Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is a difference-maker for sure and deserves the credit he gets for taking the Seminoles from very good to dominant this season. A closer look at the Seminoles‘ roster, though, reveals an outstanding supporting cast built on a foundation of roster-building four years in the making.
Yes, the resurgence of Florida State, which currently is No. 2 in the latest BCS standings, can be directly traced to the recruiting prowess of head coach Jimbo Fisher and his coaching staff, particularly in one recruiting cycle where the in-state talent base featured many of the top prospects in the country and the Noles got the lion's share.
Granted, Fisher has recruited well in Tallahassee from the beginning. The Seminoles have signed four straight top 10 classes under Fisher, finishing No. 9 in 2010, No. 2 in 2011, No. 3 in 2012 and No. 10 in 2013, but it's that 2011 group that has provided Florida State with a star-studded core.
Listed starters (or co-starters) for Florida State this season from that class include running backs Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder, Jr., wide receivers Rashad Greene and Kelvin Benjamin, offensive tackle Bobby Hart and offensive guard Josue Matias, tight end Nick O'Leary, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and linebacker Terrance Smith- all important players for the Seminoles this season.
Of significance that cycle is that 22 of the players in the class played high school football in the state of Florida. Given the amount of talent on an annual basis in the Sunshine State (it's always a top three NFL talent producer), it's important for any aspiring college program within that state to keep the best of the best at home. That really has been the secret recipe to Florida State, Miami and Florida being among the best in college football during the past three decades.
Landing Florida's best was particularly important during the 2011 cycle, where the state happened to have many of the top prospects nationally at their position -O'Leary (Palm Beach Dwyer) was the top tight end, Jernigan (Lake City Columbia) the top defensive tackle, Williams (Davenport Ridge Community) the top safety, Hart (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) the top offensive guard and Wilder (Tampa Plant) the top “athlete” according to 247Sports Composite rankings.
Of course, that was also the year that the Canes parted ways with Randy Shannon and Urban Meyer resigned at Florida. Uncertainty at the state's other two nationally-prominent programs certainly helped the Seminoles clean up. But it isn't as if the class prior to 2011 and after it have been anything but stellar and thus they are in the mix to play for all the marbles for the first time since the 2000 season.
This type of success on the recruiting trail will only continue at Florida State. The Seminoles 2014 class currently is ranked No. 7 nationally and their on-field success has put them in position to sign a blockbuster class that expects to reach 30 signees when all is said and done. Also, Fisher re-tooled his staff last offseason and every hire is a decorated recruiter. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was 247Sports National Recruiter of the Year at Alabama for the 2013 cycle, recruiting coordinator Tim Brewster has a national reputation for recruiting, running backs coach Jay Graham is outstanding and signed Marcus Lattimore at South Carolina and Marquez North at Tennessee prior to heading to Tallahassee and defensive ends coach Sal Sunseri has long been one of the best in the business. All are in their first year at Florida State.
There's an old saying about success in college football being more about the “Jimmys and Joes” than the “Xs and Os” and the Seminoles under Fisher are proof of that.