On the occasion of his 15th wedding anniversary, new Florida State coach Mike Norvell crossed a threshold of sorts, one barely approached by his beleaguered predecessor.
He signed a high school quarterback. Two of them, in fact.
“Man, I think we hit an absolute home run,” he said.
If Norvell wasn’t already the toast of Tallahassee after his widely hailed introductory news conference on Dec. 8, any lingering Seminole skeptics likely raised a glass when the NCAA’s early signing period commenced Wednesday.
By signing Valdosta (Ga.) pro-style passer Tate Rodemaker and Arizona dual-threat star Preston “Chubba” Purdy, Norvell ― who signed 17 total players Wednesday ― was able to pull off something in 10 days that Willie Taggart couldn’t do in nearly two years.
They are the first prep quarterbacks to sign with FSU in nearly 34 months, when James Blackman and Bailey Hockman signed with Jimbo Fisher’s final FSU class in February 2017.
“It’s been an incredible last week and change,” Norvell told reporters late Wednesday afternoon.
“There is not enough time to give a recruiting speech when you have 10 days. So all I tried to do was to put my heart out there on the table, tell these young men why I do what I do, the importance of their opportunity, and how we see them within this program.”
Rodemaker, an early commitment to USF when Kerwin Bell (former Valdosta State coach) still was the Bulls offensive coordinator, watched his stock skyrocket while leading Valdosta deep into the Class AAAAAA playoffs. Ranked the nation’s No. 27 pro-style quarterback by 247Sports composite, he threw for 6,811 yards and 74 touchdowns in his prep career.
“I think he completed close to 70 percent of his passes; really high touchdown-to-interception ratio,” said Norvell, who offered Rodemaker while still coach at Memphis. “He’s a great leader. Unbelievable potential there in front of him.”
But Purdy, who flipped from Louisville, represented Wednesday’s real coup.
The younger brother of Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy is deemed the nation’s No. 6 dual-threat QB by 247Sports. He totaled 9,000 yards and 111 touchdowns the past two seasons at Perry High in Gilbert, Ariz., with 10 of those scores coming in one game (five passing, five rushing).
He contacted Norvell last Thursday and was on campus for a visit with Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham by the weekend.
“Everything about that process was pretty incredible,” Norvell said. “Our staff, what we were able to do in this short period of time was absolutely remarkable. … It was all hands on deck, and for that to transpire in him signing here today, it’s a great day to be a Seminole.”
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Yet Norvell, gaining rapid acclaim for his meticulousness, didn’t allow his signing day news conference to be monopolized by quarterback talk. Before taking questions, he touched on 15 of his 17 signees (the signings of Louisiana four-star receiver Ja’khi Douglas and Louisville transfer defensive end Jarrett Jackson were announced afterward).
The group included Pinellas Park four-star tailback Lawrance Toafili (“one of the best running backs in the country”) and Under Armour All-American linebacker Jayion McCluster of Largo (“that’s what we want our linebackers to look like”).
“When I met Coach Norvell it was like a stress reliever,” McCluster, a longtime FSU commitment, said at his Largo signing ceremony Wednesday. “He was someone I could talk to. Someone who has a plan.”
Norvell is hopeful of landing at least one more signature before the early period ends Friday, then closing strong (possibly via the juco or portal route) in February.
“The minute that I was cleared to be able to recruit, I was working FaceTime,” Norvell said.
“Everybody had a phone and had a responsibility, and that was get me in front of as many kids as possible to be able to talk about one, who I am; and then two, where we’re going. The reception has been incredible.”