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National Signing Day misses kept Florida State from all-time great recruiting class

Why did Florida State fail to close on so many prospects on National Signing Day?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State signed 20 players in its 2015 recruiting class. 14 of those are rated four- or five-stars, one of the highest ratios in the country. According to the 247Sports Composite rankings (a compilation of the four major services), FSU finished No. 3, behind only Alabama, which finished No. 1 for the fifth-consecutive year, and USC, as the Trojans dominated California after finally having a full allotment of scholarships.

Florida State also had a great number of elite players enroll for the spring semester, a huge leg up for their college careers. And far too often, fans place too much emphasis on which players join the class on National Signing Day, as opposed to judging all of the signees who joined up throughout the year. The proper perspective is one of balance.

And the Seminoles signed double the number of blue chips that UF and Miami inked ... combined.

But it is absolutely fair to say that Florida State failed to close on National Signing Day. And that if it had closed better down the stretch, the rankings wouldn't be 1a. Alabama, 1b. USC, 3. FSU, but rather 1a. Tuscaloosa, 1b. Los Angeles, 1c. Tallahassee.

FSU was in on a number of prospects who were considered long shots, like California five-star cornerback Iman Marshall, who chose USC; five-star defensive tackle Terry Beckner, Jr., who chose the hometown Missouri Tigers; and five-star DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, who stuck with his commitment to Alabama. Florida State also pursued five-star defensive end Byron Cowart, of Armwood High School, who followed Will Muschamp to Auburn over his other finalist, the Gators. FSU couldn't even get Cowart to take his official to visit to FSU on the final weekend.

It is fair to note that Florida State was in part left chasing long shots like the above-mentioned players because it wrapped up most of the elite talent for which it had a great shot earlier in the cycle. To its credit, Florida State did add four-star cornerback Marcus Lewis, out of DC, beating out Kentucky, Miami and Texas. But shockingly, FSU missed out on defensive end Shelton Johnson, of Delray Beach, as Michigan beat out both the Seminoles and Hurricanes for his signature, who was not considered a long shot at all.

The question of whether Florida State's coaches were overconfident in their abilities to land the longer-shots is absolutely worth asking, however, because that confidence dictated a course of action that saw Florida State not pursue some lesser-targets to fill needs. My sources indicate that FSU's coaches were surprised with some of the above signings, and that Jimbo Fisher was quite displeased with the close.

As someone covering this, I thought the odds were that FSU would be able to pull off one of the big ones (most likely Beckner or flipping Fitzpatrick, as I never bought into Marshall leaving California for Tallahassee when his parents didn't even come on his visit). And my FSU sources felt very good about Shelton Johnson leading into the week.

And that means one of two things happened: either Florida State's coaches misinterpreted the feedback from recruits, or the feedback from the recruits indicating that FSU had a real shot to sign the prospects was true, and that FSU simply missed out on finishing No. 1 for their signature.

Since there is no prize for second place in recruiting, either scenario is a failure. The reality is probably a mixture of both. And that caused FSU to not move on to lesser-rated "Plan B" recruits.

Because of that, FSU fans are left wondering if a class that is undeniably great could have been something even better. I'm sure it's something FSU will have to look at as it plans for what should be another great haul in 2016.