Until Saturday's improbable upset over Virginia Tech, it had been a tough few weeks for the Seminole football program. During the month of November, Florida State suffered through its worst losing streak in 24 years. That stretch of setbacks was also starting to take a toll on FSU's recruiting efforts.
Losing a few games is one thing, but suffering back-to-back blowout losses to Clemson and Florida, two teams FSU regularly recruits against, isn't what you want if you are trying to impress recruits. In addition to the recent setbacks, the 'Noles have been stumbling going all the way back to early October and it was around that time that the recruiting jets began to cool.
"I think it's human nature and it's been a little harder to dial the phone because you just don't feel excited and you are trying to get ready for the next game," recruiting coordinator John Lilly admitted. "I think the reception has still been very good, and they understand what has gone on."
Surprisingly, the 'Noles got off to a quick start over the summer and reached 11 verbal commitments when five-star standout Myron Rolle committed on September 1st. In October, while FSU was getting off to a 5-0 start and a top five ranking, they picked up commitments from Miami safety Anthony Leon and junior college DT Paul Griffin, which brought the total to 13. But since then, over the period of a month and a half while the team struggled, FSU has netted zero commitments. Three-star linebacker Tim Rawlinson has been the only new commitment, and offensive linemen Chad Roark, who was a commitment, changed his mind after the hometown Oklahoma Sooners offered a scholarship.
Worse than the slowdown in commitments, was the number of prospects lost to other teams or those that have dropped the 'Noles from consideration or shown less interest. Within the last month and a half some of the recruits FSU has lost major ground with, or who have committed to other schools, include Trent Pupello, Jim Barrie, Chad Roark, Jermaine Cunningham, Richard Dickson, Ryan Hill, Percy Harvin, Damon McDaniel, Vidal Hazelton and Clarence Bailey.
However, an impressive win over a top five Virginia Tech team, an ACC title in hand and a berth in a BCS bowl game against another top five opponent in Penn State could easily reverse FSU's recruiting fortunes. Not only did the victory send a signal that the Seminoles are no longer a team on the decline, with so much youth and talent on the team, it's hard to imagine FSU not being a college football powerhouse over the next couple years, which is always appealing to recruits.
"You can't look back on this season as a failure because they won the ACC and are now going to the Orange Bowl," FSU commitment Myron Rolle said. "It's pretty good and no other ACC team can say that, that they won the ACC. That's Florida State's own thing right there. I think that's going to help a lot and I'm looking forward to calling some recruits."
Closing out the regular season on a huge high note also makes it easier for John Lilly and the rest of the staff to pick up the phone, or send a text message, to a recruiting target.
"A lot of people have said Florida State was going to be a year away and to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in this unbelievable tough league in a year when we had a bunch of injuries, a bunch of adversity and things that have gone wrong, even before the season, to do that shows you how bright the future is here," Lilly said. "I would think that's something a lot of people would like to be a part of."
Starting last week, college coaches were permitted to make in-home visits with prospects. But with FSU playing in the ACC Championship game, the coaches' ability to travel and meet with recruits was extremely limited. At the same time, the 'Noles' primary competitors in recruiting, Florida and Miami, did not make their conference championship games so they could devote 100 percent of their attention to recruiting. During this stretch, the Gators picked up three commitments and Miami got one.
With the regular season finally over, it's now FSU's turn.
Seven coaches, including head coach Bobby Bowden, will be on the recruiting trail all this week. The very first stop for college football's all-time winningest coach will be to New Jersey to visit with Rolle.
"It's a big thing up here to have coach Bowden come up," Rolle told Warchant.com. "Everybody up here knows about him, and they know I'm going to Florida State so everybody is really excited for it. A lot of people have heard about it so far and are anxious, and I'm happy to have him up here especially after the big win on Saturday night."
The No. 4 ranked prospect in the country will not only be busy working the phones, he also plans to recruit for the Garnet and Gold at the January 7th Army All-American game in San Antonio.
With elite recruits like Rolle working the phones and FSU's history of closing with a flourish, Saturday night's victory might give the 'Noles the extra push they need to finish with another top 10, if not top 5, recruiting class.
Extra notes on where some of the FSU coaches will be this week (Warchant.com subscribers only)
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