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Sorting through fact vs. narrative from FSU’s ESP

(Photo: Travis Register, 247Sports)

Florida State sits at No. 15 nationally in the 2019 national recruiting rankings exiting Early Signing Period.

Some will say that’s acceptable, especially given FSU’s lackluster 5-7 campaign in Year 1 under coach Willie Taggart.

Others will take a look at the way ESP went, with FSU missing out on a couple coveted blue-chip recruits (i.e. QB commit Sam Howell flipped to North Carolina and OL target William Putnam picked Clemson over FSU), and feel that FSU is becoming too reliant on three-star recruits.

Both can be right. There’s reason for concern based on objective data and what we’ve seen occur thus far on the recruiting trail, but it’s too early to panic given that there’s still a lot of recruiting to be done until National Signing Day in February. In an attempt to put FSU’s current and projected recruiting efforts into context, Noles247 addressed some of the narratives floating around during the ESP and did some fact checking. The results? Take a look…

I’ve heard “we’re becoming Three-Star U” from a few friends of mine who follow FSU, so I think this is a topic worth vetting. The concern here is that FSU is relying too much on under-the-radar three-star prospects rather than accumulating four-star and five-star recruits (aka blue-chip recruits).

There are a few aspects I want to touch on before viewing FSU’s current Blue-Chip Rate in 2019.

Stars matter, to an extent. Not every player you sign is going to be a blue-chip recruit, and coaches who are good evaluators will consistently find and develop hidden gems. And blue-chip recruits are going to fizzle out…landing one isn’t going to assure you of success (FSU’s 2016 class was 69.59 percent blue-chip recruits but has gone 22-16 in three seasons). But selling you on the premise that getting blue-chip recruits isn’t better than getting three-star prospects is misleading. Here’s a good article from SBNation that shows the importance of recruiting blue-chip recruits and how those recruits have a higher chance to become true difference makers at the college level and eventually first-round draft picks.

There’s a difference between identifying under-the-radar prospects early vs. turning to them as Plan B options. Again, not every recruit you sign is going to be an all-world prospect. And there are countless examples of unranked and three-star recruits evolving into elite NFL players. But I do think there’s something to be said for finding a guy that you like and jumping on him (FSU did this in the past cycle with WR Keyshawn Helton) compared to turning to a player as a backup option after you miss on other prospects. That’s important to consider here. Are FSU’s signed three-star recruits must-have commodities regardless of industry rankings, or are they fallback plans after players higher on the board became longshots? DE Derrick McLendon, CB Renardo Green and DT Tru Thompson are examples of players this staff identified as must-have recruits very early on in the 2019 cycle (or in Thompson’s case, much earlier). But of the six players FSU has added to the class since a disappointing 2018 campaign began (4-star DB Raymond Woodie III, 3-star CB Jarvis Brownlee, 3-star ILB Kevon Glenn, 3-star JUCO OT Jay Williams, 3-star OG Maurice Smith and 3-star DL Malcolm Ray), five are rated three-stars and those five were offered scholarships by FSU in the past month. Woodie is the only recently-committed recruit who was offered prior to the season.

This doesn’t mean that those recruits can’t develop into impactful players at FSU — I can find positive traits to build on with each recruit — but the late offers give off the appearance that these players were either discovered late or weren’t first options.

Follow the offers. FSU has offered 217 players scholarships this cycle, per the 247Sports database. Of those offers, 58 recruits are rated three-stars or lower. The remaining 159 recruits FSU has offered so far this cycle are four-star or five-star recruits. This reinforces the notion that programs (like FSU) looking to compete for championships want elite talent, and that talent usually coincides with blue-chip rankings.

Here’s a look at what FSU’s classes have been comprised of (regarding star rankings/overall rankings) since 2010:














Class

NR/3-star

4-star

5-star

Top 200 recruit

Total Enrollees

2010

13

6

3

7

22

2011

12

12

4

12

28

2012

4

8

6

10

18

2013

11

9

2

7

22

2014

13

14

2

11

29

2015

6

10

4

10

20

2016

7

15

1

12

23

2017

11

8

4

11

23

2018

8

13

0

7

21

2019 (signed)

9

5

0

2

14

2019 (committed)

0

4

1

4

5

2019

9

9

1

6

19

   

And here’s a closer look at the blue-chip ratio from those classes:














Class

Blue-Chip Rate

Top 200 Rate

2010

40.09%

31.81%

2011

57.14%

42.85%

2012

77.77%

55.55%

2013

50.00%

31.81%

2014

55.17%

37.93%

2015

70.00%

50.00%

2016

69.59%

52.17%

2017

52.17%

47.82%

2018

61.90%

33.33%

2019 (signed)

35.71%

14.28%

2019 (committed)

100.00%

80.00%

2019

52.63%

31.57%

  

It’s fair to view the 2019 recruiting class vs. the current 2019 signing class separately.

I think that’s where some of the fan frustration comes from.

If you look at the 2019 class as a whole, it’s down by FSU standards, but not awful by any stretch. You have a higher blue-chip rate than three of FSU’s classes from 2010-17, although the rate of Top 200 recruits is on par to be the lowest this decade (although very comparable to Top 200 rates in 2010 and 2013). One reason to be concerned is that the players with the best chance to become impact players — CB Akeem Dent, S Nick Cross, CB Travis Jay, S Brendan Gant and DE Quashon Fuller — have not yet signed. Those are five of FSU’s top seven commits and half of FSU’s blue-chippers. FSU is confident that it will sign all five players in February, but there are obviously no guarantees when it comes to recruiting.

Simply put, the Seminoles are open to losing some of the best players in their class. Having all five of these players, or even most of them, officially in the fold would make me feel better about this class. 

And, as a reminder: The class is not complete.

Just as FSU still has to keep its current unsigned commits from checking out other options, the Seminoles can work on uncommitted prospects. We’ll see FSU turn its focus to four-star quarterbacks (i.e. Lance LeGendre and/or John Rhys Plumlee) and work on some blue-chip wide receivers that it’s already invested time into. FSU also plans to add about three more offensive linemen to this class, although it’s worth noting that it’s struggled to develop positive traction with its top-ranked tackles (the biggest position of need in this class).

FSU enters the final stretch of the recruiting cycle with a lot of variables to account for. Right now, the signing class doesn’t look to have enough potential star power to compete at a championship level. That’s a reason for concern. But FSU can still bolster its blue-chip ratio by holding onto unsigned commits while adding a few more coveted recruits on the offensive side of the ball.

This class will look different in February. Whether or not that is a good thing, well, it’s too early to tell.

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