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Florida State of Recruiting: Recapping Mike Norvell’s best-ever recruiting month, remaining needs for Tribe 24

July 2023 was a month to remember on the trail.

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

July is generally a time filled with vacations, barbecues, and a laid-back summer haze for many of us.

Not for Mike Norvell and the Florida State Seminoles staff.

I previously wrote about June and July being productive months over Norvell’s Tallahassee tenure with the expectation of similar results this summer. Norvell simply decided that one month was better than two in 2023, culminating in not only his best recruiting month as head coach at FSU, but the best recruiting month he’s ever had as a coach.

June was— to put it lightly—underwhelming on the recruiting trail in Tallahassee. Four straight weeks and weekends filled with 28 official visitors resulted in exactly zero new verbal commitments. With plenty of verbal commitments popping in Gainesville and Coral Gables, the FSU natives were getting restless.

That restlessness reached a crescendo on garnet and gold message boards at the end of June, as the Gators shot up to the 3rd-ranked recruiting class. The Seminoles entered the month of July with a national recruiting class rank right around 20th nationally, also far behind the Hurricanes. For a team coming off a 10-win season and a fan base still dealing with various traumas over the past two cycles, doom crept in.

Then the fireworks started.

FSU landed dual commitments from blue-chip defenders D.D. Holmes and Ricky Knight III on July 1. Knight III was particularly sweet, as he spurned the Hurricanes for the Seminoles.

On Independence Day, Florida State beat out Ohio State for a blue-chip wide receiver, Elijah Moore. I repeat: a stud WR chose FSU over the current Wide Receiver U. FSU then made it another daily double by bringing Alabama DB Red Morgan into the fold, beating out Auburn and Miami (again).

On July 13, OC Alex Atkins reeled in his top OL prospect, blue-chip Jonathan Daniels. The following day, OL Tye Hylton chose FSU over Florida. The Seminoles then made it three commitments in three days, keeping blue-chip RB and certified burner Micahi Danzy home.

Angst crept back in among some Seminole faithful when consensus five-star DB Charles Lester took a last minute trip to Colorado with his teammates. You can’t spell Deion without N-O, however, and Lester fulfilled his childhood dreams by committing to Florida State on July 29. The following day, Atkins and GM Darrick Yray completed a massive (literally) flip, bringing former USC Trojans blue-chip OL commit Manasse Itete into #Tribe24.

One month.

Nine commitments.

Seven 4- and 5-star players.

And as of this writing, a national class ranking of 6th.

Hell, that’s not even counting July 24, when Mike brought in a transfer linebacker with immediate eligibility.

After landing those nine verbal commitments, 77.7% of whom are blue-chip players, Mike Norvell and company just completed the most successful month he’s ever had on the recruiting trail. The assistant coaching staff and support staff are putting in significant work, and their message is clearly resonating. The Seminoles have secured verbal commitments from the top players on their board at QB, RB, TE, OL, DB, and K.

This begs the question: what’s left for #Tribe24?

The Seminoles now have 21 verbal commitments in their class and boast a blue-chip ratio of over 60%. The staff has now mostly transitioned into whale-hunting for the remaining spots.

I feel confident that there will be at least two more current commitments that will flip to another program before the early signing period. My guesses right now? WR Lawayne McCoy (Miami or UCF) and DB Red Morgan (Alabama or Auburn). I’d love to be wrong there, but those are two position groups that can withstand a defection or two. Plus, more defections also mean more opportunities for other prospects to join the Tribe.

As it stands right now, FSU is set with prep additions at QB, RB, TE, and K. LB is also likely complete unless the staff has a major surprise up its sleeve, as FSU will miss on June official visitor Michael Boganowski. That leaves WR (assuming McCoy flips), OL, DL, and DB as the positions with remaining spots to fill. Let’s take a look at who FSU is still involved with at each spot.

WR (0-2 more): The two biggest names to watch are 5-star high school teammates Jeremiah Smith (Ohio State) and Jojo Trader (Miami, Fl). Smith is the closest thing to Julio Jones you’ll see in the past few cycles and is a bona fide stud. It’ll take a lot to pry him away from Ohio State, but FSU is doing as good a job as any to position themselves well should he flip. Trader is a smooth athlete with a future as a major playmaker. He legitimately loves FSU but the hometown team is very inve$ted. It’s somewhat unlikely that FSU lands either and highly unlikely that the Seminoles land both, but crazier things have happened.

OL (0-1 more): There’s only one name we’re watching here, and that’s blue-chip lineman Jason Zandamela. He committed to the USC Trojans but is still in communication with FSU. The Seminoles will work hard to get him back on campus and try to earn his signature. He’d be an ideal fit at center and is the only other OL we feel FSU would add, again barring a major surprise.

DL (1-3 more): The Seminoles would love to add more defensive linemen to the class. The top names to monitor at DE are uncommitted 3-star Elias Williams and current Georgia Tech commit and 3-star Jordan Boyd. Williams is set to commit on September 1 and if FSU gives him the green light, he’ll be an ‘Nole. Boyd and FSU are just now starting a relationship and it’s worth monitoring how hard FSU pushes there. Booker Pickett is another name to watch and another likely in-state battle. FSU may also try to flip blue-chip Dylan Stephenson from Stanford.

Along the interior, FSU is fighting hard to land blue-chip LJ McCray and is battling Miami (Fl) for Artavius Jones. FSU has some ground to make up with McCray, though an official visit is still scheduled for October. Jones is a Cane commit but highly interested in the Seminoles— look for FSU to host him on an OV during the season as well. Other names to monitor are UF commit Nasir Johnson and North Carolina DT D’Nas White.

DB (1-2 more): Two main names to watch here are all-world safety KJ Bolden and blue-chip CB Jamari Howard. Bolden is set to announce his decision on August 5, though his recruitment will absolutely have more twists and turns as it winds down to the signing period. Howard is a star in the making and would be an excellent fit for what FSU wants to do on defense. A dark horse to monitor is 3-star Gregory Smith III, a raw but very athletic prospect with excellent size.

FSU would love to land Zaquan Patterson, but he is likely to commit to Miami (Fl). Similarly, the ‘Noles will end up missing on Jalewis Solomon, though we may see him in garnet and gold in a couple years should he choose FSU’s feeder school in Columbia, SC.

It’s important to remember that talented prospects inevitably get discovered during their senior seasons and can shoot up the boards and rankings, and we’ll certainly bring any notable new names to you.

My guess is that FSU signs between 23 and 27 high school players this cycle, depending on how many whales they can land. They won’t take bodies just to take them, and we know how effective Mike Norvell and staff have been with the transfer portal.

There’s no way to know how many portal additions are coming prior to the 2024 season, but a safe assumption is that the amount of attrition combined with the number of whales added/missed on will dictate how many transfers FSU brings in. I do feel that this will be the smallest incoming portal group yet under Norvell as he seeks to move from portal reliance to portal supplementation.

Major attrition is likely after the 2023 season, especially if FSU has the type of season many of us are predicting and some players declare early for the 2024 NFL Draft. If FSU can keep up its momentum from a very successful summer, this will be a very special recruiting class.