But after finishing up that article, I wondered something. Is there an underlying factor as to why Florida State has not recruited the quarterback position at an elite level under Jimbo Fisher?
Along with California and Texas, the state of Florida produces more college football talent than any other state in the nation. Kids from Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville routinely flood the college landscape during every recruiting cycle. The high school and 7-on-7 competition in the state is fierce and commonly produces the most college-ready talent.
But for all the talent that Florida produces, it has not historically been great at producing quarterbacks like some other states are. In fact, with the recent rise of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, most of the top quarterbacks in the state are imported from other regions of the country. Including the 2017 cycle, the past three recruiting cycles have featured the top quarterback in the state (per the 247Sports Composite rankings) hailing from IMG Academy.
Could this be the underlying reason as to why Florida State has struggled with recruiting elite quarterback talent to Tallahassee?
In Jimbo Fisher’s first year at Florida State, the Seminoles signed five-star QB EJ Manuel from Virginia. To be fair, the majority of Manuel’s recruitment towards Florida State was done prior to Fisher’s arrival but bringing in Fisher as an offensive coordinator certainly must have influenced his decision.
Manuel was ranked higher than any QB in the state of Florida that year. Kyle Parker (Bartram Trail) was ranked 23rd overall in the state and Star Jackson (Lake Worth) was ranked 28th.
Nationally, Manuel was ranked as the third overall QB behind Terrelle Pryor from Pennsylvania and Danye Crist from California. As an interesting side note, the 2008 QB class featured many future NFL players like Pryor, Manuel, Andrew Luck, Mike Glennon and Landry Jones.
Florida State extended offers to three QBs this year: Manuel from Virginia, Crist from California and Tino Sunseri of Pennsylvania. They did not even offer any of the QBs in the state of Florida this year.
Any time you bring in a five-star QB, it has to be considered a success. Especially with the lack of an elite QB in the state, being able to go out-of-state and reel one in is a massive win for the program. Manuel was most likely their top target on their board as well.
Manuel would go on to become a starter for the Seminoles, leading them to four straight bowl wins and an ACC title before being drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
In 2009, the Seminoles signed three-star QB Will Secord of Texas. A lefty, Secord was by no means an established product and was widely viewed as a project at the QB position, a player who definitely needed time in the system to develop.
The state of Florida had two QBs who were elite players: Aaron Murray (Tampa Plant) and Geno Smith (Miramar). They signed with Georgia and West Virginia respectively and remain two of the most talented QBs to come out of Florida since 2008.
The Seminoles extended offers to five QBs this year: Matt Barkley from California, Logan Thomas from Virginia, Smith from Florida, Chris Garrett from Mississippi and Secord from Texas. On paper, this looked like an uphill battle from the start. Barkley was a pipe dream, simply a shot in the dark to a player who was always going to USC. Thomas elected to stay in-state and sign with Virginia Tech. Despite an offer from Florida State, Smith left the state and signed with West Virginia. Finally, Chris Garrett stayed near home and signed with LSU.
Secord was ranked as the 45 overall QB in the class. It is clear that the Seminoles missed on several of their realistic targets (Thomas, Smith and Garrett) and had to settle for Secord simply to get a QB in the class. Unfortunate, but these kind of situations happen in recruiting.
After a couple of seasons as a backup, Secord graduated from college and moved on from football.
In 2010, the Seminoles signed two in-state QBs: Jarred Haggins from Lakeland and Clint Trickett from Tallahassee. Both were three-star recruits and developmental players. While Haggins moved to wide receiver in college, he played quarterback in high school and was classified as a QB as a recruit. Meanwhile, Trickett is the son of current offensive line coach Rick Trickett and was a local recruit.
Unfortunately for Florida State, the state of Florida did not produce many good QBs this year and zero elite ones. Brion Carnes (Bradenton Manatee) was the highest ranked QB in the state as the 59th best player in-state. Future NFL starter Trevor Siemian (Olympia) was ranked 91st overall in the state this year.
Florida State offered five QBs this year: Austin Hinder from Colorado, Jeffrey Godfrey from Florida, Hutson Mason from Georgia as well as Haggins and Trickett. While this was not a great year for QBs nationally, as the Seminoles did not even bother to go elephant hunting and did not offer any of the top guys nationally (Phillip Sims, Blake Bell, Devin Gardner, etc.)
