Feeling a cold shoulder

Some bay area coaches say FSU's recruiting interest badly lacking.

By JOE SMITH, Times Staff Writer
Published January 24, 2008

Colin McCarthy appeared to be a tailor-made prospect for Florida State.

The former Clearwater Central Catholic and current Miami linebacker loved the Seminoles growing up; he attended FSU games, ran a personal-best 4.49 at a Seminoles camp and garnered offers from Florida, Ohio State, Penn State and Miami in 2005.

But like several former CCC teammates now playing for major college programs, McCarthy said he was "surprised" he got little love and no offer from the Seminoles.

Needless to say, when McCarthy helped seal the Hurricanes' 37-29 upset of FSU last year with a fumble recovery for a touchdown, the sophomore said it felt great to prove FSU "missed out."

According to several bay area coaches, FSU has missed the boat in recruiting the state's second-most populated metropolitan region. Case in point: Hillsborough and Chamberlain combined have had a dozen players find a spot in NFL camps, but Chiefs coaches say the only one to play at Florida State (Eagles defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley) wasn't on the Seminoles' radar until they brought FSU coaches film on the future first-round draft pick before a 2001 state playoff game. Quipped coach Billy Turner, "They really didn't know much about (Bunkley)."

Bunkley was one of just five bay areaplayers signed by FSU since 2002; by comparison, in one recruiting class, Florida picked up five in 2006. The Seminoles' lack of presence in the area has baffled bay area coaches, bothered at least one prominent booster and burdened second-year FSU assistant Lawrence Dawsey, who said one local school was "shocked" to see him at a recent visit.

"I've been here 30 years and (Bobby Bowden) has been there 30 years, and I've never seen him in person, except for maybe a clinic," Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. "We've had eight guys (play in the NFL) and I don't remember any of them recruited by FSU."

Former FSU assistant Daryl Dickey, who recruited the bay area for six years before recently taking the head coaching job at West Georgia, said "there's no question I missed out on a lot of players."

But Dickey denied any claim that FSU neglected the area, which he labeled "Gator-based," saying circumstances, needs and available scholarships for certain positions could be some reasons some players weren't recruited.

"Never did I feel satisfied with the guys I signed at Florida State," Dickey said. "We did sign some really good football players and guys that made an impact, from Chris Davis (St. Petersburg Catholic) to Drew Weatherford (Land O'Lakes). I would have loved to have had more."

Bowden didn't return a call seeking comment about recruiting in the bay area.

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Bunkley's road to FSU has almost become a local legend.

He was one of four players on Chamberlain's 2001 state finalist who would vie for spots on NFL rosters. But Chiefs coaches say FSU recruiters were, for the most part, missing in action.

So on the way to a state playoff game, Turner dropped off a videotape in Tallahassee of Bunkley's highlights.

"They had heard the name but hadn't watched any film on him," Turner said. "Forty to 50 Division I schools came that spring to practice - Florida State didn't watch practice. ... When (FSU) saw the film, it was all they needed to see."

Chiefs assistant Brian Turner said FSU coaches dropped by campus last year for the first time in five years; he said Dawsey is doing a much better job, building important relationships with high school coaches (whether they have five-star recruits or not).

Philip Doganiero, a "Golden Chief" Florida State booster who lives in Belleair, said he's frustrated that FSU has missed out on bay area standouts such as A.J. Trump (Miami), Riley Cooper (UF) and LeRue Rumph (N.C. State).

Doganieiro, 50, believes FSU got "fat and happy" after its string of success in the 1990s - five national championship game appearances and two titles - overlooking "overachievers that helped build the program" in favor of those with faster 40s or better rivals.com rankings.

"We can't get caught up on five star (recruits) around the country," Dawsey said. "Our three-star recruit in this state may be better than a five-star in another state. You can't believe what scout.com tells you about your player - you've got to see it for yourself."

Dawsey, a former FSU and Bucs receiver, has received mixed reviews from bay area coaches since he began recruiting the area last year. Dawsey said he recognizes the talent level here from his coaching stints at Tampa Catholic and Blake high schools and USF, and tried to "visit five schools a day last spring." But Countryside coach John Davis said, "I haven't seen (Dawsey) at all."

FSU has one bay area commitment this year (Hillsborough defensive lineman Moses McCray). The Seminoles staff has made a late rush for Plant offensive lineman Rhonne Sanderson, who is scheduled to visit Tallahassee this weekend, and offered scholarships to rising juniors Armwood defensive end Ryne Giddins, Alonso defensive tackle Demonte McCallister and Armwood linebacker Petey Smith.

FSU coaches dropped by late last week to visit Northeast's heralded tailback Jeff Brinson. Brinson, who has orally committed to Iowa, said he was a big FSU fan growing up, but was "surprised" when it didn't show much interest while Florida, Georgia and Iowa were among about 20 schools that offered.

"They would have been in my top (schools) - if they'd been in at the get-go," Brinson said. "Now, it might be too late."

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com or at (813) 310-9024.

Where Tampa Bay area recruits end up

Bay area commitments since 2002, according to rivals.com.

Florida 9

N.C. State 8

West Virginia 6

Miami 5

Florida State 5