Florida State Seminoles: Jordan Prestwood

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Three years ago, Jimbo Fisher was out of options. Injuries and ineffectiveness had rendered his offensive line a sieve, and as the 2011 season drew to a close, Fisher threw his hands in the air and sent four true freshmen onto the field to start Florida State’s bowl game against Notre Dame.

The last resort proved to be a stroke of genius. The group gelled and by the time the Seminoles secured the 2013 national championship, the offensive line was a strength. With five seniors projected as starters for 2014, the line promises to be the backbone of Florida State’s offense again.

[+] EnlargeRoderick Johnson
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIESPN 300 offensive tackle Roderick Johnson is the Seminoles' top-ranked offensive line signee for the 2014 class.
The problem, however, is the incredibly uncertain future after Tre' Jackson, Cameron Erving, Josue Matias and the rest of this veteran line wave goodbye.

Fisher clearly remembers the struggles of 2011, and he’s not eager to relive them again in 2015 and beyond. So while rebuilding the line is still a year away, the groundwork for that massive overhaul began in earnest Wednesday.

Florida State inked an impressive class on national signing day, reeling in 28 new Seminoles -- including five early enrollees -- and one quarter of that group is offensive linemen. It is one of the largest recruiting scores at the position in school history, Fisher said, and it’s a group with significant upside.

“We got size on the edges, in the middle and that can snap the football,” Fisher said. “From that standpoint, it’s a great group, and guys are just getting bigger and faster.”

There might not be room for the seven linemen FSU inked to get much bigger. The group already averages 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds, including juco transfers Kareem Are (6-6, 350) and Chad Mavety (6-5, 315), who Fisher believes can step in and play immediately.

Of course, finding reps for the fresh faces won’t be easy given the veterans already in place atop the depth chart, but Fisher understands it’s necessary if Florida State wants to avoid another season of linemen learning on the job in 2015.

“If those guys play well, there will be a lot of playing time,” Fisher said. “They’ll get a lot of playing time, and that’s why it was critical we got two junior college guys.”

If game-ready talent was necessary, developmental projects were significant for Florida State, too.

Fisher has racked up big recruiting wins in virtually every segment of the roster since his arrival in 2010, but the offensive line has remained a concern throughout. Part of the struggles to recruit top talent on the line lies with position coach Rick Trickett, who is far less interested in recruiting rankings than finding players malleable enough for him to build up from scratch.

Since Trickett took over the line in 2007, Florida State has signed just three offensive linemen ranked among the top 150 recruits. Jordan Prestwood left shortly after arriving. Ira Denson, last year’s prize recruit, could be on his way out, too. (Fisher said Wednesday that Denson was “still in school,” but didn’t elaborate on his status with the team.) Of FSU’s best line recruits in the Trickett era, only Bobby Hart remains embedded on the depth chart.

In fact, if Denson leaves, FSU will have just two scholarship linemen to show for its recruiting efforts in 2012 and 2013 combined and, before Wednesday’s haul, had just three linemen on the current roster set to still be with the team in 2015. Fisher praised the potential of redshirt freshman Wilson Bell and redshirt junior Ruben Carter, but there’s no doubt Wednesday’s new additions were a necessary influx of bodies.

“The guys who put their hands in the dirt on the offensive line, that controls the game,” Fisher said. “You can have all the skills in the world you want but you’ve got to win those battles up front and protect. Getting great offensive linemen is critical.”

Just how great this group ends up remains to be seen. Strong bodies with weak constitutions have a tendency to crumble under Trickett’s demanding approach. But the potential for this group is obvious.

Roderick Johnson is 6-7, 330 pounds and ranked as one of ESPN’s top prospects at tackle. FSU snagged him out of Missouri as one of Wednesday’s late additions to the class.

"Big Rod is a very athletic guy -- bends tremendously well for a guy 6-7 and 330 pounds,” Fisher said. “Great length and can bend his lower body, great flexibility and very intelligent. Very smart guy. Works very hard. I think the sky is the limit for the guy.”

Corey Martinez ranked just a tick behind Johnson as an ESPN 300 member, too. It’s the first time FSU landed multiple ESPN 300 linemen in the same class since Prestwood and Hart came aboard in 2011.

At 6-9, Brock Ruble is one of the tallest recruits in the nation, while Are and Movety were both among the top junior college linemen in the country. The Seminoles also added three-star center Alec Eberle.

Replacing the five seniors projected to start in 2014 will be no small task, but the first step in the process was providing Fisher and Trickett with some building blocks. Wednesday’s recruiting haul did that, and Fisher hopes that means there won’t be another season like 2011 on the horizon.

“Those guys will get a lot of playing time this year, and we’ll develop them,” he said. “They’ll have been able to play, and they’ll all be sophomores and juniors [in 2015] and they’ll fit in.”

