TAMPA — The poker chips at the check-in table at Florida State coach Mike Norvell’s speaking stop Sunday felt like a fitting symbol for his fourth season with the Seminoles.
FSU is all in.
“This is a team that should be talked about,” Norvell said an interview with a small group of reporters before the Seminole Boosters On Tour event at the Tampa Marriott Water Street. “What we do with that, it’s on us.”
We won’t know what the Seminoles will do with those expectations until their Sept. 3 blockbuster showdown against LSU in Orlando.
We do, however, know how Norvell and his Seminoles got to their ACC-title-or-bust 2023: by using the transfer portal as well as any team in the country.
The Seminoles showed that again last week when they picked up a commitment from Keon Coleman, Michigan State’s leading receiver. His addition bolstered an elite portal class that now includes five of 247Sports’ top-25 transfers — Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress (No. 4), South Carolina tight end Jaheim Bell (No. 10), Western Michigan defensive lineman Braden Fiske (No. 18), Shorter tight end Kyle Morlock (No. 25) plus Coleman (No. 23). No other school has more than two.
They’ll join a roster where the star quarterback (Jordan Travis), leading rusher (Trey Benson), leading receiver (Johnny Wilson), top returning tackler (Tatum Bethune) and top defensive talent (Jared Verse) were all transfers, too.
That reliance on transfers isn’t necessarily by design. Maybe it was earlier in Norvell’s tenure when the coronavirus shutdown limited his new staff’s ability to recruit high schoolers. But those days are over, and FSU remains a major player in the portal.
“For us, we have to be willing to adapt…” Norvell said. “We’re going to address the needs and try to improve our program making sure that we’re putting (together) the best team that we can have.”
For this team this year, it meant adding 10 transfers from four-year schools out of a class of 30 newcomers. Two are from junior college, and the other 18 are from high schools (including blue-chip receiver Destyn Hill, a 2021 signee who just joined FSU).
The Seminoles aren’t aiming for a specific ratio of transfers to high school recruits; Norvell said it will fluctuate yearly based on the ebb and flow of a roster, but he liked the makeup of this class.
“There’s a lot of teams that have taken more players than we have out of the portal,” Norvell said. “I think we get the right ones that fit what we’re looking for.”
Norvell is correct, but he’s also underselling the quantity he has amassed. FSU added as many transfers as Alabama (five), Georgia (four) and Clemson (one) signed combined.
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And that leads to the unknown around FSU, the one that will determine whether their bet on 2023 pays off. Is this a way to build a championship program?
The portal is too new to make any definitive statements about his success or failure at the highest level. Ten key TCU transfers helped the Horned Frogs make last season’s national title game … where they were crushed by a Georgia team that uses the portal sparingly. Does the fact that the Horned Frogs won a College Football Playoff game show transfers can support a high-level roster? Or does their 58-point loss prove the only viable championship blueprint is to stack one elite class of high school recruits after another?
“It still comes down to the individual…” Norvell said. “For me, if you get like-minded indviduals, whether high school, junior college, transfers that are coming in — you have those guys that have similar beliefs, or similar makeup. They came together, and I think we’ve shown that we can form a really good team within that.”
One that should be talked about from now until kickoff at Camping World Stadium.
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