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Tomahawk Nation football roundtable: Recapping the 2020 recruiting class

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Round and round we go

NCAA Football: Alabama State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a week since the 2020 National Signing period came to an end. Unfortunately, Florida State earned their lowest composite team ranking in the modern recruiting era, when they ended with the 22nd ranked class. But it’s not all bad, as there are bright spots in this class - hidden gems, future stars. We’ll discuss the positives and the shortcomings of the class with writers from Tomahawk Nation.

Which signee for the 2020 class will have the biggest impact on the 2020 Football season? And why?

NoleThruandThru: I have it narrowed down to three possible guys, but I’m rolling with running back La’Damian Webb to have the biggest impact in 2020 over Demorie Tate and Alex Mastromanno. With uncertainty surrounding both returning running backs, Webb should be ready to step in and start taking serious reps once he gets on campus in the summer. His JUCO experience should allow the former 2016 Mr. Football in Alabama to earn serious reps in the running back rotation.

Oline0175: Chubba Purdy, yep, I went there. The quarterback out of Arizona is going to be the starter at some point and I expect him to play well. Purdy is an athletic quarterback who can handle early playing time behind a bad offensive line. The future is now for Chubba and Coach Mike Norvell.

TimScribble: I am going to go with Ja’Khi Douglas or Corey Wren, with the full understanding that neither may have any impact at all. Coach Mike Norvell’s usage of running back is pretty well documented. I believe these two players are capable of a big play at any given moment and as a result, Norvell will try to get the ball in their hands. Can you picture a Jordan Travis option with Corey Wren as the pitch option? Better yet, Ja’Khi Douglas running the play with Wren as his option!

Perry Kostidakis: Listen, I’m not sure if he’ll end up being the player with the biggest impact as far as stats go, but I’m a big fan of DJ Lundy, and that’s mainly because he’s a multi-position, dual-sport kid. And not just any dual-sport kid: a wrassler (a two-time state champion at that), meaning he’s a different breed. I’m excited to see what’s possible for him.

Austin DeWitt: For me, it’s Demorie Tate. He’s being touted as one of the best corners in the 2020 class for a reason. He’s said to be still somewhat raw as far as his mechanics are concerned, but I love his length and ,if he were an early enrollee, i’d favor him to be one of FSU’s starting outside corners against West Virginia. Even still, I think he earns a starting role sooner rather than later and contributes plenty to the 2020 defense.

Jon Marchant: I have to go QB here, so it’s Chubba Purdy for me too. The positional value is just too great. I like Blackman but I expect an open competition for the QB spot as they all try to learn Norvell’s offense and Purdy has a real...purdy chance to win the job. Sorry, sorry, trying to delete. Anyway, if Purdy can provide above-average QB play, that can go a long way. If nothing else Purdy will push Blackman to be better.

Juan Montalvo: DJ Lundy. There isn’t much high level talent at any EMOL or ILB spot, so the high motor and strong hand use of a wrestler can make all the difference in getting on the field early. I’m a former high school wrestler, and a firm believer that South Georgia kids are a different breed - pair the wrestling with the South Georgia and you have a Telvin Smith or Greg Reid type intensity guaranteed to bring some pain.

Which position do you believe was addressed the best?

NoleThruandThru: The new staff did an excellent job bringing in offensive skill positions but it has to be quarterback. The prior staff’s recruiting failures surrounding quarterbacks are well-known, creating a huge need for the position the new staff could sell. But I don’t care who you are, flipping two highly-regarded quarterbacks from other programs is no easy task, and this staff did it with hard work and focused organization. Both incoming quarterbacks have high upside and `Nole fans should be excited to follow their development.

Oline0175: Offensive tackle is my choice here. These were not the highest rated players but numbers were necessary in this class. The continued rebuild of the offensive line, specifically the tackle spot, is not an easy one but bodies are bodies and Norvell was able to get length and upside. This team needs options at tackle and they were able to address that need. Running back would be my backup choice because Corey Wren is an explosive player along with Corbin, Webb, and Toafili.

TimScribble: I’m going to land on quarterback, with running back a close second. Coach Norvell was very decisive in how he handled quarterback recruiting. He met with Jeff Sims and was honest about his direction. He then quickly moved on Tate Rodemaker and landed the big fish in Chubba Purdy. With Luke Altmyer committed for 2021 and Chad Mascoe for 2022, the quarterback position suddenly appears to have a clear pipeline.

