More college football coaches should follow something Mike Norvell is doing for ACC Media Days
I haven’t said a lot of nice things about Florida State in the past 3 years. In my defense, who has?
But I tip my cap to the Seminoles. Specifically, Mike Norvell.
Tell me what you notice about this announcement of FSU’s player representatives at ACC Media Days:
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) July 12, 2021
If you’re like me, perhaps a few things came to mind. Like, hey, isn’t that former Georgia edge rusher Jermaine Johnson? Indeed it is. And if that was a calculated move on Norvell’s part to send the high-profile addition to ACC Media Days, I’d say it’s a smart one, especially with those loosened restrictions for undergraduate transfers.
But the 2 guys on the outside were part of an even smarter move by Norvell. Those are quarterbacks McKenzie Milton and Jordan Travis. Both are competing for a starting job, and both will be representing FSU in Charlotte next week.
What a concept. Instead of just sending the offensive lineman who only the diehards know anything about, send both of your potential signal-callers and watch how they handle the spotlight. Watch how they talk about their program. Watch how they talk about their teammates. Shoot, watch how they talk about themselves.
Is that everything when it comes to playing quarterback at the Power 5 ranks? Of course not. But is seeing how the most high-profile person in your program handles a situation like that another data point to base that decision on? Absolutely.
Why don’t more college programs do that?
(For what it’s worth, we’re talking about normal years here. This year, the SEC is only having 2 player representatives compared to the usual 3. We’ll see if the number switches back to 3 post-COVID.)
The thinking against bringing multiple quarterbacks could be because coaches are afraid one will look far superior than the other and it’ll sway public perception too much.
Think back to 2018 Alabama. How would Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts have looked side-by-side? My guess is that Hurts would’ve come off as the more polished, team-first guy. Remember, we’re talking a couple years before Tagovailoa had national ad deals with Muscle Milk and Adidas. And maybe Nick Saban, who didn’t send either quarterback to 2018 SEC Media Days, didn’t want to add more attention to the elephant in the room.
But for most programs dealing with a situation like this, I’d think there’s more upside to adding that wrinkle to a quarterback battle. Take Mississippi State. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Will Rogers and Jack Abraham talk ball in the same exact setting and essentially take turns as being the team spokesperson?
Shoot, everyone at LSU is already talking about the quarterback battle anyways. Why not have Myles Brennan and Max Johnson line up next to one another at Media Days, too? And who cares if Brennan has an unfair advantage in that department because of seniority. If this is a competition, shouldn’t Johnson take that as a chance to refine his approach in this setting?
(By the way, I’m not saying Johnson would be worse than Brennan at SEC Media Days. That’s just a hypothetical scenario.)
That’s another part of this that could be worth remembering from a strategy standpoint. If you’re Norvell, the last thing you want is Milton or Travis transferring before the start of the season. That’s a unique way to make both feel like they have a real voice, regardless of if they start. That doesn’t mean they’ll definitely stay, but that’s at least approaching it in a different way than showing 2 quarterbacks on the “QB1” line through the first game, which many coaches do. Maybe there’s some sort of attachment that comes with wearing a suit and representing a team on a big stage for an afternoon.
In the grand scheme of things, some might say it’s silly to overreact to Media Days representatives. We’re not supposed to care when Texas A&M brings its punter (Braden Mann was a great interview), but maybe this is about to become a new trend.
Norvell’s move was reminiscent of when Bill Snyder brought 2 quarterbacks to Big 12 Media Day back in his final season at Kansas State in 2018. Snyder surprised people by bringing Alex Delton and Skylar Thompson, but said that he thought, “this was a great opportunity to apply some preseason pressure so you’ve to practice the things you’re going to experience, so there is a little bit of pressure in them being here.” Yep.
Had Kansas State rolled to a Big 12 title with a high-powered offense that year, surely you would’ve seen plenty of people copy Snyder’s approach. Instead, the Wildcats went 5-7 and had the nation’s No. 111 offense.
It’s true that facing a few dozen reporters is different than facing 3rd-and-11 in front of 90,000 fans on the road. But the psychological factors of being able to handle the ebbs and flows seems awfully important to truly owning that role of starting quarterback.
Consider it part of the competition. That’s a different — and more understandable — move than playing 2 quarterbacks interchangeably. Hopefully by fall, no coach will dare dabble in that maddening practice. For the next 6 weeks or so, coaches like Norvell owe it to their teams to gather as much data as possible to make that all-important decision. It helps when you have a couple of veterans like Milton and Travis who can understand that.
Bringing 2 quarterbacks to Media Days has more upside than downside. You can’t hide those guys forever.
There’s no harm in watching how they perform in front of the bright lights in July.