<
>

FSU's class will remain strong

The sudden turmoil over Bobby Bowden's future at Florida State has had some effect on the Seminoles' recruiting efforts in the 2010 class, but not a huge impact as of yet.

Jim Smith, the chairman of the Florida State Board of Trustees, made public statements earlier this week that it is his wish for Bowden to step down at the end of the 2009 season.

"My hope is frankly that we'll go ahead, and if we have to, let the world know that this year will be the end of the Bowden era," Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat on Sunday. "I do appreciate what he's done for us, what he's done for the program, what he's done really for the state of Florida.

"I think the record will show that the Seminole Nation has been more than patient. We have been in a decline not for a year or two or three, but I think we're coming up on seven or eight. I think enough is enough."

Typically, whenever talk of change or instability comes front and center in a program, particularly during the season, recruiting suffers. It hurt the last recruiting cycle at Tennessee and Clemson, and it could hurt this year in Tallahassee.

There are differences, though. The first obvious difference is that the next coach at Florida State, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, is already in place and has been actively recruiting under the premise that he will be the next coach once Bowden decides to hang it up. The Vols and Tigers did not have that in place, although Clemson's coach, Dabo Swinney, eventually was promoted off Tommy Bowden's staff.

Major change, or talk of it, still puts the program in turmoil to a certain extent. Recruiting is all about relationships, and assistant coaches do the bulk of the recruiting work. With a changing of the guard at the top, there is always turnover on the staff, and this situation will be no different.

In fact, even if Bowden returns for the 2010 season, Fisher reportedly will be handed control of the program, including personnel and recruiting decisions. That's important because Florida State will likely have an opening at defensive coordinator after this season if longtime assistant Mickey Andrews retires as expected.

One prospect for whom this turnover has changed nothing is Under Armour All-American Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas). When asked about the situation, he said, "This really doesn't have an impact on anything."

The Noles, Ohio State and Florida continue to be the major three schools in the mix for Joyner, and most believe that barring a total collapse in Tallahassee, Florida State is the clear team to beat.

Under Armour All-American linebacker Christian Jones (Winter Park, Fla./Lake Howell), who is a Seminole legacy (his father and brother both played at Florida State), downplayed the situation a bit but did not say it had absolutely no impact.

"It has a little impact right now," Jones told ESPN affiliate NoleInsider.com. "When I go to a school, I will be coached by the coaches. They are definitely important in the school I choose. It might have a little impact, but not too big of one."

ESPNU150 wide receiver Kenny Shaw (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips), a longtime lean to the Noles, said the situation would have no impact on his recruitment and Florida State is still his favorite team.

"I mean I hope [Bowden] stays for one more year," Shaw said. "But if he doesn't, he's giving it up to a very good coach in [Fisher]. That's why I am really close to [Fisher] because I know that when Coach Bowden does leave, Coach Fisher will be my coach. Florida State is still my leader."

Shaw also said that his Georgia visit, which he did not make this past weekend, will be during the weekend of Nov. 14. The Bulldogs will host Auburn that Saturday.

ESPNU 150 defensive end Darious Cummings (Titusville, Fla./Astronaut), an FSU commit, is likely safe. He enjoyed his official visit to South Carolina this past weekend, but as long as defensive line coach Odell Haggins remains on the staff at Florida State, Cummings' commitment is secure. If not, things could get interesting for the talented end. He's still talking to other future Seminoles and helping Florida State assemble its 2010 class -- that's a pretty good sign.

One player who was iffy is three-star defensive end Tavaris Barnes (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast), who had not communicated with any coaches from Florida State for a few weeks and went public with comments saying he was up in the air about his commitment. He still plans to visit South Carolina, North Carolina and perhaps Georgia Tech and Clemson, but the Seminoles did get in contact with him and to a certain extent cleared the air with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.

When this situation gets resolved, expect things to level off, and for Florida State, regardless of who the coach is next season, to sign a class that contends for top-10 status. There are simply too many excellent prospects out there with a clear understanding of the situation at FSU. These players had an idea that a transition would come but still had the Seminoles at the top of their list.

