Florida State football recruiting turned in a spectacular effort on National Signing Day. Thanks to Jimbo Fisher and an amazing recruiting staff of coaches, FSU's 2012 recruiting class is one of the best in the entire country, despite only taking 19 players. How did the Seminoles rank so highly despite a lack of scholarships? By not sacrificing on quality even a little bit. the 'Noles targeted the best of the best and won the battles that come with the territory. This class is loaded to the gills with studs, and in all the right places.
Recruiting is all about needs. And we break down the needs by position. So that's how we'll break this down. Please do click on the commitment stories. They offer much more detail than the small blurbs I've set out in this piece.
Mario Edwards, Jr.
Florida State has a dominant defensive line. But with seven seniors, the 'Noles staff knew that if it was going to keep a good thing going in 2013 and 2014, it would need to bring in a great haul of defensive linemen. Mission accomplished.
Florida State secured commitments from four elite defensive linemen. Mario Edwards Jr. is the #1 defensive end in the country, out of Texas, and the son of former Seminole great Mario Edwards. He has incredible athleticism, and today coach Fisher compared him to Reggie White.
Not only were the 'Noles number one at defensive end, but defensive tackle we well, where Florida State signed the top tackle in America, five-star Eddie Goldman. Goldman is extremely strong, and when he plays hard, he is un-blockable. Florida State defensive tackle coach Odell Haggins will sleep well tonight knowing Goldman is in the fold.
It takes an amazing class of defensive linemen to overshadow a four/five-star commitment like Chris Casher, but it seems he is one of the forgotten players in this class. That would be a mistake. Casher is raw, but at 6'5" and 250 pounds with an incredible wingspan, he has All-America written all over him. Most consider Casher to be one of the best five defensive ends in the country.
Oh, and for good measure, FSU went back into Alabama and took nose guard Justin Shanks, another athletic (for his considerble size of 315 pounds) defensive tackle. Shanks is one of the 12 best defensive tackles in the country.
Four gigantic, elite athletes. Amazing.
Ukeme "Markuss" Eligwe
The 'Noles return just six linebackers, four of which are upperclassmen. The need at linebacker was real, and the challenge tougher as 2012 was not a good year for linebackers in the state of Florida. Again, the 'Noles answered he call, signing two top prospects.
Four-star Ukeme "Markuss" Eligwe of Georgia is an athletic freak who is still quite raw.
Four-star Reggie Northrup of Jacksonville is a big hitter who plays the game with great intensity. FSU stole him from Miami at the last moment.
Florida State did not reach. Instead, they faced and conquered the challenge of having a need in a year of little in-state talent.
The 'Noles needed two defensive backs in this class. They signed three.
Florida State's staff loves four-star P.J. Williams, of Ocala. Some think he can only play safety, but FSU disagrees. He'll start out at corner in Tallahassee. Williams has great length and instincts. In Florida State's zone-heavy scheme, he has a true shot to play cornerback.
The same goes for three-star Colin Blake, of San Antonio, another long defensive back for the Seminoles. Blake was committed to Texas A&M, but a coaching change opened the door for the 'Noles, who beat out Oklahoma and TCU.
And the capper, of course, was five-star Ronald Darby, of Maryland. Darby is the second fastest recruit in the country, with decent size as well. Darby is Again, the 'Noles filled their needs and did so with elite talent.
Jimbo Fisher has stated that he wants to take a quarterback in every signing class. This year, he took two.
First, FSU fell in love with New Jersey's Sean Maguire, a three-star with a live arm, decent mobility, and a low profile, thanks to playing in a run-oriented attack.
Then came the gem of the class -- five-star Jameis Winston, the top dual-threat quarterback in the country. Out of Hueytown (Al.), Winston was a tough fight for the Seminoles. He has not signed his paperwork yet, but plans to do so later in the week or over the weekend, after getting the chance to sit down with his family. He reiterated again today that he is "all-Nole." Winston is an incredible athlete with a big arm and a flare for making plays. FSU will have to win out against the baseball draft for him, come summer.
Delmarick "Mario" Pender
Here, too, Florida State signed one of the best running backs in the country in Mario Pender, of Cape Coral (Fla.). Pender enrolled in January and has amazing athleticism and speed with solid size at 6'0" and 200 pounds. His highlight film (linked in the commitment story) is some of the best you will ever see. And yes, the competition in the film is suspect. Still, his speed is exceptional.
Receiver & Tight End
The 'Noles didn't have much of a need for many receivers in this class, but when the opportunity came along to take perhaps the fastest recruit in American history, the 'Noles pounced, signing four-star Marvin Bracy of Orlando. Bracy will also run track for the 'Noles, and probably for America in the Olympics, too.
With world-class (literally) speed, expect Bracy to return kicks.
Florida State also signed an excellent tight in in Orange (Calif.) High's Christo Kourtzidis. The three-star is a balanced tight end with a lot of potential. Kourtizidis committed early and has an excellent shot to play as a true freshman.
After signing nine offensive linemen last season, and being slated to return 10 non-freshmen and two red-shirt freshmen, the 'Noles did not have a big need for offensive linemen in this cycle. So they set out to do two things: 1) find players who could make an instant impact in this year, and 2) not reach.
They did both, signing two of the top five junior college offensive linemen in the country in four-star Daniel Glauser of New Mexico, and four-star Menelik Watson, California. At 6'5" and 310 pounds and 6'7" and 320 pounds, both possess the physical maturity to immediately make the two deep. Glauser enrolled in January and will take part in spring practice. More on offensive line recruiting this Friday.
The Seminoles found two excellent specialists in kicker Roberto Aguayo, of Florida, and punter Cason Beatty, of North Carolina. Both rate among the top-five at their positions nationally. Aguayo will delay his enrollment until spring 2013, as Florida State already has superstar kicker Dustin Hopkins on the roster.
What you don't see are a lot of "ifs." This class isn't something which requires a lot of effort to envision success. Florida State faced stiff competition from major BCS programs for almost every kid in this class, and came out on top. On a per-position player basis (no kickers and punters, as they do not receive four or five-star ratings), Florida State's 2012 recruiting class is without peer.
And I think a hand is due for the amazing work by DA-2, MichaelM, NoleThruAndThru, Nattylite, Fsugrizz, Timscribble, Caine115, and our signing day helper, Salukinole. They made this place a great one-stop-shop for all your recruiting needs. And not just on signing day, but every day.
We'll break down this class a little more in the coming week, but it is important that you stick around, because we'll be jumping right in to the next class. We want you here for the whole year, not just the first Wednesday in February. This stuff is addictive, but free. And thanks to your continued patronage, it will remain so.