March 30, 2011
What are you doing now that National Signing Day has passed to get ready for the 2012 class?
Tom Luginbill: Right now we are in an evaluation period for recruiting. For me doubling as a recruiting director for ESPN and then as a college football analyst we’re going to be evaluating high school prospects throughout the week and then on the weekends we are going to be getting out to camps and combines to see kids in person that we have evaluated on tape.
Then for my own education and to make sure that I broaden my base on the college football side I will get out and visit some different universities and see how they are doing things in recruiting, what they are looking like in spring football as we start to move forward to the fall.
I am very busy there is a lot of travel, most of that travel comes on the weekends, but very valuable time for us. Not only in the recruiting and the evaluation side but for me personally in college football to make sure that I have my ducks in a row when it comes time for fall to roll around.
When you are setting your schedule are there places that you get excited about visiting?
Tom Luginbill: I like to go to different programs around the country because different programs have different resources. Not everybody like a Florida State or an Alabama or a Tennessee or Southern California has those same types of resources to use. Whether it is on the college football side or the recruiting side. To make sure that I am on top of what different people are doing, using their different sets of resources I like to get out to different programs.
One of the things that I enjoy each and every year is spring football games and this will be my sixth year with ESPNU broadcasting a spring football game. So I will be doing that once again. It’s and exciting time, it’s a time that gives me a little bit of a break from television, get to devote most of my time to recruiting but there is always that college football element too.
The Seminoles finished National Signing Day with the number one class according to ESPN.com. Are there any guys who are coming in who could make an instant impact?
Tom Luginbill: Wow, I think Karlos Williams at the safety position without question is not only a guy who is physically ready to be a dominant player at the collegiate level but mentally I think he is capable of handling the jump.
I think that is the biggest misperception out there on behalf of fans when they are looking at recruiting. They get excited about a four-star guy or a five-star guy but what they really don’t realize is what is ultimately going to determine the success is what the prospect is capable of handling because that is a steep learing curve.
I think Karlos Williams is more than capable on the defensive side to come in and at least having a role. I don’t think there is any question about that.
Obviously it was a very, very strong class and a deep class. There are solid contributors along the defensive front, which I think is the whole key to success in college football. The best teams, year in and year out, in college football are going to be dominant along the offensive and defensive front and have quality quarterback play.
You mention the strong finish for Florida State, I was on the field at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and I think it was ultra important to get that tenth win. Back into the double digit win column. I think that there is a perception about that which is positive on behalf of recruits. You beat an SEC school in doing so with South Carolina. You now have the coaching staff with Jimbo Fisher and his staff have had a good fifteen months now to develop their plan and lay down their blueprint. I think that’s why you saw a snowball effect from the 2010 class which finished really strong and then just rolled through the 2011 class. Those are all positives that are headed in the right direction for Florida State.
I think that is why there is so much excitement; they have a lot of youthful experience coming back. An exciting quarterback in EJ Manuel so there is reason for optimism on behalf of Florida State fans and college football fans. Ultimately Florida State is one of those programs where college football is better when a program like Florida State is good. You could say the same thing about an Alabama and a USC. That enhances the image of college football as a whole. So I think that is a positive for Florida State.
“Ultimately Florida State is one of those programs where college football is better when a program like Florida State is good.”
Tom Luginbill, ESPN Director of National Recruiting
A few years ago EJ Manuel was the crown jewel of EJ Manuel era?
Tom Luginbill: I absolutely believe there is. He was actually in our first class of Under Armor All-Americans with the 2008 class. So my first experience with evaluating him, and then having him down at the Under Armor game was not only a positive one physically, in terms of his ability level, but if you haven’t met E.J. before you don’t appreciate how good of a kid he is. A really good person with some innate leadership skills and anytime a football team can bring back a quarterback with his skill set that’s has played a little bit.
You know it’s scary to go into any season with a new quarterback but at least he has played some snaps. He has won some important games. He’s gotten a taste of it. He’s had to play with the bright lights on. That gives this offensive coaching staff a lot of optimism knowing that they have got a guy who is a little battle tested, the team responds to him. And ultimately with what college football has turned into now you’ve got to have an athletic quarterback now. You want to force the defense to account for all eleven offensive guys, not just ten and a passing quarterback in the pocket.
I think that’s that dynamic dimension that EJ Manuel brings to the position. He’s always that threat to take off and run and he can be utilized as a designated runner. Take that combine it with his overall pass and skill set. If (Florida State) can continue to develop at wide receiver and get a stable of tailbacks I think there is a good nucleus there around EJ
Florida State has eight early enrollees. Can you underestimate the value of getting to campus early?
Tom Luginbill: You can never underestimate that value because if it is a guy who is expected to contribute, if you can get him into class and get him acclimated academically, get him into the winter workout program, work through spring football and now he has a sense of what is expected of him. He has been away from home for the first time on his own having to be accountable for their actions. Then you get them involved in the summer program. Those eight guys now show up in the fall and they are not your normal true freshman.
So I look at a guy like Devonta Freeman. He is a guy who there is high expectation for him. He now has an opportunity to get into the mix early because he has been here, he knows what’s expected. He won’t come in in August and kinda be having his head spinning because he doesn’t know what’s going on. I think he is a prime example of the value of enrolling early if you are expected to play and I think he is going to be a guy that’s going to see turns and see reps. I don’t think there is any question that is becoming a pivotal part of college football now, especially if you are expected to play early.
Is there any reason to believe that Florida State won’t compete for a number one recruiting class again in 2012?
Tom Luginbill: No, I don’t think there is any question that Florida State is headed down the right path in recruiting. Naturally the recruiting base, the pool that they have to draw from not only within the state of Florida but also throughout the southeast region who we believe is the strongest overall talent pool in the entire country because there are a lot of guys to draw from. Speed has been a staple of this program. Athleticism has been a staple of this program.
When you see the targets that they are going after, after looking at the current roster because that’s what every coach in every program is going to do. They’ll look at their board and say where are we deficient in talent and where are we low in numbers and what do we need to do to replace them. And then you look at the caliber of player that they are pursuing. It’s a competitive environment but it’s the type of player that they are going after that would lead me to believe that they are headed down the right path.
Jimbo Fisher has mentioned that he has been influenced as a coach by Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban. When you watch him coach do you see both of those influences or do you see one over the other shine through more?
Tom Luginbill: With Jimbo Fisher I think you bring Nick Saban’s accountability and discipline and structure coupled with Bobby Bowden’s kind of down home country feel. That put your arm around your shoulder, hug on you, love on you a little bit. Yet you are always going to know what is expected of you.
There is a happy medium and a balance there and I think that is what he brings. But ultimately what he brings is the ability to evaluate players. Because at the end of the day you have got to have great players and so if you have got a head man and you have assistant coaches that know how to evaluate talent, know what they want. Not only getting a great player but the right player for your program. Not every player is the right guy for every program. I think that is ultimately going to be the determining factor of long-term success and why Jimbo Fisher is here and why he was hired and why we have seen such a dramatic increase in the caliber of player that has been brought in during the 2010 and 2011 class.