Florida State head coach Mike Norvell and a trio of Seminole players took the podium for questions at the 2023 ACC Football Kickoff event in Charlotte on Wednesday. In case you missed it, we have everything the Seminoles said, listed in the transcripts below.
Q. What excites you about this particular roster, and what should Florida State fans expect from Florida State football team this year?
MIKE NORVELL: There’s so much to expect and excite you about the team that I get to coach. It’s the individuals. It’s the journeys that they’ve all been on. Whether guys were there when we first came in the door, the great players we’ve been able to attract into the program and just seeing the work they put in.
That’s what we talk a lot as a football team. It’s always about the work. To see guys that embrace the challenge, they truly care about who they get to do it with and what they get to represent. It provides a great deal of excitement for the season that’s ahead and obviously the experiences that we’re going to get to go through.
This is a team that cares. They care a lot about what they represent, being a Florida State Seminole, and I appreciate them for that. Excited to kick off this season.
Q. The ACC is a particularly strong conference when it comes to quarterback play. What sets Jordan Travis apart from any of the other excellent quarterbacks in the conference?
MIKE NORVELL: Jordan is a special player. I think the greatest quality, I mean, you sit there and you watch all the things he can do on the field. His accuracy, the way he throws the ball vertically down the field, the decision he makes. Obviously Lord has blessed him with some great talent and being evasive and extending plays.
It’s his heart. The heart that he has, how much he cares about his teammates. He has a humble spirit about himself, and then he shows up to work to make others better.
When you have that trait at your quarterback position, he is what I want Florida State to look like. Just the experiences he has had to go through, some of the great success and some of the challenges that he’s had to overcome working through a college career. He’s a special person.
When it comes to all the great quarterbacks within this league, I mean, they all have probably wonderful traits. I’ve got a special, special player and special person that’s leading our team.
Q. I’m wondering, how has Fentrell Cypress fit in with your program since arriving from Virginia?
MIKE NORVELL: He has been remarkable. Fentrell, from the first day he’s gotten here, once again, it’s been about the work. Not just on the field, but building a relationship with his teammates, coming in and learning things that we do schematically.
He’s just a wonderful young man, a wonderful representative of our program. Going through spring practice, you just saw the way that he was able to transition, and every day he worked to get better, to be more confident in the calls, more confident in the communication. Really took some great steps as spring progressed.
You see that confidence that’s really emerged throughout the course of the summer work. He’s in remarkable shape. He has done a great job with his physical development. He has put on great weight. I think he has a chance to be a really special player in our defensive back field.
We’ve all got to see him and have seen him play in ACC contests and play at a very high level, and I think he’s about to take his game to a whole other level here in Tallahassee.
Q. Every game with Florida State there’s always going to be a lot of hype around it and a lot of buzz around the team. How do you turn that hype into focusing on the field from your players?
MIKE NORVELL: Well, it’s exciting to be a football player at FSU. There comes great expectations. There comes great excitement. There’s nothing like running through the tunnel going out there at Doak Campbell Stadium.
It’s about what we do. It’s about the work that we put in and how we prepare and then it’s maximizing every play.
You never know which play in the game has a chance to be the one or the one that flips the momentum or the one that is going to be looked back upon. So you have to approach all of them the same way.
We try to emphasize that throughout the course of our offseason and our training and in our spring and fall camps. Those are the lessons that you have to prepare yourself for.
You look back a season ago, and we took some great steps as a team. We had some really positive experiences, and we had some games where we came up short for a variety of different reasons. To be able to learn from those, you’ve got to be able to pour all that you have into it.
I want energy. I want passion. I want intensity. But I want focus. For these guys to go play up to the ability and the potential that they have, I mean, it takes it all. I think our guys embrace that.
Q. I’m actually going to pivot on my original question because I saw you can’t see it now, but you have the Bobby Bowden logo on the tie. Can you just speak to why it’s important the relationship that you have with him? You have developed the team-high GPA Seminole Scholar Program, the off-the-fieldwork you see with Jordan and Dillan Gibbons last year. Speak about why it’s important to you to build this program the right way, the way it was built originally?
MIKE NORVELL: Because that is the standard at Florida State. We had the greatest example I think in collegiate football history of being able to sustain success.
