Coach Norvell, Florida State set for opener vs Georgia Tech

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2019, file photo, Florida State head football coach Mike Norvell speaks at a press conference in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File) (Phil Sears, Copyright 2019 the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mike Norvell has waited nine months to coach his first game at Florida State.

After the coronavirus-disrupted offseason, Norvell believes the Seminoles are ready to play their first game Saturday when Georgia Tech visits Doak Campbell Stadium.

“I think juggling all the things with the pandemic has made it very unique in all aspects,” Norvell said this week. “Missing out on (spring practice and the spring game), it really does affect you. I think our guys did a great job with that. I think we had a good plan, but there’s still some things that we’ve had to do during fall camp to make up for that lost time — just base understanding of expectations in certain situations.”

The Seminoles named James Blackman, the incumbent starter, as the team’s No. 1 quarterback earlier this month. Blackman stood out in practice in his understanding of the new offense, his work ethic and his leadership role.

Blackman will work with his fourth different offensive coordinator in as many years. He has some impressive performances as a true freshman in 2017, coach Jimbo Fisher’s final season with Florida State, and again last year. Blackman has thrown for 5,079 yards, with 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He beat out three others for the starting job this season, most notably Louisville transfer Jordan Travis.

“His teammates love him, his teammates follow him,” offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “He has the respect of his teammates, so I think it was a combination of a lot of things that led to that decision.”

Blackman appreciates the opportunity.

“The main thing that coach Norvell hit on every day was just responding,” Blackman said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better with just responding, understanding the situation, knowing that every play is its own play. You can’t control what happened on the last play. You’ve got to get ready for the next one.”

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Expectations are modest for Florida State, which went 6-7 last year and is predicted by Atlantic Coast Conference media members to finish seventh in the 15-team league.

Expectations are much lower for Georgia Tech, which went 3-9 under first-year coach Geoff Collins and is predicted to finish last.

“We don’t worry about outside opinions,” Collins said. “We worry about our opinions that are in this building, how hard we work, how close we can be together, developing a process to get ready to play at a high level, so that’s what we’re focused on. We’re not focused on those things.

“Even though I do know our guys are well aware of those things, but it’s still just every single day, this is our process, this is our culture. We’ve got to get better at every single phase, get our minds right, get our bodies right.”


Georgia Tech declined to publicly name a starting quarterback heading into the opener.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said this week that the team had settled on a starter, but added the decision will be kept under wraps until Saturday. The leading candidates appeared to be sophomore James Graham, who started the final eight games last year, and freshman Jeff Sims.


Florida State safety Hamsah Nasirildeen is still recovering from a knee injury sustained in last year’s game against Florida and will not play this weekend. Norvell said the team is hopeful he can return in two weeks at Miami when the Seminoles play their second game.


Georgia Tech freshman Jordan Williams won the right tackle job and will start in his first collegiate game. At 6-foot-6, 340 pounds, Williams was one of Collins’ top recruits.

“I don’t think he’s going to be overmatched physically,” Patenaude said. “It’s going to be over the course of a game can he sustain and be involved in trying to play 75 plays.”


Preseason All-America defensive tackle Marvin Wilson knows he made the right decision to return for his senior season with the Seminoles.

“I’m super excited going into my final year at Florida State,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to get on the field with the guys and show the world we’re a force this year.”


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