2009 Recruiting Recap Part 1 (Process)

I grew up thinking of National Signing Day as the day where a class was formed.  It's been tough to adjust to FSU's new style of gradually building a class over the course of a year and then adding a piece or two in the final days.  When National Signing Day comes and 90% of your class is committed, you try to survive.  The final piece of the puzzle is making sure your commitments sign and fax their letters of intent.  Florida State came into National Signing Day with 20 commitments.  They lost none.  The Noles would add one more recruit (Dan Hicks, a 6-6 252LB Defensive End, son of former 'Nole Dan Footman).  Keeping committed recruits is just as important (if not more so) than reaching out and getting new recruits. FSU did an amazing job of getting a commitment and then keeping on the committed kid. 

FSU also did a great job of locking down it's own area.  8 of FSU's 21 recruits are located within 70 miles of the campus.  13 of the 21 are from Florida.  Many criticized the 'Noles in the early part of the decade for getting away from it's talent base and becoming too national.  Sure, National Recruiting is great, but you lose a certain amount of familiarity when you take a kid from California or Michigan.  National recruiting also can alienate local coaches.  The if you have a bad year and lose your national prestige a bit, those local coaches Jeff Bowden alienated are reluctant deal with FSU again.  It's been a long road to get back to their base, but FSU has come a long way since 2006.  Going away from Florida was a symptom of the nepotism fueled laziness that permeated our staff from 2002-2006.  The coaches did a horrible job performing their due diligence.  They relied on highlight tapes instead of scouting the kids in person.  Recruiting rankings replaced in-person evaluations.  Our coaches didn't know about a kid's character or if he could qualify.  Even if they had tried to find out, that information was located across the bridges they had burned by trying to go national all the time.

In 2005, we landed the #2 recruiting class in the nation.  The Top DT in the Country was illiterate (Callahan Bright) and posted pictures of his weed habit on his myspace page.  The top wide receiver flunked multiple Drug tests (Fred Rouse) and later broke into a teammates apartment.  4 of FSU's top 7 2005 recruits would be arrested in their short stint in Tallahassee.  3 of the top 5 players that comprised the #2 class of 2005... would never play a down for Florida State.  FSU had won the recruiting war, but privately coaches speculated that FSU was taking stupid risks.  The Seminole staff was in the dark and arrogant to their errors.  That class was supposed to provide us with our great seniors this year.  11 of the 23 members of the #2 ranked recruiting class did not make it to their senior year because of academics or legal troubles. 

In 2006, FSU landed the #3 ranked recruiting class.  These are the guys who will be seniors for the 2010 season.  Again, FSU demonstrated a lack of due diligence. 

Myron Rolle ATH 6.1 Princeton, NJ
Brandon Warren DE 6.1 Alcoa, TN
Marcus Ball LB 6.0 Stone Mountain, GA
Damon McDaniel WR 6.0 Virginia Beach, VA
Daron Rose OL 6.0 Tampa, FL
Ochuko Jenije DB 5.9 Tallahassee, FL
Preston Parker WR 5.9 Delray Beach, FL

Only one of the top 7 players in the 2006 class will be around for their Senior Season.  Rolle is a special case and his inclusion in the chart is only to show the level of talent we were collecting.  Warren was an attitude problem, Parker and Ball battled drug-related legal troubles.  McDaniel had a kid in Virginia and wanted to be closer to home.  Marcus Ball was a known character and grades risk.  That he qualified was a miracle; that he would run into trouble was basically a given. 

On the 2006 class, ESPN Wrote:

Late addition wide receiver Damon McDaniel adds an offensive weapon and linebacker Marcus Ball fills a need on defense. S Anthony Leon, one of the most underrated players in the country, coupled with S Myron Rolle, our No. 1 overall rated player, will make an imposing secondary for years to come.

Who would have thought that none of the 4 players mentioned in the top blurb would play to their potential, much less fail to make it to a senior season. 

