Head coach Mike Norvell led off the press conference, complimenting his group, saying, "the size, speed, athleticism, and intelligence have all improved among our team.”
He brought his usual enthusiasm and energy to the meeting; even an impending storm did not worry him. Norvell said that Hurricane Idalia is something they are tracking but does not believe it will make a “huge impact” on their preparation.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Alex Atkins followed, praising the older members of his offensive line group for their leadership and effort throughout camp. Atkins then shifted his attention to the Tigers; he discussed how deep of a group they have along the defensive line and called Harold Perkins a “talent” and someone they must be aware of at all times. Adam Fuller came into the press conference shortly after and followed a similar path as Alex Atkins. He lauded the veteran presence amongst his defensive group but is aware of how talented the LSU offense is and the threat Jayden Daniels has become over the last two seasons. John Papuchis rounded out the group, commenting on how “consistent” Ryan Fitzgerald was during camp, and that was the difference in winning the starting kicker job.
The coaching staff went out of their way to applaud the Tigers, and they are aware of the daunting task that faces them Sunday night.
Florida State practices again tomorrow for a regular morning practice — you can see the full availability posted below.
Head coach Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Alex Atkins, defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, special teams coordinator and defensive ends coach John Papuchis
MIKE NORVELL: All right, good morning. Appreciate everybody being here. Obviously excited to get to game week. Been a really, really good fall camp. Really proud of our football team, just the work that they put in. It all stretches back to January when we got started to push, to progress, to improve to get to this point. I do feel like we have a team that is prepared at a very high level. They’ve worked extremely hard. The size, speed, athleticism, overall football intelligence I think have all improved within our team. We’re excited for the opportunity that’s ahead, chance to go out with our first game, work to go put the best version of ourselves out on that field next Sunday night. We talk a lot about the identity of a team. I see one that, like I said, has a great work ethic, really care about each other. They pushed and competed throughout. We still need every rep and every minute leading up to kickoff to continue to get better, to be ready for Sunday night. But so excited to be on this stage, opportunity to showcase our players, obviously this wonderful institution.
Health-wise going into this week, I like where we are. I think we’re going to get a few guys that have kind of had some bumps and bruises along the way in fall camp, I think we’re going to get most of them back here for this week. We’ll make an announcement, it wasn’t on the depth chart. Ja’Khi Douglas will miss a few games here early in the season. Fully expect him back relatively soon. He will miss for sure this first contest, probably the first couple as we head into this season. Like I said, I like where our team’s at. We got a lot of work here throughout the course of this week in our final preparation. But really proud of this team, the coaching staff, for all the work that’s gone in to get us to this point.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You guys had some great position battles, the preliminary depth chart is out, not set in stone, but when you look at the tight end position, what have Kyle and Jaheim showed you through pre-season to get the nods?
MIKE NORVELL: I think that entire tight end room, we’re going to have at least four guys that play. Preston Daniel will also be able to make an impact within our team. You see the versatility, just the consistency. Kyle has been really good. Just all the things that he can do, his approach, his physicality, what he does in the route game, great ball skills. He’s a really good football player. Jaheim, once again, his versatility, the explosiveness he shows. One of the things I’ve been proud of with him, coming in, it’s easy to watch film, see what somebody does with the ball in their hands. I think Jaheim has really embraced the role of being better without the ball in his hands, as a blocker, some of the finer techniques and fundamentals. I think Coach Thompson has done a great job with that group. Markeston had a great fall camp. He’s such a big target. He’s a threat. Over 280 pounds, but he runs very, very well. I think he’s going to be somebody that is going to make a lot of great plays for us this year. That’s a position I’ve been pleased with, just the development of all those guys, what they can do for this team. Just adds different levels to that in our attack.
Q. Looks like based on the depth chart Destyn Hill has worked himself into having a pretty prominent role. What has he done as a true freshman?
MIKE NORVELL: He’s kind of showcased it all. He’s explosive. He’s smart. He’s done really good things with the ball in his hands. He’s definitely a very willing blocker, something that we pride ourselves here with our receivers. He’s a good route runner. There’s still going to be a lot of things he’s going to figure out along the way. He is a true freshman. Coming in, he’s put himself in a position competing to start for us here early. I think that just his mindset, his approach, all things. He’s been productive. At the end of the day you have to go out there and you have to produce with that ability. Definitely proud of him for the work he’s put in. He’s going to help this football team this year.
Q. Have you guys put a plan in place or preparations for the pending storm that may or may not come this way? Any update whether it might impact the game as of now?
MIKE NORVELL: Obviously something we’re tracking just for our guys here. Got great communication with the university, athletic department, all things that we’re aware of. Right now, we always will have plans if things need to adapt or adjust. It’s not something we think at this time is going to make a huge impact for our preparation this week or what it would be for the end of the week towards the game.
Q. Jared usually walking into practice, see him on the game field, how talkative he is. Is he that talkative away from football?
MIKE NORVELL: Jared likes to talk (smiling). He’s a great young man. He plays this game with tremendous passion. To see where he was a year ago, the impact that he had on the field, really coming into this program. I think his actions have spoken even louder than what his words are, just how much this team means to him and how much his teammates mean to him, the opportunity to get better. I think we’ve seen that. That’s where everybody has their style. For Jared, he likes to talk, but he’s always been in control of himself in those situations. I think he’s grown in that, he’s matured in just his approach with that. But I’ve loved the work. Expecting big things from him this year. If his actions speak louder than his words, then we’re going to be in great shape here.