Haggins was ranked as the 36th best QB in the class and Trickett was ranked at 60th overall. In year where there were truly no elite guys anywhere, you can’t really fault the Seminoles for going out and getting two commits simply to have bodies at the position.
As previously stated, Haggins moved to wide receiver for the Seminoles and served primarily as a backup during his career. Trickett played for a couple of seasons, mainly as a backup to Manuel, before transferring out prior to the 2013 season.
In 2011, Florida State signed three-star QB Jacob Coker from Alabama. Because he ran a Wing-T offense in high school, Coker was primarily viewed as a project and developmental player in college.
Several elite QBs emerged from the state of Florida this year. Jeff Driskel (Oveido Hagerty) was the consensus top QB in the nation. Teddy Bridgewater (Miami Northwestern) and Jacoby Brissett (Dwyer) were also blue-chip recruits. All three are currently on NFL rosters.
The Seminoles offered five QBs this year: Max Wittek of California, Brissett and Jerrard Randall from Florida, and Coker and Stephen Rivers from Alabama.
Wittek was never a realistic target, as he came from the same high school as Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart, a program that historically sends kids to USC. Brissett, despite being an in-state kid, never really considered the Seminoles. He chose to go to Florida, despite the Gators already signing five-star Jeff Driskel, with Wisconsin and Washington being his other finalists. Randall was a one-time Oregon commit whose offer to the Ducks reportedly was pulled due to grade issues and he ended up at LSU.
Coker was ranked as the 30th overall QB recruit in the nation, deservedly so because of the Wing-T offense that he ran in high school. It really hurts that the Seminoles were not able to land any of the top quarterbacks in the state this year, players that would go on to become draft picks and NFL-caliber players. They did not even offer Driskel, most likely because he showed no interest in the program after committing early to the Gators. Bridgewater, a Miami native, was a Miami commit until they fired Randy Shannon, at which point he flipped to Louisville. Finally, Brissett committed to the Gators despite them already having five-star Driskel on campus.
Coker served as a backup during the 2013 national championship campaign, but then transferred out prior to the 2014 season.
Florida State went elephant hunting in 2012 and they hit big time, signing five-star QB Jameis Winston from Alabama. The consensus No. 1 QB in the nation, Winston was widely viewed as one of the best QB recruits to emerge from high school football in some time. The Seminoles also signed Sean Maguire from New Jersey, a three-star recruit who was viewed as a developmental player but a nice addition behind Winston.
This was a bad year for in-state QBs. There were no blue-chip QBs in the state this year. Nathan Peterman (Bartram Trail) was the best of the bunch as the 43rd overall player in the state.
Florida State offered five QBs this year: Winston from Alabama, Chad Kelly from New York, Zeke Pike from Kentucky, Ford Childress from Texas, and Maguire from New Jersey.
Getting a commitment from Winston was huge. Not only were in-state powerhouses Alabama and Auburn pursuing him heavily, Stanford and LSU were also involved in his recruitment as well. The Seminoles had also not landed an elite QB since Manuel and were desperate to find his eventual replacement.
Winston would go on to lead the Seminoles to a national championship, win the Heisman Trophy and become the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Maguire is currently a backup, but started during the latter half of the 2015 season.
In 2013, the year after signing the top quarterback recruit in the nation, Florida State signed three-star QB John Franklin III. Although he played QB in high school, many viewed Franklin as a player who could potentially play wide receiver or defensive back in college. He was the definition of a project as a recruit and a player that needed a couple of seasons to develop.
2013 was a fairly decent year for QBs in Florida. Asiantii Woulard (Winter Park) was ranked 22nd overall in the state and was the top dual-threat QB nationally. Cord Sandberg (Bradenton Manatee) was ranked 35th overall in the state, but he elected to forego his college career and play pro baseball.
The Seminoles offered five QBs this year: Kevin Olsen of New Jersey, Brice Ramsey, Johnny McCrary and Eddie Pritz all from Georgia, and Franklin from Florida.
Olsen was a blue-chip recruit, but was never a realistic target. The brother of former Miami tight end and current Carolina Panthers star Greg Olsen, he committed to the Hurricanes. Ramsey was another blue-chip recruit, but it is exceptionally difficult to pull a Georgia kid with a Georgia offer away from the Bulldogs.
Florida State did not have much of a shot at the top QBs nationally this year either. Max Browne, the No. 1 QB, committed to USC and would have been impossible to pull from out west. Christian Hackenberg stuck with Penn State despite their sanctions. Others like Shane Morris and Cooper Bateman were exceptionally far away from Florida State’s normal recruiting territory.
