Jimbo Fisher will win a National Championship at Florida State

Before we discuss Florida State’s recruiting class, I’d like to give you some context:

  • Mark Stoops, Defensive Coordinator, left to be Head Coach at Kentucky.
  • DJ Eliot, Defensive Line Coach, left to be Defensive Coordinator at Kentucky.
  • Eddie Gran, Running Backs Coach, left to be Offensive Coordinator at Cincinatti.
  • Dameyune Craig, Quarterbacks Coach, left to be Offensive Coordinator at Auburn.
  • Greg Hudson, Linebackers Coach, left to be Defensive Coordinator at Purdue.
  • James Coley, Offensive Coordinator, left to be (real) Offensive Coordinator at Miami.

A typical college football coaching staff has approximately 10 coaches.  Head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators, and position coaches (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary).  The list above represents the coaches Florida State lost in one off-season; the most recent defection to a rival, two weeks from signing day, hurt the most.  As soon as Jimbo Fisher hires his last assistant, I will follow-up with profiles on each of the new coaches.

But let that last point sink in some—Jimbo didn’t just finalize this class without an assistant coach, but that assistant coach happened to be his best recruiter who recruits the Miami territory.  And as he admitted in his post-signing day press conference, Jimbo found himself doing the grunt work for the home stretch.

After all the dust settled, Florida State signed another top 10 class.  Many insiders are a touch disappointed because it could have been better.  There were a few that got away, like Denver Kirkland (OL) and Stacy Coley (WR).  More reason for concern is the lack of offensive line depth.  Florida State easily expected to sign 5-6 offensive lineman and only came away with 3 true offensive lineman and, potentially, a tight-end turned tackle in a few years time.  The rest of the class, however, is absolutely stacked.

The three best players in this class are on defense: Demarcus Walker (DE), Matthew Thomas (LB), and Jalen Ramsey (CB).  All are blue chips and considered top 5 at their position.  Meanwhile, Florida State’s seemingly singular focus on offense was speed.  And a lot of it.  For the second consecutive year, Florida State may have signed the fastest player in the country (last year it was Marvin Bracy, this year it is Kermit Whitfield).  Bracy and Whitfield have broken all types of track records.  Bracy is most known for his performance in this race.  And for the naysayers, yes, he’s fast in pads, too.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also show you Kermit Whitfield’s speed as well.  Jimbo’s strategy seems simple: a big, punishing, suffocating defense and burning speed on offense.  The SEC is awaiting a challenger to their style of smash mouth football but I think Jimbo is building the blueprint to challenge and break the paradigm.

And it all ties to the types of players Jimbo signs.  Athletes.  Smart kids with character.  Some blue chippers, some with chips on their shoulder.  This class will not go down as heralded as others, but these are handpicked players by Jimbo.  They fit the blueprint to a T.  This class also seems awfully reminiscent of FSU’s class of 2009 and 2010 — classes that are sending 13 players to the NFL combine.  It was this group that finally turned the corner for the program.  And each and every year, Jimbo just keeps adding to that foundation.

Lastly, looking around the rest of the ACC, and I’m sure my colleagues will correct me, it seems the top third of the conference is doing just fine in football performance.  However, the bottom two-thirds of the conference turned in weak performances.  I’m a little concerned by this.  The ACC will get better contracts for having a solid top-to-bottom slate.  The ACC is not capable of offering that right now, but then again, if you take away the SEC’s championship caliber teams, they aren’t all that different from the other conferences.

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6 responses to “Jimbo Fisher will win a National Championship at Florida State

  1. I agree – Fisher did a fine job keeping such a good class, given all the coaching defections. Now, if I were connected to FSU I would be very concerned that you lost so many coaches all at once. Is that indicative of a problem? Are you not paying assistants enough? or, was this simply a case of having a bunch of “over-qualified” guys who jumped at the opportunity to move up? I think it goes without saying that if FSU wants to make another championship run*, these coaching hires are critical.

    * note: I really thought 2012 was the year – and it almost was. I think 2013 was going to be Clemson’s year regardless, and I feel really good about VT for 2014. However, I see no reason why FSU can’t rebuild and make a run in either 2014 or 2015.

