Notes On Attrition

You may remember reading "How will Jimbo Fisher change Florida State?"  If you haven't yet, I suggest giving it a look.  One of the issues I addressed in that piece was roster turnover. I wrote:

I would also expect a lot of roster turnover.  The 85-man scholarship limit is a great equalizer in college football.  Any way of maximizing the limit gives a program a distinct advantage.  Many people don't realize, however, that scholarships are year-to-year agreements.  They are not guaranteed, and renewal is at the discretion of the program.  Some old school coaches treated them like 4-year agreements (Bowden), but guys like Urban Meyer and Nick Saban do not.  In resurrecting Miami and North Carolina, Butch Davis masterfully churned the roster with incredible efficiency.  They play within the rules but take it to the limit.  If a kid isn't developing as planned, don't look for him to be at Florida State for his entire career.  There are exceptions, but there won't be any 4-year disappointments on the roster any longer.  To that end, look for many transfers in the first two years under Fisher.  Alabama, the national champion, famously had to jettison more than 15 players in Nick Saban's first two seasons. 

One pattern I have noted under Saban, however, is that kids who buy in to the process and give championship level effort (which new strength coach Vic Viloria will demand) will not be encouraged to transfer until after they have put in at least two seasons with the program.  Players who do not buy in fully, however, could be out after only a single season.

Another issue here is academic casualties, of which you can expect a major decrease.  All of Fisher's 2008 and 2009 recruiting classes (his first two) have at least a 2.0 GPA, all but one carry over a 2.2, and his most recent class averages over a 3.0 GPA.  More support staff means more one-on-one attention for the players.  It means better monitoring of a player's academic progress.  Having a better grasp on which players are not likely to return for next season due to academic ineligibility means that Fisher can encourage players who just aren't buying into the program and developing, to transfer, without the worry of creating a lack of depth.  You should also look for increased use of the medical disqualification scholarship, a way in which a kid can finish his education when he cannot play ball due to injury.  It's a great way to free up a roster spot for a kid who has an injury that would make it difficult for him to transfer.  And opposed to releasing the player, this helps him finish his education.  Again, it's all about maximizing the roster within the 85-man limit.  

Here's Nick Saban on attrition, courtesy

"We have a demanding program," Saban said.

"I mean, when I say 'Demanding program,' I'm not talking about football," Saban said. "It is demanding. We have some players in our program who have not met those demands. We have the same kind of demands academically. There are players that don't meet that. And we have the same thing in football. But none of these players are leaving because of the kind of football players they are."

There are players who have left because they don't believe they'll play, and Saban said he doesn't want guys who aren't happy with their roles. He also added:

"We have some players who will be grayshirted and know they will be grayshirted," Saban said. "And we have some players who are contemplating what their future's gonna be. And we have some players who are being suspended, whether it's for behavior or academic reasons, and they won't continue at our school."

I understand that this is a subject that many feel shouldn't be discussed or that goes against the idea of college athletics.  I would simply suggest those people follow a non-revenue sport.  This is happening all over the country at elite programs, and Tomahawk Nation will discuss the issue.

If a kid doesn't give championship-level effort, he will be asked to transfer.  And if a kid just doesn't develop to the point where after a few seasons he can give a "significant contribution", he might be asked to transfer (might).  I stress "might", there, because it is far from guaranteed.

But in that process, there are a number of factors a coach must consider.  What message does the transfer send to the other players?  If the player is well liked and works hard, it might hurt the team's psychology.  If the guy is a slacker, it will remind everyone that their scholarship is not guaranteed.  Coaches must also consider what high school the player came from, as it's unwise to alienate powerhouse high school programs from which a coach might recruit a star player in the future.  Extenuating circumstances must also be considered.

You can choose to believe me or not.  This didn't come from the coaching staff, but hopefully the reasoning makes sense.

Florida State has 84 scholarships for next season and the 'Noles plan to bring in a recruiting class of 28-30 players.  They return 59 scholarship players (or 62 if you are unwilling to acknowledge the three spots that came open in the last two months).  Assuming a class of 29, FSU must lose 4 more players (or 7 if you don't acknowledge the three aforementioned departures we learned about in the last month or so-- John Prior, Aaron Gresham and Maurice Harriss) to get under the limit.  Remember also that FSU doesn't have to get under the number until fall camp, so the Noles do have time to evaluate the kids under Fisher's new system and the new off-season lifting program.  How does FSU get to that number?

I start with the offensive side of the ball because the picture is much clearer.  While hamstrung by the Bowden nonsense, Fisher recruited these guys himself, and as such, most of these players are "his guys."  This side of the ball is quite young, yet it was the ACC's best offense of the decade.


