Future Of The Programs: FSU v. Clemson

It's the off-season, so let's get into some pieces that we normally would not get to during the regular season.  I've long thought that many fans are team-smart and program-ignorant.  Last week I proposed that Miami's team is on the way up for 2010 and 2011 (because of excellent recruiting hauls in 2007 and 2008) while its program is on the way down because it is getting dominated in recruiting and is falling way behind in other areas.  It's entirely possible for a specific year team to be on the way up while a program is on the way down (say LSU when it won its most recent championship).  And the opposite can be true as well, it's possible for a program to have a specific team get worse in a year and still be on the rise as a program.  Because of this, it's important to pay attention not only to what your opponents will look like in the coming season, but also to keep track of what they are doing overall.

If FSU is to return to national prominence, it will first need to win the ACC.  And to do that the 'Noles need to beat Clemson in the Atlantic division.  So it is there that we start this analysis by asking the question:  "what will the Clemson program look like in 2011?"  Not 2010, mind you.  We'll cover the 2010 opponents in-depth later in the off-season.  This exercise is an attempt to compare FSU's total roster to Clemson's, and to see how much residual advantage the Tigers have over the 'Noles from out-recruiting FSU in 2007 and 2008 (and arguably 2009) combined with much better player development over that time:

07 & 08 Recruiting ***** **** *** ** Total Recruits Average
Clemson 1 19 19 7 46 3.30
Florida State 2 18 16 10 46 3.26

Not many teams out-recruited FSU in that stretch of time; most simply produced better players via better player development and real coaching on the defensive side of the ball.  But Clemson did out-recruit FSU and combined that recruiting with average coaching to produce better football players and better teams, beating FSU in 5 of the last 7 years (2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009).

But the tide could be changing.  And to see the change in talent level, we'll include the most recent class as well, whose members will be 2nd-year players in 2011.  It's important to note that FSU expects all 24 of its signees from the most recent class (rated 6th by ESPN) to qualify academically.  That's a stark contrast to what the 'Noles did for much of the decade, having seen an entire recruiting class of 4-star or better recruits fail to qualify.  Meanwhile, Clemson is expecting as many as 4 of its 23-man 19th-ranked recruiting class to have qualifying trouble.  If Clemson doesn't get those 4 kids in, the Tigers could be in trouble because they only took 12 players in 2009 (though it was an excellent class on average).  If the Tigers see 2 of the 23 not qualify (meaning two make it and two do not), that would mean Clemson has brought in only 33 players in two years.  A haul that small puts enormous pressure on Clemson to develop its players much better than everyone else and to avoid even the slightest attrition or injury.  Additionally, the big change in a team typically comes in a new staff's 2nd year (see Bama under Saban, UF under Meyer, UCS under Carroll).  Let's go position by position to see what I am talking about.  Remember that this does not include potential 2011 signees, as signing day is still nine months away.  Also note that some players who are expected to arrive in fall have been projected at one position on the advice of some Clemson friends I have.

Quarterback

E.J. Manuel Jr* 6-4/223 4 stars Kyle Parker 6-0 200 JR* 4 stars
Will Secord So* 6-1/214 3 stars Tajh Boyd 6-1 225 SO* 4 stars
Clint Trickett Fr* 6-2/174 3 stars




Clemson has potentially serious issues at quarterback should Kyle Parker choose to turn pro in baseball.  FSU has the Gator Bowl MVP waiting in the wings to replace Christian Ponder.

 

Backs

Jermaine Thomas Sr. 5-11/190 3 stars Jamie Harper 5-11 230 SR 4 stars
Ty Jones Sr. 5-10/211 2 stars Andre Ellington 6-0 180 JR* 4 stars
Chris Thompson Jr. 5-8/186 4 stars Roderick McDowell 5-9 180 SO* 4 stars
Debrale Smiley Jr* 5-11/237 3 stars Demont Buice 6'2" 205 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Lonnie Pryor Jr. 6-0/209 4 stars D.J. Howard 6'0" 195 FR*/ SO 3 stars

Clemson probably has the better 1-2 punch here in Harper/ Ellington, but the 'Noles have better quality depth and versatility.  This is one position where young players can make a big impact, so a stud 2011 recruit could change the equation for the Tigers.

