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A deep dive into Florida State: How did they get into this hole, and how do they get out?

Off to their first 0-4 start in a generation, the Seminoles' current predicament was years in the making.

Florida State is 0-4 for the first time since 1976, a fact head coach Mike Norvell does not care to discuss. 

"I'm pissed off we're 0-4. We can bring up how many years it's been, I don't really give a... I can't control that," he said this week. 

It would be a matter of debate to select the most concerning of the four defeats thus far.

Notre Dame is the easiest to discard. That 41-38 result doesn't have quite the shine it did on Labor Day Sunday -- the Irish have looked wobbly most of this season -- but, still, there's no shame in taking a top-10 team to overtime.

Jacksonville State would be the obvious answer. Not only was it Florida State's first loss to an FCS team, but the way it happened was a complete comedy of errors. 

But I would argue it was the two games that followed the shot up the highest, brightest warning flares for Florida State's overall talent level. Wake Forest -- the smallest, least resourced school in the ACC -- beat FSU by 21. The following week, Louisville, coming off a 4-7 season, defeated the Seminoles for the second consecutive year.

Last Saturday's loss dropped Florida State to 3-10 in the Norvell era and 21-32 since 2017. A program that set an FBS record with 36 consecutive bowl games is now, barring a major turnaround, in the midst of its fourth straight season without one.

For a fan base accustomed to seeing Florida State win football games like Kevin Durant gets buckets, it's enough to make you do something irrational -- like get on the Internet and wonder aloud that maybe you should fire the head coach you were so excited about just 18 months ago.

Yet an examination of Florida State's own recent history reveals a change at this point would almost certainly do more harm than good. Setting aside the financial implications -- buying out Norvell at would cost close to $15 million alone -- Florida State can hardly afford it from a scholarship perspective.

In fact, perhaps no program in the country has harmed by the early signing period quite like Florida State.

In the past, new head coaches had close to two months to salvage their transition class -- two months apply quikrete to your relationships with committed recruits, two months to pursue uncommitted players, and two months to hound prospects committed elsewhere.

Now those two months have been reduced to two weeks or less. If a rival school comes after one of your recruits, well, they often have a deeper relationship with that player than you do, and you have hardly any time to play defense. If you'd like to pursue a prospect committed elsewhere? You'd better get him on campus this weekend, Coach, or he'll be off the board by next week.

And as for uncommitted players: What uncommitted players?

Three-quarters of FBS prospects signed scholarship papers during the first early signing period of 2017, and that number has since risen every year.  

"Official visits aren't what they used to be, and that's the problem for these new guys. That's why they moved signing day up in the first place. This stuff is decided before December," a recruiting industry source said.

"You're getting one of three kids," the source continued. "One, he loves the school, he's a lifer; he would go there regardless of the head coach is. Two, you're getting a kid that's from a lower level, developmental players with no competition, in Norvell's case the guys he was on at Memphis. Or you're getting players that nobody else wants. I don't care what they're ranked -- academics, character, some kind of baggage that nobody else wants, regardless of what offers they claim."

Imagine Urban Meyer taking over the Jacksonville Jaguars and, instead of owning the first pick in every round, he didn't have any picks at all until the fifth round.

That approximates the effect the early signing period has had on new coaching staffs -- and Florida State has now done it twice. It's fitting, after all, the early signing period went into effect just as Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M and Willie Taggart arrived from Oregon.

Taggart's tenure started well behind the proverbial 8-ball and never recovered. A FootballScoop study of the 2018, '19 and '20 recruiting classes -- a group that should be the bedrock of the 2021 team -- showed that over half either washed out or are not regular game day contributors. 

2018
Jaiden Lars-Woodbey (S) -- transferred
AJ Lytton (CB) -- transferred
Asante Samuel, Jr. (CB) -- NFL
Robert Cooper (DT) -- starter
Warren Thompson (WR) -- transferred
Tre'Shaun Harrison (WR) -- transferred
Xavier Peters (LB) -- transferred
Malcolm Lamar (DL) -- transferred
Isaiah Bolden (CB) -- transferred
Amari Gainer (LB) -- starter
Camren McDonald (TE) -- starter

Christian Meadows (OL) -- medically retired
Dennis Briggs, Jr. (DT) -- starter
Jordan Young (WR) -- depth
Anthony Grant (RB) -- transferred
Christian Armstrong (OL) -- medically retired
D'Marcus Adams (WR) -- transferred
Jamarcus Chatman (DT) -- transferred
Jalen Goss (OL) -- depth
Chaz Neal (DL) -- transferred
Keyshawn Helton (WR) -- starter

This group of 21 signees, ranked 11th in the country on signing day, has produced a total of five contributors on the 2021 team. (Cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr., left early and was drafted in the second round, which doesn't help the 2021 team but does bring the 2018 class's contributor count up to a grand total of six.) 

