How much of a challenge is it for a non-SEC school located in SEC territory to recruit against the almighty conference that has won six national championships in a row?
Jimbo Fisher would know. He’s the coach at Florida State, one of the few schools that hasn’t been smashed, clobbered and choked to death on the recruiting trail during the SEC’s golden era.
“It’s a challenge but you need to remember this: Florida State and Miami were winning them [national championships] in the 80s and 90s,” Fisher told the AJC. “So Florida State is one of the teams that can line up and play with the SEC. We can recruit against them, and we have as good of a football tradition as any of those guys.
“We’ve had just as many great football players come through FSU, and kids know that. We just want to go get more great players. It doesn’t matter who we are recruiting against, if it’s the SEC or whomever. We think our conference [the ACC] is great but they’re hot right now over in the SEC as far as winning national championships. But at Florida State, we can recruit and compete against anybody.”
Earlier this month, Florida State finished with the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation, according to Rivals. The Seminoles raided Alabama for four recruits, including No. 1 QB recruit Jameis Winston, and plucked one out of Georgia – Stone Mountain High School LB Markuss Eligwe.
FSU’s 19-member class had prized prospects from Texas, California, New Jersey and Maryland – validating the school’s claim as a “national brand” despite being located in the heart of SEC land.
“It’s a great tradition at Florida State,” Fisher said. “You go back to all the players these kids grew up watching. And now we’re getting back with these elite [recruiting] classes, we’ve won 19 games in the last two years and we’re playing very good football. We’re right on the edge of getting back into the national title hunt and doing the things we need to do.
“Florida State has a great appeal. People like Florida State. It’s a national brand name. You know, why did Alabama go through that slump when Bear Bryant was still a national name? You know what I mean? Certain places have a national appeal, and you never lose it because you have history and you have tradition.”
Even though Florida State only got one Georgia recruit in 2012, the state is still a high priority for Fisher. “Georgia is very high on our list. We concentrate on Florida and Georgia. We sit here in North Florida. We have such great access to Florida and South Georgia. Atlanta is only four hours away. It is very close. We have great access, and Georgia has great football … we put a lot of coaches into recruiting the state of Georgia.”
That one player, again, was AJC Super 11 selection Markuss Eligwe, who committed to FSU last spring but still took official visits to UGA and Cal. Eligwe’s trip to Cal was on the final weekend before signing day, and he liked it so much that he announced he was going to wait until the week after signing day to make his final decision, which did not sit too well with Jimbo. Eligwe ended up going back to Plan A and signing with the Seminoles on signing day.
“I still thought he was going to sign with us on signing day all along,” Fisher said. “Kids always go through things with recruiting and he’s a great kid, a phenomenal young man. I think he’s going to have a great future here. With his size and his speed, and that intelligence, I think he’s a complete football player. With [the Cal situation], you go through stuff like that sometimes in recruiting. But Eligwe is easy to talk to, and we talked. And he wanted to sign with the rest of our guys.”
The “one that got away” was Josh Harvey-Clemons, the Lowndes High School linebacker who committed to UGA on national TV but waited until the next day to turn in his scholarship papers. It caused a crack in the Lowndes-to-FSU pipeline of football talent.
“Josh elected to go to UGA, and Georgia is a great school,” Fisher said. “We had gotten a lot of great players from that area before … Greg Reid, Telvin Smith, Tyler Hunter and Gerald Demps. But Josh made his own choice. He made a good choice. We would’ve loved to have had him. But we’ll worry about the guys we signed.”
This past season, FSU recovered from a 2-3 start, including a stunning loss to Wake Forest, to finish with a 9-4 record. Fisher was in his second season of replacing FSU coaching legend Bobby Bowden, who won national championships in 1993 and 1999.
SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU CHECKED YOUR LAPTOP …
INSTANT AJC RECRUITING CLASSICS
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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