- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Florida State set a school record with 11 NFL draft picks over the weekend. That also happened to lead the entire nation, ranking ahead of national champion Alabama, LSU and yes, even Florida.
So what does this say about the Noles as a program? Are they finally back, or just a pack of underachievers? Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich debate.
Andrea says: The proof is in the picks.
We all know the Seminoles have their detractors, who believe every season must be a perfect season or else it is a complete and utter disappointment. Raising the bar the way this program did in the late 1980s through the mid-2000s means living with the type of expectations reserved for only the most elite programs in the entire country.
Coach Jimbo Fisher lives with these expectations every day. But he also lives in reality. And reality says that Florida State stumbled badly in the final few years under coach Bobby Bowden, and it takes more than snapping your fingers, rolling a Florida State helmet onto a field and planting a spear to get a program back into national championship contention.
It takes time. And it takes talent. And, well, Florida State had a lack of talent. In Bowden’s final four seasons, 2006-09, the Noles had 12 total draft picks -- including one in the 2009 draft. That’s just one more than Florida State had this past weekend. So, Fisher has gotten the talent on par with what Florida State used to produce.
The next step is translating that into a national championship. Should the Seminoles have done that this past season, given the players selected into the pros? Depends on your perspective, of course.
Hindsight says Florida State needed a perfect run to make it into the national title game. But the Seminoles were an imperfect team, even with all those picks. And that imperfect team ended up winning the ACC title, the Orange Bowl and finishing with 12 wins for the first time since 1999. Just about every coach in America will take that, hold his head up high and use it as a sales pitch on the recruiting trail.
Coaches will tell you that it takes more than talent to win a title. It takes a little bit of luck, too. Florida State had its best season in years, with the best talent the school has assembled. That does not mean the Noles fell short. It means they are nearly back to the mountaintop. When’s the last time anybody in Tallahassee could say that?
Heather says: A huge opportunity has been lost.
In 2012, Florida State had the fastest car in the race but not enough gas to finish it.
With a school-record 11 NFL draft picks -- more than national champion Alabama (nine), LSU (nine) and rival Florida (eight) -- FSU coach Jimbo Fisher was driving a machine. There was more NFL talent on that roster than any other program in the nation.
And yet …
There were nine other schools ranked ahead of the Noles in the final Associated Press poll.
There was the fourth-quarter collapse in the loss to NC State. There was the fourth-quarter meltdown against rival Florida, in which FSU’s heralded defense allowed 24 straight points in a span of less than nine minutes. There was the pedestrian performance against Northern Illinois in which FSU was fooled repeatedly by trick plays on special teams en route to a precarious 14-3 lead at the half. There was more than enough evidence throughout the season to conclude that this year’s draft was further proof that the Noles underachieved at 12-2 last season.
Underachieved?? An ACC title and a win in the Discover Orange Bowl and they underachieved?
It was a consolation prize.
When your recruiting classes and expectations are on par with Alabama, LSU and Florida, the on-field product should be on par with the nation’s elite, too. There were too many instances last fall in which Florida State looked vulnerable -- including a 13-point win at South Florida, and a last-minute touchdown needed to beat Virginia Tech -- the worst Virginia Tech team Frank Beamer has coached in 20 years.
Look, Florida State has so many reasons to be proud. It was a banner year for the program, and things are certainly better than they were in the years leading up to Bobby Bowden’s exit. In order to truly join the nation’s elite, though, Florida State has to do more than just look like a national title contender comprised of 11 NFL draft picks -- it has to start playing like one.