Florida State and its 2023 class has been a hotly contested topic on social media recently. A few months ago, coach Mike Norvell and the staff seemed to have a ton of momentum. Now, heading into summer, things seem to have come to a grinding halt.
Let’s go back to early March, to the kick-off of FSU’s spring practice. The Seminole coach staff was hosting an elite Junior Day, with nearly 100 recruits in attendance at various points of the day.
There was a lot of excitement at the Moore Center. The coaches were able to land the commitment of one of their top overall targets in defensive lineman Keith Sampson Jr., and there was a lot of feeling from those inside that they had hit a home run on the day.
Recruit after recruit talked about the difference from last spring to this in the production on the field, and there was a lot of discussion about buying into what Coach Norvell was doing in turning the program around.
Just eight weeks later that’s all gone by the wayside. They gained a commitment from wide receiver Darren Lawrence, which was expected after that spring kick off weekend.
Before we get into what’s going on, we need to face facts. Florida State fans simply aren’t used to this. 4 straight losing seasons, recruiting misses left and right.
The “lost decade” is referenced when talking about the current status of the program, but the simple truth is that FSU was still FSU and they were still recruiting at a national level and going to bowl games up until the final season under Bobby Bowden.
As fans, it's time to understand that while FSU nationally is still a name, the production on the field over the past four years has gotten them here. It’s hard for any program to overcome multiple coaching changes on top of that.
Mike Norvell is 8-15 in two seasons as the head coach with an ugly loss to Jacksonville State. That’s hard to overcome. Proof of concept has to emerge at some point.
I guess we can start there. Perception is reality is what I hear all the time with my job, as I’m sure many of us do. The constant discussion about the status of Norvell and if he is a “lame-duck coach” isn’t doing the staff any favors. That’s a real obstacle they face. They know they have to win in 2022.
Several of the current coaches on the staff were good, maybe even great, recruiters before they came to FSU. It shouldn’t be this hard to recruit at FSU, but I firmly disagree with the notion that these coaches have all of a sudden forgotten how to recruit. Again, four straight losing seasons make it hard to get the elite talent needed to win in college football.
I too have wondered about the track the 2023 recruiting class is currently on. The staff has done a tremendous job getting back into Georgia, and they’ve rebuilt a ton of relationships in the state of Florida. But what needs to change?
Is it the message Coach Norvell is trying to give to these recruits? Changing the locker room had to happen early in his tenure and he knew that. Finding the right fit is important to him and being the right person is needed for him to truly pursue you as a recruit. Is the message of being tough, holding the players accountable and helping them develop turning off the elite recruits?
That’s a hard pill for me to swallow, to be honest. I’ve talked to probably 100 recruits so far for the 2023 class and the message the staff is passing along is exciting to the recruits. The honesty, transparency, trust and family vibe is the backbone of the pitch - is it not staying with the recruits long enough?
Again, I go back to results on the field. The state of Florida has 12 wide receivers in the top 320 players nationally. The staff has been all over 7 of them, many of them making multiple visits to Tallahassee.
As fans we need to face the reality the offense hasn’t developed any wide receivers or had a great passing offense since 2016.
Entering his third season, Norvell should be held accountable, as should wide receiver’s coach Ron Dugans, a coach that was a holdover from the Willie Taggart debacle. Norvell has recruited well enough at quarterback for the future, and he preaches that the offense is built for playmakers. This is a money year for Dugans - they went and brought in four receivers from the transfer portal to lift the skill of the offense. It’s a proven fact that Jordan Travis makes the offense tick.
But, elite playmakers aren’t going to come to FSU if the offensive system isn’t helping the players stand out. Again, I come to on-field results.
The feeling here is that the recruiting class is in a bit of a holding pattern. They still lead for several players, and they are working to hit the country to make visits whenever possible.
It’s a big summer for this staff. Getting their top targets back on campus for camp visits and unofficials must happen to keep the hope alive of a great class. The recruits are there - they’ve told me as such.
Not to look too far ahead, but it’s imperative that this 2022 FSU team gets off to a good start. They have to catch the attention of the elite recruits, to show them that everything this staff has preached and discussed is coming to fruition. Circle that LSU game - national stage against a national program. Anything less than 3-1 and this staff will have a huge hill to climb.
I agree with the sentiment of the recruits that FSU must win in 2022. A winning FSU recruits itself. Get to a bowl, win 8 games, and we may forget we’ve even had this conversation.
Stick with NoleGameday for more updates on Florida State football throughout the summer.