What Coach Bowden and that staff and those great teams, what they were able to accomplish, there were tremendous players on the field, but it was also the standard and expectations for who they were developing and growing to be off the field.
I’ve got a great responsibility leading this program. I was fortunate to be able to meet Coach Bowden within those first couple of months of getting the job. I’ll never forget sitting down with him at my desk in that office. I remember him telling me, be true to who you are, and you continue to make an impact on those young men helping them to where they’re going.
That’s a daily challenge, and I owe it to him. I owe it to his legacy to make sure we’re doing this a certain way because I fully believe success is coming.
We took some positive steps last year. We had our 25th ten-win season. A lot of great things. When we achieve it, I want to be able to sustain it, and it’s because of who we get to coach and what we represent being a Seminole and Coach Bowden was a special man, a special leader, and he had some incredible teams that he got to be a part of impacting those players’ lives, and that still carries on today with those individuals and obviously in his legacy.
Q. The culture pillars for you with this program, just what you’ve been building here, like you said, moving towards success and sustaining that success. What are some of those pillars that you can lean on as you step forward?
MIKE NORVELL: You know, for us it comes down to our core values. It’s service, sacrifice, and respect.
I want to be around a team that serves each other, that’s really willing to give of themselves. You see that with our guys and the impact that they make within the community, the impact they make building the relationships because everybody comes from a different place.
We all come together to play, to compete for championships, to push ourselves to be the best that we can, but also the willingness to be able to do it along with somebody and to serve others to make an impact, to leave your legacy on what that is.
You talk about the sacrifice. I want a team that’s willing to sacrifice for ultimately what we desire. Everybody talks – right now you have every team in the ACC, every team across the country that’s talking about a championship. I want a team that’s willing to sacrifice for what we say we desire.
Every one of these young men, we all dream of success, but it takes the work. It takes the commitment. It takes the discipline to be able to take those steps every single day to consistently be who you want to be.
Then, obviously, a program that shows respect. Shows respect to those that have come before us, and obviously make sure that in all of our actions that we’re respectable. That’s what we strive for.
With trying to focus on those core values on a daily basis, it’s important to us. I believe that all the things that we’ve done off the field, you see the team best GPA in program history, right? I would love to say all of our players just love academics, but they love pushing to be their best.
When you see that show up, I think that helps carry over to what we do on the field and the willingness to work, the willingness to make themselves uncomfortable, the willingness to give a little bit more than what sometimes they even think they can.
I think that’s where the confidence is built, and that’s what we’re pushing for as we’re trying to take another step along our journey to where we’re going.
Q. This team has high expectations externally and all that good stuff, but what are the core areas that you would say, if we are successful in this area or these few areas, that will be the linchpin of whether or not we look back on this season and say, this Florida State team reached their ceiling or they languished around the floor. This is the area of why we were what we were?
MIKE NORVELL: I think it comes down to improvement, and it’s program-wide. It’s all areas. Then being consistent in that.
As you look back a year ago, there were ten times we stepped on the field and, man, saw a lot of success in those. Then there were times that we weren’t as consistent as we needed to be, whether it was a certain situation, things that showed up throughout the course of the game. As we return a very experienced team, it’s one that has a lot of competition.
We’ve got great players that have been on the roster that have been productive, and we’ve had wonderful players that have joined the roster. Seeing that come together so that – and consistently showing up daily, getting better at the little things, being a fundamentally-based team, being able to go out there and showcase all the wonderful abilities that our guys have.
I mean, I think that that consistency is going to be critical with each game that we play here this year and building up to the opportunity that we have.
Q. You are really fortunate to have three starters coming back to your roster. What have you kind of cultivated, though, to maintain your coaching staff, and how fortunate are you that you continue to have that continuity with your coaches and how thankful are you for that?
MIKE NORVELL: I think it’s critical, and it’s one of the things that within our program we needed. We needed to have that consistency, the continuity, being able to have a staff that is able to pour into our players.
They understand the expectation because every year is going to be different, and there has been some movement and guys that have gotten great opportunities in advancing their careers, but we’ve been able to keep the core of it there in place.
I think for our players to have that relationship, to be able to build upon that, understanding expectations, it’s been huge. I’m grateful for our staff. Grateful for our administration for helping support and having a program that’s going to be able to support our coaches. They see that not only the enjoyment of showing up every day coaching these guys, but also the opportunity for their development, for their growth. We’ve seen guys like Alex Atkins, who has been promoted from within. Tony Tokarz, same thing. Randy Shannon, different guys that have worked through the program and put themselves in great positions.
