU might still bring in as many as two more defensive tackle prospects before rounding out the 2022 recruiting class in the spring.