The recipe for national titles begins with bringing in more four- and five-star prospects than not. Ohio State recruits a higher percentage of elite recruits than any school except for Alabama, and continued the trend Monday. Florida State has done this under Jimbo Fisher (seventh best nationally).
It continues this year, as 14 of Florida State's 21 commitments are rated four-stars or better. FSU is cleaning up in-state, with 10 blue chip commits, by far the most in-state (Miami has three, Florida none and Clemson four). This is shaping up to be another top-five class, and could finish as high as No. 2 (behind Alabama) if things break right. The Noles have a very strong group of current commits trying to get other elite preps to join them in Tallahassee, often using the #Tribe15 hashtag on social media.
Seven prospects enrolled early for the Seminoles, and several could make an immediate impact. With 5 players off to the NFL early, 2 transferring and 13 graduating, FSU currently sits at 68 total scholarships, which means it can take another 17 prospects without any additional attrition. Additional attrition would not be a surprise, however, as players leave to find playing time elsewhere, take medical DQs, etc.
Let's look at what FSU needs at each position, what it already has, and who it might target to fill those remaining needs. As you'll see, FSU is in a bit of a numbers bind and will have to turn away talented prospects at some positions.
Florida State signed J.J. Cosentino in 2014, a strong-arm pro-style passer. FSU needed to take two in this class. This is a rather poor year for quarterbacks East of the Mississippi, and FSU struck out on its top QB targets out West.
The Seminoles elected to combat the issue via quantity. FSU currently has three quarterback recruits: De'Andre Johnson (enrolled early), Deondre Francois, and Kai Locksley. I addressed the situation in Will Florida State really sign three quarterbacks?. Very little has changed since then. Florida, having lost dual-threat QB Sheriron Jones to Tennessee, is coming after Deondre Francois and Francois will visit Gainesville on January 23 after visiting Florida State this weekend. Francois has the best physical tools of FSU's QB commitments, and this will be something to watch, as the Gators need a QB. FSU would really like to keep Francois in the fold.
Texas and Maryland are still interested in Locksley, who does have the ability to play receiver as well (some, including myself, think he is a better fit at receiver).
The other detail here is that FSU secured a commitment from 2016 QB Malik Henry, one of the best in the country. Will that knowledge weigh on the minds of any of the 2015 players? We'll have to wait and see.
Florida State signed seven skill players in 2014, including two excellent running backs, a terrific trio of receivers, and two very promising tight ends. Including the three early enrollees, Florida State is at 18 skill players for 2015. Four more are currently committed, and if all stick, FSU would be at 22, with some transfer possibilities on the roster.
RB: 4-star Jacques Patrick (Orlando Timber Creek) enrolled early and could soon become FSU's power back. FSU's other commit at the position is Johnny Frazier (North Carolina). Frazier is anything but solid, and N.C. State, Alabama, Duke and others remain in contention. FSU sources tell me that they really want to get Frazier down to Tallahassee on another visit, but that might not happen.
There's a reason FSU is keeping contact with Miami four-star commit, Jordan Scarlett, of St. Thomas Aquinas. If Frasier leaves, expect the Seminoles to crank up the heat even more to try and flip Scarlett. However, that doesn't mean FSU can automatically flip Scarlett if Frasier bolts. I recently interviewed Scarlett after the state title game, and he does value academics and distance -- factors that favor Miami. Florida is also very much in the mix for scarlett.
I don't know where FSU would go if it loses Frasier and cannot flip Scarlett. It's possible they could pocket the scholarship and roll with Mario Pender, Ryan Green, Dalvin Cook, Jacques Patrick, Freddie Stevenson (TB/FB) and Jon Vickers (TB/FB) for 2015.
WR: The Seminoles early enrolled two excellent receiver prospects in 5-star George Campbell (Tarpon Springs East Lake) and 4-star Da'Vante Phillips (Miami Central). It also holds commitments from two more strong receiver recruits in Nyqwan Murray(Orlando Oak Ridge) and Auden Tate (Tampa Wharton). Tate compares to a Willie Haulstead big-body type, and Murray compares to Bobo Wilson or Kenny Shaw with his ability to work in the slot.
Tate continues to hear from Florida and Michigan, but FSU sources believe his commitment is solid. He'll officially visit on January 30, a week after Murray does. FSU did a very good job here and is not currently pursuing any more receivers in this class and has its eye on the excellent 2016 crop of wideouts in the state and Southeast.
TE: Florida State loses Nick O'Leary and Kevin Haplea, but returns three other scholarship tight ends. FSU would like to carry five on scholarship, if possible. The Noles have a commitment from Jalen Wilkerson (Coffee County, Georgia). Wilkerson is athletic, but is unlikely to be an instant-impact player as his receiving needs considerable work. Tight end is a tough position to learn as a freshman, due to blocking and route running requirements.
FSU won't take a second tight end in this class, as the Seminoles recenrtly landed Isaac Nauta, who is moving to Florida and will be attending the IMG Academy in Bradenton. Nauta is currently the best tight end prospect in the class of '16 and is a freak. He is better right now as a junior than Wilkerson was as a senior and is the type of player who, if he could somehow skip his senior year of high school, would likely see the field for FSU in 2015.