I’m just grateful the guys I get to work with and the impact that they make.
Q. Talk about the two-headed monster in the running game. That took off right after the Clemson game. You guys just kept running and running and running. Is that one of those things you have to work on to keep that going?
MIKE NORVELL: Yeah, we want to be an offense that obviously is able to establish the run in each game. That’s something that is always a challenge, but we’ve got great players that allow that to become our reality. I think that you look at the offensive line and the growth that they’ve had and even some of the new additions that have come in, I think that has a chance to be one of the most experienced and deepest positions on our football team.
Then you throw in our running backs, obviously quarterbacks, receivers, everybody plays a role and a part of being able to establish the run game. It’s something that has to show up for us, but we think that can be a great strength of this football team as we jump into the season.
Q. Coach earlier stated that there is so much to be excited for this season, but there is always room for improvement. What are you most excited for for the season, and what areas of improvement are hoping to progress upon?
JORDAN TRAVIS: First, I would say the leadership. Leadership is everything for me. Trying to grow every year and every day just to be the best teammate I can be for my teammates.
I just want to keep growing as a leader and obviously keep putting weight on. I feel like I’m at a good size right now. But yeah, I can’t wait for the season just to get out there and compete against somebody else other than your teammates.
Every time I get to run out in Doak Campbell Stadium, that in itself is a dream come true. I’m so blessed.
Q. I’m wondering, what makes Johnny Wilson such a good target to throw to? Is it the size? Is it the speed? The combination? Ability to get open? How do you kind of sum that up?
JORDAN TRAVIS: He is 6’7″ and can jump pretty good. It’s kind of like a cheat code. It’s like a created player on Madden. I would say that.
I’m so glad he’s on my team. It makes my job a lot easier. Outside of football Johnny is a tremendous person. Just the way he carries himself every single day is one of a kind. He always has a smile on his face. Not everything is always going good. You know what I mean? It’s life. Not everything is always going good, but no matter what he always has a smile, and he is the same person every day.
Q. Last year was your first full year as quarterback one for Florida State. You were able to go in and play in some really big games, like beating LSU in the Superdome and things like that. Going into a year where there’s a lot of expectations for not just Florida State, but yourself, how do you feel those experiences last year better prepare you for a season with those lofty expectations?
JORDAN TRAVIS: Yeah. We always have to keep the main thing the main thing. I always talk about that.
There’s a lot of expectations, but it’s one thing when you get on the field. All those expectations disappear when the ball is kicked off.
We just have to keep the main thing the main thing and go out and give everything we have every single day. I mean, last year there was a lot of learning experiences, a lot of ups and downs throughout the year. I always look back on the NC State game. That game helped change me as a man and change me as a person and a player.
It made me a lot tougher, and I’ve learned a lot from that. Yeah, man, you have to take these experiences and turn them all into positives.
Q. You spent a lot of time at Florida State there in Tallahassee. What have you taken from your evolution personally, and how would you describe the evolution of this offense in 2023?
JORDAN TRAVIS: It’s been a journey for sure. It wasn’t easy at all. It took a lot of work. I mean, just bonding with my teammates.
We have a great coach and a great coaching staff. They prepare us so well every single week. But, yeah, it’s been like a roller coaster. There’s been so many ups and downs throughout my career and all the guys’ careers at Florida State.
The main thing is the offensive line. I always speak on those guys. It starts up front. Starts with the run game. Yeah, those guys, they had a lot of criticism and a lot of critics before. They’re quieting down those people a little bit, which I’m proud of them. They work so hard. I like to look over when they’re conditioning, and they just have their head high and not bending over, man.
Q. I just want to dig a little deeper into you saying the NC State game last year changed you. Why did it change you, and in what ways? What specifically happened that you were like, all right, I can’t have this anymore. I need to be better in this way. In what ways did you improve going forward?
JORDAN TRAVIS: I mean, when you throw a pick to kind of end the game, it hurts a lot. You feel like you let everybody down.
At the end of the day my teammates let me know that they have my back. That was the most important thing. I put it down all on myself, and my teammates did not allow that to happen.