Ideally, a team should carry 4 scholarship quarterbacks at a time.  3 is acceptable once in a while.  While some believe this is a bit much, quarterback is by far the most important position on the field, and because recruiting is an inexact science, it is important to volume recruit the position (relatively speaking).  Florida State is in good shape here:

Christian Ponder (Rs) EJ Manuel (Rs) Will Secord (Rs)
Clint Trickett (Enrolled Spring '10)


Running Back

For purposes of this analysis, running back will encompass both scat backs and bigger backs along with the traditional tailback position.  This does not include the H-back position, which is essentially a smaller tight-end-type player.  Fisher has a history rotating backs (his team at LSU once led the SEC in rushing with no player rushing for more than 500 yards!).  I also think backs are easy to evaluate within their 1st year, so there isn't much need to keep them around as long as some other positions in the hope that a back might eventually blossom.  With that said, I think 6 running backs is a good number to shoot for to factor in different needs, injuries, and attrition.  It's also a position where kids will sometimes seek a transfer to get increased playing time at a small school or a school with an opening.  A back who isn't likely to make a significant contribution and who has younger players passing him over for playing time is definitely a candidate to free up a scholarship.  Here's what FSU is currently working with:

Taveres Pressley (rs) Jermaine Thomas Lonnie Pryor
Ty Jones Chris Thompson
Debrale Smiley (rs Enrolles Spring '10)

There is definitely some room to trim the fat in this group.  The 'Noles already have starter Jermaine Thomas, and Florida State is bringing in Debrale Smiley, who will be a redshirt sophomore. Thompson and Pryor were key parts of the ACC's best offense of the decade. Those 4 are very likely to complete their eligibility as 'Noles. 

But that still leaves Tavares Pressley and Ty Jones, both of whom have been passed up by younger players.   Both have been with the program for two seasons and both are unlikely to make a significant contribution.  In order to make room for new talent, those two are unlikely to finish their time at Florida State.  Pressley had the knee injury, which set him back and allowed younger players to pass him up.  Jones has repeatedly failed to manage his diabetes.  Both players needed to develop at a more rapid pace than they did.  While a nutrition program could have helped Jones manage his condition, that is in the past and Jones will not likely be able to make up for the lost time.

There is also a distinct possibility that FSU will pull in Mack Brown, a top-rated running back out of Atlanta.  Brown is currently committed to the Gators.  If that happens, FSU would need to trim their roster by one, and one of the two above listed runners would absolutely be a candidate.  Our recruiting guys do not believe FSU will take a back other than Mack Brown since 2011 is a very good class for backs.

But with all that said, there might not be much need to free up room at this spot- yet.  A lot will depend on the recruiting class.

For the rest of the offense, click "continue reading..."

Wide Receiver

Ideally, FSU should carry about 11 wide receivers.  Wide receivers occasionally have academic troubles but not significantly more than most other positions to justify adjusting the ideal allotment to account for academic trouble.  Florida State currently has 13 receivers, including current commitments and projected commitments.

Jarmon Fortson Willie Haulstead Josh Gehres (rs)
Bert Reed (rs)
Rodney Smith Jared Haggins
Taiwan Easterling A. J. Alexander (rs) DeJoshua Johnson
Cameron Wade (rs)
Kenny Shaw
Greg Dent
Christian Green


Tight End/ H-Back

Ideally, Florida State should keep 4-5 tight ends on the roster.  It allows for some margin of error in evaluating prospects and can allow for a redshirt if necessary.  Here's the roster:

Matt Dunham (rs) Bo Reliford Tank Sessions (current commitment)
Jabarris Little Will Tye (projected commitment)


Offensive Line

Ah, the best-looking guys on the field. 

Ideally,  15 offensive linemen should be on the roster.  Offensive line depth is key but not for rotation purposes.  No, offensive line depth is crucial because there is a heavy attrition rate at this position from year to year and injuries frequently happen.  The number will obviously vary from season to season as the team will need to adjust for graduation.  Rick Trickett rebuilt the offensive line from what was accurately described as "the absolute worst offensive line of any school in a BCS conference (64 teams)."  Under the new strength program, his line should be the best in the country, and as an article later this week will detail, it was already the best in the conference in some time.  I also expect the new strength coach to get these guys to stop drinking so much beer.  Let's have a look at the line's makeup:

Rodney Hudson Andrew Datko Rhonne Sanderson (Rs) Henry Orelus (Rs)
Ryan McMahon Zebrie Sanders Antwane Greenlee (Rs & Med Rs)
Garrett Faircloth (Rs)
Brandon Davis David Spurlock Blake Snider (Rs)
Andrew "AJ" Ganguzza (Rs)
Bryan Stork (Rs)
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We already know that barring some serious miracle (and it would need to be a damn quick miracle given that the players begin off-season training Monday), Prior is gone.  I would expect that Cam Wade will be encouraged to seek another institution of higher learning.  At this point, however, it seems that an overwhelming majority of Fisher's recruits have a place on the team and are in line to contribute.  Tomorrow, I'll detail the defensive side where transfers should be heavy.

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