New FSU coach Mike Norvell soothes Largo linebacker Jayion McCluster’s concerns

The senior kept his options open before meeting with the Seminoles coach. Quavon Matthews, meanwhile, sticks with the school (Iowa) that stood by him through injury.
Largo High's Quavon Matthews, left, and Jayion McCluster, far right, along with their football teammates at an early signing period ceremony Wednesday.
Largo High's Quavon Matthews, left, and Jayion McCluster, far right, along with their football teammates at an early signing period ceremony Wednesday. [ RODNEY PAGE | Times ]
Published Dec. 18, 2019

LARGO — Jayion McCluster never officially de-committed from Florida State, but when Willie Taggart was fired and a new coach wasn’t yet named, he did decide to look around. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Largo linebacker said he talked with a few other schools and was unsure if he would sign with any school during the start of the early signing period on Wednesday.

Then came an in-school visit with new FSU coach Mike Norvell and an official visit to Tallahassee last weekend. By the time he got back to school on Monday, McCluster was back to being a Seminole.

“I was still committed but I wanted to explore my options," McCluster said. “I was in contact with a few other coaches, but in the end I’m ’Nole-blooded."

McCluster signed alongside teammate Quavon Matthews, a wide receiver who is committed to Iowa.

Related: Largo High’s Jayion McCluster basks in Under Armour Game spotlight

McCluster, considered a three-star recruit by most services, recorded 145 tackles as a senior, which ranked 14th in the state. He had a school record 21 tackles against Lakewood. He will play in the prestigious Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 2 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. He will be the lone Tampa Bay representative in the showcase and the second straight Largo player to participate. Jaquaze Sorrells, who spent his senior season at Winter Park, played in last year’s game.

Originally, McCluster planned on enrolling in January at FSU. But with the coaching uncertainty and his late decision, he said he has decided to stay at Largo for the spring semester and will go to Tallahassee for the summer session.

He is mostly glad this part of the journey is complete.

“A lot of people don’t understand how crazy this process is," McCluster said. “There’s a lot of emotions. A lot of things that go with this. When I met Coach Norvell it was like a stress reliever. He was someone I could talk to. Someone who has a plan. He let us know that he’s with us. That was the biggest part of this."

Related: Florida State signs a quarterback, at long last

McCluster will join Pinellas Park running back Lawrance Toafili at FSU. Toafili, who committed to the Seminoles before the start of his senior season, also visited Tallahassee last weekend and decided to sign early.

Matthews said he never wavered from Iowa. He missed his junior year with a knee injury and many schools dropped their offers. But Iowa stuck with him.

The three-star recruit finished this season with 22 catches for 449 yards and two touchdowns.

“Iowa was the first one to give me an opportunity and they kept pushing for me while a lot of other schools fell off," Matthews said. “I took note of that. They showed me a lot of love. When that happened I knew it was really real. They believed in me."