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FSU coach Mike Norvell’s theme on the eve of spring practice: Accountability

“That’s what we needed,” receiver Tamorrion Terry said. Good, because that’s what Mike Norvell has given them.
Florida State football coach Mike Norvell addresses reporters the day before the Seminoles started 2020 spring practice. (MATT BAKER | TIMES) [MATT BAKER  |  MATT BAKER | Times]
Florida State football coach Mike Norvell addresses reporters the day before the Seminoles started 2020 spring practice. (MATT BAKER | TIMES) [MATT BAKER | MATT BAKER | Times]

TALLAHASSEE — Ask anyone around Florida State football about the biggest changes new coach Mike Norvell has made to the program, and you’ll hear the same answer, over and over.

Accountability. In everything.

“That’s what we needed,” receiver Tamorrion Terry said Friday.

Related: Is Dan Mullen a top-10 coach? What about Jimbo Fisher? Mike Norvell?

The Seminoles will start to see what that looks like on the field Saturday when Norvell holds his first spring practice at FSU. But the last two months have given plenty of glimpses of how Norvell plans to fix a program that has woefully underachieved in three consecutive seasons.

The most obvious transformation centered on strength and conditioning for a team that was outscored 130-83 in the fourth quarter last year.

The ’Noles have expectations for workouts and meals. For Terry, it can mean eating six meals a day to bulk up. For others, it can mean 1:30 wakeup calls to down a protein shake.

Coaches aren’t at players’ bedsides to make sure those things happen, but the accountability still exists. Norvell knows off the top of his head that his 91 players improved their bodies by 695 combined pounds.

“If you want to achieve greatness, you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice for what it takes to get to that level,” Norvell said. “I think these guys are starting on that process.”

They’ve been starting on it in other ways, too, that seemingly have little to do with zone-reads or third-down blitzes. Norvell has carried some of his Memphis team rules about no earrings or headphones in the building and lowering sweatshirt hoods inside.

Related: Want a glimpse of FSU’s future under Mike Norvell? Watch Memphis.

“It’s just something he’s holding us to,” Terry said. “We all believe in him, so we’re taking his word, and everybody’s going by that.”

Those fashion rules go back to Norvell’s core philosophies, like respect and self-sacrifice for the good of your team. But there’s more to it than that.

Under Willie Taggart, FSU struggled with simple things, like lining up correctly. The ’Noles were flagged twice last year for lining up illegally on punts. If FSU can start mastering the little things off the field, maybe it can start figuring out the little things on the field, too.

Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Tamorrion Terry. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

For Norvell, it’s part of an all-inclusive approach to building a successful program. What you do in the weight room and in the classroom and in the community affects what you do against Clemson and Miami. It’s why everyone who deals with players — from academics staff to strength coaches to the compliance officials — has a giant weekly meeting to discuss how everything fits together.

“We have to have the constant communication,” Norvell said. “We all have to be pushing the same vision, the same approach.”

For most of the last three months, that approach has revolved around accountability. During winter workouts, players were given jerseys with different colors depending on their performances.

“Nothing will be swept under the rug,” defensive lineman Marvin Wilson said.

Related: What changes do you want to see at Doak? FSU wants to know.

It’s too early to tell whether the shift is working. The ’Noles insisted that Taggart improved the culture (and maybe he did), and all that got them was a 9-12 record in his tenure.

“I couldn’t tell you what was here before,” new offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “All I know is the standard is excellence — in everything we do.

“That’s the most important thing in any program: What is the standard, and what is the accountability if we’re not hitting that standard? What we’ve done so far is, we’ve set a standard of excellence, and we’re trying to hold people accountable every day.”

Audible

“There’s a lot of talent in this program. We’ve just got to be put in the right position to make them plays….I feel like we’ve got the right coaches to put us in the right position to make plays.” — Terry

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