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Florida State of Recruiting: Now what?

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Trying to make sense of what happened in the last week

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

When it comes to recruiting, I consider myself a generally optimistic person. I’ve been accused of being a sunshine-pumper but I also try to temper positive and negative expectations with reality as often as I can. A week ago, I couldn’t believe how positive I was feeling after a FSU loss. A loss is a loss, but FSU had shown such fight and resilience and had given recruits across the nation hope in seeing that the ‘Noles had made significant progress and not all was lost. The fans were amazing, the atmosphere was rocking. It was truly the best recruiting outcome that could’ve happened without a victory on the field.

And then came Saturday.

The 20-17 loss to Jacksonville State isn’t even close to being the most heart-breaking defeat in all my years of Seminole fandom. It isn’t even the worst I’ve ever felt after a loss- that was the 30-0 shellacking from Wake Forest in 2007 that I (stupidly) stayed until the very end and got sick from the nasty weather.

It is, however, the most baffling defeat that I’ve ever witnessed. I’m still trying to make sense of what happened, and the sole conclusion I keep coming back to is that FSU completely overlooked Jacksonville State, expected them to lay down, and used last week to prep for Wake Forest and other future games. We’ll find out whether that was the case based on how FSU looks in Winston-Salem this Saturday, but it is an immense error that borderlines on unforgivable at this level of competition, especially for a rebuilding program that has absolutely no business taking games against lesser teams for granted.

Why do I bring this up? Because it gives an incredible amount of ammunition for other programs to use against FSU on the recruiting trail. Not only will they point to the final score, they will point to the lack of concentration, poor mental preparedness, horrible play-calling (especially in the first half on offense), and demeanor of the sideline... all of which are impacted by the coaching staff. Mike Norvell’s integrity will be called into question as someone who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk every day. FSU literally handed its rivals a script for negative recruiting as they walked off the field Saturday night and what I said above is just the tip of the iceberg- trust me when I say that.

After Notre Dame, I talked about keeping my eye on some top prospects who may have renewed their interest in FSU and could possibly become official visitors down the line. No need to watch out for that any longer, not happening. While not eliminating the ‘Noles from contention altogether, the loss may also have caused FSU to slip out of the top spot for some uber-talented uncommitted targets, especially those considering other programs who have secured prime-time victories this season.

Basically, all the positive momentum and goodwill built up coming out of the Notre Dame game is gone, just like that.

However, all is not completely lost, despite what you may have read in the blistering comment sections this weekend (no judgement, I was in my feelings right there with y’all). As of this writing, no decommitments have happened. On the contrary, several recruits like Rodney Hill and Qae’shon Sapp have rallied on social media and have told other outlets that they know FSU is rebuilding, they know what they signed up for, and they’re committed to changing the fortunes of the program. They say that the class is sticking together, they know the work ahead, and they hope the fans will continue to support the team through thick and thin.

That said, a great deal of damage was done, there’s no denying it. The kind of performance that FSU left on the field against Jacksonville State plants seeds of doubt in the minds of even the most committed recruits. There are just so many questions that need answers to be able to make sense of what we all witnessed, and recruits and their families will need those answers ASAP. The coaches have a lot of work to do on the practice field this week, but they better be busting their asses communicating with all of their commitments and targets for the next three cycles. That communication must then be followed by results on the field.

I’m a big fan of Tombstone, so allow me to say that the Wake Forest game will be a sort of reckoning for this coaching staff and the program overall. If they look like the team we saw in week one, it will serve as the first step in regaining trust and helping sell the vision of the future of the program under Mike Norvell. It will quiet the negativity surrounding the program and being reinforced by rival programs and fans. But if they look more like the group of individuals we saw this weekend and start 0-3, the wave of decommitments will begin and this class will be in serious trouble.

Recruiting has not plunged off the cliff, but it is dangling off a wire like a cat in Hard Rock Stadium. The reality is that the state of this FSU program falls somewhere in between the teams we saw against Notre Dame and Jacksonville State. Reality also punched FSU football in the face this past weekend, and now it’s time to find out whether this program can punch back or whether it stays down on the mat.