Q. You and Alex Atkins have talked about eight O-linemen you trust to win games. Where has that group taken a leap forward from a season ago maybe?
MIKE NORVELL: I think just the consistency and execution, the ability, the size, the strength. I mean, those guys have all developed. Whether you have the newcomers that have joined, like Jeremiah, Casey, KJ, those guys are all very experienced football players that have played at a high level. You look at the guys that have returned, even the ones that were young in their process, just the way they’ve grown through their time here. I think Alex has done a great job in the developmental part of it, knowing what to do and how to do it. Coach Storms and his staff, physical development has really helped us. These guys embrace the mental part of it. Playing offensive line requires versatility. They understand the different combinations and scenarios that can happen. If someone goes down, someone has to step up, potentially playing multiple positions. We challenge our guys in those ways, and they embrace it. When you see the way they work to communicate with each other, whether it’s two guys who have played together or one switching sides, they understand the importance of communication and consistent practice, building relationships with their fellow linemen.
Q. This is the fourth straight year that Coach Kelly has coached against Jordan Travis. What is different about the guy he’s going to see on Sunday compared to the guy in South Bend in 2020?
MIKE NORVELL: Jordan has always been an explosive player. Even in that game, he had many explosive plays that contributed to our success. You’ve seen him develop into a complete player with explosiveness in his legs and moments of precision with his arm. He’s gained consistency in the passing game, control of the offense, and confidence in various situations. He’s become more experienced and confident, working on both passing and running plays. He’s a hard worker who’s earned his success. He’s an example to the team, raising their level of play alongside him. He approaches every practice and every rep with intensity, regardless of the circumstances. I believe he’s set up for a great year and he’s truly a special player.
Q. A lot of the transfers you’ve brought in have performed better here than at their previous schools. How difficult is it to prepare for a team with several transfers, not knowing what to expect from them?
MIKE NORVELL: When facing teams with many players from other programs, we evaluate their skill sets, tendencies, and strengths to prepare effectively. Although we gather information on their playing style, the game itself will present surprises and challenges. Just as our team has improved from last year, we expect the same from LSU. It will be a competitive match with players who have transitioned and improved. Our challenge is to perform at our best against an improved opponent.
Q. LSU has gone through significant changes with a new coaching staff and players. How valuable is it to have had time to study and prepare for them? How has your team evolved from last year into this season?
MIKE NORVELL: LSU is a strong team, evident by their success last year. They’ve developed and grown together. Their offense retains much of its production, including an impressive group of receivers. Daniels, their quarterback, is talented both as a passer and a runner. Their running game has progressed as well. Defensively, they showcase talent in different positions. Much like us, they’ve improved over the course of last year and built their confidence. The upcoming game will feel like a championship match due to the experience and talent of both teams.
Q. You’ve faced Coach Kelly in the first game of the year for the past three years. Does this familiarity bring comfort or surprise in the opening game?
MIKE NORVELL: Coach Kelly is an accomplished coach who adapts to his personnel and has succeeded in various programs. Despite familiarity, each year presents new challenges. We’ve competed against each other even before my time at Florida State. Familiarity helps in understanding his methods, but each game has its unique aspects. We must focus on our fundamentals, techniques, and communication for success.
Q. Maason Smith’s absence will impact the defensive line. How deep is the defensive line unit for LSU?
MIKE NORVELL: LSU boasts one of the country’s strongest defensive lines, although Maason Smith’s absence will be felt. He’s an impactful player and his loss is unfortunate. Their defensive line is deep and talented, with a proven ability to pressure the quarterback. Even without Smith, their defensive front is formidable, and they’ve added new talent that enhances their depth.
Q. Any update on Darrell Jackson’s eligibility?
MIKE NORVELL: We’re seeking further guidance on Darrell Jackson’s eligibility, as his situation involves considerations under the transfer portal rules and changes made by the NCAA. He’s practicing and preparing while we await a resolution. Regardless of the outcome, he’s maintaining a positive attitude and focus, putting himself in the best position to contribute if eligible.
Q. Ryan Fitzgerald has won the kicking job over Tyler. Can you discuss that competition and also Keon as a punt returner?
MIKE NORVELL: The competition between Ryan Fitzgerald and Tyler for the kicking position was extremely close. Ryan’s consistency throughout practice earned him the starting role, but Tyler is also a talented player who will be ready if needed. Keon as a punt returner brings dynamic athleticism and a larger size, which is an advantage. He’s confident and possesses good range to handle various kicks. The competition for punt returner involved several players, but Keon’s attributes make him a strong choice for creating explosive plays.
Q. Could you describe DJ Lundy’s progression from his arrival to now?
MIKE NORVELL: DJ Lundy has grown significantly since his freshman year, playing a lot of football and contributing on both sides of the ball. In high school, he primarily played running back but shifted to linebacker in his senior year. His versatility and talent have made him one of our best players. Our linebacker unit is deep, and DJ is one of the starting linebackers who will see significant action. He’s developed his understanding of the game, gained confidence, and improved his skills. His toughness, speed, and physicality make him a valuable asset to the team.
Q. Winston Wright has overcome challenges to become a co-starter. How significant is this achievement for him?
MIKE NORVELL: Winston Wright’s journey to becoming a co-starter is remarkable, considering the obstacles he faced after a car accident. His return to the field is a testament to his determination and hard work. He’s regained his confidence, speed, and explosiveness, which were key attributes before the accident. His ability to overcome adversity and contribute to the team is a special and inspiring achievement.