It is always difficult to recruit a top QB target in the year after pulling a player like Winston. They took their shot at blue-chip guys like Olsen and Ramsey, but with Winston waiting in the wings to take over, the coaching staff was probably content with getting at least one body on the roster at the position. While Woulard was not an elite recruit by any means, it is somewhat puzzling that Florida State never got into the picture for the top QB in the state, a guy who was very athletic coming out of high school. It makes sense as to why FSU did not get involved with Sandberg, as he made it clear that he was pursuing a career in baseball.
Franklin was a backup during his time at Florida State, but elected to transfer after the 2014 season.
In 2014, directly after Florida State won the national championship, the Seminoles signed four-star QB J.J. Cosentino from Pennsylvania. Although he came from a run-first offense, Cosentino’s size and arm strength made him an intriguing prospect.
There were a handful of good QBs to come out of Florida this year. Sean White (University School) was the 22nd overall player in the state. Michael O’Connor (IMG Academy) was the 34th overall player and the first of the big-name QBs to come out of IMG. Future USF star Quinton Flowers (Miami Jackson) was ranked as the 43rd overall player in the state.
The Seminoles offered five QBs this year: Deshaun Watson and Will Ulmer of Georgia, Jacob Park of South Carolina, Jalan McClendon of North Carolina and Cosentino of Pennsylvania.
Watson, the No. 2 QB in the nation, was all Clemson, committing to the Tigers for over a year before enrolling. Park, the No. 8 QB, never really had Florida State as an option, choosing Georgia over Alabama and Virginia Tech.
The national scene was not favorable to Florida State either. Texas A&M, riding high off of the Johnny Manziel buzz, landed the No. 1 QB in Kyle Allen from Arizona. Will Grier from North Carolina, Keller Chryst from California and Jerrod Heard from Texas were never considering the Seminoles as well.
Cosentino actually compares pretty favorably to the top QBs in the state of Florida. White, the top QB in the state, was ranked as the 11th best QB nationally and carried a 0.9342 grade. Cosentino was ranked as the 18th QB nationally and carried a 0.9066 ranking. So in another year where the scales of the national scene did not really fall in Florida State’s favor, landing a four-star out-of-state QB can be seen as a positive.
In his three years with the Seminoles, Cosentino has been primarily a backup.
Two years ago, Florida State signed a pair of quarterbacks: four-star Deondre Francois and three-star De’Andre Johnson, both from Florida. Francois was the top QB in the state and a player whom analysts loved for his arm strength and mobility. Meanwhile, Johnson had been committed to FSU for nearly three years and had led one of the best high school programs in the state.
As previously stated, Francois (IMG Academy) was the best QB in the state and was ranked 11th overall in-state. Johnson (Jacksonville First Coast) was ranked as the 57th best player in the state.
Florida State offered six QBs this year: Francois, Johnson, Dwayne Lawson and Lamar Jackson from Florida, and Josh Rosen and Ricky Town from California.
Rosen, the No. 1 QB in the country, was offered as a formality, as the California product was always staying on the west coast. Town, the No. 9 QB, was a similar situation as well. Lamar Jackson, the future Heisman winner at Louisville, was not seriously recruited by Florida State as well. Before there is outrage over this, remember that Jackson was a three-star recruit in high school and some schools even tried to recruit him as a receiver or defensive back.
Francois was ranked as the No. 6 QB nationally, but was very impressive compared to some of the higher-ranked kids at the all-star circuit. Hailing from IMG Academy, Florida State did a great job of holding off Florida for his signature. Johnson has been committed to Florida State ever since his freshman year when he took his high school to the state championships. Unfortunately, he did not grow much over the course of his career, which is why he was lower ranked despite putting up some great numbers in high school.
Pulling the top QB from the state, while in turn keeping him away from their in-state rival is a massive win for the Seminoles. Adding Johnson into the mix as a lower-ranked QB recruit, but also an early enrollee and a player that was a good recruiter for them was an added bonus as well.
Francois is currently the starter for Florida State as a redshirt freshman. He has been impressive so far this season and looks to be the backbone of the program for many years. Johnson was famously dismissed from the program before his freshman season for striking a woman at a local bar.
Last year, Florida State signed four-star QB Malik Henry from California. A one-time five-star recruit, Henry was as talented as any QB in the country, but off-the-field issues were concerning and ultimately contributed to the bump down to a four-star ranking.