ACC top juco targets 

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Recruiting junior college players is no longer a college football taboo, as even No. 1 Florida State has a handful of juco targets. Prospects from the juco ranks such as Cam Newton and Terrence Cody have helped programs to national championships over the last few seasons, so coaches are willing to go to juco programs to provide immediate help.

Here are the top five juco players in the ESPN JC 50 being recruited by ACC teams.

1. OT Chad Mavety (Garden City, N.Y./Nassau)
The second-ranked tackle and No. 8 overall among juco recruits, Mavety is down to Florida State and Ohio State. Clearly Mavety is a player who could have an impact on the national title race next season as both the Seminoles and Buckeyes are poised to make another title run . Mavety visited both schools in November, and a decision should come soon. The offensive line is priority No. 1 for the Noles between now and signing day.

Recapping FSU's official visitors 

October, 28, 2013
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Florida State hosted four players on official visits this past weekend for the NC State game. Two were from the junior college ranks and have played for big programs before.

More details on each below.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: ACC 

October, 28, 2013
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It wasn't a banner day for the ACC on Saturday, but Florida State, the conference's top-ranked team, was the center of the focus with several impact visitors on campus.

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Tom Hauck for Student SportsHow will Florida State compare to Florida for Dalvin Cook?
Biggest visitor: Dalvin Cook (Miami/Miami Central) was the star visitor in Tallahassee Saturday afternoon. The Florida Gators’ running back commitment took an official visit to their in-state rivals to see what the Seminoles offense might have to offer him. Cook isn't necessarily wavering in his commitment to Florida, but has made comments that he is paying attention to their offensive struggles. His recruitment probably won't change for a while, if at all, but this was a big chance to get one of the country's top running backs on campus for Florida State. Cook is a four-star recruit and the No. 23 prospect in the country.

Biggest offer: There weren't any major commitments made this weekend, and offers were hard to find. Duke and Virginia issued some. The Cavaliers have targeted Cornelius Floyd (Miami/Gulliver Prep), a 2014 athlete who also has offers from ACC programs Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Duke offered 2015 defensive lineman David Ryslik (Highstown, N.J./The Peddie School). The Blue Devils are the first to go ahead and offer Ryslik, but he's been getting plenty of interest at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds.

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Recruits watching NC State-Florida State 

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It is not the sexiest matchup on Florida State’s schedule. It is sandwiched by Clemson last week and Miami on Nov. 2. But the Seminoles have a litany of visitors coming to Tallahassee, Fla., for the NC State game, including the top commitment from a rival school.

Following the 51-14 prime-time drubbing of Clemson last weekend, the Seminoles’ arrow is pointing up with recruits. There will be four official visitors on campus. Here are 10 prospects who will be watching Florida State closely Saturday, whether from the seats in Doak Campbell or at home on the couch.

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Tom Hauck for Student SportsDalvin Cook remains committed to Florida, but could Florida State pry him away?
RB Dalvin Cook (Miami/Miami Central): He contends he is 100 percent committed to the Gators, but Cook is making the trip north to Tallahassee for an official visit this weekend. It is the second of three official visits scheduled to locations other than Gainesville, Fla. The Gators’ offense is sputtering. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the Seminoles, who have impressed the No. 4 running back nationally with a high-powered offense led by Heisman candidate Jameis Winston. A successful visit to Florida State and another flop by Florida and Cook’s commitment to the Gators could be in question.


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ACC recruiting storylines: Oct. 24 

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The recruiting week in the ACC has centered around two states, as both Florida and Virginia programs added commitments while Miami has learned its NCAA fate.


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FSU, Notre Dame old recruiting rivals

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It would be difficult to say that arguably the most prestigious program in college football history could possibly expand its recruiting footprint.

Notre Dame, a nationally recognized program, regularly brings in student-athletes from Florida, Texas and California. With its new membership in the ACC and football scheduling, that national reach won't shrink.

But it all comes down to this -- schools such as Florida State or Miami will still go head-to-head with Notre Dame for prospects.

This year, the competition is for cornerback Mackensie Alexander (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee), a five-star cornerback who is considering Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame and Tennessee, among others.

Last year it was Ronald Darby, a defensive back who is now getting immediate playing time with the Noles as a true freshman. He was rated the third-best cornerback in the country by ESPN and decommitted from Notre Dame before eventually signing with Florida State.

Before that, it was Aaron Lynch and Jordan Prestwood -- both of whom are no longer at Notre Dame, where they signed. Both were committed to Florida State at one point.

The Irish appeal to recruits is clear. Whether it is the history and tradition, the academics or other factors, recruits enjoy their time in South Bend when they visit.

What the Seminoles have going for them, like the Hurricanes before them, is location. Winning helps, too, of course.

So while Notre Dame's product will be featured more prominently in the state of Florida by rotating teams on the schedule every three years or so, the net effect doesn't drastically change much on the recruiting front.

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