Notes: Norvell expects Webb back in 2021

La’Damian Webb’s Twitter post on Tuesday was worded in a way that prompted questioning from fans and media about whether he would return to Florida State. Coach Mike Norvell clarified on Wednesday that Webb won’t play in FSU’s final two regular-season games but intends to return in 2021.

“I was able to talk with La’Damian there Sunday and Monday,” Norvell said. “La’Damian has all intention to return and be here in January. It is a challenging time. It is a lot of things with some of the changes that we experienced and that are going on in our country just with the virus, this is something that he made a decision on as he has a couple of youngsters that he is going to be with here over that time. But we are expecting him back in January. We have had good conversations, and I appreciate all the work he has put in throughout the season and being the awesome young man that he is as well.”

Webb has been a vital part of FSU’s resurgent ground attack in 2020. The junior-college transfer ran 69 times for 369 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry.

Behind the running of quarterback Jordan Travis, Jashaun Corbin, Lawrance Toafili and Webb, FSU is averaging 184.4 yards per game (48th in the FBS). Last year, FSU was 93rd in the FBS at 140.7 yards per game. The Seminoles are also averaging 4.8 yards per carry, a full yard better than in 2019 with Cam Akers.

A great deal of the can be attributed to the run blocking by the offensive line, but also the depth of talent at tailback and Travis’ versatility.

Samuel’s NFL decision

Asante Samuel Jr. declared for the NFL Draft on Sunday and will not play in FSU’s final two games. Samuel Jr. had 31 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups as a junior this fall.

“Asante Samuel has declared for the NFL Draft,” Norvell said. “Really grateful for the opportunity to coach him and to see his growth and development. With the calendar kind of changing, this would normally be the last week of the regular season. And with that change and some of the unexpected things of the future, I think the timing for Asante is something that I understand for his preparation for the combine and all the things that will be ahead for him in preparation for the draft. I’m just grateful for who he is and the Seminole that he has been.”

Samuel Jr. is projected as a top-50 NFL Draft pick in early mock drafts.

FSU returns to practice

The Seminoles were back on the practice field on Tuesday and Wednesday as the team prepares for the Dec. 12 game against Duke. Norvell did not say how many players FSU had in practice although the team is limited as players remain in quarantine.

“We do expect having guys back here sooner rather than later,” Norvell said. “I know the CDC came out with some reports that the quarantine time that is required (will be reduced). If that happens, we are going to get a majority of our guys back. Hopefully, they’re a couple of players that are still going to be going through the process. That is something that can really shore us up quickly.”

Travis acknowledged that some position groups are thin and without backups some players are logging extra reps. But he also called Wednesday’s practice special and cited the energy level of the players who were there.

“I think it’s just guys loving football,” Travis said. “We’re at Florida State University. It’s not where we want to be right now. And I think we’re starting to realize that we are a very talented team. And we’re a family. We’re out here, we might as well take advantage of it. Just getting better. So just going out there and just seeing guys smile. I just try to go around and just tell everyone, ‘Just focus on getting better.’ That’s all we can do. Just focus on getting better. Don’t worry about the future because we do not know what it holds at all. So just get better every single day. Go out and give 100 percent.”

Linebacker Amari Gainer said players focused on their usual routine of practice, film review and other activities, but the knowledge that games are slated for the weeks ahead helps motivate them.

“Everyone is just excited for the opportunity to work,” Gainer said. “Any time that you can go out there and work, practice, it is just a blessing to be out there. We can’t take this opportunity for granted. … I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m ready to go.”

Why FSU is playing

When the Duke game was canceled on Sunday night, there was immediate concern that FSU’s season was over. Norvell and FSU’s administrators were consistent, though, in saying they were focusing on playing on Dec. 12. And the result is now playing two games.

Why is it important? Time on the practice field is critical for the program’s future. The Seminoles’ roster is roughly 75 percent freshmen and sophomores. These games may have a bowl-like feel, especially when FSU faces Duke — roughly one month after the last game at NC State on Nov. 14.

Norvell and FSU’s administrators took criticism for “ducking” games or opponents when games against Clemson and Virginia weren’t played. But beyond the financial benefits to FSU of a home game, which is roughly $2 million in revenue, playing games helps players’ development.

“I know there’s a lot of things talked about nationally about team’s perspectives,” Norvell said. “These guys are competitors. We are a young football team. We’re one of the youngest teams in college football. We need every rep that we can get.”

Boselli to transfer

FSU offensive lineman Andrew Boselli will graduate and transfer, 247Sports reported on Wednesday. Boselli started against Jacksonville State and played in two other games but otherwise did not find much playing time this fall.

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