Fisher puts his stamp on FSU
No longer the coach-in-waiting, Fisher sets the tone for FSU recruiting
It's a new era for FSU football. Jimbo Fisher takes over for legendary Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden, and already there are lots of changes in Tallahassee with this new regime. Fisher wants to restore the roar of Seminoles recruiting. After all, their dominance in the 1990s was due to the fact that the Florida State recruited better than everyone in the country.
The Seminoles' recruiting has slipped a little in recent years. More importantly, they slipped in their own state, where they are now arguably the No. 3 school among Florida's Big Three -- Florida, Miami and Florida State. In the last five years, the Seminoles finished behind Florida every year in the final recruiting class rankings and finished behind Miami in three of the five years. While Florida had two No. 1 classes (2010 and 2006) and Miami had one (2008), Florida State hasn't even had a top five class and had an average rank of 11.4 over the last five years. By contrast, Florida's average rank over the last five years is 2.6, and Miami's is 9.4.
Fisher knows as well as anyone that recruiting is a grind every single day of the year. He understands it's vital to get the prospects on campus, evaluate them properly, recruit the right guys to their systems and work, work and work some more in every aspect of the recruiting game. Fisher is involved in every facet of FSU's day-to-day recruiting operations.
And make no mistake, this all starts and ends with Fisher. He's no longer the coach-in-waiting, a title he held since late in the 2007 season. Everything FSU does as a staff and as a program is geared toward the path Fisher wants to take. In other words, for the first time in a few years, Florida State recruiting is all flowing in one direction under one voice.
Who the Seminoles have
FSU wanted to bring in one signal caller, and that quarterback is Jacob Coker (Mobile, Ala./St. Pauls). Coker committed to Fisher and FSU on Monday. A relative unknown, Coker camped at Florida State this month and blew away the Seminoles coaching staff. Coker, at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, plays in the Wing T offense in high school and throws the ball roughly five times a game. While there's not much to see on film because of the offense he plays in, Coker showed enough both with his arm and his athleticism (he runs a 4.7 40) in Tallahassee to warrant an offer.
So far Florida State has locked up one running back in Eric Beverly (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and one receiver in Rashad Greene (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas). Beverly is a 5-foot-9, 216-pound compact runner. He's powerful between the tackles and shifty in the open field. Beverly will miss this fall because of a torn ACL suffered during a spring game, the severity of which is not known at this time. Meanwhile, Greene is the headliner so far of this Florida State class from an offensive prospective. A member of the ESPNU 150, this four-star recruit was the Seminoles' top target at this position.
"It felt like the right place for me. They need me and I want to be there," Greene said. "I am also from Albany (Ga.), and it's convenient for me and my family. I think I fit right in with what they do. I know I can come in and get an opportunity to play as a true freshman."
Last season as a junior, Greene caught 31 passes for 510 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has great speed and is explosive. He possesses excellent hands, can catch the ball in traffic and get behind the secondary.
FSU has two offensive line recruits in Sterling Lovelady (Pensacola, Fla./Navarre) and Under Armour All-American Trey Pettis (DeLand, Fla./DeLand). Lovelady and Pettis both project to be inside players in Tallahassee at guard and center, respectively.
The Seminoles are off to a quicker start on the defensive side of the ball. Derrick Mitchell (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Niles Lawrence-Stample (Davie, Fla./Nova) are both four-star defensive linemen. Mitchell has great size (6-foot-4, 285 pounds), athletic ability and is a versatile talent along the front. Lawrence-Stamper, at 6-foot-1, 297 pounds, recorded a 4.9 40 at the Miami Under Armour combine early this spring and bench pressed 185 pounds 32 times. That's freakishly quick and strong for a player his size.
While not a primary need, the Noles have linebacker Terrance Smith (Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb). This three-star linebacker has good size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and range for the position and should fit in very nicely to the Florida State defense.
The Seminoles secondary will get a huge boost with this class, highlighted by Under Armour All-American Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge). Williams, No. 21 in the ESPNU 150, is the No. 1 safety in America. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he is a big-time athlete who is even good enough to contribute on the offensive side of the ball at receiver. He just has more upside defensively because he has a great feel for the game and always puts himself in position to make big plays. He will join his older brother, Vincent, in Tallahassee.
