Florida State’s coaching staff saw the work ethic, the value that the walk-ons provided on the field. And they also evaluated how productive they could be this fall and beyond.
FSU coach Mike Norvell met with tailback Deonte Sheffield and tight end Wyatt Rector on Monday and gave them the news they had been hoping and waiting for: the walk-ons would now be on scholarship. Norvell and all FBS coaches have an 85-scholarship limit. And given the opportunity to fill the slots, he opted to reward two players who could be contributors this fall.
Norvell was also a walk-on at Central Arkansas before be eventually earned scholarship money later in his career.
“Obviously like what I’m seeing from them and their development,” Norvell said. “I do believe they’re both putting themselves in position to help this football team.”
Sheffield, who is 5-foot-10 and 209 pounds, started for FSU in the Sun Bowl against Arizona State. With Cam Akers preparing for the NFL and Khalan Laborn out due to injury, Sheffield ran 18 times for 87 yards and was one of the bright spots offensively for the Seminoles. Sheffield played in four games in 2019 after being on the scout team in his first two seasons.
Rector, who is 6-2 and 236 pounds, has added on weight as he makes the transition from quarterback to tight end. He spent last fall on the scout team following his transfer from Western Michigan.
“Those guys worked for it day in and day out,” receiver Keyshawn Helton said. “I can’t be more proud of those guys. They earned it.”
With the season-ending injury to tight end Jordan Wilson, Rector could be elevated to the No. 2 or No. 3 tight end behind Camren McDonald.
Norvell said he has been able to extend a scholarship to a walk-on in each of his seasons as a head coach. But he emphasized they are earned through hard work.
“I’ve never given a scholarship to a player that wasn’t deserving of it,” Norvell said. “You’ve got to earn it. There’s nothing in this world for free. You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to work and you’ve got to prove yourself worthy to be able to receive a scholarship. I absolutely believe there are guys on this football team that will have that same opportunity in their future if they continue to improve and they maximize the opportunity that they have to make an impact on this team.”
Comfort with running back room
With the exception of frustration over the offense’s performances at scrimmages, Norvell has been consistently happy with the running backs and what they have shown in practices.
“Jashaun (Corbin) obviously has a good amount of experience,” Norvell said. “La’Damian Webb is an explosive back. I’ll tell you, Lawrance Toafili has been remarkable this last week. You can tell he is really kind of gaining some confidence in what we’re asking him to do. He has had explosive runs I think just about every day. He’s done something good with the ball in his hands and now we’re just continuing to help develop him with how to play without the ball in his hands. Ja’Khi Douglas is really doing a nice job. Obviously (Deonte) Sheffield with experience. Corey Wren. I go through all those guys, they’ve all had their moments. But I feel very confident in what that group is going to be able to do and how they’re going to continue to grow.”
Norvell was also asked about the philosophy of whether he looks for a featured tailback, goes with a running-back-by-committee-approach or just evaluates what he has on the roster. From Arizona State to Memphis and now FSU, Norvell has adapted in his approach.
“We want to showcase the best of what guys can do,” Norvell said. “If we have multiple playmakers at that position, then it’s our job and our responsibility to put those guys in the best position to help this football team win. I’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to recruit at a very high level at that position throughout my coaching career, and I think we’ve done that here. …
“You look throughout the history of my coaching career, from back in the days at Arizona State to Memphis, we’ve had a back that has had 1,900 yards, we had another one with 1,200, we had another one that had 1,200 all-purpose (yards). So you have to make the most of your opportunity.”
Herring has season-ending shoulder surgery
Norvell confirmed that true freshman offensive lineman Zane Herring had shoulder surgery and will miss the season.
“Zane got banged up towards the end of last week,” Norvell said. “We decided that with him and his family he went on and had a surgical procedure.”
Offense bounces back in practices
Norvell began with some positive thoughts about how the offense performed in Tuesday’s practice.
“Thought it was probably the best day that the offense has had collectively,” Norvell said. “Really proud of the response that they showed. Was able to do some good things. See the continued growth. They are accepting the challenge.”