TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jimbo Fisher has not only secured wins on the gridiron but on the recruiting trail as well.
In his four seasons at Florida State, the Seminoles are 45-10 with four straight top-10 signing classes.
Florida State’s recruiting success means the program replenishes itself with top talent. After 11 players were selected in the 2013 NFL draft — the most of any school in the nation — the Seminoles went 14-0 and captured a national title.
This year, Florida State is trying to do the same thing. The Seminoles lost two of their top three receivers, two of their top three rushers and five of their top six tacklers.
Yet Fisher is encouraged by what he saw from a group of rising stars that are trying to fill those roles. He praised a trio of sophomore receivers — Jesus Wilson, Kermit Whitfield and Isaiah Jones — for their development. While Karlos Williams and Mario Pender didn’t play in the spring game, Fisher was pleased with their progress.
"I think we developed it definitely in the offensive line," Fisher said. "Felt very comfortable with our running back situation. Our quarterbacks, our young guys really developed. A lot of the receivers are getting a lot of reps.
"Defensive line we’re developing, the young linebackers. (It) was really fun to watch in the secondary. I feel like we’ve developed it kind of across the board."
Fisher said he felt that the spring got off to a slow start, citing the length of the 2013 season and the adjustment by younger players to fill new roles. But he saw improvement in the final few weeks of spring practice.
"New guys in new positions, new situations," Fisher said. "I think they grew in those situations and they learned the first half of spring and then really started playing up to their capabilities and talent levels the second half. That is by no fault of their own, it’s just a natural progression that you have to go through."
A University of Georgia beat writer asked Fisher during Wednesday’s conference call about Jeremy Pruitt, who was Florida State’s defensive coordinator in 2013 before leaving in January to take the same job with the Bulldogs.
In regards to Pruitt’s impact in his one season in Tallahassee, Fisher praised Pruitt for doing a "tremendous job." But Fisher also pointed out that the defense had plenty of veterans led by senior defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks as well as linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones.
"I knew we would have a good defense whoever our coordinator was a year ago," Fisher said.
Florida State looks to keep a similar defensive philosophy under Charles Kelly, who was promoted to defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach after serving as the linebackers coach in 2013.
The topic of unionization caught college football off-guard but has gained steam because of the effort at Northwestern, where players will vote on Friday whether they want to unionize.
The National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players on athletic scholarships are university employees, which sets up for what could be an interesting summer.
Fisher said unionization has not come up at Florida State. He sees some pros and cons to it, but in the end has reserved judgment and urges caution before student-athletes make decisions.
"I don’t know if unionization is the way, but I’m not saying it’s not," Fisher said. "…But their voices do need to be heard."