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FSU football hires Mike Norvell as next coach

The 38-year-old led Memphis to new heights and will replace Willie Taggart, who was fired last month midway through a 6-6 season.
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell watches the action against South Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
Memphis head coach Mike Norvell watches the action against South Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [CHRIS O'MEARA | AP]
Published Dec. 8, 2019
Updated Dec. 8, 2019

Florida State has formally announced that Memphis’ Mike Norvell will be its next football coach. The Seminoles officially announced the move Sunday morning and will introduce him at a noon news conference today, finally ending a search that spanned almost five full weeks.

“I’m humbled and honored for the opportunity to be the head coach at Florida State University, one of the iconic brands in college football,” Norvell said in a statement from FSU. “I’m so very excited for the future and the opportunity to return Florida State football to one of the nation’s elite. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running, putting together a great signing class, a tremendous coaching staff and joining arms with our current and former players to help elevate our football program each and every day.”

The 38-year-old Texan will try to do what his predecessor, Willie Taggart, could not: Make the jump from established Group of Five coach to championship-contending Power Five coach.

RELATED: Five things to know about Mike Norvell, FSU’s next coach (we think)

Norvell was 38-15 in his four years with the Tigers. He won three consecutive AAC West Division titles and finished his career there by beating Cincinnati on Saturday to win the conference championship.

Norvell inherited a good situation at Memphis from Justin Fuente (who left for Virginia Tech) and made it better. The Tigers have won at least 10 games only three times in program history; two have been under Norvell.

His Tigers entered Saturday No. 16 in the AP Top 25 and No. 13 in the SP+ advanced metrics. Memphis finished in the top 50 in SP+ in each of his three previous seasons as a head coach, too.

Before taking over Memphis, Norvell spent time as an assistant at Arizona State, Pitt and Tulsa. As a receiver, he still ranks in the top five in Central Arkansas history in career yards and catches.

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2014, file photo, Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File) [RICK SCUTERI | AP]

His offenses have a history of success. Memphis has fielded top-eight scoring offenses each of the last three years, in three different ways.

In 2017, Memphis had the nation’s No. 7 passing attack thanks in part to receiver Anthony Miller (now with the NFL’s Chicago Bears). The next year, Norvell used standout running back Darrell Henderson to create the fourth-best rushing offense in the country.

This season was more balanced. Quarterback Brady White entered the weekend with the 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.

“We are excited that our football program has attracted one of the finest coaches in the country,” FSU athletic director David Coburn said. "We had a list of criteria that our new head coach needed to meet that went well beyond his record, and Mike Norvell exceeded all of them. At the top of that list was attracting a coach who could lead the program back to competing for championships. We believe we have the coach to do that.”

RELATED: How much does a delayed hire hurt recruiting?

Norvell also has an impressive coaching tree that suggest he’ll be able to create a formidable staff. Five of his former assistants are now coordinators at Power Five programs, including Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chip Long.

The job Norvell inherits has sky-high potential. The Seminoles have won three national titles and have historically been an ACC heavyweight. Five years ago at this time, they were the defending national champions headed to the College Football Playoff and in the middle of a 29-game winning streak.

Memphis head coach Mike Norvell watches as players warm up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) [MARK HUMPHREY | AP]

But this won’t be a realignment, as Taggart infamously promised two years ago. This is a rebuilding job at a program that went 9-12 under Taggart before his midseason firing last month.

FSU has had back-to-back subpar recruiting classes. Without a significant influx of talent from the transfer portal, the 2020 roster could be one of the Seminoles’ worst of the Rivals era. The offensive line has struggled for years, which is one reason why FSU will finish out its 6-6 season at a mediocre bowl game.

RELATED: An open letter to FSU’s next coach

Norvell was FSU’s best option after several big-name options dropped out of the mix. Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was the Seminoles’ early top target, but he did not leave his job as the head coach/general manager of the XFL’s Dallas Renegades. Two other potential candidates, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell and Penn State’s James Franklin, both landed new contracts in the last few days.

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