Commentary

Seems like old times

Jimbo Fisher has turned FSU into the hottest team on the recruiting front right now

Originally Published: November 18, 2010
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

It's starting to feel like the old days in Tallahassee.

Armed with a nation's best 10 prospects from the ESPNU 150 after landing four-star defensive end Aaron Lynch and four-star offensive tackle Jordan Prestwood earlier in the week, the Seminoles jump into the top three in the class rankings and might just be the hottest team in the country right now on the recruiting front.

When it came to recruiting in the 1990s, no one did it better than Bobby Bowden and Florida State. FSU earned a remarkable 14 straight top-five finishes in the AP poll from 1987-2000, had a record of 152-18-1 and won the national title in 1993 and 1999. It was one of the greatest runs ever in college football history and it all started back on the recruiting trail.

But somewhere along the line, there was a slow erosion with FSU football and recruits started looking elsewhere. Before long, Bowden was out and Jimbo Fisher, the coach-in-waiting, officially took over in December 2009.

Since then, it seems the Seminoles have been trending up on the recruiting front. Last year, after landing quick commitments from five-star linebacker Jeff Luc and five-star cornerback Lamarcus Joyner, Fisher reeled in the nation's sixth-ranked class.

This year, he's on pace to beat that. And make no mistake, it all starts with Fisher.

"Jimbo Fisher is real straightforward and I like that about him. He doesn't sugarcoat anything," said four-star safety Karlos Williams, the Seminoles' highest-ranked recruit. "That's just the way it is with him."

But Fisher can't do it alone. His coaching staff is hitting all the right notes with recruits.

"There is definitely a different chemistry there. They are younger coaches who seem to get along better and they have jelled better," Williams said. "They also relate better with the kids."

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireJimbo Fisher has made FSU a hot name with recruits again.
Fisher and his staff understand what it takes to win the recruiting wars. They all know it's a daily grind because they're battling Florida, Miami and everyone else that recruits the Sunshine State. There are no easy wins. Want a strong presence in South Florida? Then get ready to battle the Miami staff. The Seminoles not only have to fight off Alabama and Georgia, but they also want to be able to go in those states and snag a prospect or two. It's an uphill fight, but one the Seminoles coaches keeps finding a way to win.

Florida State has also done as good of a job as anyone in the country in keeping pace with the acceleration of the recruiting process. The coaches are on recruits early, getting them on campus and selling their message. FSU has made junior days in the winter and spring as well as summer camps a very important part of its recruiting process.

FSU's resurgence on the field has had a big impact with recruiting because recruits can see the progress. While there have been growing pains under Fisher, there is noticeable improvement.

"That [playing well] has been real important. It means that they are getting coached great," Lynch said. "They are working hard and pushing each other. And I want to be around coaches that push us to be the best."

But the coaches aren't the only ones doing the recruiting. Recruits are trying to bring other recruits to Tallahassee.

"I do a lot of recruiting. It's through text messaging or Facebook," Williams said. "I just want to do my part and make this the best class it can be. This class will impact Florida State and win a national championship. We have to close well. I am working Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Nick O'Leary, Tony Steward and Brandon Fulse real hard. But at the same time, I know there are only a certain amount of spots remaining."

Williams isn't the only one working the phones and Internet.

"The recruits talk all the time. [James] Wilder, Karlos [Williams], Giorgio [Newberry] and Prestwood are guys I talk with on almost a daily basis," Lynch said. "And they are some of the best players at their positions and I want to play with the best. They are my boys."

The scary part is the Seminoles are not done, and they are expected to close very well. FSU is in the mix for five-star prospects Steward, O'Leary and Ray Drew. They are in the hunt with four-star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, four-star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and four-star defensive end Jermauria Rasco. Florida State will also likely get an official visit from defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is the nation's top prospect.

The bottom line for Florida State is that the future is looking bright. Will it ever again finish in the top five for 14 years straight? Doubtful. But keep bringing in recruiting classes like this, and suddenly anything is possible.

Clowney close to setting visit schedule
Clowney and Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe are knee deep in the postseason, but it looks like he could get more official visits lined up fairly soon, according to his coach Bobby Carroll.

"I know there are only so many weekends that he will have to visit four schools," Carroll said. "They will be FSU, LSU, Alabama and Ohio State. He will probably [unofficially] visit South Carolina again and he could go see the South Carolina-Clemson game."

Clowney made his first official visit two weekends ago when the Gamecocks hosted Arkansas.

"He said it was a great visit and a good weekend," Carroll said. "Clowney has been there so many times before. The only difference is that he stayed the night."

Clowney is scheduled to play in the North Carolina/South Carolina Shrine Bowl in mid-December and the Under Armour All-America Game in early January.

Little help
Last week, four-star cornerback Dallas Crawford committed to Michigan, giving the Wolverines one of the most dynamic defensive backs from the state of Florida. This was somewhat of an upset because the South Fort Myers star loved the Miami Hurricanes as a kid.

"Dallas grew up a huge Miami fan," said South Fort Myers coach Grant Readhead. "I know this about Michigan, he's real intrigued by their academics and the football program. He has a chance to play early there and he really fits what they do. Dallas can play corner or safety. He may be a bit undersized [5-foot-10, 185 pounds] for safety but he hits like a truck. So he has several options to play several positions."

The big question now is will Crawford's commitment help Michigan with his four-star teammate, wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

"Clemson is still the leader with Sammy," Readhead said. "He just loves it up there and so do his parents. But I do think Michigan is a strong second. I think Alabama is there, and he talked with coach [Nick] Saban [on Tuesday]. Florida could get a visit, as well. He will set up his official visits after the playoffs are over."

Weekend trips
Will Kris Frost (Matthews, N.C./Butler) visit Michigan this weekend? It's doubtful.

"Kris wants to drive up there. We have a game on Friday and Michigan plays at noon," said Butler coach Mike Newsome. "Even the Michigan coaches think it's best that he visit another time. So I really don't know what he will do right now."

Frost is a four-star athlete who is having a big year at Butler playing wide receiver and outside linebacker. To this point he has not made any official visits.

"I think Michigan, Auburn, LSU, North Carolina, and Clemson would be his top five," Newsome said.

Other big-name prospects who are scheduled to make some official visits this weekend: quarterback Zach Mettenberger (El Dorado, Kan./Butler Community College) and offensive lineman Greg Robinson (Thibodaux, La./Thibodaux) will both visit LSU. Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillip standouts Chris Gallon and Darryl Monroe are slated to visit Michigan, and South Carolina is set to host Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern defensive linemen Roderick Byers and Gerald Dixon.

Meanwhile, cornerback Ronnie Harris (Atlanta, Ga./Westlake), quarterback Kevin Sousa (Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona) and linebacker Anthony Harrell (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit) are visiting Wake Forest, while North Carolina is scheduled to host Pickerington (Ohio) North teammates Darien Bryant and Delvon Simmons. Finally, Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips athlete LaQuentin Smith will visit USF.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting both in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.