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February 4, 2014
Florida State meeting both numbers & needs with this class
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When it comes to National Signing Day, fans and media will largely be focused on Florida State's recruiting ranking and number of five-star recruits that sign on the dotted line. However, the Seminole coaches are far more concerned with filling the team's needs for the future than a subjective recruiting ranking.
But when it comes to that ranking fans should be happy. Florida State is a lock to finish with a top-10 class, and probably top-5, when the dust settles on Wednesday. It will be the fifth straight top-10 class since Jimbo Fisher took over as the Seminoles' head football coach. Top-10 classes are par for the course at FSU - Since Rivals.com started ranking recruiting classes in 2002, the Seminoles have finished outside the top 10 only twice.
While highly-regarded recruiting classes are commonplace in Tallahassee, filling important needs through recruiting is far from a regular occurrence. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any recent FSU recruiting class that didn't come up short somewhere. In 2012 and 2013, for example, FSU failed to sign enough offensive linemen. There have been past classes where the 'Noles finished with lower than the desired number of defensive backs, linebackers, tight ends, etc.
The needs problem is hardly limited to FSU. When you factor in attrition as a result of transfers, injuries, dismissals and academics, combined with a limit of 85 total scholarships, it's extremely rare that any school is completely comfortable with its numbers at every single position. But if all goes well on Wednesday, Florida State should be satisfied with its numbers and needs.
The Seminoles have come up short on the offensive line for two straight classes. While quality has been good, FSU has simply failed to bring in enough bodies. As a result of back-to-back years of lower than expected numbers, FSU enters spring practice next month with six senior offensive linemen on scholarship but just a handful of underclassmen. In fact, should Ira Denson transfer to another school as expected, only three non-senior scholarship offensive linemen will be on the roster this spring.
The pressing need on the offensive line should be resolved with the incoming recruiting class. Currently, FSU has six linemen committed with at least one more, four-star offensive tackle Roderick Johnson, expected to be added to the class on signing day. Local product Derrick Kelly, a three-star offensive tackle, is also a possibility.
Not only will there be plenty of new bodies to fill out FSU's offensive line depth chart and build for the future, there is diversity among the incoming group. Four players are slated to start out as tackles, the main position of need, while two are projected to play guard, and the other is expected to line up at center.
There is the added dimension of having two junior college transfers among the group - Kareem Are and Chad Mavety. Both will give Rick Trickett much-needed depth at tackle and guard for the upcoming season. While last season's starters at guard and tackle all return, there isn't much experience behind them. Are and Mavety should provide Trickett with a buffer should any of the starters suffer an injury.
Defensive line is another position where FSU was starting to slip on numbers. Three seniors have graduated and junior Timmy Jernigan declared for the NFL draft. With 2013 signee Davarez Bryant no longer on the team, and Justin Shanks struggling with injury issues, there isn't a whole lot of depth among the front four.
As with the offensive line, FSU is reloading for the future with this recruiting class. Currently, the 'Noles have verbal commitments from a whopping seven defensive linemen. Even though a couple of the current commitments are a bit shaky, the Seminoles remain in the mix for four immensely talented uncommitted prospects. That includes five-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell, as well as Rivals100 members Derrick Nnadi, Lorenzo Carter and Chad Thomas.
In addition to loading up with several new players, the group boasts a lot of versatility. Players like Dexter Wideman, Adam Torres and McDowell, should he sign with FSU, can comfortably play on the inside or outside. The rest of the class is a good mix of defensive ends and interior players, some of which could also play both on the inside and outside of the defensive line.
While it's not talked about as much as other positions, FSU desperately needs to sign a couple tight ends to build for the future. Starter Nick O'Leary will be a senior this season as will veteran backup Kevin Haplea, who is back from an injury that sidelined him in 2013. Florida State should be fine with its tight end depth this fall but after 2014 there will be a real need.
Florida State should fill this need nicely with two commitments expected to sign on Wednesday. Ryan Izzo, a 6-foot-6 tight end from Sparta, NJ, is a big target with excellent hands and strong physical attributes. Fellow tight end commitment Mavin Saunders may bring even more upside to the position. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder is a freakish athlete with elite pass-catching ability. The Houston native, who also excels on the basketball court, will give the offensive coaches a versatile player that can line up at both tight end and receiver.
Florida State will have to replace two of its top three receivers from a unit that was part of a prolific passing attack in 2013. Leading receiver Rashad Greene returns for his senior season but there's practically no experience behind him and none of the young receivers have proven themselves the way the starting threesome did last season.
In addition to the need to load up on play-makers for the future, there will be only three underclassmen receivers on the roster this spring. Adding both quality and quantity is essential if FSU hopes to continue to field a prolific passing attack beyond 2014. Mission accomplished.
Florida State is off to a great start with a commitment from the nation's No. 1 ranked receiver, Travis Rudolph. If all goes as expected on Wednesday, the rest of the position should work itself out nicely.
The 'Noles are expected to land five-star wideout Ermon Lane from Homestead, Fla. The odds are good that FSU will land at least one, if not two more, receiver(s) when all the letter of intents are signed. Many expect four-star receiver Javon Harrison to switch his commitment from Virginia Tech to Florida State. Also, five-star prospect Malachi Dupre, the country's No. 2 receiver, is expected to pick between FSU and LSU. Finally, there is still a possibility that FSU could fit Norcross, Ga. receiver Myles Autry into this class if a scholarship becomes available. Either way, FSU should fit its need at receiver perfectly when the dust settles.
QuarterbackWith the transfer of Jacob Coker, FSU needs to sign one to two here. There are verbal commitments from Rivals100 member Treon Harris and strong-armed four-star J.J. Cosentino. FSU also already has a commitment from one of the top signal-callers for the 2015 recruiting class, De'Andre Johnson.
LinebackerFlorida State came into the 2013 hoping to sign three top linebackers. That goal was achieved by last summer with three four-star standouts Kain Daub, Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy all committing to the 'Noles.
Running BackWith the departures of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., two more backs were needed to achieve the necessary depth at the position. FSU hit it out of the park, landing five-star tailback Dalvin Cook and versatile running back/fullback Jonathan Vickers.
Defensive backWith a young group of players in the secondary, defensive back wasn't a huge position of need going into this recruiting class. However, FSU had a goal of adding at least one safety and one cornerback to maintain depth. That need was met with the commitment of super athlete Malique Jackson, who will play cornerback at FSU, and early enrollee safety Trey Marshall from Lake City, Fla.
Finishing StrongOf course things don't always go as expected on National Signing Day but all indications are that the Seminoles' 2014 class will be one of the most complete in school history.
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