The “Renaissance of FSU football” is officially underway.
And it feels good.
Mike Norvell, who left Memphis after four seasons and having posted the highest winning percentage in Tigers history, was named Florida State’s new coach on Dec. 8.
He hasn’t wasted a moment after winning the press-conference crowd with his passion, energy and intelligence.
Norvell has named half of his staff of assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller.
His first hire, and rightfully so, was Odell Haggins as associate head coach and defensive line coach. The beloved Seminole will be the longest-tenured assistant coach in the country next season at 27 years.
Norvell, in another smart-cookie move, also retained former Seminole and Tally native Ron Dugans as receivers coach. Dugans has experience in different offenses, recruits south Florida and “Da Donk” captivates on social media.
The early-signing period opened Wednesday, and Norvell has stockpiled a class that includes two quarterbacks (yes, two), as well as a group of receivers, offensive linemen and some hard-hitting defensive players.
Considering former coach Willie Taggart didn’t name his coordinators until a month after he was hired in December 2017 – and failed to sign a quarterback during two recruiting cycles – it certainly appears Norvell is moving efficiently and expeditiously.
Honestly, the 38-year-old Norvell looks to be the right man at the right time for FSU.
He’s young, organized, articulate and affordable.
The Seminoles’ five-week coaching search was methodical and professional despite the social media craziness it generated.
“There was so much talk of (former Oklahoma coach) Bob Stoops, (Penn State’s) James Franklin, I was surprised by the reaction that I’ve heard from hiring Coach Norvell,” said Bob Davis, National Chairman of the Board for Seminole Boosters, Inc.
“I anticipated it being a splash hire like a Bob Stoops would have been. The fan base has been amazing. Every email, every telephone call I have received has been very positive.”
The balance sheet is reflecting a positive trend, too.
Financial pledges in support of the football program were announced last week by Seminoles Boosters, Inc., and the athletics department. More commitments are on their way and don’t be surprised if this early movement reaches $10 million.
Slumping season ticket sales, which dipped to 25,000 in the main seating bowl at Doak Campbell Stadium last year, are also expected to reverse course over time.
Norvell is determined to restore FSU to its championship glory. But he also stressed daily progress.
“I believe the sky’s the limit for where we can go,” Norvell said. “But I also understand the journey it’s going to take.”
FSU fans probably understand this might not be a quick fix. Yet there is a different vibe from, say, two months ago.
When Taggart was introduced as Florida Atlantic’s coach last week, he addressed his 21-game tenure at FSU.
Taggart believed he had the Seminoles headed in the right direction but wasn’t given time to finish it.
“Florida State is a prideful place with great tradition, and they’ve never been in a situation like that before,” Taggart said. “No one there really knew how to get out of it … they just wanted to win again. It don’t work that way.”
Bologna, with mustard.
FSU knew exactly how to get out of the situation it was in. It knows how to win when the right folks are in place.
Nobody is saying Norvell can walk on water. Magic Mike must prove he can duplicate his Group of Five Memphis success in Power Five Tallahassee.
And while FSU has a devoted fan base, it’s also wounded by football’s downward trend following the program’s third national title in 2013.
The charismatic Taggart was thought to be the answer when hired to replace Jimbo Fisher.
Everyone wanted him to succeed, but it didn’t work out. FSU found itself in an unfortunate situation, and a decision had to be made. Here’s wishing Taggart the best of luck.
And here we stand.
A veteran college coach, who requested anonymity, offered his take on Norvell, saying, “He is a great motivator and instills discipline in his teams. His dynamic personality will win over recruits and their families. FSU made the best coaching hire of the year.”
FSU is in need of an overhaul. Norvell must flex and show he can handle the heavy lifting.
Davis, who attended FSU in the early 1970s, watched Bobby Bowden turn a financially struggling midsize independent into a lucrative national power. Dynasty status is not costume jewelry. It comes at a cost and with conviction.
“That’s what our fan base and donors demand now – they demand to be a top program in the country and everybody expects that,” Davis said. “That what we are trying to do and I think that’s credible … to see progress. I have no doubt by hearing the talk (about Norvell) that this will be a well-run program.”
Welcome to the “Renaissance of FSU football,” Seminole Nation.
Hop on. I have a feeling we are going to enjoy the ride.
This story originally ran on Tallahassee.com.