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Smaller class suits 'Noles needs

Coach Bobby Bowden says his team addressed holes with its 19 recruits.

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published February 8, 2007


Florida State coach Bobby Bowden isn't one to fret about the rankings of his recruiting class.

He knew it was going to be on the small side - 19 signed national letters of intent Wednesday - and the fact that his staff overhaul took precedence with him meant the Seminoles would fall behind on some of the biggest names. FSU, in fact, didn't land a single five-star prospect, according to Rivals.com, for the first time in years.

Still, Bowden knew this class was all about filling holes, especially with game-breaking receivers, speedy linebackers and offensive linemen who fit new assistant coach Rick Trickett's mold quick and tough-minded, and he said that mission was accomplished no matter what the national pundits say.

The Seminoles didn't land a tailback such as North Fort Myers star Noel Devine or the safety they wanted. They missed out on all-everything defensive tackle Marvin Austin. But ...

"It ended up a real good year," Bowden said. "With what we've got coming back, except at several positions, the kids are going to have a battle on their hands. ... I think it's a very good class."

- Cameron Wade, Bert Reed and Markish Jones all could be wideouts who can run away from defenders, either for a long pass or after catching a short one a la Florida's Percy Harvin. The Seminoles didn't have that last season.

One recruiting service said Reed, a one-time Florida commitment, is an "electrifying speedster in space and a nightmare to handle one-on-one in the open field." Jones, a South Carolina native who actually signed a letter from Clemson only to change his mind before it could be faxed Wednesday, is the state champ in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races and the long jump.

"He's big and he can run," his prep coach, Quay Farr, said.

- A lack of speed also showed up in the kicking game. FSU averaged just 18.7 yards on kickoff returns and 9.1 yards on punt returns. It had no touchdowns on either. A year earlier, Willie Reid averaged 17.5 yards on punt returns with three touchdowns, including one in the ACC title game and one in the Orange Bowl. He was the MVP of both games.

"You take a look a look at what Willie Reid did in 2005," recruiting coordinator John Lilly said. "No knock on the individuals who were there, but we probably didn't get quite as much production out of those areas this year. So that was something that we looked at and we really felt we needed to add to our team."

Enter those aforementioned receivers as well as Tallahassee Lincoln defensive back/athlete Brandon Paul. The kick coverage wasn't too good, either, in large part due to injuries to speedy linebackers. Prospects Kendall Smith and Jamar Jackson should help.

"They may not start a game this year, but I think they'll be tired at the end of all of the games," Lilly said.

- The Seminoles also needed offensive linemen and added seven. Lilly said it's difficult to get so many players at any one position, but they "probably exceeded our goals."

Although none is a big name, Trickett has a reputation for making players whom the analysts ranked with few stars into on-the-field stars.

"He's got a type of guy who he wants to coach, and he's tried to select that," Bowden said. "And sometimes folks, it ain't the prettiest one."

Times correspondent D.C. Reeves contributed to this report. Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.