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Norvell: Transfers already proving their value as leaders

The transfers have only been on Florida State’s campus a month. But already the impression is positive.

A Seminoles roster that was quite young in 2020 — nine of the 22 starters against Duke in December were freshmen or sophomores — will of course have experience that helps them grow in the year ahead. But the influx of seven transfers brings a wealth of talent, experience and the work ethic that FSU coach Mike Norvell hopes will continue to shape the transformation of the program.

“When you get guys who’ve already done it at this level, you just have a better kind of sample base of who they are and how they fit in what we’re trying to do, that kind of helps bridge the gap,” Norvell said. “We’ve been able to add tremendous leadership.”

FSU has seven transfers on campus now who are taking part in offseason strength and conditioning workouts: quarterback McKenzie Milton, running back D.J. Williams, defensive linemen Jermaine Johnson and Keir Thomas as well as defensive backs Jarques McClellion, Brandon Moore and Jammie Robinson. (Receiver Andrew Parchment will arrive in the summer.) It’s clear an effort has been made to upgrade some of the Seminoles’ deficiencies, notably the pass rush and coverage in the secondary.

Williams adds to a running back room that may be lacking a true feature back but in the absence of one it’s hard to argue with the tailback-by-committee approach. And Milton’s internal push daily in his return to the field should be a tone-setter for the offense but also the full roster.

“The biggest thing for me right now is just leading by action,” Milton told Jameis Winston and Bryant McFadden as part of a video chat on Wednesday night. “Being that first guy in, last guy out. I’m trying to show up, do my work and be the best teammate I can be to the guys. 

“I’m just trying to learn, be a sponge, learn this new offense. Get acclimated to these guys, them get acclimated to me. I haven’t done anything here yet. I still have to prove myself.”

That theme of hard work and leadership continued with Thomas, too.

“Leadership, that’s what we need,” Thomas said. “And that’s what I bring to the table. I can’t wait to get at it with the rest of my teammates.”

To that end, players are already getting at it in preseason workouts. Thomas said, “I see guys coming to work every day.”

Norvell appears to be pleased with offseason workouts, how the new transfers are blending in with veterans and underclassmen. The relationships should only grow stronger in the coming weeks as the Seminoles push forward toward spring practice, which begins March 9.

“The emphasis of getting guys that could be here now, to be able to do it, to have this experience of being in our offseason, going through our tour duty, getting a true understanding of the culture and the day-to-day expectations that we have within this program,” Norvell said. “To see them build relationships, it has been a joy to watch those guys that are here on campus and how they’re pouring into each other, how they’re building the relationships not only with the younger players but with the guys that are experienced and have been through the journey.

“The thing that I can tell you is that they’re all workers. That is something that we believed in whenever we brought them here, but to see that play out in their investment in the team and in the program, that’s one of the greatest joys here in this first month, is that you see guys that are willing to do what they say they wanted to do or that they want to accomplish.”