It made me a tougher person. Obviously it hurt right after the game pretty bad. It sucks. But at the end of the day it’s football. You learn from it. If I was ever put in that position again, man, I can promise you it would be way different.
Q. I’m sure you were like a kid in a candy store with some of the players you’ve received in the transfer portal, especially with the safety blanket in Jaheim Bell and also getting Keon Coleman. Can you expound on that a little bit?
JORDAN TRAVIS: I’ll speak on the people that they are first. Coach Norvell recruits great people, before the player. This team is a really special team.
It’s very easy to gel with this team. All you have to do is work hard and be a good person. All those people are really good people. That’s the main thing.
It’s fun to be on the team with them. It’s fun to work with them. Yeah, I mean, their film speaks for itself. They are a bunch of great players, and I do look forward to throwing the ball to them a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Before we let you go, are our notes correct? Is this your third time here?
JORDAN TRAVIS: Yes, sir, it is.
THE MODERATOR: I think that’s a Kickoff record. Welcome home, right?
JORDAN TRAVIS: Yes, sir.
JARED VERSE: How are you all doing?
THE MODERATOR: The first one to address the crowd before the crowd addressed him. Well done.
Q. Obviously it was a huge decision for you to come back this year. Very pivotal for this defensive line. Florida State has had a run of very successful defensive ends in recent history. Also Patrick Payton coming up right behind you where, can you just talk about some of the things that led you into that decision to come back and what are some goals you’re hoping personally and as a team to accomplish with this extra season at Florida State?
JARED VERSE: One of the biggest factors in coming back was probably seeing all these other guys come back. Like these two guys right here came back. Coaching staff was back. Fabien Lovett came back. Jarrian Jones came back. All these guys came back. Key players. They just kept telling me, what are you going to do? I had a feeling I was going to come back. I’m not done here yet. I accomplished what I wanted to. I put myself in conversations where I was able to go high up in the draft, but it wasn’t what I wanted. We still had a lot more as a team to do.
Team goals, I don’t really have any crazy goals. Obviously we want championships. We want to win ACC national championships, but I just want to reach all the full potential as a team because if we do that, the sky is the limit.
Q. You got asked why come back this season, but you’ve had an interesting road to get to Florida State via Albany. What can you say with the path that you took and maybe being looked over the first time around and then working towards that opportunity to stand where you stand today?
JARED VERSE: Honestly, it was all just betting on myself. Out of high school I had the opportunity to go to Albany, and I’m so thankful they took a chance on me. I got there and put in all the work. Then COVID happened. I put in as work as possible. I let a couple of things slip in my personal life that I would still do again just to be able to physically get to where I am today.
Then Coach Norvell gave me the opportunity to come here. I could have left for the draft. I said I’m going to bet on myself again and bet on the team because I know who I ride with.
Q. We all know about your pass rush ability, but the thing that stands out to me when I watch your tape is, especially in the LSU game, your ability to stand up tackles in the running game. How are you as good as you are in that out of a player that has so much explosiveness and is known for the ability to dip and bend around the edge?
JARED VERSE: Honestly everything starts with strength. You can’t get anybody to bite off your speed if you’re not strong. One thing I’ve always focused on was hitting the pad, just trying to put as much pressure, as much power into it as I could do.
I played the run game just like a bull rush. I’m going to run through your chest and place my hands and do whatever I can to get the best leverage, the edge so you can’t run outside of me. You have to go inside. If you go inside, I have guys just like that that can fill the gap and take care of it.
THE MODERATOR: As a tight end in high school you didn’t have any have scholarship offers. Is there a part of you that is still trying to prove yourself to others?
JARED VERSE: I definitely am still trying to prove myself, not in the aspect that people don’t know what I can do, but in the aspect that I still have so much that I have left to do.
During my exit meeting with Coach Norvell that’s something we spoke about. I made a lot of gains since I’ve come to Florida State, but there’s so much more room. I can get faster and stronger and get better with my hands, better with my moves. My decision-making, there’s still so much ground I have to cover. I fell like I have to prove that, but not to anybody. Just to myself.
Q. Coach Odell has been there for 30 years, one of the longest-tenured position coaches, one of the most storied position coaches in all of sports. Not just college football. What does it mean to be under the tutelage of somebody who has coached so many first-rounders, so many Hall of Famers, so many All-Pros and Pro Bowl guys?
