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|
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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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:
|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?)
|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.
|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.
|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.
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.