Since arriving at Florida State in 2008, Jimbo Fisher has been known as the “QB guru.” He got that title from developing notable names such as JaMarcus Russell and Matt Flynn at LSU and further established himself as a quarterback whisperer after getting three straight quarterbacks in Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel and Jameis Winston drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Currently, Florida State has an established starter in place at the quarterback position. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has performed admirably in his first year as a starter, leading the Seminoles to a 9-3 record and showing his grit, toughness and strengths as a player.
Unfortunately, a problem arises when looking at the depth behind Francois. Malik Henry, a former blue-chip recruit, just announced that he would be transferring from the program. With Henry’s departure and Sean Maguire running out of eligibility, it leaves J.J. Cosentino as the only scholarship QB on the roster with any experience to back up Francois. When on the field, Cosentino has proven to be unreliable in the face of pressure.
But why is there a lack of talent at the quarterback position in Tallahassee?
Part of the problem can be attributed to bad luck. While Henry’s departure was expected in the current time, the coaching staff could not have predicted this when he signed. Similarly, FSU saw Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker transfer out as a direct result of Winston’s rise to stardom. John Franklin III also left when the coaching staff tried to get him to switch positions. Finally, De’Andre Johnson was dismissed following the incident in a local bar when he struck a woman.
But another reason might shock some fans. Florida State has not recruited the quarterback position very well ever since Jimbo Fisher arrived on campus.
Your first reaction might be to point to several highly-ranked recruits that Florida State did sign such as Winston and Manuel, but those are only handful of players that the Seminoles have signed since 2008.
Here’s the breakdown of every QB that Florida State has signed since ’08:
*All data is taken from the 247Sports Composite rankings.
- 2008 – EJ Manuel – #3 QB, #27 overall
- 2009 – Will Secord – #45 QB, #755 overall
- 2010 – Jarred Haggins – #36 QB, #501 overall
- 2010 – Clint Trickett – #60 QB, #848 overall
- 2011 – Jacob Coker – #30 QB, #539 overall
- 2012 – Jameis Winston -#1 QB, #15 overall
- 2012 – Sean Maguire – #38 QB, #566 overall
- 2013 – John Franklin III – #70 QB, #1004 overall
- 2014 – JJ Cosentino – #18 QB, #235 overall
- 2015 – Deondre Francois – #6 QB, #64 overall
- 2015 – De’Andre Johnson – #26 QB, #398 overall
- 2016 – Malik Henry -#4 QB, #47 overall
- Average QB rank – 28.08
- Average overall rank – 416.58
See a trend here? For every top-ranked Winston and Manuel, there’s a low-ranked Franklin or Maguire. Since 2008, Florida State has only signed four quarterbacks who were Top-10 QBs in their class (Manuel, Winston, Francois and Henry). In that same time period, the Seminoles have signed six quarterbacks who ranked 30th or lower in their class.
While the Seminoles have benefitted from hitting on several of their bigger targets and getting several years of production out of them, there are times when the Seminoles have also been hurt by the lack of talent waiting in the wings. Take 2015 for example, when Florida State had to bring in a grad transfer in Everett Golson because they couldn’t find a capable starter on their roster.
As previously stated, part of this problem stems from Winston’s rise to stardom. Before he stepped on that field versus Pittsburgh, the coaching staff could not have predicted that he would be a three-and-done player. If they had known this, they might have recruited the 2013 and 2014 classes harder to find depth behind him.
So while Florida State has had some difficulties on the recruiting trail when it comes to quarterbacks, how do their results stack up against some of the nation’s elite?
For this, I gathered data on teams that are currently meeting the requirements for SB Nation Recruiting’s Blue-Chip Ratio, or the 13 teams that are currently recruiting 50% blue-chips or better to compete on a national championship level. Florida State currently hits this ratio, so I felt it only fair to compare them against other elite recruiting schools. I also added Florida into this mix, as they are FSU’s biggest rival and a school that is often compared to the ‘Noles.
Here are the raw numbers. This first list is simply the average QB rank of the quarterbacks that each school has recruited since 2008, ordered from highest (Georgia) to lowest (Florida).
- Georgia – 14.65
- Notre Dame – 16.44
- Michigan – 17.37
- Alabama – 18.6
- Ohio State – 19.75
- UCLA – 22.81
- Texas -23.66
- Texas A&M – 23.66
- LSU – 27.33
- Florida State -28.08
- USC – 28.2
- Auburn – 30.23
- Clemson – 32.5
- Florida – 48.25
To no surprise, Georgia sits atop this list. They have landed several talented passers such as Jacob Eason and Aaron Murray since 2008 to help their average. Notre Dame might come as a bit of a surprise, but they have not signed a QB lower than 34th since 2008.
So why does Florida State sit at 10th, behind programs like LSU and UCLA?
As previously mentioned, the problem with Florida State is the boom-or-bust aspect of their data set.
While they’ve signed QBs with ranks of 1, 3, 4, and 6, they’ve also signed QBs with ranks of 38, 45, 60 and 70. If you take out those eight numbers and just look at the middle, or median, portion of the data, it isn’t much better at 18, 26, 30, and 36. Simply put, Florida State either signs a top target at the quarterback position, or takes a flyer on a lower ranked “project.” And so far, none of these projects have worked out for Florida State.
But while looking through the data, I noticed something weird.
When looking at the raw data, USC sits at 11th in average QB rank since 2008. This is strange, I thought, because the Trojans have signed several elite players like Matt Barkley and Max Browne.
But the Trojans took a flyer on Larry Tuileta who was ranked 169th (!!) in class of 2014. This severely brought down their average.
Because of this, I thought a better way to look at the data would be to exclude the lowest-ranked QB that each team possessed. Nearly every school in the data set had a player like this who brought down their average.
This second list is the average QB rank of the quarterbacks that each school has recruited since 2008, but excluding the lowest ranked recruit, ordered from highest (Georgia) to lowest (Florida).
- Georgia – 9.57
- USC – 12.55
- Michigan – 13
- Alabama – 13.33
- Notre Dame – 14.25
- Texas – 15.12
- Ohio State – 15.71
- UCLA – 18.4
- Texas A&M – 19.9
- LSU – 21.54
- Clemson – 21.55
- Auburn – 22.5
- Florida State – 24.27
- Florida – 35.28
Again, Georgia tops this list. But with USC free of their lowest-ranked QB, they rise all the way to second. This makes more sense, as the Trojans have recruited seven QBs ranked within the Top-15 of their class since 2008.
But still, Florida State sits towards the bottom. Again, the middle group of players holds the Seminoles down. Despite eliminating their lowest-ranked player (Franklin), the middle group of players ranked in the 30s or lower makes Florida State the second lowest ranked, beating out Florida (who wasn’t supposed to be in this data set to begin with).
So what did we learn from this?
Well for one, Florida State’s quarterback recruiting isn’t as great as everyone claims it to be. From this data set, it is clear that the Seminoles have whiffed more than once on their top targets and have had to settle for some lower-ranked players. Keep in mind, this isn’t even including the latest 2017 class where the numbers will not do the Seminoles any favors. Currently, Florida State has Bailey Hockman (22nd) and James Blackman (30th) committed.
While the Seminoles have a long-term answer at quarterback in Deondre Francois, it is never too early to start planning for who will come after him or, knock on wood, who will play in case of injury.