In 2007, four years of sloppy recruiting practices and inept coaching caught up with the 'Noles as Jeff Bowden's final class rang in at a paltry 21st.  FSU landed just 7 4* players.  Of the 7, one never qualified and one was kicked off the team within a year of enrolling.

Enter Jimbo Fisher.  Fisher was appalled by our lack of organization.  He's made the Noles much more thorough.  Yes, he has to take some chances early on to make sure the 'Noles didn't slip lower than their back to back 7-6 seasons.  In 2008, 24 of the 31 signees were from Florida.  Better yet, Fisher qualified alll 25 kids he thought he would qualify.  It's so important to actually get into school if they want to become a good player.  Getting guys qualified and keeping them eligible was a huge problem in the past....

FSU has 14 seniors, 11 Juniors, 26 sophomores and 26 Freshmen.  Having only 25 upperclassmen is unacceptable.

When you wonder why we've performed poorly despite having great recruiting classes, realize that the talent from those classes has been kicked or flunked out of school.  The talent level is improving by leaps and bounds because of Fisher's standards.

Back to this year's class.  13 of the 21 are from Florida.  Two more are from Valdosta, Georgia... a stones throw from Tallahassee.  That leaves 6 kids who are coming from a decent distance.  One is the top rated kicker in America, from Texas.  Kicker's don't cause trouble.  They aren't grade risks.  Very little risk in taking a kicker from Texas.  Another is a son of a former Nole (Hicks) who got a 33 on his ACT.  No grades-risk there.  One is a safety who had the grades to play for Stanford (Bright).  He comes from a solid high school program.  Two are offensive linemen.  Phillips has a 3.8 GPA despite attending multiple high schools due to his family.  There are no indications that Prior is a thug.  The final non-close signee is a quarterback from Texas.  When we went out of state, it was for a specific need and the research was done on the prospective kid.

The major difference between this 6th rated class and the highly rated classes of the early part of the decade is familiarity.  The coaches know these players.  They find out what these kids are about.  Our coaches are now doing the legwork that FSU didn't get done just a few years ago. 

Two of our players have criminal issues from their high school days.  LB Mizell allegedly punched his Georgia coach in the face, prompting him to transfer to Lincoln high school.  WR Haulstead allegedly hit a kid with a brick during a fight.  Are these actions serious?  Most definitely. 

Lemme tell you about another player... Daniel Hood.  FSU wanted Hood badly.  He's a talented offensive lineman from Knoxville.  He had a history as well:

Daniel Allyn Hood, (DOB: 12/05/89), a juvenile, was found to be delinquent by the Sullivan County Juvenile Court. The order of that court placed temporary custody of Hood with the Department of Children's Services ("DCS") "for an indefinite period of time." The defendant appealed to the trial court, which, after a jury trial, found the defendant to be delinquent on the basis that he had committed the adult offenses of kidnapping and aggravated rape.

FSU backed off as the noise around Hood increased.  There's a huge difference between rape on a relative that involves duct tape and a plunger handle and getting into a fight. 

It's pretty clear that our coaches will take a chance on a troubled kid... but not too troubled.   With Mizell and Haulstead, their incidents happened before their senior seasons.  Our coaches have had time to watch them, to hear of any new incidents, and to make sure they are staying clean and making good decisions.  Nobody wins with choir boys in major college football, but the key is to figure out the difference between a troubled kid and a bad kid.  Let's hope that Mizell and Haulstead are the former and not the latter.  It is only through hard work and thorough research that our coaches will be able to weed out the truly bad apples.

I expect most of this class to qualify.  Only three kids are questionable (Downs, Mizell, Reid).

FSU filled its needs with great talent.  They took some risks, but they avoided others and the risks they did take are calculated.  When 16 out of your 21 guys are certifiably good kids and the others are more "troubled" that bad apples, the odds are probably on your side.

How do the services have us? 

