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Notes: Norvell’s year full of hurdles, staff uses virtual visits to connect with prospects

Mike Norvell was introduced as Florida State’s coach on Dec. 8, 2019. And the last year has been as challenging on and off the field in ways no one could have expected 12 months ago.

“Definitely a very unique year,” Norvell said on Tuesday. “It’s been one of tremendous joy, so grateful for the opportunity to be here and be able to work with these players and represent this university. Every day is a growing process for us. We are building this program in a way to truly have a foundation that is capable and ready to take that next step to where we need to be as a program. To see the consistent work of our players and belief of the growth that we’ve had this year is something that I’m excited about.”

FSU (2-6, 1-6 ACC) has certainly struggled on the field with five losses by double figures. The season has been one of inconsistency, with optimism built up after an Oct. 17 upset of No. 5 North Carolina but also one where lopsided defeats against Louisville, Pittsburgh and NC State followed.

Norvell has the added challenge of being a first-year coach trying to install schemes with limited on-field time in the spring as well as modified preseason camp practices. The Seminoles have recently faced postponements, meaning they will go nearly a month between the game at NC State and Saturday’s matchup with Duke.

He noted FSU’s roster is now 75 percent freshmen or sophomores, a number that has increased as some veteran players have opted out or had season-ending injuries. According to research by FSU sports information, the underclassman percentage is the highest in the nation.

“Our kids have gone out and continued to work,” Norvell said. “There’s a very bright future in-store for this program and where we’re going. Even though it’s been a crazy year, there’s so much joy that I have for being here at Florida State and what I know the future holds.”

The immediate future is the Duke and Wake Forest games, as well as the early signing period that begins on Dec. 16. FSU will clearly be shorthanded against the Blue Devils, playing without the likes of La’Damian Webb, Tamorrion Terry, Devontay Love-Taylor, Asante Samuel Jr., Marvin Wilson, Cory Durden and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey. In what has been a prolonged season, players have had injuries that required surgery while others have opted out and some have decided to transfer.

But for those who have stayed, they feel a core group of the roster has trust in Norvell and his vision.

“When you see you see the guys taking the initiative to do things without the coach having to say something, that just shows me that the guys are buying in to what coach Norvell’s goal is for this program,” receiver Keyshawn Helton said. “Guys actually are believing in coach Norvell and believing in the coaching staff and what they’re teaching. That’s big.”

Early signing period approaches

The early signing period comes with added complications this time for FSU. The Seminoles will be in the middle of game-week preparations for Wake Forest and the prolonged dead period means some prospects may sign with the program while never having been on an official visit.

Prospects are able to take unofficial visits to the campus, pay their own way to watch home games, do virtual tours or hold phone or zoom conversations with Norvell and the staff. FSU’s coaching staff and others around the nation have done what they can but nothing truly replaces the face-to-face contact with a prospect, family or high school coaches.

“It is definitely a unique year and unique in all aspects,” Norvell said. “I’d say these last few weeks here have been as different as any. These would be the times we’d normally be able to go (do) in-home visits and get in front of these families and recruits. We’d have official visits and get these kids on campus. And that’s one of the things that is just sad and disappointing for this year’s class, since the first week of March, or March 12, we haven’t had the opportunity to get these guys on campus. … In some aspects, we’re trying to utilize the nights to have virtual home visits and make sure that we are connecting and being able to answer a lot of the different questions that are there. It’s just such a different year. And it’s like anything else we tell the players, we have to adapt and adjust.”

FSU now has 15 commitments with the early signing period beginning next Wednesday. The Seminoles landed a commitment from four-star outside linebacker Patrick Payton but also lost the commitment of four-star receiver Malik McClain.

Nasirildeen to Senior Bowl

Norvell was asked on Tuesday if safety Hamsah Nasirildeen had contemplated returning in 2021 after missing the Seminoles’ first eight games. Nasirildeen accepted a Senior Bowl invitation, which was announced on Monday night.

“We’ve had conversations throughout, or even the early part of the season while he was in his rehabilitation process,” Norvell said. “I was excited that he was extended the opportunity for the Senior Bowl. He did accept that. We’re going to finish out the season and he’s going to go play his best ball. I do believe his best days are ahead of him. I have all the respect in the world for Hamsah, who he is as a person, the work he’s been put in. The teammate he is. It’s been a joy to watch him throughout that process. He’s definitely excited for the games that are in front of us. But I think when you get an invitation like that, you get to make a choice. And if that is the next step, that’s a wonderful, wonderful event to be a part of.”

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