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The maddest dash: How Norvell, FSU staff rallied for strong early class

After his introductory press conference was complete, after he shook hands with dozens of Florida State boosters, administrators and former players, after he and his family waved to the Tucker Center crowd at halftime of an FSU-Clemson men's basketball game, Mike Norvell grabbed a chair that Sunday afternoon inside the FSU football coaches' offices.

He was with interim head coach Odell Haggins and longtime FSU staff member Bob LaCivita, who had left the program about five months earlier and recently returned to help the Seminoles keep their 2020 recruiting class from falling apart.

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In less than two weeks, Mike Norvell and his makeshift staff put together an impressive early haul.
In less than two weeks, Mike Norvell and his makeshift staff put together an impressive early haul. (Associated Press)

Haggins sat down with Norvell and shared his thoughts on the Seminoles' returning roster, their biggest areas of need going forward, and the prospects who were still committed to the program despite the uncertainty at head coach.

LaCivita, who was a key adviser to Urban Meyer at Florida and to Jimbo Fisher throughout Fisher's tenure at Florida State, prepared contact lists and video breakdowns of every prospect Norvell would need to evaluate.

They stayed there 'til almost midnight and finished by mapping out every step of Norvell's next day.

"We sat down and showed him the whole plan and what we were thinking about," Haggins recalled Wednesday afternoon. "What position needs we [had], and he started attacking it."

With only 10 days remaining before the start of the early signing period, everyone involved knew the deal.

In short order, Norvell would need to evaluate each committed prospect and make sure they would fit in well with the program's new direction.

With Haggins' guidance, he would need to determine which remaining assistant coaches would be assets on the recruiting trail and which would be more useful staying in the office and working the phones.

He'd need to identify any off-the-radar recruits who might be interested based on existing relationships with the new staff. And, perhaps most importantly, he would need to make contact with as many top targets as he could -- as quickly as possible.

"The minute that I was cleared to be able to recruit, I was working FaceTime," Norvell explained. "Everybody had a phone and everybody had a responsibility, and that was to get me in front of as many kids as possible to be able to talk about, one, who I am, and then two, where we're going."

Given the time constraints, Norvell understood he wouldn't be able to replicate his typical recruiting efforts in this short window. Between making so many visits and phone calls, while also assembling his coaching staff, there wouldn't be enough hours in those first few days to explain every facet of his program to all the recruits and their families.

To some degree, he had to put the focus squarely on himself and his values, and hope that would be enough -- along with their existing love of the university -- to at least keep the door open to the Seminoles.

Norvell described his initial reception from recruits and families as "incredible."

"There's not enough time to give a recruiting speech when you have 10 days," he said. "So all I try to do is just put my heart out there on the table. Tell these young men why I do what I do, the importance of their opportunity and how we see them within this program, and I believe that it allows us to build a foundation to what's going to be there for their future."

By the end of the 10-day sprint, the Seminoles had landed 17 signatures for the class of 2020 -- 16 from high schools and one college transfer. Offensive lineman Lloyd Willis made it 18 on Thursday, and there could be another one by the end of the day Friday.

As of Thursday night, the class was ranked No. 22 by Rivals, and the Seminoles were widely hailed as one of Wednesday's big winners, thanks in large part to flipping four-star quarterback Chubba Purdy and three-star defensive end Josh Griffis, and landing two uncommitted wide receivers -- Bryan Robinson and Kentron Poitier.

With that in mind, here's a closer look at four key factors that led to Florida State's impressive haul during Norvell's first 10 days.

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