TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – What had been a relatively quiet National Signing Day at Florida State ended in a roar.
Marvin Wilson, the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle recruit, No. 4 overall prospect and one of the very last players to announce his school of choice on Wednesday, sent a wave of cheering and applause throughout FSU’s Moore Athletic Center when he announced on live television that he would be attending Florida State.
Wilson’s pledge – the Houston, Texas, native picked FSU over LSU, Ohio State and others – put an emphatic exclamation point on what was already one of the country’s top signing classes.
“This is the cherry on top of an outstanding day,” ESPN’s Ryan McGee told a national audience not long after Wilson announced.
With Wilson in the fold, the Seminoles completed a group of 22 newcomers that includes four five-star prospects, three of the nation’s top running backs, two sons of former FSU stars and a variety of players who fill positions of need across the depth chart.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, ESPN had rated FSU’s class as the fourth-best in college football – behind only Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia – with recruiting services Rivals.com and 247Sports not far behind at fifth and sixth, respectively.
Of course, every coach in America is quick to point out that recruiting rankings are no guarantee of future success. But, at Florida State, they’ve more often than not produced results: FSU has signed a top-10 class in each of coach Jimbo Fisher’s eight years at the helm.
“A very diverse class, very good class,” Fisher said at 1 p.m., nearly four hours before Wilson signed. “Exactly the things we need … Very happy with where we’re at and what’s going on.”
The Seminoles on Wednesday got reinforcements at virtually every spot on the depth chart.
At running back, where the Seminoles must replace All-American Dalvin Cook, FSU signed five-star Cam Akers from Clinton, Miss., five-star Khalan Laborn from Virginia Beach, Va., and four-star Zaquandre White from North Fort Myers.
At quarterback, where FSU could use some depth after the departures of Sean Maguire and Malik Henry, FSU signed a pair of pro-style standouts in Bailey Hockman and James Blackman.
And at receiver, where there are shoes to fill after the departures of Bobo Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Travis Rudolph, FSU signed prep All-American D.J. Matthews from Jacksonville and Tamorrion Terry, a Georgia native who picked FSU over Auburn, Georgia and Florida.
The list goes on, from defensive backs (Stanford Samuels III, Cyrus Fagan, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Ontaria Wilson) to linebackers (Adonis Thomas, Leonard Warner, DeCalon Brooks), and tight ends (Tre’ McKitty, Alexander Marshall) to defensive linemen (Wilson, Joshua Kaindoh, Ja’len Parks, Cory Durden, Tre Lawson).
About the only place where the Seminoles didn’t load up was on the offensive line, where they signed seven prospects a year ago. Tackle Brady Scott from Kennesaw, Ga., was the only addition this year.
“Hopefully (the class) will turn out,” Fisher said. “We’ll find out in a year or two. Some will play this year, some won’t, and we’ll find out in about two years if our projections on guys are really good.”
Prior to Wilson’s announcement, things had been mostly quiet around FSU’s football offices.
The Seminoles received one new commitment – from Warner – early in the morning, but, otherwise, the day held few surprises as National Letters of Intent rolled across the office fax machine as expected.
Fisher, a 30-year coaching veteran, said today’s signing day is a far cry from years ago, when recruits could more easily keep things a secret and string out the process as long as possible.
And that’s to say nothing of the parade of hats, t-shirts and, on occasion, live animals for which signing day was once famous.
“Today was probably the least number of guys that had the drama of National Signing Day that I can remember,” Fisher said. “The year-round cycle is taking some of the (theatrics) out. You’ve kind of got most of your hay in the barn before signing day.”
Then again, Fisher has a lot to do with that.
Since taking over as head coach in 2010, Fisher and his staff have often pieced together their signing classes over the course of the year, which can at times lead to National Signing Days that miss out on the usual fireworks. Most of the country’s top programs have followed suit.
Not that Fisher minds.
Asked if he prefers this method to the old days of waiting and watching on T.V. as prospect after prospect found new ways to tease and torment fan bases across the country, Fisher didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, I really do,” Fisher said. “That way, you know what you’ve got.”
But a few surprises here and there – like the one he got when Wilson announced on Wednesday afternoon – are always welcome, too.