Full Version: Is FSU's recruiting on the decline?
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Anyone that follows Florida State recruiting has seen long dry patches when recruit after recruit verbally commits to other schools. Generally when the cool December winds begin to blow in Tallahassee FSU's recruiting goes south. As certain as death and taxes, as Christmas rolls around worry overtakes Seminole nation. While other schools load up on prospects and near their scholarship limit, FSU sees commitments in the single digits.

This year it isn't so much worry but more shear panic.

The only exception to the dry December rule was in 2000. That year a run of early commitments hit the Seminoles so most of the 2001 recruiting class was taken care of before January. Going into the new year FSU had an unprecedented 16 verbal commitments. However, that was an aberration and things returned to normal the following year.

In late December of 2001 the 'Noles had only eight verbal commitments, which included Juco signees Chauncey Stovall and Nate Hardage. However, recruiting picked up in January and really took off in February. During a 24 hour period around signing day FSU landed Lorenzo Booker (No. 1 player in the nation), Leon Washington (Florida's Mr. Football), Chris Davis (Parade All-American), Sam McGrew and Pat Watkins (USA Today All-American). Also, a little over a week later All-USA linebacker Buster Davis committed to the Noles. That's five All-American level commitments on signing day or after. Most schools don't get five All-Americans in their entire class.

So far in 2002 FSU is holding steady at six commitments, three of which are former signees that failed to qualify. That means only three high school prospects have given a verbal with signing day only a little over a month away. Of those high school players, the last pledge was more than four months earlier back on July 21st when kicker Chase Goggans announced he would sign with FSU.

Tallahassee do we have a problem?

A slow December is expected but being shutout for an entire season is not. The worst stretch has taken place in the last couple weeks. Several players being heavily recruited by FSU committed elsewhere - Sean Bailey, Jonathan Stupar, Steven Jones, Carlton Medder, Jeff Zuttah, Tarell Brown and Andrew Bain. The worst losses were Bailey, Stupar and Jones, who were all thought to be leaning to FSU at one point or another.

FSU's No. 1 target is Tallahassee native Ernie Sims III
The concern around Florida State is that the recent suspensions and gambling investigation is having an adverse impact on recruiting. No one knows for sure whether any of the recent recruiting losses have anything to do with the negative publicity, but prospects are paying close attention to the media's exhaustive coverage and notice every headline coming out of Tallahassee.

"I think Florida State is hurting themselves with their own team and the recruiting," said Ernie Sims III, the Rivals100.com No. 1 rated recruit. "I think that they need to do something about it."

Although many fans are in panic mode over the low number of commitments and untimely news coming out of Tallahassee, the Seminole coaches are still confident of a solid recruiting class.

"I don't think it's that much of a surprise," recruiting coordinator John Lilly said about the lack of commitments. "If you start with the guys maybe your were supposed to get in a lot of people's minds and they start going somewhere else then it becomes a little bit more of a problem."

Part of the reason for the lack of commitments is Florida State's risky strategy of holding out for the top recruits. While other programs load up on marginal prospects in the Fall to make sure they fill high their scholarship limit, the Seminole coaches are counting on enough elite prospects to fall their way by signing day to fill out the class.

Since the spring evaluation period FSU has passed on several well-regarded prospects that would have likely committed had a scholarship been offered. Just to name a few quarterback Roger Heinz, running back Lynn Gross, tight end Jamsely Jean, offensive linemen David Price, Kevin Brown and Steven Rissler, defensive tackle Cliff Dunham, cornerback A.J. Brant and several top junior college prospects would have probably ended up in Tallahassee if a scholarship offer was tendered. All of these players, and several more FSU didn't offer, will probably sign with a major division 1A program.

The most glaring example of not offering a scholarship just to fill a void involves junior college offensive linemen. With the need for immediate help on the line, it was pretty much assumed that the Tribe would seek out one or more big bodies from the junior college ranks. Despite the need, FSU did not offer a single junior college offensive lineman. Meanwhile, Florida recently signed three from the JUCO ranks, all of whom were likely evaluated by FSU but not offered.

The strategy of holding out for the nation's best worked to perfection last year.

Entering January of 2002 Florida State was not in the top 20 of the Rivals100.com team rankings but ended up finishing all the way up at No. 4. In fact, of the six major recruiting services we checked last February, only Tom Lemming did not have the 'Noles' class in the top five.

The Tribe will need an even better finish if they hope to come in anywhere near the top five on February 5th. If anybody can pull it off it's Bobby Bowden. The 73-year old coach is still the best when it comes to charming recruits and their parents. When January rolls around Seminole Skipper will hit the road with force and will need all of his magic to keep FSU's run of top classes in tact.

In addition to Bowden's ability to close, there are a few other keys to the 'Noles' recruiting success in January and early February.

"I think we get our numbers to a manageable limit where you can recruit them all very well and you are not spread so thin that you can't get to know people and they can't get to know you because you are scrambling to get in and out of somewhere," said Lilly. "Instead of a quick phone call you can have a conversation. I think that probably helps tremendously."

Even with the track record of amazing finishes, you have to wonder if the 'Noles have enough gas in the tank this time around. Despite FSU's history of lackluster recruiting results through December, there's no denying that the cold snap has reached sub-zero levels.

Go Seminoles - Neuter 'em Dawgs 04-cheers
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