Leaderboard

The next big thing coming out of Los Angeles is Class of 2011 ESPNU150 Watch List running back De'Anthony Thomas of Crenshaw High. The speedy playmaker is a city track and field champion in the 100-meter dash and could be the top prospect in the Golden State in the next recruiting cycle and one of the top prospects in America. Expect the electricity that Thomas brings to the field to be in the City of Angels for the foreseeable future, as the early buzz on his recruitment is that it should be a USC-UCLA battle for his services. Reportedly, the Trojans have the early advantage, but the Bruins have deep connections at Crenshaw. Star defensive tackle Brian Price, for example, is a Crenshaw alum.

Hot Sell: Florida

This isn't the first time the Gators have been listed here and certainly won't be the last. This week, Florida picked up two of the better prospects in South Florida by getting commitments from three-star defensive end Lynden Trail and three-star receiver Quinton Dunbar (Miami/Booker T. Washington). Trail said Tuesday that Florida has been his likely destination for some time. That's two more talented players joining the nation's top class.

Coast-to-Coast Notes

Christian likely down to two
Four-star cornerback Cullen Christian (Pittsburgh/Penn Hills) is just less than two months away from making a final decision and has a top two.

"I am going to decide Nov. 24 during a press conference at my high school," Christian said. "Right now, my top two schools are Michigan and West Virginia. Every school has a shot, though, and things could change when I take my official visits."

UCLA and West Virginia get official visits next month with Michigan and Ohio State to follow. Michigan, Ohio State, West Virginia, Pitt and Maryland are some of the schools he has visited unofficially.

There are a variety of reasons Michigan is in the lead.

"They were just my favorite team growing up as a kid," Christian said. "They gave me my first offer. They recruit me the hardest, and I just love Michigan."

West Virginia alumnus David Lockwood, the school's cornerbacks coach, is a big reason the Mountaineers are strong. Ohio State just offered last week, and Christian likes the fact that UCLA has come across the country to recruit him.

The hometown Panthers can't be ruled out, either.

"I just like the fact that it has a hometown feel," he said.

Christian is the nation's No. 18-rated cornerback prospect by Scouts Inc.

Hicks heading to Austin
The nation's second-ranked overall prospect, Under Armour All-American Jordan Hicks (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) will make his official visit to Texas this weekend. A sure sign that the Longhorns and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp are in the mix is the fact that the visit is taking place. Texas typically pulls off out-of-state prospects that it doesn't believe it has an excellent shot at landing.

Also, although it has been believed that his recruitment is a Longhorns-Buckeyes battle, Florida has made a serious push. The Gators reportedly impressed Hicks and members of his family while he was on campus for an unofficial visit for Florida's 23-13 win against Tennessee, and he will take an official to Gainesville in December.
You can't count out any of those three schools at this time, but if you have to say who the team to beat is right now, it is probably Florida.

The battle for No. 1
The battle for the nation's top player, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat (Plano, Texas/West), could come down to Texas and Southern California with Houston and Oklahoma still very much in the mix, along with Florida and Arizona State.

Jeffcoat did not make his reported official visit to Texas a few weeks back because he was under the weather, but that visit should happen soon.

Sleeper alert
A hot name in Texas right now is wide receiver/tight end Bud Sasser (Denton, Texas/Ryan). Sasser is reportedly up to 6-3, 205 pounds and has had an excellent year, catching the eye of a number of programs, including Texas, as a potential wide receiver/flex tight end prospect. Keep an eye out for Sasser as we move forward in the recruiting process.

Short stuff
ESPNU 150 defensive end David Perry (Davie, Fla./University School) is telling the truth when he says he's wide-open, but if there is one program that definitely will be in the mix for him, it's LSU. Expect the Tigers to get an official visit for sure. … Class of 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List athlete Damiere Byrd (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek) is one of the fastest prospects in the northeast for next year's class, and several programs, like Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Syracuse and others. Expect the 5-9, 170-pounder to gain as much attention as Class of 2010 Under Armour All-American athlete Corey Brown (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara), an Ohio State commit from the Northeast who is the same type of versatile speedster. ... Oklahoma State and Arkansas are the two early offers for Class of 2011 defensive end Nathan Hughes (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak). If Texas offers, the Longhorns will be the clear team to beat. … Early reports are that the battle for Class of 2011 ESPNU 150 Watch List running back Malcolm Brown (Cibolo, Texas/Steele) quite possibly will be down to Oklahoma and Texas when things start to shake out. Baylor, TCU, Stanford, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and the Sooners already have offered the 6-foot, 210-pounder.

JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jcsespn@aol.com.