"I am excited about it," Karlos Williams said. "It's something new but old if you know what I mean. Everything is there with coach Fisher and it's improving. Jimbo has been awesome and so have the rest of the coaches. I can't wait."
If Williams is the gem of the secondary, then Cortez Davis (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland) is the most intriguing. This 6-foot-4, 200-pound defensive back actually plays cornerback and will be given a shot at that position at Florida State. But he ultimately could end up at safety, where we have seen bigger players, such as Pat Watkins, excel for FSU, or he could grow into a linebacker. Davis, a four-star recruit, originally committed to Clemson before switching to Florida State.
Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast teammates Lamarcus Brutus and Keelin Smith are headed to FSU. Brutus has good coverage skills and can support the run while Smith, an Under Armour All-American and the No. 4 safety in this year's class, looks like a combo guy at corner and safety.
Another safety prospect who has pledged to Fisher is Tyler Hunter (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes). Hunter, who will likely play strong safety in Tallahassee, is terrific against the run and playing in the box. He plays fast and is physical.
Williams, Davis, Smith, Brutus and Hunter are all rated among the top 14 safeties in the nation.
Florida State's Class of 2011
It's never easy following a legend, but Jimbo Fisher is off to a solid start replacing Bobby Bowden on the recruiting trail. 2011 commit list
Fisher and company want to close like they have started -- strong. With 13 commitments already in the fold, it looks like Florida State could have a class of 20 to 22 players on national signing day.
The Noles are chasing big-time running back prospects like Isaiah Crowell (Columbus, Ga./Carver), Marlin Lane (Daytona Beach, Fla./Mainland), James Wilder II (Tampa Bay, Fla./Plant), Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas/Byron M. Steele) and Aaron Green (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls).
Right now, Crowell favors Georgia and Alabama, while Lane has committed to Clemson. It is thought that Florida is the team to beat with Wilder, but Fisher has made up some serious ground for this five-star athlete. FSU would love to pry away Brown from the state of Texas. Another name to watch for here is Devonta Freeman (Miami/Miami Central).
At this point, it looks like Florida State is done at receiver. That's not the case along the offensive front, though. The Seminoles would love to bring in at least two, maybe three more for the O-line. Their board is loaded with some good ones, led by Greene's teammate Bobby Hart (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas).
Others the Seminoles are after include Quincy McKinney (Columbus, Ga./Carver), Errin Joe (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson), Mike Matilus (Lake Worth, Fla./Park Vista), Jacob Fahrenkrug (Wahpeton, N.D./North Dakota State College of Science), Darrell Williams (Orlando, Fla./Maynard Evans) and Max Lang (Orlando, Fla./Boone), among others.
Defensively, FSU wants to close with some defensive ends and would love to land its share among five-star Ray Drew (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central), Aaron Lynch (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast), Xzavier Dickson (Griffin, Ga./Griffin), Anthony Rabasa (Miami/Christopher Columbus), Lonnie Gosha (Lake Butler, Fla./Union County) and Ricardo Williams (Homestead, Fla./Homestead).
At defensive tackle, FSU is all over four-star Tim Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), who is the No. 4 rated DT in the nation and No. 32 in the ESPNU 150.
FSU loaded up with five linebackers last season and has already landed Smith. But the Seminoles aren't done yet. It appears they could be the team to beat for five-star linebacker Tony Steward (St. Augustine, Fla./Pedro Menendez). He's the one they really covet (of course, so does everyone else in the college football world). Another to keep a close eye on is linebacker Denzel Perryman (Coral Gables, Fla./Coral Gables). Miami could be the team to beat here, but Florida State would be considered the dark horse to watch out for.
The Seminoles are not done in the secondary. They would love to land a big-time cornerback and are hard after four-star Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla./South Lake).
Certainly Fisher and his staff have some big shoes to fill and it won't be easy following a legend like Bowden. But expectations are sky high in Tallahassee, and if recruiting is any indication, Florida State is on the right path with Fisher. His Seminoles have a chance to close exceptionally well and if that happens, FSU is one step closer to regaining its status as a national football power.
Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.