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Five things to know about Mike Norvell, FSU’s next coach

Nothing is official, but there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the 38-year-old Texas native and the Seminoles.
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell lifts the American Athletic Conference West Division championship trophy after his team defeated Cincinnati on Nov. 29, 2019, in Memphis. [MARK HUMPHREY  |  AP]
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell lifts the American Athletic Conference West Division championship trophy after his team defeated Cincinnati on Nov. 29, 2019, in Memphis. [MARK HUMPHREY | AP]
Published Dec. 7, 2019
Updated Dec. 8, 2019

Florida State’s five-week search will come to an end Sunday when the Seminoles introduce their new football coach at a noon news conference. Although FSU has not made an official announcement, Memphis’ Mike Norvell is expected to be the Seminoles’ choice.

His was a name that surfaced early in the process, and the fact that he was still coaching (in Saturday’s AAC championship game against Cincinnati) fit with the message that the Seminoles didn’t plan to announce their hire until the weekend at the earliest.

RELATED: FSU football coaching search still isn’t over. Don’t panic yet.

Here are five things to know about Norvell, whose No. 16 Tigers defeated No. 21 Cincinnati 29-24 for the AAC title:

1. He has some similarities with Florida State’s last coach.

Norvell is a 38-year-old potential rising star with a history of success in the AAC and a reputation and a track record of high-scoring offenses. Sound familiar? Willie Taggart was 41 when the Seminoles hired him, and Taggart wouldn’t have been in consideration had he not had success with the Gulf Coast Offense at another AAC school, USF. Dig deeper into their resumes, however, and you’ll see many differences. Norvell has an extra year of Power Five experience (as an assistant) than Taggart did when he was hired. Norvell also has a pair of seasons with at least 10 wins as a head coach; Taggart only had one.

RELATED: Why a Willie Taggart-USF reunion might (and might not) make sense

2. His offenses are explosive and high-scoring.

Memphis enters conference championship weekend with the nation’s No. 8 scoring offense (41.5 points per game). That’s actually down slightly from last year (seventh, 42.9) and 2017 (second, 45.5). Regardless, his offenses are explosive. Only Oklahoma and UCF have had more plays of at least 20 yards over the last three years than Norvell’s Tigers (270). Quarterback Brady White has nation’s seventh-best passing efficiency (177.69), and only two players in the country had more explosive plays of at least 20 yards than freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell.

RELATED: 11 lists and thoughts for college football championship weekend

3. What he’s doing at Memphis is unprecedented.

Before Norvell took over the Tigers, Memphis had one 10-win season in program history. Norvell has hit double-digit wins twice. Granted, Justin Fuente left behind a nice situation when he left for Virginia Tech, but Norvell has improved things. His three consecutive AAC West Division titles is impressive, too. This hasn’t been a season of empty-calories victories, either. The AAC has been better than the ACC. Memphis is No. 13 in the SP+ advanced metrics and has quality wins over Navy, Cincinnati and SMU. The Tigers also trounced USF 49-10 at Raymond James Stadium and pulled away for a 52-33 win over the Louisiana-Monroe team that almost upset FSU.

4. Norvell doesn’t have strong Florida ties.

His current Memphis roster has only two Floridians. Digging back through his last eight years (including his time as an Arizona State assistant), he only had one Tampa Bay product on his roster —Gaither High product Ernest Suttles. Norvell has never coached in Florida, either, and he’s originally from Texas.

RELATED: FSU is paying $100,000 to help find new football coach

5. His coaching tree is strong.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal notes that eight of his former assistants are at Power Five programs, and six ex-staffers are coordinators. His coaching tree includes Dan Lanning, who’s coordinating Georgia’s elite defense and has been mentioned as a potential Group of Five head coach this cycle. Jimbo Fisher plucked Darrell Dickey off Norvell’s staff to be his offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long worked under Norvell, too, as did Will Hall, who has done a respected tweaking Tulane’s offense.


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