    • Those are really good questions… Let’s first touch on the idea that 2012 could have been the year. 2012 was really, really close to being the year. In fact, Florida State would have manhandled Notre Dame in the championship game. I really hate to make excuses, but Florida State lost its two games for good reasons. First, Florida State didn’t have it’s best offensive lineman, Menelik Watson, for the NC State game. It was the worst offensive performance of the season. Sure, it means we don’t have much depth, but if Watson is in, FSU wins easily. Second, Florida State just couldn’t compete with UF and everything else. The “everything else” is that EJ Manuel’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and he saw her for the first time in weeks on the day of the UF game (for FSU’s senior day). He was shocked and rattled to say the least — he threw three interceptions and coughed up a fumble. He lost focus of himself and the game. FSU at one point had control of the game, which goes to show how strong the team really was. I may devote a post later to exactly how close FSU was to giving the ACC a championship.

      Regarding the coaching hires, I don’t want to spoil my post later this week too much. FSU is expected to hire either an offensive coordinator or assistant coach sometime this week. There is a lot of debate about why 6 coaches would leave at one time. The rumors on the message boards will make you believe that Jimbo isn’t the easiest person to work with or for. That may be true. But realize this: everyone thought 2012 was going to be the year. All coaches stayed for a 3 year span, which in college football, is an eternity. Everyone knew this was their best shot at winning a title. When it didn’t pan out, the coaches naturally moved on to the next step. Many of them were offered promotions. Our defensive coordinator became a head coach. Our running backs coach became an offensive coordinator. Our linebackers coach became a defensive coordinator. Every hire was a step up in title, money, and function. There is some grey area though with James Coley, our “offensive coordinator.” Jimbo is, was, and will always be the offensive coordinator at FSU. Coley was OC in title only, but was offered the real job at UM, with more money. So, a lot of the departures can be explained away but to answer your question succinctly: yes, there is concern. Erasing some of that concern is the quality of hires Jimbo has made. This new staff might actually be even better than the last.

  2. There isn’t a better situated school in the country to take advantage of recruiting. It has been this way for a long, long time, now, so had to reply before anybody gets the idea that Jimbo is some miraculous recruiter. A great haul, absolutely, but I think folks have moved on from FSU’s recruiting prowess…the “no development” tag has officially stuck on this offense, and it’s on offense where this class suffered some misses. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

    • I couldn’t disagree more. A head coach loses six assistants within a month of signing day and he’s not a master recruiter? Go look at some of the recent recruiting classes at Miami. I’d argue UM is the best situated for recruiting and they can’t hold onto their top prospects. For example, this year they lost Collins, Kirkland, and Thomas to other schools. Those were all, at one point, UM leans or commits.

      The knock on Jimbo is that he can’t win the games he is supposed to win–see losses to NC State, UVA, and WFU. That’s not a lack of development, that’s lack of leadership.

      • Common misconception that Miami should be herding these South Floridians, and it will hardly ever work like that. Don’t get me wrong, they should do better than ’13, but the NCAA has a hand in that. Miami will still grab recruits from every corner of the country that would not feel comfortable at FSU, and FSU will always go down there and grab plenty that don’t want to be at a private school dealing with the neighborhood drama they grew up with. FSU has all the facilities and perks, and is just the right distance away. Again, phenomenal close by FSU(Including Jimbo), but Jimbo has no developing hand in Thomas, Walker, Ramsey, or Bryant. They’re not at FSU for, or because, of Jimbo. FSU puts defense into the NFL with career skills, plain and simple.

        • Miami should absolutely be herding the South Floridians. I grew up in South Florida — the U (and all it stands for) is embedded in the culture, but it doesn’t mean that UM automatically gets the recruits. They sign scholarships to play for a head coach. Of course, the coordinator makes a world of difference, but these kids are told that the coordinators and assistants will come and go. It’s part of the business.

          I only mentioned Miami because you almost made it seem as if FSU recruits itself. It just isn’t so, not these days. Not when Ole Miss is writing handwritten notes to recruits.

          You are right — guys like Thomas, Ramsey, Bryant, and Walker are not going to FSU to be educated by Jimbo. They are going because they believe in his program as a whole, including his philosophies and ability to build a program and hire the right people. FSU puts people in defense because its defensive coordinators have been absolutely amazing. Granted, there have only been two in the last 30 years, but Andrews and Stoops were great at their profession. Andrews tailed off at the very, very end, but still produced NFL talent even at the very end.

          I appreciate the dialogue and back-and-forth — I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on other issues FSU has. Funding is one.

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