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Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Wins and losses for FSU's class of '13

By David M. Hale

As it is virtually every year on national signing day, there were some big hits for Florida State, and there were a few tough misses, too. Overall, Jimbo Fisher and his new-look coaching staff have to consider the Class of 2013 a big win given the immense chaos that has ensued with six assistants leaving since Dec. 1. Most key commitments held strong, and a few late arrivals turned a solid class into one that cracked the top 10 in ESPN's national rankings.

Of course, rankings aren't everything. A lot of the success or failure of a class is based on a team's needs, and on that front, there were also a few highlights and a few noticeable problems. Here's how it breaks down.

Need: Linebacker. Perhaps no position has caused more headaches for Fisher since he took over in 2010, and the result is that the Seminoles had just six scholarship LBs on the roster. The only two with significant experience -- Christian Jones and Telvin Smith -- will both be gone after the 2013 season, meaning FSU really needed to refill the coffers.

Verdict: Big win. FSU’s biggest coup of the day came when Matthew Thomas, the nation’s top linebacker, signed with the Seminoles. Thomas may be FSU’s most talented recruit at any position, but he’s just the start of a deep linebacker class that includes four-star players Ro’Derrick Hoskins and Tyrell Lyons on the outside, middle linebacker E.J. Levenberry Jr., and early enrollee Freddie Stevenson.

Need: Offensive line. The early departure of Menelik Watson added an immediate job opening on the line, but the biggest thing for FSU was to add some depth for the future. With Watson gone, Bryan Stork departing at year's end, and a potential for at least one of the Seminoles' many juniors foregoing his senior season, Fisher was thinking ahead to 2014 and beyond.

Verdict: Big loss. Florida State ended up signing four offensive lineman, but Richy Klepal won't even play due to concussions. Ira Denson is a legitimate prospect at guard, and Wilson Bell added a nice signing day bonus (Fisher believes the 6-4, 300-pound lineman can develop into an excellent player). Still, FSU missed out on its top two targets at tackle, Austin Golson and Denver Kirkland. Ryan Hoefeld could be a fine center down the road, but he'll need time to add some bulk to his frame. Fisher did his best to put a positive spin on the group, but even he admitted, more is always better when it comes to the big guys, and FSU didn't land enough.

Jalen Ramsey
Defensive back Jalen Ramsey was a longtime Trojans commit. Now he'll have a chance to play early for Florida State.
Need: Defensive backs. The Seminoles didn't need a huge class of DBs, particularly with Nick Waisome and Ronald Darby seemingly ensconced as the starting corners, but Fisher had his sights set high on a few top targets.

Verdict: Win. Jalen Ramsey's late decision to head to FSU was a nice feather in Fisher's cap on signing day. He's among the top defensive backs in the nation, and he could compete for playing time -- particularly on special teams -- right away. Add four-star DB Marquez White, and Fisher added some serious talent to an area that should be a strength for years to come.

Need: Receiver. It's a position where Florida State oozes depth for 2013, but could see a lot of turnover beyond that. Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent and Jared Haggins will all graduate at year's end, and Rashad Greene could be an early departure for the NFL if he turns in a strong season.

Verdict: Mixed. On the plus side, FSU landed four solid receivers. Levonte Whitfield and Jesus Wilson are both speedsters, who could immediately fit as impact players in the slot. Isaiah Jones brings impressive size, and Nate Andrews rounds out a deep class. Still, Fisher missed out on his highest ranked target at the position, when Stacy Coley picked Miami (Fla.) over FSU at the last minute.

Need: Stability. With six coaches departing, this class could've turned into a disaster for Florida State.

Verdict: Big win. The class of 2013 won't quite match the high-end talent Fisher brought in the past few seasons, but given the obstacles in the way, it's incredibly impressive that the group turned out so well. Pruitt, in particularly, managed to pry away a few commitments late in the game, adding some top-end talent that wasn't on FSU's radar before all the coaching changes. It was a solid effort on short notice, and it bodes particularly well for the future.