Jimbo Fisher summer football camps are unrelenting flurries of activity. Hundreds of campers and parents, ‘Nole players, FSU and high school coaches, along with numerous writers. It’s a chance for we in the media to avail readers of slews of talented young players; and it’s requisite for the lifeblood of a program to act on their own evaluations.
Those who impress the most have a shot at leaving with a Florida State scholarship offer. But of course, that all depends upon need: how talented and deep the ‘Noles are at respective positions, and how long they expect that talent to remain on campus, are mitigating factors that help coaches decide who gets offered and who doesn’t. And the final day of 2016 Jimbo Fisher saw an interesting trend along those lines, as a pair of signal callers earned offers just hours apart.
The first offer made public was the one extended to Belle Glade’s James Blackman, who earned his offer after an impressive showing at camp during his first Florida State visit. Shortly thereafter, the ‘Noles offered a fellow 2017 QB, California’s Jack Sears, who’s yet to visit FSU.
What makes the offers more interesting is that the Seminoles already have a quarterback committed for the class of 2017, lefty four-star Bailey Hockman of Georgia. Yet history tells us that Fisher prefers carrying four scholarship QBs: in every year but one that he’s helmed the ship in Tallahassee, that’s how many he’s had on his roster (he had five in 2012).
Of course, senior Sean Maguire will be gone after this season, and with Hockman stepping in, that would restore the number to four in 2017. That is, unless someone else departs as well. Is this what’s anticipated? In modern college football, it should be. After all, the recent past suggests that preparing for attrition is the prudent move— especially at the QB position. Fisher took over the top spot at FSU in 2010, and since then, at least one quarterback has left the program early every year since 2012, when Will Secord decided to move on from football with two years of eligibility remaining. A year later, Clint Trickett transferred. Jacob Coker departed in 2014. And 2015 saw the exodus of both John Franklin III and De’Andre Johnson, after Jameis Winston declared early for the NFL Draft.
Maguire and redshirt-freshman Deondre Francois will battle for the No. 1 and 2 spots, and true frosh Malik Henry looked like he’d already passed redshirt-sophomore J.J. Cosentino at this year’s Spring Game for the No. 3 spot. So the question becomes: how much does Cosentino enjoy Florida State outside the lines of Bobby Bowden Field, where it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll spend much time?
And while Henry is extremely talented, how long he’s content to use that talent holding a clipboard is a worthwhile query as well. If Francois wins the job in ‘16 and has the year of which many feel he’s capable in 2016 (perhaps a College Football Playoff appearance), wouldn’t he have to be considered the prohibitive favorite to start in 2017? Will Henry be alright with the prospect of taking a backseat—again? According to CBS Sports, more than a third of top quarterback recruits nationally end up transferring, a trend that is only growing.
Though unlikely, FSU also has to guard against a scenario in which both Cosentino and Henry bolt in the same year, leaving just Francois and one true freshman. While FSU prefers to have four on scholarship, having only two would be bad.
There’s no indication that Hockman is wavering from the Noles, or the team wavering on him, but rather that FSU wants to make sure it has numbers.
Prior to Thursday, the ‘Noles had just three 2017 QB offers: one to Hockman, and two to quarterbacks already committed elsewhere (Tate Martell to Ohio State and Sam Ehlinger to Texas). Ehlinger is likely to still be in play if Texas freshman QB Shane Buechele has a good year and looks like a four-year starter, but FSU just gave itself more options.
No clear 2018 star
It’s also worth noting that the Seminoles may be looking to double-down at QB in 2017 due to a lack of great options in 2018, a year for which Florida State has extended just three offers thus far— two of whom have already committed to other programs (Joey Gatewood to Auburn and Jarren Williams to Kentucky). The uncommitted 2018 FSU QB target? Trevor Lawrence of Georgia, presently the nation’s top player for that year, with whom FSU has not gained any traction.
While it’s early, FSU does not look like a shoe-in for any of the nationally known super elite QBs of the 2018 class.
FSU also bolstered its 2019 offers this week, extending offers to quarterbacks Grant Gunnell and Bo Nix, along with hosting Michael Johnson, Jr., the third member of the ‘19 QB tryiad with ‘Nole offers. There have even been two offers afforded 2020 prospects yet to begin high school, Drew Pyne and Florida State legacy Max Johnson.
Not a single one of FSU’s 2017 commitments will contribute to 2016’s success and failures. Yet the way they’re handled could speak volumes about what the future holds for the ‘Noles behind center.