Hired by Florida State on Dec. 7, 2019, a nine-month wait for Mike Norvell to leads the Seminoles is almost over. FSU’s first-year head coach, after a successful run with Memphis from 2016-19, leads his new team into Saturday’s opener against Georgia Tech at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
“It’s just been such a unique offseason — missing out on spring practice, obviously, all the different steps that go into place just to being able to get on the field,” Norvell said Monday evening on ESPN’s College Football Countdown, in an interview with studio host Matt Barrie. “And to have this opportunity, I can tell you, as a program, we’re so excited about being able to kick it off on Saturday.
“But the sacrifice that our guys have had to make with their day-to-day living and every aspect of what they’ve had to do, I think we’ve had a good camp. I think we’ve tried to implement as much as possible, to try to put our guys in the best position to be successful. But it’s definitely been challenging at times and moments, but I think our guys have responded well.”
An 11-game slate — including 10 ACC contests — begins at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida. Coming off a 6-7 overall (4-4 ACC) record in 2019, Norvell keeps the outlook simple for FSU.
“For us, I want to see daily improvement,” Norvell said. “I want to see us go out there and maximize the potential that we have. I’m not going set limits to what this team can accomplish. I am very, very excited about the young men that I get to coach, the coaching staff that we’ve been able to put together and how we work together. And so, we work our guys extremely hard. We push them every day in not only what they’re doing on the field, but what they’re doing off the field — in the weight room, in the classroom, the decisions that they’re making socially. I mean, I want them to have the opportunity to be the best version of themselves each and every day.
“So I want this program to show signs of improvement in everything that we do and really proud of the things our guys have done up until this point. But now, Saturday, we have an opportunity to show the country and to show ourselves the growth that we’ve made. And we understand that there’s going to be challenges, there’s going to be adversity, but the thing that’s going to define this football team is our response to that adversity — and hopefully the response to the success that we’re able to see here moving forward.”
An imperative part of Florida State’s success hinges on fourth-year junior quarterback James Blackman. Named the Seminoles’ starter last Tuesday, Blackman received a glowing review from Norvell.
“James has really done everything since I’ve gotten here to continue to build that trust,” Norvell said of Blackman, who completed 390 of 640 passes (60.9 percent) for 5,079 yards and 41 touchdowns to 23 interceptions in 27 games from 2017-19. “He is a young man that absolutely loves the process of work. He is relentless in what he does in his preparation.
“It’s been an interesting career for James. He’s going on his fourth offensive coordinator, his third head coach. It’s been a lot of changes. This is a young man that got thrust into the limelight there as a freshman — as a true freshman — and he’s had to grow and learn along the way, and some through trial and error, but he is a phenomenal young man and has really done a great job in every aspect not only physically but mentally to learn this offense, to learn a new terminology.
“And obviously, when he steps on the field, one thing I challenge our quarterbacks with is, ‘Can you make 10 guys around you better by the way that you play and just the mindset and approach that you bring on a daily basis?’ And James has done a great job of that and I’m really excited for the season and the opportunity that’s in front for him.”