Perry Kostidakis: It’s hard not to go quarterback here, though you’ve got to be happy that FSU addressed the linebacker need a bit. Not bringing in a single quarterback since James Blackman was going to put FSU in an even bigger hole than its already in, so big props to Dirty Mike for bringing in two quarterbacks before the “real” National Signing Day even hit.

LastNoleofKrypton: I really wanted to go running back here because you’ve signed three players that will likely get at least 50+ carries but you have to go with quarterback. FSU didn’t sign a quarterback in 2018 or in 2019. They managed to sign two good ones in 2020. The nature of quarterback recruiting makes it difficult to sign two average quarterbacks but to sign good ones coming off of 6-7 is extremely unlikely.

Austin DeWitt: I’ll go ahead and say running back. Considering FSU’s depth at the position in the Sun Bowl was just Deonte Sheffield (who performed well and is certainly worthy of being on scholarship in my opinion), Norvell did a great job of getting players in here and he’s shown his offenses can get great production out of the position. La’Damian Webb is an experienced back that could prove to be the next Tony Pollard or Darrel Henderson. And having seen him play locally, I’m pretty high on Lawrance Toafili as well.

Jon Marchant: I also — and again — have to go quarterback here. In terms of both talent and numbers I think Norvell and Co. hit it out of the park. It wasn’t that long ago we were all worried about having enough bodies in the QB room. Now it looks pretty set for the foreseeable future. I wanted to go offensive tackle here, but I felt that they came up just short in the numbers department.

Juan Montalvo: Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Can’t go that many years without signing a high school QB and not celebrate the signing of two good prospects.

Which position do you believe was the addressed the least?

NoleThruandThru: Thank goodness for Robert Scott- imagine, FSU signing a talented offensive tackle prospect with NFL upside! FSU also brought in a strong developmental edge rushing prospect in TJ Davis and a floor-raising hard worker in Josh Griffis. Grad Transfers have contributed to offensive line, running back, and defensive end depth as well. So I’ll say defensive tackle was addressed the least, with only Manny Rogers being signed (and even he may grow into an offensive lineman slot eventually). Big Marv gives the staff a buffer year with his surprising return, and defensive tackle will need to be a heavy focus in the next cycle with need for a minimum of two blue chip prospects and possibly a JUCO as well.

Oline0175: The Noles missed out at defensive tackle. Manny Rogers is a stud and going to be a very nice player but they needed more numbers. Transfer Jarrett Jackson has work ethic issues at Louisville so let’s see if he can solve those. There are a lot of bodies leaving the defensive tackle position after this season and they need impact bodies.

TimScribble: For me, I’ll continue to bang the offensive tackle drum until an immediate impact player is signed at this position. Unfortunately, by the time Norvell had taken the reigns, most of these players were already off the market. I don’t lay that failure at his staff’s feet, but if the transfer market doesn’t pan out... the offense will once again be exposed.

Perry Kostidakis: Until there’s at least four more-than-just-servicable offensive lineman available on roster, each of those positions will under recruited and the highest priority. I’m not going to be able to say this smarter than anyone else, so I’ll end it here: FSU need big men who do pushing good.

LastNoleofKrypton: They’ve got to do better at defensive tackle this cycle; considering that Odell is the only holdover from the last two regimes & his reputation as a prolific recruiter DT recruiting has been simply a disappointment after 2017. This will surely anger some people because Odell was affectionately called the ‘furniture’ as in he stays no matter what new staff comes in but if he doesn’t start recruiting better then the furniture can be replaced too.

Austin DeWitt: I’ll agree with Perry. There are plenty of others on this site and in this round table that know more than me about offensive line play, but if we can get more of those good-pushing big guys, it’d go a long way. Also, Marvin Wilson can’t surprise the entire fan base by announcing he’ll return again next year, so DT is a major positional need moving forward.

Jon Marchant: I will third Perry and Austin. It’s not that they addressed offensive line or in particular OT the least, but it’s still the position group that’s got the furthest to go. Maybe there’s a bit of impatience there, but after the stagnation of Willie Taggart’s tenure the faster Norvell can flip the talent in the group, the better. And I suppose fast isn’t fast enough.

Juan Montalvo: Difference makers in the defensive front. They just aren’t there. Offensive line has slowly been addressed, but there simply isn’t a guy on the defensive line in the last couple signing classes who scares anyone. Others said defensive tackle, and it’s hard to disagree - interior pressure disrupts offenses. It’s why the bags drop most for those guys.

