It’s been a little over a month since Florida State wrapped up its 2023 football season, but for now, no matter where coach Mike Norvell is, he’ll likely get asked about the Seminoles’ exclusion from last season’s College Football Playoff.
It’s a wound that hasn’t healed for some, leaving an emotional scar that provides a constant reminder of what could have been.
“There are people — whether you’re going on the road recruiting at every high school or anywhere — that are probably going to bring it up,” said Norvell. “But it is what it was. I don’t get to control what happened, but ultimately, it’s about this year, where we’re going, and what’s ahead; it’s about going to be the best we can be.”
Norvell kicked off his annual Seminoles Booster Tour with a stop in Orlando Saturday night. He anticipates the topic of the playoff snub will come up a few times during the evening.
“I’m sure I’ll hear it a few times of everybody’s feelings, and you can have your feelings,” said Norvell. “Those players that finished their eligibility and are no longer part of the program, they’re going to live with those feelings the rest of their life for what happened, but what we can do as a program is push to make sure we use every experience and be able to grow from that experience.”
It was a return to glory for Florida State last season, with the Seminoles winning 13 games for the first time since 2014. Along the way, FSU also claimed its 16th ACC championship, its first in more than a decade. A spot in the playoff seemed all but guaranteed until it wasn’t.
When the final rankings were revealed on Dec. 3, Florida State was excluded from the four-team semifinals despite being undefeated and a conference champion. Texas and Alabama, which had 1 loss apiece, leap-frogged over FSU into the final two spots.
Instead, the Seminoles spent their postseason at the Orange Bowl, facing the runner-up in the SEC: Georgia. The two-time national champion Bulldogs routed a depleted FSU 63-3 as more than a dozen players opted out of the game whether to transfer or prepare for the NFL draft.
Since then, Norvell and his staff have been planning for the future.
FSU signed the No. 12 overall recruiting class in 2024 — its highest-ranked class since 2018 — and brought in the No. 4-ranked transfer class featuring 15 players headlined by 10 four-star prospects led by quarterback DJ Uiagalelei.
The Seminoles just wrapped up Phase I of their winter workouts.
“The team has entered the offseason with a great purpose,” Norvell said. “[They’re] pushing extremely hard in the weight room. The workload has increased to an all-time high since we’ve been here. The guys are embracing the work.
“Guys are hungry and they want to go achieve more. Our objective is to get better. Last year was a great run and definitely a special year. But it didn’t end the way we wanted. We want to push for more.”
The presence of Uiagalelei gives Florida State an experienced quarterback to replace longtime starter Jordan Travis.
“DJ brings you a seasoned veteran who has been through it all,” Norvell explained. “He’s been through the highs. He’s played at an elite level at times in his career and has unbelievable potential, but he’s also got humility, a work ethic and a great character.”
This is Uiagalelei’s second time in the ACC, having spent the first three seasons at Clemson before transferring to Oregon State last season. While Uigalelei’s time with the Tigers didn’t go as anticipated, Norvell admits he didn’t get too caught up in other people’s perceptions of his quarterback.
“I believe in him and what he can do,” he said. “I believe in the person he brings into our program, and obviously, I’m excited to see him continue to work and get better to hopefully have the best year of his college career here at Florida State.”