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Recruiting Roundtable: Evaluating Florida State football during COVID-19

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Answering your questions about Tribe ‘21 and beyond.

Destyn Pazon (Twitter)

Recruiting in the age of COVID-19 has been a long, strange trip so far. In the most recent Florida State of Recruiting article, we put out a call to the Tomahawk Nation community. We asked for your questions about FSU recruiting and you didn’t let us down. It wasn’t easy but we narrowed it down to the following topics. If your question wasn’t answered, we’ll keep the Q&A going in the comment section so ask away!

Thank you for submitting your questions and please don’t be shy when the next call comes out, as this is something we would like to do more often. As always, check out the latest Tribe ‘21 official recruiting thread for the latest news.

From numerous TN readers: How do you see COVID impacting the rest of this recruiting cycle, and even the Tribe ‘22 cycle? What will campus visits look like? Will territories and prospect lists change based on proximity? Will coaches have to accept recruits they’ve never seen in person?

CoachAB: This is really an answer that’s impossible to answer as there are no other events to look at as examples. It is not a positive though for a staff with no true Florida ties and a staff that is not relevant in the college football big picture. I think we will see the staff be forced to lean on older ties and relationships. Yes, they’ll have to take kids they’ve not seen in person.

Visits will be done by Zoom or FaceTime. I don’t expect there to be official visits this year. 2022 should not be impacted as much, unless this lingers on into the 2021 calendar year. The staff is able to build relationships with those ‘22 kids.

NoleThruandThru: The ripple effects of this pandemic will be wide-ranging, probably even more that we anticipate. I have my eye on what the NCAA decides to do with the Early Signing Period in December- I believe they should cancel it but even if they don’t, I doubt we see many kids sign in December (certainly less than last year). I would advise prospects to wait until February regardless of the status of the ESP.

This recruiting cycle will be fascinating to evaluate a few years from now because it will showcase the scouting abilities of each coaching staff. Programs are going to have to take kids they’ve only spoken with via zoom and have never worked out on campus. They’ll have to rely heavily on information from high school coaches. Nationally, I think there will be a ton of transfers from this recruiting cycle as we see kids with lots of offers choosing “safe” options close to home and not being able to see other schools during the recruiting process.

TimScribble: I think we’re going to see fewer 2-3 day official visits and more “tour” of visits. Recruits are going to swing by multiple schools over a weekend or consecutive days. Masks will be worn, precautions will be taken, visits will be shortened. The coaches are going to have to build relationships and bonds through the internet and other virtual means. This may mean fewer Florida recruits until they can get back out on the road.

From kaslew: How will the recent Florida law allowing college athletes to profit off of their likenesses impact recruiting?

Josh Pick: It really all depends on other states and/or a national law, but if Florida remains first, it’s obviously quite beneficial to Florida State, assuming Mike Norvell & Co. can turn this thing around.

NoleThruandThru: I think the reaction to this has been overblown nationally because the financial gains for your average prospect will be minimal to none, but it will absolutely help with the top prospects in the cycle and kids who have given a lot of thought to self-promotion (beyond commitment videos). If FSU finds itself in contention with a program from a state without this law for a top player, it may just prove to be the difference. If nothing else, it gives FSU and other Florida schools another unique angle to recruit for now.

TimScribble: I really don’t see it as much of an impact unless other states don’t follow Florida. But by the time this is introduced, I think we’ll see all other states aligned.

From jeffmann84: Can you discuss how this staff seems to be gelling on the trail, how they are working together, what the vibe is among this class and future classes of recruits?

Josh Pick: This staff seems to work very well together and doesn’t seem to care who gets the credit, which is obviously paramount (can’t let egos get in the way). I’m very optimistic for future classes, but, again, it all comes down to showing marked improvement on the field.

NoleThruandThru: These guys grind on the trail in a way we haven’t seen since Jimbo Fisher’s staff set the foundation for his championship teams. They’ve cast a wide yet realistic net and so far have shown the ability to cut bait and move on to other prospects instead of wasting time and resources on kids who clearly won’t become ‘Noles. They’re connecting with prospects in unique ways such as video game tournaments. If they manage to have success on the field, look out. This staff will pull some upsets on the trail.

Which coach has impressed you the most on the recruiting trail so far?

Josh Pick: Coach Atkins has some nice pieces already and is going to slay on the trail going forward, but I really think Coach Thomsen is an underrated recruiter, and he obviously has a good eye for talent.

CoachAB: Coach Marve appears to very good at his job on and off the field. Coach Atkins will be a popular answer, as well. If I had to pick one, though, it would be Adam Fuller. Fuller is an honest, straight forward coach who appears to be able to sell and connect on the trail. I think Fuller is the real deal.

NoleThruandThru: Of the assistant coaches, I’ve been very impressed with how Coach Woodson has made a huge amount of noise in a very short period of time (and after an awkward staffing transition with prior DB coach). He clearly knows how to recruit in the southeast and kids genuinely connect with him.

TimScribble: For me, it’s Coach Dillingham. His social presence is miles ahead of the last staff. When a kid enters the portal, Coach Dillingham is following. When a kid puts FSU in his top lists, Kenny D likes the post, etc. He’s consistently active, and that helps create relationships.

Who is your favorite recruit and who is your most underappreciated or underrated recruit from Tribe ‘21?

Josh Pick: My favorite guy is Joshua Burrell (is it the name?), as he’s a dynamic recruiter for FSU, and I think he’ll fit in very nicely inside as a possession receiver. As for most underrated recruit? I’ll give you one from each side of the ball.

On offense, it’s got to be Luke Altmyer (at least nationally), as he still doesn’t get the respect he deserves, although there’s been a recent uptick in attention.

On defense, I’ll go with Branden Jennings. I think he’s underappreciated by the fan-base, as he’s a legacy (so almost expected to be a ’Nole) and has been committed for so long, which I assume is part of the reason he’s ranked too low nationally, as well.

CoachAB: My favorite and most unheralded recruit is Jackson West. This young man is a NFL caliber tight end in my opinion. He’s got the frame and athleticism to develop into a very good player. A three sport star in high school is another box checked for me as well. West is going to be an unheralded member of this class but could be one of the best when all is said and done.

NoleThruandThru: My favorite recruit so far is also West, for the reasons CoachAB said. As for underrated, I don’t want to repeat so I’ll go with Joshua Farmer on defense and Bryson Estes on offense. Farmer has been working his tail off throughout the spring and summer and I think he deserves 4 star status. Estes brings an excellent combination of football IQ, talent, great attitude, and dedication to his craft. As one of our staff members said, if you could clone him and have 5 Bryson Estes’s along the OL, you’d be in pretty good shape.

TimScribble: It’s Branden Jennings for me. I love that he jumped into the class early and has not wavered. He’s violent on the field and covers from sideline to sideline.

Who do you hope commits next?

Josh Pick: Either Shambre Jackson or Destyn Pazon, as they’re instant-impact players and national recruits (both considered FSU leans, as well), although I think they’ll wait until closer to Signing Day, and I can’t blame them for that, especially during this lockdown and the uncertainty that accompanies it.

CoachAB: Is it cliche to say an offensive lineman? I have to agree with Josh that Pazon or Jackson would be major boosts to this recruiting class and on the trail. A close second to those two would be Jaylin White, RB out of Alabama, who is one of my favorite offensive recruits.

NoleThruandThru: Rod Orr or Dietrick Pennington would be wonderful to give OL recruiting a shot in the arm, but I’m always a sucker for the WRs, so Pazon or Malik McClain would be welcome additions, as well.