A.J. Duffy to enroll early, becomes highest-rated FSU QB signee since 2016
There was no suspense or major fanfare when quarterback A.J. Duffy signed with Florida State on Wednesday. He had been committed to the Seminoles for more than seven months.
But what Duffy's signing lacked in drama, it could more than make up for in significance.
Not only is he FSU's highest-rated quarterback signee since 2016, but he plans to enroll in January and take part in the Seminoles' winter workout program and spring practice.
When FSU head coach Mike Norvell spoke to the media during Wednesday's start to the early signing period, he singled out Duffy as a, “tremendous addition to the class and a remarkable player.”
“I’ve known A.J. from back in my days when I was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State. I actually recruited his dad’s school,” Norvell said. “He’s the son of a coach, he’s been around ball his entire life.”
When COVID-19 shut down high school football in California for the 2020 season, the younger Duffy left his father's Rancho Verde program and transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton for his senior year.
By doing that, Duffy stepped into a crowded locker room of highly ranked players from around the country, but Norvell explained Duffy’s “talent and leadership ability” were on display in that unique situation.
“To put himself in a different situation, to come in and the way that he helped lead that team throughout the course of the season, I thought is really going to help prepare him,” Norvell said. “As an early entry, he’ll have an opportunity to come out and compete here early in his career and just excited about what he brings to the table.”
Signing Duffy ends what has been a pretty disappointing cold streak for FSU when it comes to landing elite quarterback recruits.
Last year, FSU didn’t sign a quarterback out of high school.
In 2020, the Seminoles signed two scholarship quarterbacks in Norvell’s first class, but neither were rated nearly as high as Duffy, who is the nation's No. 9-ranked pro-style QB. The jury is still out for third-year quarterback Tate Rodemaker, who spent a year developing on the scout team after starting once as a freshman.
Meanwhile, Chubba Purdy left FSU midway through his second season and entered the transfer portal; he hasn't selected a second college home yet.
The two years prior to that, FSU endured a serious drought when it came to recruiting quarterbacks. Willie Taggart’s staff didn’t sign a single passer during the 2018 and 2019 cycles.
A year before that, FSU brought in two quarterbacks in Jimbo Fisher’s final class, but neither worked out very well.
Bailey Hockman bolted from FSU after redshirting for one year. And Glades Central High product James Blackman ended up starting 25 games in his career, but he never established himself as a quality passer at the Power 5 level and eventually transferred to Arkansas State.
Fisher's lone QB signee of 2016 worked out even worse. Malik Henry was considered one of the top passers in the country, but he left the program during his first year and never took a snap for the Seminoles.
MORE REACTION FROM SIGNING DAY:
Needless to say, FSU has much higher hopes for Duffy than what the program has seen from its other quarterback signees of the past half-decade.
That’s especially true for the head coach.
“Such a great leader. Extremely smart football player. Has played in multiple systems. Is the son of a coach, which you always like to see,” Norvell said. “He embraces the competition. He embraces the opportunity to really put in the work that’s necessary for himself to grow but also be able to build those around him.”
When Duffy made the switch from his hometown high school in California to IMG Academy for his senior year, Norvell compared it to the transition he'll experience in college.
“He had to go learn a new system. He had to go two a different place with new teammates,” Norvell said. “Much like he is about to experience here in January. Just the way that he was easily able to adapt. He’s a wonderful young man.”