Rivals (6th rated)

SIGNED LETTER OF INTENT Pos Stars Ht Wt 40 RR Video Enrolled Hometown
Jacobbi McDaniel DT 6-0 267 4.83 6.1
Greenville, FL
Greg Reid DB 5-9 175 4.5 6.1
Valdosta, GA
Willie Downs ATH 6-2 192 - 6.0
Tallahassee, FL
Demonte McAllister DE 6-3 263 - 6.0
Tampa, FL
Rodney Smith WR 6-6 202 4.7 6.0
Miami, FL
Lonnie Pryor RB 6-1 195 4.5 5.9
Okeechobee , FL
Chris Thompson RB 5-8 173 4.4 5.9
Greenville, FL
Jajuan  Harley DB 6-2 190 4.4 5.8
Tallahassee, FL
Willie Haulstead WR 6-3 210 4.55 5.8
Titusville, FL
Brandon Jenkins DE 6-2 218 4.7 5.8
Tallahassee, FL
C.J. Mizell LB 6-2 212 4.51 5.8
Tallahassee, FL
Aubrey Phillips OL 6-6 310 5.1 5.8
Olive Branch, MS
Gerald Demps DB 5-10 190 4.6 5.7
Valdosta, GA
Henry Orelus OL 6-2 292 5.48 5.7
Belle Glade, FL
Justin Bright DB 6-0 184 4.51 5.6
Duncan, SC
John Prior OL 6-6 283 - 5.6  
Portsmouth, OH
Xavier Rhodes WR 6-2 187 - 5.6
Miami, FL
Will Secord QB 6-3 204 4.66 5.6
Frisco, TX
Bryan Stork TE 6-4 260 - 5.6
Vero Beach, FL
Dustin Hopkins K 6-2 174 4.58 5.5
Houston, TX
Dan Hicks TE 6-4 242 4.6 5.4  
Oxford, MS


ESPN (8th rated)

2009  Player commits19 signed | 5 ESPN 150 signed
Jacobbi McDaniel Player Has Film DT 6-0 267 Madison County High (FL) DT #1 91
Greg Reid Player Has Film CB 5-9 175 Lowndes H.S. (GA) CB #2 85
Demonte McAllister Player Has Film DE 6-3 260 Alonso H.S. (FL) DE #3 83
Gerald Demps Player Has Film S 5-11 190 Lowndes H.S. (GA) S #7 82
Willie Downs Player Has Film ATH 6-2 192 Godby H.S. (FL) ATH #14 80
Dustin Hopkins Player Has Film K 6-2 174 Clear Lake H.S. (TX) K #1 80
Rodney Smith  WR 6-6 202 Archbishop Carroll H.S. (FL) WR #20 80
Brandon Jenkins Player Has Film DE 6-3 225 Florida H.S. (FL) DE #18 80
Lonnie Pryor Player Has Film RB 6-0 190 Okeechobee H.S. (FL) RB #30 79
Willie Haulstead  WR 6-3 200 Titusville H.S. (FL) WR #32 79
C.J. Mizell  OLB 6-3 220 Leon H.S. (FL) OLB #25 79
Chris Thompson Player Has Film RB 5-8 175 Madison County High (FL) RB #35 79
Xavier Rhodes Player Has Film WR 6-2 187 Miami Norland H.S. (FL) WR #60 77
John Prior Player Has Film OT 6-6 280 Portsmouth H.S. (OH) OT #64 76
Jajuan Harley Player Has Film S 6-2 190 James S. Rickards H.S. (FL) S #106 76
Henry Orelus Player Has Film OC 6-2 285 Glades Central H.S. (FL) OC #10 76
Will Secord  QB 6-3 210 Wakeland H.S. (TX) QB #60 75
Aubrey Phillips Player Has Film OT 6-6 300 Olive Branch H.S. (MS) OT #92 75
Justin Bright Player Has Film S 6-1 173 James Byrnes H.S. (SC) S #141 75
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