Jeff Sims, Malachi Wideman, Morven Jospeh, Jaylan Knighton, Keyshawn Greene, Jaylan Harrell, Isaiah Dunson, Derek Bermudez, Alex Atcavage. Which decommit hurts the most?

NoleThruandThru: For me it comes down to positional need over individual talent, so it’s between Morven Joseph and Keyshawn Greene and I give the edge to Joseph due to the need at defensive end. Losing Greene hurts because he’s from Wakulla and is an excellent outside linebacker prospect, but Joseph would have found early playing time next season and his loss stings the most. The defensive line will be hit hard with attrition after the 2020 season and Joseph would have been positioned well to start in 2021.

Oline0175: This is an easy one. For a team transitioning back to the 4-3 and in desperate need of pass rushers, Morven Joseph and all those sacks this year will be missed. He had day one potential and was committed for a long time. This simply comes down to positional need over talent (though I think Joseph is as talented as any kid on this list).

TimScribble: I believe Jaylan Knighton and Morven Joseph would have been immediate contributers for next year’s team. Fortunately, the staff was able to soften the blow of Knighton’s departure. The same cannot be said about Joseph’s. The speed and length of Morven Joseph would have allowed him to be an instant pass rusher on 3rd down situations.

Perry Kostidakis: Ignoring my brain and going straight with my heart, missing out on Malachi Wideman hurts just because who doesn’t want a wide receiver who can also throw down sickass stupid raw dunks? Playmakers will always be needed and welcome, especially for an offense that’ll need as many as possible, and honestly, it kinda messes with roster depth for FSU hoops, which is something that’s important now?

LastNoleofKrypton: Morven Joseph is the answer here; I think he’s going to be a terror off the edge & it’s another weak spot in FSU’s recruiting in the front seven lately that needs to be addressed although I’m high on TJ Davis.

Austin DeWitt: After losing my Malachi Wideman commits to FSU to the drafts forever, selfishly i’d like to say him. Plus, seeing him line up on the field at the same time as Tamorrion Terry would’ve been a sight to see.

Jon Marchant: It’s Groundhog Day at this point, but Morven Joseph. After OT, defensive line and edge rusher in particular were the neediest spots. Joseph would have been a lot of fun to watch in the Garnet and Gold and the ’Noles will miss his services.

Juan Montalvo: Keyshawne Greene. I’m a Joseph fan, but Greene is a Wakulla kid that was arguably the best LB signee they would have had since Bradham.

After the Early Signing Period, FSU landed 8 additional commits. Which of those signees are you most excited about?

NoleThruandThru: I am not a sunshine pumper among lower rated prospects, but I can honestly say the potential of each of these guys has me excited. Webb should contribute immediately, Davis and Lundy could both be gems who were overlooked, Williamson and Williams could both be primed for bounce backs after suffering injuries, Douglas has the highest boom-or-bust factor, and Wren’s speed is phenomenal. But I have to go with Robert Scott. He has NFL upside and a prototypical frame to add weight and strength. What strikes me most about him though is his intelligence. He is the best hope to lock down the left tackle spot for this class, and I can’t wait to see how new offensive line coach Alex Atkins molds him.

Oline0175: DJ Lundy for me. He is a physical stud who has a lot of tools that he does not realize are there. I could see Lundy playing the Mike or transitioning to the edge in time. Wrestling background with work ethic. Sign me up!

TimScribble: I love TJ Davis’ film. The kid is a human missile and I think he’ll make more than few bone crushing hits in his career. He’ll most likely get ejected more than once for a targeting call, simply for hitting someone too hard. He’ll definitely make Nick Moody proud.

Perry Kostidakis: For me, it’s Corey Wren. That’s a kid who was getting legitimate attention from big programs, and has the talent and ability you want to be bringing in as part of your first class. Our scouting report from signing day said it best: he’s going to be a Swiss Army Knife for Florida State in the coming years.

LastNoleOfKrypton: Demorie Tate; the kid is already glue yet very raw. The sky is the limit for him and the other corner spot is ripe for the taking. I think he gets it.

Austin DeWitt: I’m really looking forward to seeing how Norvell’s offense can utilize Corey Wren’s versatility and track-star speed. While he’s shown to be dangerous out of the backfield, i’ll be interested to see if they can develop him as a receiver and use him to take the top off of defenses.

