Has Mike Norvell found the right recruiting recipe to bring FSU back to the top?
With 4-star safety prospect Conrad Hussey signing Thursday with Florida State, the Seminoles have wrapped up their 4th recruiting class under Mike Norvell. And at this point there is a pretty good idea of how Norvell values high school recruiting.
The class rankings vary by website. 247Sports has the Seminoles class ranked 19th, very close to Michigan’s 17th-ranked class. On3 also has the Seminoles at 19th and Rivals wasn’t as high on the class, ranking it 27th.
Without getting into every individual recruits numeric ranking, FSU had a 21st-ranked class in the nation, according to the simple mean. That’s right about what FSU classes have averaged under Norvell.
The general expectation when he took the coaching job and put together his staff was that FSU wasn’t going to put up the gaudy recruiting rankings the fans have been accustomed to seeing since ranking classes began more than 25 years ago. That has come to fruition. Where FSU’s recruiting direction has began to excel is within the transfer portal.
In 3 of the 4 years that 247Sports began ranking transfer classes FSU has hovered inside the top 10 and close to the top 5. The first couple of FSU transfer classes were shaky, but in 2021 the Seminoles hit with linebacker Jermaine Johnson (Georgia) and defensive linemea Kier Thomas (South Carolina), defensive back Jammie Robinson (South Carolina) and offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons (Notre Dame).
In 2022 the Seminoles struck again with running back Trey Benson (Oregon), pass rusher Jared Verse (Albany), linebacker Tatum Bethune (UCF) and offensive linemen Jaz Turnetine (South Carolina) and D’Mitri Emmanuel (Charlotte). Norvell decided to completely overhaul the wide receiver room through the portal with Mycah Pittman (Oregon) and Johnny Wilson (Arizona State) emerging as immediate starters.
The successes in the portal appears to have led to an adjustment in the recruiting philosophy and the shifting of more support staff resources into transfer-portal recruiting. FSU football general manager Darrick Yray seemed to hint that the staff is equipped with people who can provide better information on the targeted transfers.
“You have to be fast on [recruiting in the transfer portal] and make decisions quick, so as soon as they go in have an idea,” Yray said. “But at the same time you want to make sure the information you’re given is clear and concise so you can make accurate decisions quickly.”
Early in Norvell’s tenure FSU was just as active in the portal but with less success. Running back La’Damian Webb was not a real Power 5 player. D.J. Williams, another running back transfer, appeared to use FSU as a fat camp for him to get in shape and then transferred to Arizona. Wide receiver Andrew Parchment made a memorable 4th-down catch against Miami during 2021 and generally under performed in nearly every other snap he took. Quarterback McKenzie Milton (UCF) was a great story and had an inspiring 2nd-half performance against Notre Dame, but his body couldn’t hold up.
There were some early transfer hits such as defensive lineman Fabian Lovett (Mississippi State) and running back Jashaun Corbin (Texas A&M). But there were a lot of underwhelming roster fillers such as defensive lineman Jarrett Jackson (Louisville), oft-injured tight end Jordan Wilson (UCLA), defensive back Meiko Dotson (FAU), defensive back Jarques McClellon (Arkansas), pass rusher Marcus Cushnie (Alabama A&M) and a few others.
The addition of Yray and more support staff is protection against not taking so many low-impact transfers, especially if the NCAA tightens the available number of signees back to the 25-man limit. So far, so good, especially if the 2022 team is the beginning of something special.
Can this style of recruiting work over the long term? Hard to say. Many of us older recruiting heads say no, it’s not sustainable. One can point to a team like Baylor, which went aggressive in the portal during 2021 and finished 12-2 with a Big 12 title, Sugar Bowl win and top-5 finish, but the Bears couldn’t replicate the success during 2022 and finished 6-7.
But in a weaker conference like the ACC and with the playoffs expanding, maybe Norvell is ahead of the game. The 2023 FSU transfer haul will be examined and how this effects the way the staff recruits high school players will be reflected in a follow-up story.