Florida State cleaned up along the offensive line on National Signing Day 2014, bringing in seven fantastic offensive linemen. FSU currently has 11 scholarship linemen, now that 2014 signee Ethan Frith is enrolled. (Frith delayed his enrollment due to shoulder surgery). Ideally, a team wants to carry 15-17 offensive linemen, but because FSU has no seniors (according to our read of the redshirt rules), spacing things out a bit and only taking 3-4 this cycle makes some sense.
FSU has three commits listed right now: Abdul Bello (Montverde Academy), Cole Minshew (Georgia Coffee County), and David Robbins (Glenelg, MD). Bello is extremely athletic but raw; Minshew is an absolute steal that Georgia has to be kicking itself for not offering earlier; and Robbins is a promising prospect at center or guard. Robbins officially visits on the 16th, Bello on the 23rd and Minshew on the 30th.
Florida State recently lost out on Jalen Merrick (New Smyrna Beach) who chose Arkansas over the Seminoles and Gators. I'm not aware of any other offensive linemen being recruited by FSU. 12 in the span of two years is a fantastic haul.
FSU signed a monster class of defensive linemen, seven in all on National Signing Day 2014. Florida State will return 16 defensive linemen in 2015. Assuming attrition of four, it needs to bring in at least four in the 2015 class. This is a good year in-state for ends and a terrible one for defensive tackles.
Florida State has two commitments on the defensive line: end Josh Sweat, and tackle Darvin Taylor (Virginia). Sweat is enrolled early, and Taylor is very solid to the Seminoles (visiting January 16). If healthy, Sweat is the best pass rusher in the 2015 class, but he suffered a serious knee injury during his senior season and will need a lot of treatment once on campus at Florida State. This could obviously affect his ability to make an instant impact in Tallahassee.
Florida State is still after two five-star prospects: end Byron Cowart (Seffner Armwood) and tackle Terry Beckner, Jr. (Missouri). Cowart will use his last official (Jan. 30) visit to see Tallahassee, and he is strongly considering Florida and Auburn. He's saying all the right things about Florida State, but Armwood prospects simply have not signed with Florida State in the past, and it's hard to believe he'd come to FSU. Most believe Cowart will sign with the Gators, and we will know more about Auburn's chances after Cowart visits the plains this weekend.
Beckner is a Missouri-Ohio State-Florida State-Auburn battle and is difficult to read as he does not talk very much. His coach, however, believes that the hometown Missouri Tigers hold a strong lead.
FSU is also interested in Shelton Johnson, a developmental pass rusher out of Delray Beach Atlantic. They seem to have a good shot at him, as well. Johnson visited Tallahassee with his mother earlier this fall, and I expect the Seminoles to land the long pass rusher if they want him. He'll officially visit on Jan. 30.
One thing I do not expect is for FSU to take two non-elite defensive ends in addition to the stud they already have in Sweat. That's because 2016 defensive end recruiting is going extremely well with Janarius Robinson and Josh Brown already committed.
FSU signed a great linebacker class on National Signing Day 2014 and will return eight linebackers in 2015. Assuming no attrition, it will need to bring in at least two linebackers, and it's done so in Brian Bell, of Valdosta (Ga.) and Sh'Mar Kilby-Lane, of Hallandale (Fla.). This is a solid pair of linebackers and given the lack of linebacker talent in the state, this is not the year to reach for an extra player, though FSU could use the numbers with the transfer of E.J. Levenberry. LSU is trying to flip SKL, however, so that is something to watch.
2015 was not a good year for in-state linebackers. Look for 2016 to be a big linebacker year.
Update: Josh Newberg of Noles247 ($) reported that FSU is now pursuing Lorenzo Phillips, a JUCO linebacker from East Mississippi Junior College with offers from Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Phillips could be a valuable addition with Reggie Northrup's ACL injury and E.J. Levenberry transferring out.
FSU needs to hit a home run in the defensive backfield in this class, and the ball appears to be sailing over the fence.
Florida State signed a pair of talented defensive backs in 2014. 5-star safety Derwin James and 4-star defensive back Calvin Brewton have already enrolled early. James is one of the best safety recruits in the last two decades and could make an immediate impact. Brewton has versatility but needs to add strength.
FSU has two other defensive backs committed: 5-star CB Tarvarus McFadden (American Heritage) and 3-star DB A.J. Westbrook (Daytona Mainland). McFadden is a top-five cornerback nationally, and Westbrook is versatile as well. Both are very solid to FSU.
FSU is still pursuing corners Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama commit from New Jersey) and Iman Marshall (of California). Both could be difficult pulls, but FSU is shooting for the stars here, as it was recently eliminated by Texas corner Kris Boyd and doesn't seem to be strongly in the running for Texas corner Holton Hill.
FSU really needs to add another cornerback to the class, but I'm not currently aware of any other names as backup plans if the Seminoles strike out on Fitzpatrick and Marshall.