Weekly Mailbag: Miami, Mike Norvell, and quarterbacks

Well, after just one game and a BYE week, it’s already rivalry week for Florida State for the first and last time of 2020. Typically, off-weeks are a time for healing and retooling, however, the last week has been anything but normal for FSU. The Seminoles will take on Miami in Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday night without head coach Mike Norvell, who recently tested positive for coronavirus.

The loss of Norvell instantly puts a big challenge on FSU’s revamped coaching staff as they look towards a Hurricane team that has looked solid over the first two weeks of the season. They’ll have to adapt quickly with deputy head coach Chris Thomsen stepping into Norvell’s game day role. Offensive Analyst Tony Tokarz, who followed Norvell from Memphis, will move to a full-time role this week and will coach in the box.

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Let’s hop into this week’s mailbag as the ‘Noles and Canes prepare for war.

Do you think James Blackman will still start? – @michael.cook87

Any changes to who will be starting as the QB? – @nolegameday_gang

What are the chances Chubba really starts against Miami? – @david_delgado_43

Is Blackman getting the start? – @official__flynn

As you can see, the most popular question by far this week centered on FSU’s starting signal-caller. Norvell was non-committal earlier this week during an interview when asked if Blackman would take the field first against Miami, though he is listed as the starter on the depth chart. Maybe a little coincidentally, true freshman Chubba Purdy returned to practice and took non-contact reps for the first time since injuring his collarbone in a preseason scrimmage.

There’s no secret that Blackman’s performance against Georgia Tech left much to be desired from Norvell and offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham but it’s hard to say that one of the other quarterbacks in the room could step in and be any better. We saw Jordan Travis’ legs against the Yellow Jackets but he just doesn’t have the accuracy right now for this offense. Tate Rodemaker and Purdy are both true freshmen who are still developing and learning the offense. Plus, Purdy has missed crucial practice reps while recovering from his injury.

If Blackman does lay another dud down in Miami and is benched, I’d think Rodemaker would have the best chance to replace him out of the gate. Purdy could be a viable option in a few more weeks. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if this season ends with the young guys taking the reins.

Could Norvell turning down Jeff Sims be a huge mistake? I watched the GT vs UCF game and this kid is legit! – @iam_rd_746

It’s hard not to say that it’s a possibility. Jeff Sims was committed to FSU but backed off of that pledge after he and his family met with Norvell. The newly hired head coach swiftly added Rodemaker and Purdy to the commitment list, which eased most of the doubt from the fanbase.

Sims has certainly looked solid so far through his first two collegiate starts but he’s already turned it over five times while completing 58.6% of his passes. Heading into the next level, the main weakness for him was accuracy and he hasn’t overcome it yet. That will take time and development.

Norvell went out and found two signal-callers that he thought were better fits for the offense he wants to run in Tallahassee. Not to mention that he had to flip Purdy and Rodemaker from other schools. If anything, to me it shows that he’s not willing to settle for anything despite the fact he had an Elite 11 quarterback in the fold once he accepted the job.

Only time will tell who will wind up having a better career but Sims is getting a little too much hype right now, especially since he led Georgia Tech to a win against the ‘Noles.

Do you think Jaiden Lars-Woodbey is actually an FSU caliber player? – @heafmccall

This is so disrespectful that I’m just gonna move on.

What’s our strength on defense? – @justin_a_cumbiefit

Heading into the season-opener against Georgia Tech, it seemed like the defensive line and stopping the run. However, the unit recorded zero sacks or tackles for loss against a Yellow Jackets team that was one of the worst in the country on offense in 2019. Hopefully, it was just an off-game.

The secondary also has plenty of depth with Jarvis Brownlee and Hamsah Nasirildeen returning to action.

How much will it affect FSU football not having Mike in Miami – @tallybreadtom

Regardless of how many responsibilities the assistants handle during the week, missing their head coach during an important rivalry game will be a tough adjustment. More than anything, FSU is going to miss the presence and emotion that Norvell brings to the sideline. He was extremely energetic during the season-opener.

I’ll be watching Chris Thomsen and the rest of the staff closely this weekend to see how they respond without Norvell around them. It’ll be up to the players to stay bought in and trusting in the message that has been preached since day one.

Who is going to call plays against the U? – @drewebersole

Typically, Norvell keeps offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham in the box to be his eyes in the sky and they work together to call plays. This weekend, he will remain up top in his normal spot while taking full control of the play-calling.

The last time Dillingham was a primary play-caller, he led No. 15 Auburn to a 48-45 victory over Alabama. I’m interested to see how he handles things on Saturday.

How much do you think we get Keyshawn Helton involved this week? – @kennyjoyce15

No matter what, he’s got to get more touches than he did against Georgia Tech. In his first game action since a season-ending injury against Clemson in 2019, Keyshawn Helton recorded one catch for three yards and a score while also getting one carry.

Helton is one of the most explosive players on the team and he’s got the ability to create something out of nothing. He’s got the potential to help this offense put together big plays if he can get involved.

Should Stephen Dix Jr. be starting? – @tinoles

I don’t know if he’s earned a starting role quite yet but he definitely should be among the top of the rotation. Stephen Dix Jr looked good against Georgia Tech, making a big hit on a kick-off returner and playing soundly during his snaps on defense.

If Leonard Warner or Emmett Rice begin to slip up, Dix will be right on their heels fighting for playing time.

Will FSU upset No. 12 ranked Miami? – @cole_smith_2024

Last week, I said yes but that was before Norvell was diagnosed with coronavirus. Without its head coach, I don’t think Florida State will be able to overcome the adversity it’s facing this weekend against Miami. Being a rivalry game, I do think it’ll be a close game.

I’ll take the Hurricanes 31-23.

When will FSU be good? – @sports__jaden

I wouldn’t trust the guy who predicted FSU to beat Georgia Tech 38-13 so your guess is as good as mine at this point.

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