Jon Marchant: How can you not be excited for Demorie Tate? FSU has produced a lot of great defensive back talent lately and I hope Tate lives up to that legacy. He certainly has a chance.

Juan Montalvo: Demorie Tate and DJ Lundy. Opposite sides of the coin - a five star with a defined future at cornerback, and a three star athlete who may end up playing any of 5 different spots on the field.

Bonus 2021 questions:

Of the 2021 recruits that FSU has a legitimate shot with, which player would you most like FSU to land (or keep)?

NoleThruandThru: In terms of who FSU must keep, it is Branden Jennings (who I firmly believe will be a composite 5 star by the time he signs his NLI). Narrowing down who I most want FSU to reel in for 2021 is much harder because there are a bunch of kids I am excited about who are realistic additions. As of today, I’ll say Georgia offensive lineman Micah Morris. Morris is a top prospect in Georgia regardless of position, he raves about Coach Atkins, and he has legitimate interest in FSU after spending time on campus. FSU will face extremely tough competition from the in state Bulldogs and other recruiting heavyweights for the offensive tackle prospect’s signature, but he is the most talented lineman that FSU has a legit shot at landing right now.

Oline0175: Give me Xavian Sorey. Winning that battle would send shock waves through the southeast as this is a player that every major program wants. He is a two way player but most likely a linebacker at the next level. This is more about winning a major battle over tier one recruiting powers (shout out to Bud Elliot).

TimScribble: It’s Branden Jennings for me. Securing his commit this early in the process is a signal to all other elite recruits that FSU should once again be part of their consideration. It’s also huge because of his legacy ties. Florida State has several big time legacy targets in the next few years, their success could hinge on these players following in the steps of their family members.

LastNoleofKrypton: My answer is pretty short here; it’s Xavian Sorey. A somewhat local kid that can do this at 6’3 220?

Yes please.

Jon Marchant: All of them.

Juan Montalvo: The one they haven’t landed yet - the five star defensive tackle.

Outside of winning games, what needs to happen for FSU’s 2021 recruiting class to be a successful one?

NoleThruandThru: It all starts with internal organization and developing relationships with coaches in the high schools, and the new staff has proven that both of these aspects are at the forefront of their recruiting operation. These dudes are grinders and refuse to be outworked, which is refreshing. We know FSU has to start winning battles in-state (both locally and in the state of Miami) and in Georgia again this cycle and landing Jennings is a huge step in that direction. They need to hit both lines HARD, particularly the DL, and finishing in the top 12-15 is a realistic and encouraging goal that FSU can easily surpass if it takes care of business in Florida and Georgia. Coach Atkins and Coach Marve are already lighting it up in first impressions and I have a feeling that both men are going to make serious noise on the trail in 2021.

Oline0175: This is a simple answer for me. You better look like you belong. Now what does that look like? The product on the field needs to look organized, disciplined, and cares about being there. These are coaches who have a ton of personality and seem to get “it” but the product on the field needs to have that same “it”. Kids want to believe they can be developed and they crave discipline. Show them that you can provide that atmosphere and be “committed” financially.

TimScribble: Stop being the laughing stock of the national media. Play a complete game, look organized, don’t miss a walk through. Don’t oversell the season, be honest with recruits and what you are trying to build and how it cannot be built unless these players are part of it. Norvell and crew need to create momentum and confidence without gimmick. They need to show a successful and competent product on and off the field, so even if they do not win, they at least show the program is on the right path.

LastNoleOfKrypton: They need to address DE, DT, & OT heavily and they need to start getting back to that 50+ blue-chip ratio. If both of these are done or very close to being done I will consider 2021 successful. Two transitions classes in three years is an acceptable excuse for the talent dip but going forward a half blue-chip recruiting class is the average standard at what FSU needs to be at. As long as this staff & the people not on payroll are “fully committed” majority blue-chip classes at FSU should be attainable.

Jon Marchant: What he ^ said. At least a 50 percent blue-chip ratio and major investments in OT and edge rusher. I am really excited to see what Norvell and Co. can do with one full year of recruiting and creating relationships. FSU desperately needs them to hit this one out of the park. 60 percent blue-chip is probably asking too much, but 50 percent will help put this program back on track and build the kind of excitement this program has been lacking for far too long.

Juan Montalvo: Bags must drop. You don’t land the national level recruits unless they do. The blue-chip ratio and wins will follow.