JARED VERSE: It means a lot. Having a coach is one thing, but having somebody that you can look up to and understand, like, this person has done things that I wish I could do, you’ve been where I’m trying to get. So I have to listen to everything you say. There’s no take it with a grain of salt. I’m listening to everything you say fully.
Me and Coach Odell sit down sometimes and we have a regular conversation. We have more conversations just about life. He tells me, you know, football is one thing, but you have to realize outside of football what are you doing to make yourself a better person that will translate to the field ultimately?
Having him is just the biggest tool I could possibly have.
Q. You’re known as a talker on the field. Has anybody on offense, either for Florida State or another team, ever got the best of you where you were, like, okay you got that one?
JARED VERSE: I wouldn’t say I’m a talker. I have casual conversations (laughing).
The one person who probably got me, I’m not going to lie, it was Treshaun Ward during a scrimmage. He was running inside. It was an inside play. I had it cut off, and I was, like, he is about to get it. He spun outside of it and he pointed at me after he spun and got away. The rest of the practice I didn’t talk because I couldn’t. He just did it to me the worst way (laughing).
THE MODERATOR: It’s good that you get the last word. Congratulations.
Q. You come from a very talented family. Your brother plays basketball at Georgia. Your sister was a track star at Ohio State. You’re obviously a starting linebacker at Florida State. I’m sure it comes up at the Thanksgiving table, who is the best athlete in the family?
KALEN DeLOACH: You know I’m going to say me because I feel lying like I can play all three. I feel like I can play basketball and run track. I’m definitely going with me.
Q. Just what can you say about the tutelage of Randy Shannon, what you have taken away from his leadership?
KALEN DeLOACH: Coach Shannon has put a lot into our linebacker room. With me and Tatum being the older heads, he has given us gems that we are able to use in the game.
Just taking technique and fundamentals and just applying it to the field. You know, he helps us out out in the film room, whether it’s based off running back alignments or off of the route concept and based off of formations. I feel like he has helped us develop the mindset and knowledge that we have right now.
Q. When people talk about great defenses, they say you need to be great it at all three levels. You need to have ballers at all three levels. Florida State is presumed to have that with Jared Verse up there, with yourself, with Fentrell Cypress and having one of the best cornerback duos potentially in the nation. Can you speak to what the top end or the leaders or the star power of this defense is going to mean for this team this year?
KALEN DeLOACH: I would say it’s going to mean a lot. As leaders we are the voice of the defense. We have to make sure everybody is on the right page and we’re going to be on the same page.
I feel like we’re on the same page. We’re going to get to work together and compete with each other on and off the field. We’re going to push each other to be the best each and every day. Whether it’s indy drills or meetings. We’re going to make sure we get that work in. Just to have those people that are up front and in the back end that I can rely on like if something happened, I’m definitely counting on them.
THE MODERATOR: A follow-up from the podium. You say that you’re the voice of the defense. How is it that you use that voice? What is your leadership style to make sure everybody is coming along?
KALEN DeLOACH: I’m a guy that I like to meet everybody. Doing fall camp, I’m in on the ping pong table with the specialists. Just so I can get that difference of where they come from.
My leadership, I’m more so when I need to meet everybody, so I can find my approach and way of how I’m going to be able to talk to them in a certain moment because everybody is different. You got to be able to understand everybody’s background and where they come from because, like I say, everybody is different.
Q. You guys brought in some new talent on the defensive line, and you already had a really good defensive line. How excited are you and Tatum and those guys about playing behind that frontline?
KALEN DeLOACH: I’m very excited. We got some dogs up front. You know, we got Verse. We got Fabien. We got Braden Fiske. We got Darrell Jackson. We got Pat Payton. I feel like there’s a lot to worry about up front to where it’s going to help the back end from the linebackers back to make plays just to be free and run and tackle. That’s what we do best.
THE MODERATOR: Your last question from the podium: 70 total solo tackles in the last two seasons you’ve had. What makes you have such a great nose for the football?
KALEN DeLOACH: Coach always harps on running to the ball, so I feel like that is part of my identity, running to the ball and being able to run sideline to sideline.
I want to be able to make plays in the back field, sideline to sideline. That’s just who I am.
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