Inside, I'll cover the remaining positions.

Wide Receivers

Taiwan Easterling Sr* 5-11/192 3 stars Brandon Clear 6-5 210 SR* 3 stars
Bert Reed Sr* 5-10/167 4 stars Marquan Jones 5-11 185 SR 4 stars
Jarmon Fortson Sr. 6-3/221 4 stars Jaron Brown 6-2 195 JR* 3 stars
Cameron Wade Sr* 6-5/215 3 stars Branden Ford 6-4 210 JR* 4 stars
AJ Alexander Jr*. 5-11/184 4 stars BrYce McNeal 6-1 170 SO* 4 stars
Rodney Smith Jr. 6-6/220 4 stars Martavis Bryant 6'4" 190 SO 4 stars
Willie Haulstead Jr. 6-3/215 4 stars DeAndre Hopkins 6'2" 194 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Josh Gehres So* 6-3/195 2 stars Joe Craig 6'0" 170 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Christian Green So. 6'2"  200 4 stars




Greg Dent FR*/ SO 6'0"  180 4 stars




Kenny Shaw FR*/ SO 6'0"  160 4 stars




De'Joshua Johnson FR*/ SO 5'11"  150 4 stars




Jarred Haggins FR*/ SO 6'0"  175 3 stars




Huge advantage to the 'Noles here.  FSU has three proven senior wideouts for 2011, and seven four-star players waiting in the wings.  Advantage 'Noles even if Easterling bolts for baseball and Fortson leaves early.  There will be some attrition for the 'Noles (potentially Wade?).  Clemson has zero proven receivers and our friends at Clemson are seriously worried about the development of the receivers.   

 

Tight End/ H-Back

Beau Reliford Sr. 6-6/256 2 stars Drew Traylor 6-5 245 SR* 2 stars
Ja'Baris Little Sr. 6-3/238 4 stars Dwayne Allen 6-3 255 JR* 4 stars
Will Tye FR*/ SO 6'3"  235 3 stars Sam Cooper 6'5" 230 FR*/ SO 2 stars
Tank Sessions FR*/ SO 6'5"  230 3 stars Chad Diehl 6-2 255 SR* 3 stars




Victor Beasley 6'5" 213 FR*/ SO 3 stars

Neither offense uses a fullback in the traditional sense, preferring to use an h-back.  Advantage Clemson here as Allen is the best tight end of the bunch and Diehl is a tremendous blocker at H-Back.  But it's not an enormous advantage as the 'Noles have good (not great) talent at the position. 

 

Offensive Line
Antwane Greenlee Sr* 6-6/307 4 stars Landon Walker OL 305 SR* 4 stars
Zebrie Sanders Sr. 6-6/288 4 stars David Smith OL 290 SR* 3 stars
Andrew Datko Sr. 6-6/303 3 stars Wilson Norris OL 310 SR* 3 stars
David Spurlock Sr. 6-4/286 3 stars Mason Cloy OL 310 SR* 3 stars
A.J. Ganguzza Sr* 6-2/265 2 stars Antoine McClain OL 320 SR 4 stars
Rhonne Sanderson Jr* 6-3/281 2 stars Dalton Freeman OL 280 JR* 4 stars
Blake Snider Jr. 6-3/283 2 stars Matt Sanders OL 315 JR* 3 stars
Garrett Faircloth So* 6-6/284 2 stars Brandon Thomas OL 295 SO* 4 stars
Bryan Stork So* 6-4/284 3 stars Kalon Davis OL 335 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Henry Orelus So* 6-2/294 3 stars David Beasley OL 287 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Dan Foose Fr* 6'6"  305 3 stars Gifford Timothy OL 288 FR*/ SO 3 stars




