Jan. 25, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — If you look forwarding to National Signing Day every year, fear not as the big day is now less than a week away.
And Seminoles.com has you covered.
In preparation for the day-long coverage that will be provided here on FSU’s official athletics website, I took an educated guess as to how many recruits that Florida State should sign on the defensive side of the ball on Feb. 1. Now, let’s take a look at the offense where FSU is returning the majority of its starters.
Florida State may be returning four scholarship quarterbacks to its roster in 2012 but that doesn’t mean that the ‘Noles shouldn’t sign a signal caller in this year’s recruiting class.
Incumbent starter EJ Manuel has one more year of eligibility before officially handing over the reins of Jimbo Fisher’s offense to one of his younger counterparts. While any quarterback signee that inks his name for the Seminoles this year will undoubtedly redshirt, securing a quarterback is important for the natural progression of the position moving forward.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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Back when FSU was at its best, its quarterbacks most often didn’t play until their third or even fourth years as redshirt juniors. The way the position is being set up now, it’s starting to resemble the glory days in Tallahassee as Manuel will likely be replaced by Clint Trickett, who will be a redshirt junior at the start of spring practice in 2013.
Of course Florida State’s starter for 2013 obviously won’t be determined for quite some time and a then-redshirt junior Will Secord or then-redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker will also have the chance to earn the starting job next year too. With three players available to fill the void that Manuel will eventually leave, it may not seem like quarterback is an important option on FSU’s to-do list this recruiting cycle.
But because of that return to a more gradual quarterback succession plan, bringing in a new player or players to compete under center is i vital for that progression moving forward. It also adds depth and increases competition at the most important spot on the football field.
Florida State needed one tailback in this signing class and the ‘Noles went out and got one early. Pender has already enrolled in classes and will have the luxury of competing at tailback during spring practice. After losing Thomas and Jones to graduation, rounding out the running back position with at least one highly-touted ball carrier was a must for FSU’s coaches.
Pender will have the opportunity to compete with sophomores James Wilder, Jr. and Devonta Freeman this spring while rising senior Chris Thompson continues to rehabilitate the back injury he sustained at Wake Forest last season. At best, the Seminoles enter 2012 with a depth chart that features a talented upperclassman in Thompson and three well-respected youngsters that all have the ability to be very special during their time in Tallahassee.
At worst — if Thompson somehow can’t bounce back from the injury — the ‘Noles would be left with a tailback rotation of just underclassmen. That may not seem ideal but Freeman proved last year that he has the ability to carry the load each game and Wilder’s best days are ahead of him. Pender will be asked to play in some capacity this coming season and his extra semester of work in the weight room, film room and on the practice fields benefits Florida State tremendously.
As for fullbacks, FSU doesn’t have a real need to sign a player at that position this recruiting cycle. Lonnie Pryor and Debrale Smiley will be seniors but Chad Abram still has a few years of eligibility and Eric Beverly is coming off a redshirt in his first season and still has four years to play for the Seminoles.
If you can make the argument that the Seminoles needed to sign just one running back in this class than you can make a case for the fact that FSU technically doesn’t need any wide receivers.
Bert Reed is the lone loss from last season as he has since graduated and Willie Haulstead is expected to make his return after a fall-camp concussion sidelined him for the duration of the 2011 campaign. Rodney Smith will be the only senior on next year’s roster — like Reed was this past season — and FSU will also have more game-time depth in Kelvin Benjamin as he comes off the redshirt season from his first year at FSU.
Counting Haulstead, Florida State will boast five juniors at the receiver position in 2012 (Kenny Shaw, Jarred Haggins, Greg Dent and Josh Gehres the others) and will also have two sophomores in Christian Green and Rashad Greene. As far as depth and playmaking ability from top to bottom of the depth chart goes, that’s pretty good.
Of course Seminoles coaches won’t turn away an elite wide receiver or two should they want to sign with Florida State on Wednesday despite that depth. As Greene showed last year, it doesn’t matter what the depth chart looks like or who is in front of you. If you’re blessed with talent and have the work ethic necessary to play major college football, you’ll play and can have an impact.
He may have only started two games as a true freshman in 2011 but Nick O’Leary became FSU’s No. 1 option at the tight end position despite the presence of then-seniors Beau Reliford and Ja’Baris Little.
That three-player rotation featured more O’Leary as the season went on and he should be the featured player at tight end in 2012. Will Tye played sparingly as a redshirt freshman last year and should be more of an option this fall.
With O’Leary at the top and Tye in the back-up spot, FSU has a missing piece in the trio after the departures of Reliford and Little. There are currently no other scholarship players at the position to fill that void.
For all the good things that Florida State did in 2011 — the state championship, the bowl victory, etc. — the struggles on the offensive line will be something that FSU fans won’t soon forget. The perception is that FSU needs to bring in a batch of new blood at the position and get things turned around in the trenches.
But that’s not the way FSU’s recruiting method at that position works under Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett. The coaches like to load up on multiple offensive linemen one year and then go light at the position the next recruiting cycle. After signing just one offensive lineman in his first class as head coach in 2010, Fisher loaded up at that position last year by signing a total of eight players.
That doesn’t mean that the ‘Noles should go out and sign just one this year but there definitely won’t be eight new offensive linemen come June when the freshmen arrive on campus.
FSU already addressed one of its needs at tackle after the graduations of Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders by adding junior-college transfer Daniel Glauser earlier this month. Getting one or two more linemen would be ideal as Glauser has a chance to use spring practices as a springboard into the starting job left by Datko and Sanders.
In preparation for National Signing Day, be sure to stick with Seminoles.com.
The Signing Day Central page is now live and should be bookmarked for use next Wednesday. That page will be live updating as each recruit’s signed letter is faxed to FSU and cleared by the athletic department’s compliance office. The new ‘Noles aren’t official until they are featured on that page.