The Q&A makes its anxiously awaited 2020 return for a chat with Jon Marchant of Tomahawk Nation. It’s no secret that the last 3 regular seasons meetings between these teams have gone dramatically in Tech’s favor, and no, of course the ‘Nole fans aren’t nervous about such things, why do you ask? Are they nervous about their QB situation? Yes. So keep reading and get learned ahead of Saturday’s kick.
1. The Seminole coaching situation has been fluid, to say the least, the last couple seasons, and Norvell seemed to make a pretty large misstep earlier this year when he lied to the media about conversations he had with players surrounding social justice protests. After being publicly called out by his players, has Norvell regained the respect of his locker room? Is he now on thinner ice with an athletic department that has made it clear they’re not afraid to fire a first year coach mid season?
I believe he has regained the respect, if he ever lost it at all in the first place. All-ACC DT Marvin Wilson, who called him out, publicly backed Norvell shortly after that and appears fully bought in. Norvell has encouraged the team to use their platform to speak out about the issues that are important to them, and by all accounts Norvell also genuinely supports them doing so. The program was also called out by receiver Warren Thompson over COVID concerns and policies, but Thompson has also since backed Norvell. Many of the upperclassmen on the team have taken to social media in recent weeks to also voice their support for Norvell, as have current and former Memphis players.
As for Norvell’s relationship with the athletic department, I don’t feel confident enough to speak about it but we are not aware of any friction. I can say that FSU literally cannot afford to fire Norvell, especially not in his first season. FSU is still on the hook for Willie Taggart’s buyout from firing him in year 2 of his contract. They owe Taggart about $17 million and there are some concerns the school can’t even afford that right now with the money crunch from COVID. FSU needs the Norvell hire to work out because FSU might be partnered with him for the next four seasons at least. Even if he can’t bring FSU back into the echelon of the elite, the program could really use some stability right now.
2. I know Norvell came from Memphis, who I remember being a fun, rowdy, high-scoring team under him. What sort of offensive style is he bringing to the Noles? And how much of it is he changing based on the existing personnel?
There are a lot of ways to describe Norvell’s offense and we’ve talked about them a lot; my favorite might be as a smashmouth spread. It’s definitely built off of the running game but is also pretty explosive. Norvell has a core philosophy of what he wants to do which he accomplishes by messing with defenders’ eye discipline and keys and moving gaps around to outflank them. Tight ends are very important in his scheme but that’s arguably up there with the offensive line as the weakest group on offense this season. He had a history of changing things up at Memphis to fit his personnel without changing his core philosophies, and I think we’ll see that at FSU as well. This season, for example, I think we see FSU lean on the running back depth with the issues at tight end. We might also see RBs line up out wide and wide receivers line up in the backfield.
3. Who’s the more egregious thieves of the Tomahawk Chop: The Atlanta Braves or The Kansas City Chiefs?
What a great question. I’m going to give the edge to the Chiefs here, and I’ll tell you why. Seminole alum Deion Sanders is responsible for bringing the chop to Atlanta in the early 1990s, and while Braves fans are annoying because they like to try and say they started doing it before FSU, a physical impossibility because while Sanders was fast he couldn’t travel into the future (FSU started it in 1984 and it was solidified by 1986), there’s a big reason they aren’t the answer here. The Seminole Tribe of Florida was originally largely made up of the Native American Creek tribe from Georgia, so the state of Georgia has ties. According to the Tallahassee Seminole Club, FSU grad and director of the NW Missouri State band Al Sergel brought it to Kansas City around that same time in the early 90s.
I’m worried about Tech’s offensive line against the big defensive line men FSU always seems to recruit in droves. Besides the guys in the trenches presumably chasing our QB around the backfield, who else should we look out for on defense?
You’re right that FSU’s defensive line will be difficult on everyone this season. The DT rotation especially is very talented and deep. My first answer to your question would be do-everything safety Hamsah Nasirildeen but he’s not playing in this game as he’s still recovering from tearing his ACL in the season finale against the Gators last year. So I will go with field cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr. He’s that son of the former NFL All-Pro and what Samuel lacks in height he makes up for with talent and technique. The ’Noles’ secondary is also very deep and talented and a lot of guys will play, but Samuel stands out.
5. Ok, so what’s happening with FSU’s QB situation? And why is seemingly everyone upset?
(Deep breath) Where to begin? Much like the coaching situation, the QB situation has also been fluid in recent years. The short answer is that while I’m not upset, much of the fanbase just isn’t a fan of RS JR starting QB James Blackman. They want a younger QB to take over. FSU let Sam Howell slip away to North Carolina under Willie Taggart’s watch. With the NCAA granting a free year of eligibility, Blackman could play at FSU into the 2022 season. For some fans, that’s frustrating.
The truth and longer answer is that Blackman isn’t as bad as many make him out to be, although consistency is definitely an issue, and the younger QBs aren’t ready. Blackman has had four different offensive coordinators in his time in Tallahassee (Jimbo Fisher, Walt Bell, Kendal Briles, and now Kenny Dillingham), so you can see how consistency would be an issue for anyone. As for the younger guys, there’s RS SO Jordan Travis who is very athletically gifted but still an unknown as a passer, and the two true freshmen Tate Rodemaker and Chubba Purdy. Purdy broke his collarbone in camp last month and Rodemaker, an early enrollee, is Blackman’s primary backup.
6. If Norvell wasn’t hired, who do you wish the Noles had gone after? And were there any other candidates in contention that you thought would’ve been just as good or better hires?
Almost everyone in the fanbase was after Bob Stoops, who turned down FSU for what ended up being a short-lived semi-retirement job with the XFL Dallas Renegades. That says a lot about Stoops’ interest, doesn’t it? FSU is also believed to have pursued Penn State’s James Franklin and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, along with other names. I would have liked Campbell, but I will say none of them would have been slam dunks, and after Stoops there really wasn’t a consensus. I’m going to cheat out of this question and say it’s too early to tell if Norvell was the right hire, as hindsight is always 20/20. He was almost entirely an unknown to most of the Seminole faithful when the hire was announced, but I think Norvell was on track for a big-time Power 5 job sooner or later and I’ve been more than happy with him so far.
Saturday’s game will presumably not be as dramatic as the last meeting between these 2 teams. Who wins and how?
My jaw was hanging open for a good five minutes the last time FSU and GT played so I’m very much hoping it doesn’t come down to that again. FSU has a new head coach who had to prep his team during an unprecedented offseason. Maybe Norvell will try to keep it on the ground and play it safe in the passing game – I predicted FSU would get 150 yards rushing but how many attempts that takes might be the key. Nothing would surprise me but I can see a sloppy ten point win for the ’Noles that is much more competitive than the score looks and with Tech covering the spread. Something like 30-20.
Thanks again to Jon from Tomahawk Nation for taking the time to chat with us. Head over there to check out my answers to his pressing questions about the Yellow Jackets and maybe talk a little trash while you’re there.
Kick is at 3:30 on ABC.