As new roommates, true freshmen wide receivers Joshua Burrell and Malik McClain are seeing a lot of each other as they begin their Florida State careers this spring.
The early enrollee wideout duo hope to see each other between the hash marks on the field this fall for the 2021 Seminoles, too.
One of them, Burrell, was a late May verbal commitment and a vocal recruiter with other FSU targets the remainder of last year. The other, McClain, actually decommitted a week before the early signing period only to jump back on board with Florida State.
When he heard that McClain had re-opened his recruitment, Burrell said he reached out to McClain, telling him, “we want you here.”
Now that the pair of composite four-star recruits are enrolled and officially within the program, FSU head coach Mike Norvell said the overall 2021 receiver class has an “unbelievable ceiling” and can “help immediately”.
“Some of them are going to have an opportunity to compete in day one to be able impact this football team in a big way,” said Norvell. “These guys, they are addressing those needs, and I think we have hit an absolute home run in that position.”
Both McClain and Burrell desired a jump start on providing that immediate help to FSU, graduating high school a semester early and heading to college to participate in spring practice. McClain said he knew he wanted to get into college early a few years ago back when he was a sophomore. Likewise, Burrell was considering enrolling early even before that.
“It is very beneficial. I have always wanted to enroll early, since when I was thinking about playing college football in middle school or early high school,” said Burrell. “Just being able to come in early, get to the playbook, the weight room, build relationships with other guys, start classes, all that stuff is great.”
The young talents know that one of the quickest ways to move up the receiver depth chart is to develop a rapport with senior McKenzie Milton, redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis, and the rest of the quarterback room.
Through player-run workouts the past few weeks, quarterbacks are likely running drills with wideouts, giving the receivers a chance to mesh with Milton and others. Pass-catcher Burrell spoke about what he thinks Milton brings to the offense and the entire team as a whole.
“Just having a guy come in with all the experience. A winning tradition, a winning culture…being able to bring that here is great. I know he is going to have a huge impact on our locker room and all of the team,” said Burrell. “We definitely interacted, he has definitely done a good job with all the guys getting to know people, putting names with faces. He is doing a great job being a leader for this team.”
The admiration likely goes both ways, as the quarterbacks must be excited to utilize the size advantages that the new additions McClain and Burrell present. Out of IMG Academy, McClain stands at 6-foot-4, 195-pounds; meanwhile, Burrell weighed in at 212 pounds and is 6-foot-2.
Even better, the rangy McClain says he is looking to put in the time to maximize his frame. The Daphne, Alabama native simply stated that if he works, the opportunities are going to come.
“Just getting stronger, getting bigger, be able to run faster, just keeping up with the guys,” said McClain. “I feel like I have good game IQ and stuff like that, but the physical part, I gotta improve on that.”
Both wideouts will look to double-down on their size mismatches not only to improve their receiving abilities but also their run-blocking on the outside. Who better to teach them than their position coach (who just happens to be one of the best run-blockers in FSU history), Ron Dugans?
As one of their primary recruiters also, Burrell and McClain talked about the Florida State wide receivers coach and what he means to them.
“Off the field, he is a guy you want to be around and you can learn a lot from. He gives good advice and I think that is what really attracted me to him. He always called my phone like ‘how are you doing?’, nothing about recruiting or nothing like that,” said McClain.
“When I talked to coach Dugans, it didn’t really feel like recruitment with him. I felt like he was like a father figure to me,” said Burrell. “He has always had my back. It is great to have a coach like that.”
In addition to a personal touch from Dugans, Burrell said that the winning tradition behind Florida State football was a factor in his commitment as well. A star during the apex of the Dynasty years in the late 1990s, Dugans is as qualified to articulate FSU’s rich history as anyone.
“Just talking about the tradition of Florida State football, the logo, national championships. Guys going to the league. And then just the vision they have for the team. How the school is becoming better every year…All of that just went into my decision,” said Burrell.
But in Florida State’s 2020 season finale against Duke, a game in which they put up 56 points, the wide receivers group caught just 3 passes for 58 yards combined.
Along with signing day commitment Destyn Hill to complete the trio, Burrell and McClain could give the wideouts more big-play potential and a major boost in 2021.
“We’ve just been talking about bringing back the winning tradition,” said Burrell. “Bringing back wide receiver U. We are just fully bought-in and ready to work, and just hope to bring a lot of depth to the receiver position.”