Restrictions from COVID-19 and the recruiting dead period made this past year more challenging for college football coaches trying to rebuild their programs. On-campus visits were prohibited and relationship-building was hindered, setting back coaches who tried to add the right pieces to their rosters.
It was especially disruptive for newer coaches who haven’t had a chance to get the foundation of their program in place.
Mike Norvell and his staff at Florida State fell into that category, where they were trying to build new relationships in the state and to reset the program’s culture. Not only was it difficult trying to recruit the right type of player, but the coaches also were limited in assessing the roster they already had on campus.
Not being able to completely evaluate the team’s needs made it that much more difficult for coaches in Norvell’s situation to recruit players in high school and the transfer portal.
“It’s been a unique first year, but I really think we’ve been able to capitalize on the opportunity, and we made a choice as a staff when I first got here that [with] this first class we had to make sure we hit on getting the best football players we could,” Norvell said. “Any time you have three head coaches in four years, there are going to be question marks the kids have when they’re talking about a program. We’re trying to sell a vision of where we’re going and what we’re all about, but we went after guys that we knew would be able to come in here and help this team on the field and help develop the culture of who we are off the field as well.”
Missing on high school prospects can set the rebuild process back a few years depending on how often it happens. Florida State didn’t sign a high school quarterback in the 2018 or 2019 classes, before Norvell arrived in Tallahassee. Norvell & Co. stabilized the quarterback room by adding Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker in 2020 and bringing in transfer McKenzie Milton this past offseason.
The roster still isn’t where they want it to be, but it’s progressing toward what their ultimate vision looks like.
“This year, our guys understand the system a lot better. There’s going to be some growing pains, but we understand why we do things,” Florida State offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham said. “Especially when you have that quarterback that can get you in a good place. The fact that they’ve been in the system, they understand the timing of throws and what plays we run, I feel significantly more at ease going into the season than I did last year.”
Not every school is in the same place as Florida State in the rebuilding process, though. Some are further along and close to competing at a high level, some are just starting from the ground up, and there are a few that are nearing the end of the line where a rebuild seems like too big of an uphill battle.
Here is a look at a few schools in the rebuilding process, how far along they are and how they stack up to other schools in similar situations.