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Fact or Fiction: Mike Norvell was Alabama’s second choice

Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Friedman is joined by national recruiting analyst John Garcia Jr., Bob Ferrante of TheOsceola.com and Charles Kang of SUJuiceOnline.com to tackle three topics and determine whether they believe each statement is FACT or FICTION.


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FACT OR FICTION: Georgia will eventually flip five-star QB Julian Lewis from USC

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1. Moving the Early Signing Period up to the Wednesday before conference championship games is good for the recruiting process.

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Friedman: FACT. Like all things, whether or not you like changes to the recruiting calendar is a matter of perspective. Moving the Early Signing Period up to the beginning of December, like the CCA approved on Wednesday, should bring some level of organization to the month of December and make roster management decisions easier for college coaches. On the flip side, prospects will potentially need to make these critical decisions during their team’s playoff run, something high school coaches will surely hate. They’ll have less time to make their final decision and take final visits too.

With an Early Signing Period that comes before the coaching carousel and postseason transfer portal window, we're bound to see more “sign and transfer” prospects like Julian Sayin in the 2024 class. He signed with Alabama and enrolled before Nick Saban announced his retirement and then immediately put his name in the transfer portal before ending up with Ohio State.

For the most part, I expect we'll see a more organized roster construction process that begins with signing high school prospects and then addressing remaining needs through the transfer portal. Putting the Early Signing Period before the opening of the transfer portal ensures prospects and coaches can be on the same page about their roster spot. If prospects don’t like how the team they sign with handles the transfer portal or goes through a coaching change, transferring remains an option for them.

At the end of the day, college football fans need to grow more accustomed to increased player movement. With the earlier signing period, the random and surprising transfers could subside.

Garcia: FACT. Moving the Early Signing Period to the first week in December isn't the best move for pushing it back, but it's a small step in the right direction. Let me be clear in that this doesn't solve everything. But the last December window, which opened on Dec. 20 last year, was nothing short of chaotic. The coaching carousel, the transfer portal and higher-level bowl prep were all on the docket simultaneously. Now, the first week of December will still have some overlap with the carousel, conference championships and certainly bowl prep, but not to the same degree – and getting ahead of the portal was the most important hurdle to clear anyway.

It still won't be easy for staff trying to lock recruits in, but doing so a week to 10 days following rivalry weekends levels the playing field a bit for those not participating in championship games in being able to host recruits. Most high school seasons are also wound down at this point, so capping the on-field run with an official signature for a certain school will create some punctuation for seniors. For states still playing deep into December, like Texas and perhaps Georgia, it could be viewed negatively as those prospects may have to make a critical college decision ahead of trying to claim a state crown.

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2. Mike Norvell was Alabama’s second choice.

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Friedman: FACT. On Wednesday, Chris Low of ESPN reported on the details of Alabama’s short coaching search which led to the hiring of Kalen DeBoer from Washington. In his report, Low alludes to the possibility that Florida State head coach Mike Norvell was Alabama’s second choice to replace Nick Saban. Whether or not he was offered the job was not confirmed but, based on the timeline Low laid out, it would appear that he was not.

After Nick Saban retired on Wednesday Jan. 10, Alabama AD Greg Byrne was meeting with DeBoer in Seattle on Thursday. On Friday, Florida State and Norvell announced he’d be staying in Tallahassee and had received a contract extension.

If Norvell were offered the Alabama job, it seems like he would have jumped at the chance. Instead, he appears to have parlayed Byrne’s interest in him into a better financial situation for himself, his staff and his program. Since he waited until Friday to finalize this extension, it seems reasonable to think that he knew he wouldn’t be offered the job unless DeBoer turned it down.

While reported candidates Steve Sarkisian and Dan Lanning quickly reaffirmed their commitments to Texas and Oregon, respectively, Norvell delaying his announcement points to the possibility that he was waiting to gauge whether or not Byrne would offer him the job. When it became clear DeBoer would accept the job and was getting the first offer from Byrne, Norvell proceeded to accept the extension at Florida State.

Ferrante: FICTION. Alabama's process moved quickly before ultimately settling on Washington coach Kalen DeBoer. While there was interest in Florida State coach Mike Norvell, was he truly the second choice? Or was his response simply a no but one that was delayed and came after Oregon's Dan Lanning and Texas' Steve Sarkisian quickly were handed extensions to stay?

The concept that Norvell was one of two who were interviewed by Alabama AD Greg Byrne was revealed as part of Chris Low's reporting for ESPN, but what was also mentioned is the Crimson Tide didn't think Sarkisian, a former Alabama assistant, would leave Texas (not to mention the Longhorns' move to the SEC). Lanning also has a connection to Alabama, but he will be jumping with Oregon to the Big Ten. While Alabama is an incredible job, Sarkisian and Lanning already had greener pastures to look forward to without moving to Tuscaloosa.

FSU administrators and fans alike exhaled with the knowledge that Norvell felt good about the Seminoles' long-term prospects, and he too received a long-term extension along with incentives for his support staff. Norvell is 23-4 in the last two years and with success comes more extensions and pursuit by other schools.

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3. Syracuse will sign more New Jersey prospects in 2025 than it did in 2024.

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Friedman: FICTION. Syracuse head coach Fran Brown is an excellent recruiter and he’s put together a coaching staff that should be able to recruit at a high level. A common thread between Brown and his assistants are their connections to the state of New Jersey. Nearly every single one has recruited the state in some form or fashion so it’s understandable that the Orange signed more than 10 players from the Garden State in the 2024 recruiting class.

Could that number be higher in the 2025 class? It depends on Syracuse’s recruiting strategy this year. Historically, Syracuse has been a developmental program but had a hard time capitalizing on on-field success.

It’s likely that Brown and his staff will make big moves in the transfer portal to help take Syracuse to the next level. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Orange sign a small class of high school prospects and focus their efforts on high-end transfers with multiple years of eligibility remaining.

Kang: FACT. Head coach Fran Brown leaned heavily into New Jersey in the 2024 cycle with a short runway after taking over the program in November. With a full year to recruit and a staff in place that makes its living off recruiting the Garden State, expect Syracuse to land more in 2025 than it did in 2024. It already is in the top lists for Michael Thomas III and Jaelyne Matthews.

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