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December 10, 2007

New deal already having impact on recruiting

Ever since it leaked out last week that Jimbo Fisher would be named Florida State's next head football coach, most of the focus has been on the new contracts, when Bobby Bowden will retire, and what impact will his "in-waiting" status will have on the program. While those issues will continue to be debated and discussed, a more immediate impact is already taking place on the recruiting trail.

During Monday's press conference to announce the planned transition, Bowden, who turned 78 last month, estimated that rival schools have been using his age against Florida State in recruiting for the past 10 to 15 years. Interestingly, most of those rival schools have had multiple coaching changes during this same time period, but that hasn't stopped them from continuing to harp on his age.

"That comes up pretty often," said five-star quarterback and FSU commitment E.J. Manuel of team's using Bowden's age against FSU in recruiting. "A lot of guys don't worry about it because the name Florida State speaks for itself. But there are also a lot of guys that want to play for Bobby Bowden, he is a legend."

In addition to the perceived coaching instability that comes with Bowden's age, Jimbo Fisher's status as a head coaching candidate has raised additional problems in recruiting.

Over the past couple weeks, Fisher's name has been mentioned in connection with openings at Georgia Tech, Southern Miss and Arkansas. The uncertainty surrounding his future at FSU had become an increasingly difficult issue to deal with. While the 42-year old coach says he had no plans to leave FSU, he admitted that before this deal was done he couldn't guarantee that to recruits.

"I've told them (recruits) that if a great opportunity comes there's a chance I will take it but I'm not planning on it but I can't sit here and guarantee it," Fisher said. "I could say that most likely there's an 80 percent chance I'll be here and I dealt with it that way."

After Monday's announcement, the possibility of Fisher leaving should no longer be an issue to any prospect considering FSU. And the 'Noles' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach didn't waste any time informing the crown jewel of the incoming recruiting class about his new deal.

"Coach Fisher told me last week," E.J. Manuel said. "That is just the trust that Coach Fisher and I have with each other. I was really happy first and foremost that he would tell me something like that.

"I think he wanted to give me that sense of security that he isn't going anywhere else and that I don't have to look anywhere else as far as where I wanted to go to school. That is huge. That is going to stick for a lot of recruits."

Fisher has also noticed a change in attitude from other recruits once they found out that his name was off the board as a head coaching candidate at other schools.

"There are a couple kids that have now spoken to me about it that before had mentioned it briefly," he said. "It was almost like they were scared to ask you. They know and it wasn't going to bother them but in the back of their minds I think it put some of them at ease at little bit. More guys I talked to now say they are glad that you are going to be there and you said you were and all that. I think it just put everybody at ease."

It wasn't that long ago that redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Ponder was going through the recruiting process when he ultimately decided on Florida State. Like a lot of recruits, he said that the stability of the coaching staff played a big role in his decision to become a Seminole.

"Florida State has always been about stability - coach Bowden has been here forever," Ponder told Warchant.com. "To establish something to where we know who is going to be the head coach and there isn't going to be any doubt so we don't have to worry about what Michigan is going through or what Arkansas is going through. So it's just going to help recruiting. That's one of the big things my dad and I talked about when I was going through recruiting, stability and knowing who your head coach is going to be. It's so big right now with head coaching jumping everywhere and there's no stability at all in college football."

Near the end of Monday's press conference, Fisher had a message for opposing coaches that have been trying to use the perceived coaching instability against Florida State.

"Now there's no jabbing they can get at us," Fisher said. "I'm going to be here, coach Bowden is going to be here as long as he wants to be the head coach here and we know the future so quit picking at us."

Chris Nee contributed to this story.


Gene WilliamsGene Williams is the founder and administrator of Warchant.com and writes stories and features covering all of FSU's sports with an emphasis on football and football recruiting. During past football seasons, he hosted a weekly sports radio show in Tallahassee, and appears as a weekly guest on 1010 XL Radio in Jacksonville (4:40 pm on Tuesdays) and 1270 The Team in Tallahassee (4:05 pm on Thursdays). Williams is also a former ACC correspondent for College Football News (weekly national newspaper), and contributes to The Osceola. Story about Gene Williams & Warchant.com.

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