The acting FSU head coach will serve as FSU's main leader for Saturday's game at Miami with Mike Norvell quarantining. Tallahassee DemocratCONNECT>TWEET>LINKEDINCOMMENTEMAILMORE
Florida State deputy head coach Chris Thomsen is stepping into a big role this weekend.
With FSU head coach Mike Norvell self-isolating until at least next week due to a positive COVID-19 test last Friday, Thomsen will lead the Seminoles (0-1, 0-1 in ACC) into Saturday's rivalry game vs. No. 14 Miami (2-0, 1-0 in ACC) as the coach in charge of all in-person activities.
It's the established relationship between the two -- Norvell has known Thomsen for nearly 20 years since Thomsen was the offensive line coach at Central Arkansas while Norvell was a receiver there from 2003 through 2004 -- that has Norvell trusting Thomsen to take over the reins of the program in his absence.
"I’ve got to watch him as a player, I obviously worked with him as a co-worker, when I was at Arizona State, he was my offensive line coach. He’s done a remarkable job in his opportunity as a head coach, did an extraordinary job with that program in leading men," Norvell said of Thomsen.
"That’s something that I think is one of the greatest talents of Chris Thomsen is the way guys respond to him. He’s got an unbelievable heart, he’s a great teacher, a very pure soul when it comes to every aspect of what he does.FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInA look at the Florida State vs. Georgia Tech college football game> Fullscreen
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"I know I wanted him as part of this staff, not only what he brings with Xs and Os, but also that leadership in every other area as well."
Thomsen isn't the only member of FSU's coaching staff with previous head coaching experience, but he has by far the most at the collegiate level. Thomsen left Central Arkansas to become the head coach at Division II Abilene Christian in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2011, Thomsen led ACU to a 51-21 record. In his time atop the program, he led the Wildcats to six consecutive Division-II Playoff appearances and two conference championships. Before his time, ACU had never accomplished either feat even once.
He took a position as Texas Tech's offensive line coach for the 2012 season and served as the interim head coach for the Red Raiders in their Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Minnesota that season after head coach Tommy Tuberville left to take the Cincinnati job.
This experience, paired with the experience Norvell and Thomsen have together and how that's influenced their coaching philosophies, made him the optimal choice to take over until Norvell is able to return.
"The thing that's the same is the same thought process, the same philosophical ideas in terms of how you want your team to operate, how you want them to approach practice, how you want them to approach game day, how you want them to go out and compete in a game," Thomsen said of the belief system he shares with Norvell.
"All those things are things that he and I have been together at a lot of different, tough ball games, tough situations, that we both understand how we want the guys to operate. That's the most important thing."
Since taking over as acting head coach over the weekend, Thomsen came away impressed with how the team handled the changes.
"I think they've handled it great. The practice that we had on Saturday and then Sunday's practice I think they've done a great job of showing a very mature approach," Thomsen said.
"I think they have a really great focus right now. We have a lot of great kids in our program so wasn't surprised by their response. I think they're motivated and excited to get back on the practice field."
Thomsen isn't trying to fill the role as the intense, energetic motivator Norvell serves as on the practice field and during games. He's relying on the fact that Norvell is able to watch practice remotely on his computer from his house and has a speaker system in place that allows him to give instant feedback to coaches and players on the practice field.
At practice, Thomsen is focused on coaching his tight ends while fulfilling the other duties Norvell is not able to while apart from the team.
"The great thing with this week is with the technology and the opportunities that we have with Zoom, Coach is really still in front of the team," Thomsen said.
"Yesterday, he ran the staff meeting and the team meeting virtually so his voice, his influences is still the key thing out in front. My job is to just fill in the gaps where I need to and work with the staff like we always do and do the best job we can of getting our guys ready to play and play at a high level. That is the bottom line."
The FSU head coach talked about his quarantine and how he's still able to coach even when isolated in his house. Tallahassee Democrat
Offensive analyst Tony Tokarz will replace Norvell as FSU's 11th full-time coach for Saturday's game at Miami. Tokarz, who was Memphis' tight ends coach before accepting the analyst position, will remain in the box during the game while Thomsen goes to the sideline to handle the head coaching duties.
For Norvell -- whose coaching duties will end when the team leaves the hotel Saturday -- he has to have faith in the coaching staff he's assembled and the impact he's able to make remotely this week before things are out of his control by Saturday afternoon.
"I've got the ultimate confidence in the group of guys that we have going to the stadium whether I'm there or not that we're going to be able to execute the plan that's in place," Norvell said.
"That is our responsibility as we go through this week, to prepare at a very high level and then we've got to take that confidence in our preparation to go and play 60 minutes come Saturday night, executing that to the best of our ability."
Reach Curt Weiler at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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