The state of Florida actually boasted some of the best QBs in the nation in this cycle. Shea Patterson (IMG Academy) was ranked as the No. 1 QB in the nation and, of course, the best overall player in the state. Feleipe Franks (Wakulla) was the 9th overall player in-state. Jack Allison (Palmetto) as the 27th overall player was another blue-chip recruit.
Florida State offered seven QBs this cycle: Henry and KJ Costello from California, Dwayne Haskins from Maryland, Jacob Eason from Washington, and Franks, Xavier Gaines and Avery McCall from Florida.
Ultimately, Florida State landed the top target on their board when Henry committed. We all know the famous story about that one summer camp where Henry and Eason were present and Jimbo Fisher chose to go with Henry as his guy over the five-star QB from Washington. With Henry on board, Florida State dropped out of the recruitment of many of those top guys and several other offers likely become un-committable.
Pulling a blue-chip QB all the way from California is a massive success for Florida State, especially when the Seminoles were competing against a local program like UCLA and a program like Notre Dame that excels at recruiting nationally. Although Fisher and the coaching staff had offered QBs from California before, Henry was the first one that they seriously had a shot with and landed.
After a season at Florida State spent clouded with suspension and rumors, Henry recently announced his intention to transfer away from the program.
With the 2017 cycle all but wrapped up, Florida State currently has two commits at the QB position: four-star Bailey Hockman of Georgia and three-star James Blackman of Florida. Hockman has been on Florida State’s radar for some time now and will be the second lefty to throw for Jimbo when he enrolls in January. Blackman was a late bloomer and a player that many people have high opinions on as a developmental prospect.
The top QB in the state is Kellen Mond (IMG Academy), making it three years in a row that the top QB in the state has come from IMG. He is ranked as the 20th overall recruit in the state. N’Kosi Perry (Ocala Vanguard) and Mac Jones (The Bolles School) are also considered blue-chip recruits as the 30th and 37th overall players respectively.
Florida State offered five QBs in this current cycle: Tate Martell from Nevada, Jack Sears from California, Sam Ehlinger from Texas, Hockman from Georgia and Blackman from Florida.
The Seminoles never really had a shot with Martell, a five-stat recruit. The 5-10 QB famously de-committed from Texas A&M before re-committing to Ohio State this year. Sears, a USC commit, seems to be the annual “California offer” that they throw out there. Florida State had been in contact with Ehlinger for a while, even after he committed to Texas, but they seemed to have waned off of him after getting Blackman to commit as their second QB in the class.
Unfortunately for Florida State, they failed to gain traction with two of the best kids in the country that resided nearby in Georgia in Davis Mills and Jake Fromm. Mills was lured away from the state by the infamous Stanford charm and Fromm was heavily pursued by in-state Georgia, two factors that Florida State just could not compete against. Other than those two and the aforementioned Mond, none of the elite QBs in this cycle were necessarily in Florida State’s traditional recruiting territory either.
Hockman will early enroll at Florida State after signing his letter of intent. Meanwhile, Blackman is still being pursued by programs like West Virginia and Louisville so Florida State will have to fight to gain his signature in February.
So what have we learned?
For one, the talent at the QB position has not been great in Florida, or the southeast in general, since Jimbo Fisher arrived at Florida State. Eight of the 12 QBs that they have signed (2017 class not included) under Fisher have come from out-of-state. In most years, that is because the talent in-state is lacking so the Seminoles have to go hunting in other states for prospects. In other years (mostly 2011), Florida State has failed to gain traction with some of the bigger recruits in-state.
As I previously wrote, the situation surrounding IMG Academy has also clouded the dynamics of recruiting in the state of Florida. Although they are technically Florida recruits, Florida State is at a disadvantage when recruiting guys like Shea Patterson and Kellen Mond because they are not originally from the state of Florida.
Florida State has recruited QBs at lot better in recent years than when Jimbo Fisher first arrived. After Manuel (No. 3) in 2008, Florida State signed guys ranked 45, 36, 60, and 30 before landing Winston (No. 1). Since Winston, they have singed players ranked 70, 18, 6, 26 and 4.
The Seminoles have to hope that they can continue to build momentum in the confusing and complicated world of QB recruiting. Francois is embedded as the starter for now, but it is never to early to start recruiting players who will eventually take over when he leaves. With Francois’ success as a freshman and Winston’s continued growth as an NFL quarterback, Jimbo Fisher will have plenty of ammunition when he hits the recruiting trail.