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Seminole recruiters must play catch-up
Time spent by FSU wooing new assistants meant time not spent wooing new players.
By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published February 2, 2007
Bobby Bowden knew what would happen on the competitive recruiting trails as it became clear he would be overhauling his staff like never before.
"We naturally got behind," the FSU coach said recently. "But I felt like the most important thing was to get a great staff."
With Jimbo Fisher offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Rick Trickett (line), Lawrence Dawsey (receivers), Dexter Carter (backs) and Chuck Amato (linebackers) joining holdovers Mickey Andrews (defensive coordinator/secondary), Odell Haggins, (defensive tackles), Jody Allen (defensive ends) and John Lilly (tight ends/recruiting coordinator), Bowden gives his new staff five stars.
"Its (strength) speaks for itself," he said.
The first test comes Wednesday, national signing day. The Seminoles had only six scholarship seniors, so the coaches knew they were likely to sign only 15 to 18 players. Filling holes, especially on offense, with quality prospects would be far more vital than stocking the shelves with quantity.
- The Seminoles have had a dearth of offensive linemen, and the graduations of tackle Mario Henderson and tackle/guard Cory Niblock doesn't help. They hope to sign about six.
- A game-breaking speedster at receiver was missing last season, but Ahmad Paige (Sterlington, La.), Deonte Thompson (Belle Glades) or Markish Jones (Spartanburg, S.C.) could provide that.
- A speedy tailback such as a Noel Devine (North Fort Myers) or Robert Elliott (Okolona, Miss.), an Ole Miss oral commitment FSU hopes to turn, is another goal.
"You have to have talent," said Fisher, previously at LSU. "As coaches, we sit here and say, 'We're magical.' But the best part of coaching is recruiting and going out there and getting guys who have the physical abilities to do the things you're asking them to do."
But FSU fell behind on the top offensive prospects as it struggled on the field and Bowden spent precious time recruiting coaches.
"We did lose some ground, but there are a lot of boys out there. And in this state, you can't get them all," Bowden said. "You just hope you get the right ones."
Some of those "right ones" have taken notice of the changes. Paige orally committed but backed off as FSU's record slid into mediocrity and its staff fell into uncertainty. In recent weeks, Fisher and Dawsey have visited him.
"Jimbo has a pretty good track record, and I'm sure that would be appealing to him," said Dale Ashley, Paige's high school coach.
And Fisher has tried to make a push with Thompson, who visited LSU's campus in the fall. And Jones, a Clemson commitment, recently visited Tallahassee.
"(People) have been very receptive," Fisher said.
Trickett, meanwhile, has continued to woo some of the players he was after while at West Virginia, namely Anthony Grosso, who has orally committed to FSU, and center/guard Rodney Hudson, a West Virginia commitment who switched to FSU.
"Jimbo Fisher was a huge get for them," said Tom Lemming, a national recruiting analyst for College Sports TV. "I think he's the best coach they've brought in in years. He can really turn the program around. But it's more likely you'll see the results next year. It's just a little bit too late for this year."
Jamie Newburg, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, thinks the payoff is long term as well. But FSU might get an immediate boost, he said.
"The one thing I've learned in covering recruiting for 15 years," he said, "is you never count out Bobby Bowden. They're going to get some players to fall their way and will close better than what most people think."
Starting behind, Bowden will tell you, doesn't mean that's where you're necessarily going to end.