Reid Webster OL 270 FR*/ SO 3 stars

FSU returns three four-year starters and plugs in two fourth-year players.  Clemson returns four redshirt-senior starters and has a capable third year backup for the 4th spot.  Florida State's offensive line is much better coached and I'd argue (successfully) that FSU has done a much better job scouting line prospects over the last four years.  FSU has an entire two-deep of players with three or more years in the program, while Clemson has 8.  The Tigers also lose an incredible six seniors following the 2011 season, so if they don't get a nice haul of linemen this season, they could be in serious trouble (they do look to have a nice group coming in).  For its part, Florida State looks to be bringing in an all-star class of linemen, potentially featuring three four-stars and two three-stars. 

 

Defensive Tackle
Moses McCray Sr 6-2/302 4 stars Rennie Moore 6-4 265 SR* 3 stars
Anthony McCloud Jr* 6-2/303 3 stars Brandon Thompson 6-2 305 SR 4 stars
Jacobbi McDaniel Jr. 6-0/287 5 stars Tyler Shatley 6-3 280 SO* 3 stars
Damien Jacobs FR*/ SO 6'3"  294 3 stars Josh Watson 6'3" 285 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Cameron Erving FR*/ SO 6'5"  285 3 stars Tra Thomas 6'1" 271 FR*/ SO 3 stars

It is along the defensive line that FSU has fallen far short of Clemson in the latter half of the decade.  But could that trend be coming to a close?  For the first time in a good while, FSU will have at least as much (and potentially more) talent at defensive tackle come 2011.  And the 'Noles are bringing in two 4-star DTs this recruiting cycle as well, while Clemson will grab one player of that caliber if it is lucky. 

 

Defensive Line (DT/ DE)

Everett Dawkins Jr* 6-2/269 4 stars Tavaris Barnes 6'5" 250 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Demonte McAllister So* 6-2/258 4 stars




Darious Cummings So. 6'3"  270 4 stars




This group of players can play Strong-side End or 3-tech tackle.  FSU has a huge advantage here, but in classifying some of the 'Nole players in this group, it gave Clemson a bigger edge below with the pure defensive ends:

 

Defensive End
Jamar Jackson Sr. 6-4/248 4 stars Kourtnei Brown 6-4 255 SR* 4 stars
Brandon Jenkins Jr. 6-3/234 4 stars Andre Branch 6-5 265 SR* 2 stars
Toshmon Stevens Jr* 6-5/225 3 stars Da'Quan Bowers 6-4 280 SR* 5 stars
Dan Hicks So* 6-4/246 2 stars Malliciah Goodman 6-4 265 JR 4 stars
Bjoern Werner So. 6'4"  264 3 stars Darrell Smith 6-2 235 SO* 2 stars




Corey Crawford 6'5" 235 FR*/ SO 4 stars

The Tigers have the better group of pure defensive ends, and I seriously doubt Jackson will be around for the 2011 campaign considering he is 3rd-string at best. 

Clemson really needs to sign a ton (think 7 players) of defensive line studs in this class because it loses 5 of its 6 best defensive linemen to graduation and will have only 7 non-true freshmen defensive linemen for the 2012 season (can you say JUCO?)

 

Linebacker
Nigel Carr Sr. 6-2/231 4 stars Brandon Maye 6-2 230 SR* 3 stars
Nigel Bradham Sr. 6-2/241 5 stars Jonathan Willard 6-2 215 JR* 4 stars
Vince Williams Jr* 6-0/252 4 stars Corico Hawkins 6-0 230 JR* 3 stars
Jeff Luc So. 6-0/249 4 stars Quandon Christian 6-3 235 SO* 3 stars
Christian Jones So. 6'4"  220 5 stars Spencer Shuey 6-3 240 SO* 3 stars
Nigel Terrell FR*/ SO 6'2"  215 3 stars Justin Parker 6'3" 230 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Telvin Smith FR*/ SO 6'3"  196 4 stars Ricky Chaney 6'3" 200 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Holmes Onwukaife Fr* 6'3"  220 3 stars Jake Nicolopulos 6'2" 220 FR*/ SO 3 stars