2019
Akeem Dent (CB) -- backup
Brendan Gant (S) -- backup
Travis Jay (CB) -- backup
Dontae Lucas (OL) -- transferred
Quashon Fuller (DL) -- backup
Jaleel McCrae (LB) -- depth
Kalen DeLoach (LB) -- starter
Raymond Woodie III (S) -- transferred
Curtis Fann, Jr. (DE) -- transferred
Renardo Green (S) -- starter
Derrick McLendon II (DE) -- backup
Darius Washington (OL) -- starter
Jarvis Brownlee, Jr. (CB) -- starter

Tru Thompson (DT) -- depth
Ira Henry III (OL) -- depth
Jay Williams (OL) -- transferred
Maurice Smith (OL) -- starter
Malcolm Ray (DT) -- backup
Ryan Fitzgerald (K) -- starter
Maurice Goolsby (WR) -- signed but never enrolled

The 2019 group has produced more transfers and depth players (seven) than starters (six). 

2020 
Demorie Tate (DB) -- depth
Bryan Robinson (WR) -- depth
Chubba Purdy (QB) -- backup
Jadarius Green-McKnight (S) -- backup
Lawrence Toafili (RB) -- backup
Stephen Dix, Jr. (LB) -- backup
Ja'Khi Douglas (RB) -- backup
Corey Wren (RB) -- depth
Kentron Poitier (WR) -- depth
Jayion McCluster (LB) -- depth
Robert Scott, Jr. (OL) -- starter
Sidney Williams (S) -- starter

Josh Griffis (DE) -- transferred
Thomas Shrader (OL) -- depth
Tate Rodemaker (QB) -- depth
Darion Williamson (WR) -- backup
Zane Herring (OL) -- backup
La'Damian Webb (RB) -- transferred
Carter Boatwright (TE) -- depth
DJ Lundy (LB) -- starter
Lloyd Willis (OL) -- backup
TJ Davis (DL) -- depth
Markeston Douglas (TE) -- depth
Alex Mostrammano (P) -- starter
Malaki Menzer (DE) -- depth
Emanuel Rogers (DL) -- signed but never enrolled

Norvell's transition class has thus far produced a far lower number of washouts than Taggart's classes, but the number of depth players is concerning given the vacancies left on the depth chart by the previous classes. 

Total
Starters: 15
Backups: 14
Depth: 16
Transfers/non-enrolles/medical retirements: 22

The washout percentage has forced Florida State to start eight transfers. 

Transfers Starting
McKenzie Milton (QB) -- UCF
Jashaun Corbin (RB) -- Texas A&M
Andrew Parchment (WR) -- Kansas
Dillon Gibbons (OL) -- Notre Dame
Jermaine Johnson II (DE) -- Georgia
Fabien Lovett (DT) -- Mississippi State
Keir Thomas (DE) -- South Carolina
Jammie Robinson (S) -- South Carolina

Though this will soon change, until now bringing in transfers was a zero-sum game from a scholarship perspective. Every transfer your staff brought in was one less scholarship you could spend on a high school player, effectively creating a treadmill effect on the roster -- if the treadmill happened to be placed on top of a mudslide. 

Transfers are like bandaids. Put one or two on and hardly anyone will notice. Slap eight on your body and people will start asking what happened to you.

"We're going to work our butts off to go get better," Norvell said this week. "We're going to do it the right way, and we're going to have a standard of how we operate. It's going to be the same standard in the classroom, of everything that we do. I'm going to hold myself to it, because I've got to be the example. I'm probably going to make a mistake -- might make one today, might make one tomorrow. But I'm going to respond to that, because that's the team I want. Because I've seen it work."

Norvell has his share of blame for Florida State's current predicament, because of course he does. No FSU team, no matter how decimated, should ever be within a stone's throw of disaster against Jacksonville State. 

But examining Florida State's roster issues leads to but one conclusion. The only way out is through.