TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – More than ever, the end of the annual college football recruiting cycle – the few weeks between the end of bowl games and National Signing Day in early February – has become the sport’s silly season.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh recently drew headlines for holding a sleepover at a prospect’s house, arriving at 12:01 a.m. on the day the NCAA allows contact between head coaches and recruits.
And Notre Dame made waves across social media for parking its oversized, 18-wheeler equipment truck across from the home of a receiver recruit it hoped to lure to South Bend.
Even Alabama coach Nick Saban has upped his game, visiting at least one prospect via private helicopter.
Sometimes these tactics pay off and sometimes they don’t. Michigan landed kicker Quinn Nordin after Harbaugh stayed at his house, but Alabama lost receiver Tyler Simmons – who received a helicopter visit in December – to Georgia on National Signing Day.
Although Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher says he doesn’t mind some creativity in the recruiting process, he insists that he and his staff prefer a more old-fashioned approach.
“At the end of the day, it’s about relationships,” Fisher said. “It’s about trust. We communicate through social media, no doubt. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to have conversations and see people face-to-face and look them in the eye.”
It’s hard to argue with Fisher’s results.
FSU on Wednesday signed a 25-man class that ESPN ranked No. 1 in the country, and that group includes some players who have three- and four-year relationships with members of the Florida State coaching staff.
That didn’t necessarily make it easy to convince a blue-chip prospect to pick FSU over other potential suitors. But Fisher believes it might have made the difference in some cases.
“I just think the personal touch to things is the best way to do it,” Fisher said. “You want something done? Do it yourself. You want to get somebody? Sit down with them and talk to them. I think that’s part of our problem in this world. We don’t have enough conversations.
“We’re too social media-driven. It’s easy to say stuff, do stuff and hide behind stuff behind an (online) account. You’ve got to look people in the eye. How they say words on an account isn’t how you build a bond.”
Taylor assists on recruiting trail
While Fisher and his staff burned the midnight oil over the last few weeks, they also received a boost from one of their newest signees.
Five-star cornerback Levonta Taylor isn’t just one of the most highly regarded prospects in this class, he was also one of its most vocal supporters. From the time he committed to FSU last April, Taylor went to work trying to convince other recruits to join him in Tallahassee.
“When he gets done, we’ll have to give him a job,” Fisher joked. “Why I think guys gravitate to him, they see his passion to play and then they see him play and how skilled he is. You see his passion to play and then you say, ‘You know what? I want to play with that guy.’”
Defensive coordinator Charles Kelly echoed those sentiments.
“He is a true leader,” Kelly said at FSU’s National Signing Day Party on Wednesday.
“He had a lot to do with a lot of the guys that decided to come to Florida State, just because of the type of person he is. He’s got one of those personalities that people want to be around.”
‘A great day to be the offensive line coach’
Veteran offensive line coach Rick Trickett was all smiles on Wednesday after signing what might be FSU’s best crop of linemen in years.
It’s certainly one of the biggest.
The Seminoles signed five linemen on National Signing Day, to go along with one early-enrollee already on campus. Each of those six stands at least 6-foot-3, and all but one weighs at least 300 pounds.
“In our business, we would say the Dow came in on a high today,” Trickett joked.
Landon Dickerson and Juaun Williams, both of whom committed to FSU on Wednesday, are each four-star prospects and ranked in the top 15 at their positions. Meanwhile, Baveon Johnson is considered the No. 1 overall center, and tackle Mike Arnold (who Trickett nicknamed “Big Greasy” after his 6-4, 349-pound stature) is the No. 1 prep-school player in the country.
Even Jacksonville native Andrew Boselli, who enrolled in January, comes from an All-Pro family: His father, Tony, was one of the best linemen of the 1990s while playing with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He comes out of a pretty good bloodline,” Trickett said. “I hate to keep saying his dad was Tony Boselli, but he was.”
Trickett should find himself in a welcome, if unfamiliar, setting this fall – surrounded by enough scholarship lineman to field more than three full units.
Wednesday’s additions give FSU 19 linemen to work with, a far cry from a year ago when injuries forced the Seminoles to constantly shuffle their starting five.
“It’s a great day,” Trickett said, “to be the offensive line coach.”
Quarterback Sean Maguire continues to recover from offseason ankle surgery, but he has yet to put any weight on it. “We have to wait,” Fisher said. “I saw him today. Everything is healing, but he just can’t be weight-bearing. It’s going to be a while.” … On that note, Fisher said that freshman quarterback Malik Henry has a “tremendous chance” to compete for the starting job this spring. Henry, a four-star prospect who was one of the centerpieces of FSU’s class, enrolled in January. … Aside from linebacker Lorenzo Phillips, who exhausted his eligibility after last season, Fisher said there have been no other transfers or changes to the roster.