TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Winning a national championship certainly helped Florida State coaches when they visited with recruits over the past month.
But recruiting is about relationships to coach Jimbo Fisher. And in many cases, Fisher has talked with a recruit for years, watched him attend a summer camp in Tallahassee and hosted him for an official visit.
"I’m a believer in this: I think sometimes national championships help the next year’s recruiting," Fisher said. "A lot of these relationships with these kids in recruiting were built before the championship was won."
And because of those long-term relationships, there will be less drama than normal on National Signing Day for Fisher and his staff. Sure, they will be working the phones to try and find out before a player announces. But there will be fewer of those instances in 2014.
Most recruiting analysts think that Florida State is building a top-5 class, factoring in three elements: five prospects who enrolled early, the strength of a large group of solid verbal commitments and a few who are considered to be leaning toward the Seminoles.
Florida State coaches should again have the bulk of their class signed by lunchtime. A few of the ceremonies to pay attention to will be those of five-star receivers Ermon Lane of Homestead, Fla., and Malachi Dupre of River Ridge, La. The group of offensive linemen could be strengthened if tackle Roderick Johnson of Florissant, Mo., chooses Florida State. And Southfield, Mich., defensive end Malik McDowell is reportedly considering Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Florida State.
Lane is reportedly leaning toward following close friend (and Florida State early enrollee) Dalvin Cook, the 2013 Mr. Football from Miami Central. Dupre wrote on his Twitter feed on Tuesday that he is down to five schools: LSU, UCLA, Florida State, Alabama and Mississippi.
One of the Seminoles’ biggest needs is at receiver, and this class could take care of the program for the next few seasons. Florida State has already received a verbal commitment from West Palm Beach five-star receiver Travis Rudolph, so picking up Lane, Dupre or both would help keep the Seminoles’ passing game going.
The other crucial need is on the offensive line. Florida State returns four senior starters in 2014 but needs to develop players to fill those gaps in 2015. And the Seminoles have verbal commitments from a pair of junior-college linemen, Chad Mavety of Nassau (N.Y.) CC and Kareem Are of Fort Scott, Kan., as well as prep standouts like Brock Ruble of Hyattsville, Md., Ethan Frith of Summit, Miss., Corey Martinez of Tampa and Alec Eberle of Mechanicsville, Va. Are enrolled early and was considered one of the nation’s top junior-college offensive linemen.
One area where Florida State is trying to plan ahead is at quarterback. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston could opt to leave school after his redshirt sophomore season of 2014, and he could be a top-10 pick in the 2015 draft. Florida State has received a verbal commitment from Pittsburgh prep star J.J. Cosentino, and Miami Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris has made a verbal commitment to the Seminoles but is also reportedly weighing his options.
On defense, Florida State has loaded up on linemen and linebackers. At linebacker, four-stars Jacob Pugh and Delvin Purifoy and early enrollee Kain Daub could make an impact in the fall. The Seminoles also have commitments from defensive linemen Demarcus Christmas, Dexter Wideman and Lorenzo Featherston.
One of the biggest recruits is already on campus and taking classes. Cook ran for 1,940 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Miami Central, and he took a long look at Miami and Florida before choosing Florida State. Since the Seminoles lose both Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, there is a strong need for Cook to come in, learn the system and earn some playing time alongside senior Karlos Williams and sophomores Ryan Green and Mario Pender.
"Cook is a tremendous prospect," Scout.com recruiting analyst Geoff Vogt said. "Enrolling early puts him immediately in the mix. Cook has big-play ability and is versatile enough to be used in a variety of schemes."
Besides Cook, Daub and Are, the other early enrollees are defensive back Trey Marshall of and long snapper/offensive lineman Stephen Gabbard.
Even though Florida State has plenty of talent returning (six starters on each side of the ball) and depth that is the envy of many programs, the Seminoles had needs. And this class could fill those holes.
"They did a great job with a future quarterback, running back, big-time wide receivers, offensive line depth and adding top-tier talent on defense," 247Sports recruiting analyst Chris Nee said. "Very good class from that standpoint."