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Examining FSU’s 2017 recruiting class: The defense

What are the strengths of Tribe17’s defensive signees?

Florida State defensive tackle signee Marvin Wilson
Student Sports

National Signing Day has come and gone and the Seminoles wrapped with their eighth top-10 class in as many years with Jimbo Fisher at the helm of the program. Florida State’s 2017 class, highlighted by a quartet of five-star signees, finished No. 6 in 247Sports’ composite rankings. It’s often said that defense wins championships. If that indeed holds true, the class of defensive players signed on Wednesday by the ‘Noles puts them in good position to contend for years to come.

Let’s begin our breakdown with the position group where the strongest star power lies: the defensive line. Both of the Seminoles’ five-star signees on the defensive side of the ball fall on the line in defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Kaindoh, who is already on campus as an early enrollee, finished the 2017 recruiting cycle as the No. 9 overall player as well as the No. 3 defensive end and will compete for a spot in spring practice. Wilson, the No. 6 overall player and No. 1 defensive tackle, will not arrive until the summer. However, Fisher is fond of saying that there is no age limit on talent, as evidenced by the early playing time for true freshman Brian Burns this past season and Derwin James and Josh Sweat the season before. I believe that will also hold true here and that both of these stud signees will be fully acclimated into the heavy defensive line rotation utilized by Florida State by the midpoint of the 2017 season.

As impressive as those players are, highly-touted signees will never reach their full potential without solid depth behind them and this year’s class has that as well on the defensive front. Tre Lawson, a three-star defensive end from South Carolina, was praised at Wednesday’s War Party by defensive ends coach Brad Lawing for his work ethic as well as his high ceiling. In the interior, cousins Ja’len Parks and Cory Durden add capable big bodies who could very well emerge as solid defensive tackles over time.

Florida State’s defensive line class may be the first thing that jumps out about this batch of signees, but the secondary group has a strong ensemble cast whose members compliment each other very well. The two four-star early-enrollee defensive backs, Stanford Samuels III and Cyrus Fagan, work well together, with Samuels projecting as a lock-down corner with instant impact potential and Fagan serving as a ballhawking safety with exceptional range, speed, and ball skills.

The two committed defensive backs yet to enroll, Hamsah Nasirildeen and Ontaria Wilson, are quite complimentary as well. Nasirildeen, the No. 1 player from North Carolina in the 2017 class, is a four-star safety with size and athleticism which drew comparison to current Seminole Derwin James from Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. Wilson, a three-star cornerback from the same high school as wide receiver commit Tamorrion Terry, could be the diamond in the rough of Florida State’s 2017 class. He was an unrated, zero-star recruit on all the major websites until FSU offered him on in January, but the untapped potential evident in his game film is undeniable.

In addition to those four defensive backs, DeCalon Brooks, the son of Florida State legend Derrick Brooks, played linebacker in high school, but projects more as a defensive back at the collegiate level. He may be a bit undersized, currently measuring in at 5’11, 197 pounds, but FSU linebackers coach Bill Miller sangs the praises of Brook’s work ethic, mentality, and intensity before saying that his versatility allows him to be a potential contributor either at linebacker or in the star/money role in the secondary.

Florida State’s linebacker haul, although small, is an impressive one. Adonis Thomas, the No. 2 JUCO inside linebacker and No. 25 overall JUCO player in the 2017 class, is already enrolled at FSU and will be eligible to participate in the upcoming spring game. Thomas, who fits in nicely as a true middle linebacker, has the leadership ability that at times was lacking in the linebacker corps last season and comes to FSU after being enrolled at Alabama for two years, a testament to his talent level. Leonard Warner, one of FSU’s National Signing Day additions, is the rare type of versatile middle linebacker who can play every down. Like Thomas, he projects as an alpha on the field and will provide some much-needed depth to the Seminoles’ second line of defense.

There’s a lot to like about the defensive players in this year’s signing class. The class represents a healthy mix of standout players set up for three-year collegiate careers and role players destined for longer careers at FSU. It’s not very common that a team can fill needs and add solid depth across the board as effectively as the Seminoles did with this year’s class and the impact that could have going forward cannot be overstated.