Florida State signed an excellent group of tight ends on National Signing Day.
Florida State returns four tight ends for 2014 in Nick O'Leary, Kevin Haplea, Giorgio Newberry and Jeremy Kerr. However, O'Leary and Haplea are seniors, and won't be around in 2015. This is why schools must look ahead one year in recruiting. As a pro-style offense, Florida State really needed to grab two tight ends in this class, so that it would have at least three in 2015 who were not true freshmen. Tight ends often take a while to develop, because they need to add size, and gain understanding of both the blocking scheme and the passing game. Having veteran tight ends can be a big help to an offense, even if they aren't elite, NFL types.
Florida State did just that, adding two tight ends who are expected to sign on National Signing Day with no drama. Florida State didn't land its top tight end target (that was Mike Gesicki, of New Jersey, who chose Penn State), but the two it got have a lot of potential.
Saunders is a former basketball player from the Bamahas who ended up at the KInkaid School in Houston (Texas). He committed to FSU on June 15 over offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan State, Ole Miss and Arkansas. Florida State tight ends coach, a former coach for Texas who recruited the Houston area, was his lead recruiter.
Saunders is a consensus four-star recruit, and is widely considered one of the best ten tight end recruits nationally. That ranking says more about his ceiling than it does his ability to make an instant impact, because is very very raw, having not played a lot of football in his career. The 6'6, 220-pound Saunders has the frame to eventually play at 250 pounds, and he has a ton of athleticism, vertical leaping skills, and agility -- basically the skills you would expect from a player with a basketball background. Saunders needs to add good weight, work on his blocking a lot, and become a better route runner. He was used almost exclusively as a big receiver in high school, so he has a good amount of work to do to get on the field.
I do not expect him to play much as a freshman with three veterans ahead of him, but that is probably for the best, and if all goes well, he could be a major mismatch problem for opposing defenses in 2016 or 2017.
Out of Sparta (N.J.), Izzo does not quite have the ceiling that Saunders has, but he probably has a higher floor, having played considerably more football, specifically at tight end. Scout and Rivals have him as the 27th and 25th tight end recruit, respectively, which drags down his composite ranking to the 18th best tight end in the country. Personally, I don't see where they are getting that. I think Izzo is a top-15 tight end prospect, which is about where ESPN has him and slightly worse than what 247sports has him ranked. I would take him over Florida tight end commitment Moral Stephens, a player rated higher than him by many, every day and twice on Sunday.
Izzo is 6'6 and 220 pounds, and an eventually play at about 250 pounds. He committed to Florida State on September 23, over offers from Wisconsin, Boston College, Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and seemingly all of the Big Ten not named Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan.
There's a lot to like about Izzo. For one, he does have experience with his hand in the dirt as a traditional tight end, which sounds simple but might not be for a tight end who has been used exclusively as a receiver. He seems to have good hands, and I really like his body control to adjust to poorly thrown passes. I wish his highlight tape showed more option and underneath routes, and less deep routes down the field, but the competition he plays is not all that good and I would run him deep a lot too if I were his coach.
Like I said with Saunders, FSU has three veterans coming back at the position, so I would not expect to see any freshmen tight ends contributing a whole lot. The developmental year should help Izzo add more good weight and work on his route running.
FSU did very well here, grabbing two very good tight ends recruits who will have time to develop in the system. Addressing numerical needs with talent, and then developing that talent on an appropriate schedule (not having to push them into duty too early) sets up a team to win championships.