FSU staff puts premium on versatility in 2022 early signing class
When the early signing period concluded on Friday, Florida State's official tally was 15 football signees.
The Seminoles landed five offensive linemen, two defensive tackles, two defensive backs, one defensive end, one linebacker, two tight ends, one quarterback and one running back.
That's what it says on paper, anyway.
When those players actually enroll at Florida State in January or during the summer, however, there's a decent chance some could line up at different positions. The defensive end could be an outside linebacker, the defensive backs could see time at wide receiver, the running back's speed could be used at a number of spots, and several of the offensive linemen could play multiple roles up front.
FSU coach Mike Norvell said there is a lot to like about the Seminoles' early signing period haul, which currently ranks No. 12 in the country. But it was the players' versatility that seemed to get him most excited.
When talking about defensive end signee Aaron Hester, Norvell began his thoughts by stating he believes Hester is a, “great talent because of the versatility of what he can do.”
“I think he’s got the ability to play out as an outside linebacker,” Norvell said. “We think he can be a guy who can impact the quarterback in the pass-rush game.”
"I think Aaron can come in and fit a couple different roles," co-defensive coordinator Adam Fuller added. "In some of the 4-3 stuff, I think he plays Stud (outside linebacker) over a tight end in some personnel groups. But for the most part, he's gonna line up at Fox. He's gonna be a pass-rusher."
At linebacker, FSU signed Omar Graham Jr., who FSU co-defensive coordinator Randy Shannon said is “a guy who can do a lot,” between the hashmarks. The coaches believe he could play inside or outside linebacker at the next level.
“He played some tailback, he’s played outside linebacker, rush defensive end, and he’s also played middle linebacker,” Shannon said. “When you have guys who have that kind of momentum to do a lot of different things, you can be very creative on defense.”
At defensive back, the Seminoles landed four-star prospects Azareyeh Thomas and Sam McCall. Fuller said both players will get their first opportunities at cornerback, but he added that they each have the body type to play safety as well.
FSU lists McCall's size at 6-foot, 182 pounds, while Thomas is listed at 6-2, 181.
"He fits a bunch of different positions," Fuller said of Thomas. "We're gonna let him start at corner. But I think he can fit a lot of different spots."
Both players also have spent time on offense in high school, and Norvell said they will get opportunities at wide receiver and on special teams.
"Those are those game-changing players," Norvell said.
On the other side of the ball, FSU’s offensive line class also features an emphasis on players who can line up at several positions. Norvell pointed out that FSU was forced to use roughly a dozen different offensive line rotations throughout the season due to injuries.
“Absolutely. When you look at that entire group, some guys that we think will be interior as probably a mainstay. But guys that you think can do both, that’s big,” Norvell said. “I think this is going to be a special group.”
Offensive line coach Alex Atkins, who recently was promoted to offensive coordinator, said the addition of that versatility is by design.
“What I am doing is bringing in guys who want to play on the edge, but also move around easily. Be able to do both,” Atkins said. “The athleticism, the ability to recover and play multiple positions. That gives us that depth so when a guy goes down we’re not at dire straits.”
Another versatile player in the 2022 class is tight end Brian Courtney. The Ashburn, Va., played quarterback and several other positions in high school, and FSU tight ends coach Chris Thomsen said he showed explosiveness across the board.
“On top of that, really smart guy. You go to his school and talk to coaches, administrators, and all they talk about is his leadership ability,” Thomsen said. “High intelligence. He’s going to impact your team in a lot of ways. At the quarterback position, you have to manage so much information … and then the understanding of what the quarterback is looking at and how that fits in the route game.”
FSU’s other signee at tight end, Jerrale Powers, is a converted wideout.
“He’s got the size and length that you looked for. Jerrale played in one of the highest levels in the state of Texas,” Thomsen said. “He’s playing against great competition. That’ll help with his college adjustment.”
"You've got a little bit different skill set with both of them. You add that into a room where we feel really good about the position. You add that in and you have two really good building blocks for the future."