This is a major advantage in talent to Florida State, though Clemson LB coach Kevin Steele is one of the best in the business and will make some of those three-stars play like four-star players.  There is some chance that Bradham turns pro after this season and doesn't play in 2011.  Even so, few teams have recruited the position better than FSU and the 'Noles already have better talent than Clemson at the position and should bring in two linebackers (Steward & Smith) that are as good or better than the Tiger's likely best LB recruit. 

 

Cornerback
Mike Harris Sr. 6'0"  185 4 stars Coty Sensabaugh 6-0 180 SR* 2 stars
Avis Commack Sr. 6-4/197 3 stars Xavier Brewer 5-11 180 JR* 3 stars
Dionte Allen Sr. 5-11/183 4 stars Spencer Adams 6-1 190 JR* 4 stars
Greg Reid Jr. 5-9/175 5 stars Desmond Brown 6'0" 192 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Xavier Rhodes So* 6-1/209 3 stars Garry Peters 6'0" 173 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Lamarcus Joyner So. 5'8"  166 5 stars Darius Robinson 6'0" 170 FR*/ SO 4 stars
Terrence Brooks FR*/ SO 5'10"  165 3 stars Martin Jenkins 5'9" 170 FR*/ SO 3 stars

This is an interesting position.  Both schools have excellent defensive back coaches in FSU's Mark Stoops and Clemson's Charlie Harbison.  I'm sure both will have very good defensive back play in 2011, though Clemson will likely have a drop-off after losing two starting senior corners.  FSU will likely experience some attrition at the corner position considering the large class of DBs FSU is bringing in.  Both schools seem to love a 3-star named Xavier, in FSU's Rhodes and Clemson's Brewer.

 

Safety
Terrance Parks Sr. 6-1/196 3 stars Daniel Andrews 5-11 195 SR 2 stars
Ed Imeokparia Jr* 5-10/194 3 stars Rashard Hall 6-2 190 JR* 3 stars
Jajuan Harley Jr. 6-2/210 4 stars Carlton Lewis 6-3 200 JR* 3 stars
Nick Moody Jr* 6-2/226 4 stars Jonathan Meeks 6-2 190 JR 4 stars
Gerald Demps So* 5-10/190 3 stars Bashaud Breeland 6'1" 190 FR*/ SO 3 stars
Justin Bright So* 6-0/180 3 stars
Chad Abram FR*/ SO 6'0"  183 3 stars

Florida State has a big advantage here in terms of recruited talent and numbers.  The 'Noles also have FOUR ESPNU 150-Watch List Safeties committed for this class, though they will be freshmen in 2011.    The question here, however, is who transfers to make room and who was ruined by the previous staff.  Rashard Hall is likely the best player of this group.

 

Conclusion

It's undeniable that the Tigers had the talent edge over the 'Noles during the latter half of the "lost decade", but if FSU again out-recruits Clemson this time, that edge could swing sharply back to Florida State.  That'll be particularly true if the 'Noles get the major advantage in player development many expect with Fisher bringing a Saban-styled program and increasing the support staff five-fold.  Clemson's support staff is considered average at best, and they don't look to be improving as FSU did in the last five months.  I'm not saying that Clemson is going to become a pushover.  The Clemson program has tons of tradition and support, but if it has a lesser coaching staff, lesser talent, and worse player development/ support than FSU, it won't be on the same level with the 'Noles come 2011 and thereafter.  The advantage Clemson developed by beating up on Bobby Bowden will still be with the Tigers this year.  But after that, Clemson will need to find a way to beat an FSU program operating at full efficiency as opposed to one screwing around.  That won't happen by taking fewer than 33 players in back-to-back combined recruiting years.  It's something to keep an eye on.  Your move, Tigers.

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