This is how a recruiting class can kill a program.
• Ten of 22 signees never make it to their senior year. Four don't qualify academically. Three transfer. A promising quarterback runs screaming into the street, calling himself God, gets pepper sprayed and eventually gives up football.
This how a recruiting class saves a program.
• At least seven signees are drafted, at least two in the first round. Seven become All-ACC.
|Lorenzo Booker never became the star the 'Noles expected in 2002. (Getty Images)|
"It had nothing to do with recruits," said Booker, perhaps the nation's best prep tailback prospect in 2002. "The players continue to go out and play at the next level. People can say what they want, recruiting was never a problem. Talent was never a problem."
Florida State's '02 class was a consensus top five group nationally. It included studs like Booker, Leon Washington, Brodrick Bunkley, A.J. Nicholson and Buster Davis.
But it also included misses like running back Thomas Clayton (transferred to Kansas State), linebacker Nate Hardage (failed to qualify, transferred to Valdosta State) and five-star receiver Dishon Platt, who never made it academically.
Quarterback Wyatt Sexton was set to become the starter in 2005. The bizarre incident in June that year was attributed to Lyme Disease. The son of former FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton was soon out of football.
Taken altogether, though, the class was a success even if only half the players became serviceable contributors. Bobby Bowden's '02 group helped lead FSU to three ACC titles and three BCS bowls through 2006.
"(In a typical class), 10 are going to make it, 10 aren't," said CSTV recruiting expert Tom Lemming. "There are academics, social life, injuries. The truth is the more blue chips you have, the better off you are."
FSU had those blue chips -- six five-star guys in '02. It averaged almost nine wins per season in Booker's five. Almost any school in the country would consider that an overwhelming recruiting success five years ago.
FSU is one of those "almosts." Beginning when the class of 2002 came in, Bowden began suffering the consequences of losing two of his best recruiters (and assistants) -- Mark Richt (in 2001, Georgia) and Chuck Amato (2000, N.C. State). The ACC expanded, making it harder to win. FSU still won but lost at least three games in all three championship seasons, five in two of them.
Maybe, just maybe, Bowden and staff didn't work as hard during that time. Heard that one before? Half of the rivals.com top 10 in 2002 either won or played for national championships or went undefeated (Miami, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Texas, Auburn). What a strange, strange place, then, FSU is in.
"If you want to compare us to every other college in America, we're fine," Booker said from Sarasota, Fla., where he is training for the NFL Draft. "If you compare us to FSU, which is all that matters to us, yeah, we're on the decline right now."
Decline? That's a relative word when it comes to recruiting. The FSU class that will sign Wednesday is rated somewhere around No. 40 nationally, one of the lowest rankings for Bowden in years.
But what will it mean in four or five years?
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The stubborn Bowden finally addressed the decline (or whatever it is) changing five coaches this offseason, four on the offensive side. You don't need a Seminole-to-English dictionary to decode Booker.
The players were there. Jeff Bowden's play calling/leadership wasn't. Bowden resigned as offensive coordinator under pressure last year, getting a nice $537,000 golden parachute from boosters who appreciated his last name, if nothing else.
"I'm not going to sit up and say it was all Jeff's fault, but I'm not going to say it was 50-50 (either)," Booker said. "If that person is going to tell us it's all our fault, that's where I have a problem.
"Most of the time it happened, we'd come into a meeting room. He'd come into the meeting and say, 'You should have done better.' Pardon my French but that was bull----."
Booker has been characterized as a bit underachieving himself considering his recruiting hype. He never rushed for 1,000 yards but takes pride in a career that fell just short of both 2,400 yards rushing and 1,000 receiving.
"Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson, go out and put up those kinds of numbers," Booker said. "You either sink or swim. I stopped worrying about it. Now that I look back, I was able to do something, catching for 1,000, running for 2,000. It made me a better football player."
It was the losing that got to him, or rather the uncharacteristic Florida State losing. In his five seasons (2002-2006), the Seminoles went 43-22. In the previous five seasons, FSU lost only nine games.
After he redshirted in '02, FSU got worse each year Booker was on the field (10-3, 9-3, 8-5, 7-6). That ignited digs from cousin Curtis Richardson, who played at Idaho in the early 1990s.
"When I was going through my time, he was joking with me, looking at my coaches," Booker said. "He had (head coach) John L. Smith, Scott Linehan (now coach of the Rams). He'd say, 'My coaches were better than yours.'"
Looking back at the Class of 2002
Good? Bad? Judge for yourself. This is what happened to Florida State's 2002 class of 22 recruits. (The stars assigned to each player are ratings from rivals.com).
Chris Anderson, DL (four stars): Failed to qualify, went to prep school and eventually landed at Middle Tennessee.
Lorenzo Booker, TB (five): Franchise-type back was Parade's No. 1 running back in the nation. While showing signs of greatness, Booker never became the breakout talent he was projected to be. His career rushing high of 887 yards came as a sophomore.
Chris Bradwell, DT (four): Failed to qualify out of high school, went to prep school. He showed up back at FSU in 2004 and registered one tackle. He was kicked off the team in February 2005.
Brodrick Bunkley, DL (four): Capped off a solid career by becoming a first-round pick of the Eagles (14th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Darrell Burston, DE (three): Played mostly as a backup in his career. Burston made 14 tackles as a senior in 2006.
Thomas Clayton, RB (four): Rated as the No. 10 back out of high school, Clayton played sparingly as a freshman in 2002. He transferred to Kansas State, where he was the Wildcats' leading rusher in 2005.
Buster Davis, LB (four): A three-year starter who made some All-America teams as a redshirt senior in 2006.
Chris Davis, WR (five): Coming in as the nation's No. 6 receiver, Davis was seen as something of a disappointment. He never reached 700 yards receiving in a season.
Lonnie Davis, TE (four): Never qualified, instead shuffling off to a couple of jucos. The only tight end in the class, Davis' absence created a fairly big hole down the line.
Nate Hardage, LB (four): Failed to qualify, went to junior college. Hardage eventually got to FSU but transferred to Valdosta State before the 2005 season.
Sam McGrew, LB (four): A solid contributor playing 52 games in his career that concluded in 2005. McGrew had a career-high 11 tackles in his final game against Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
Cory Niblock, OL (two): Overachieving lineman who overcame position switches and injuries to become a solid starter.
A.J. Nicholson, LB (four): Eventually rose to become second-team All-ACC as a senior in 2005. Drafted in the fifth round by Cincinnati last year.
Dishon Platt, WR (five): Poster child for recruiting busts. Parade's No. 1 receiver never qualified to play at FSU. One of six five-star recruits that year but the only one never to play for the Seminoles.
Lorne Sam, WR (four): Played sporadically, underwent two surgeries and eventually transferred to Texas-El Paso.
Wyatt Sexton, QB (four): Started seven games and was set to start in 2005 when symptoms from Lyme Disease forced him to the sidelines. Sexton eventually made it back to the practice field but gave up football in January 2006.
Chauncey Stovall, WR (five): Juco transfer who started 11 career games in 2003-04, catching career 72 passes.
Chris Turner, DL (four): Did not qualify out of high school. Signed with Alabama in 2004 but eventually quit the team.
Leon Washington, RB (five): The 2002 Mr. Florida in high school football was rated the No. 1 cornerback in the country. He ended his career as the No. 10 rusher in FSU history. The only player under Bobby Bowden to score a touchdown five ways (running, receiving, punt return, kickoff return, fumble recovery). Drafted by the Jets in 2006.
Torrance Washington, FB (three): After groin and knee problems, Washington was forced to leave the team before 2004 because of the injuries.
Pat Watkins, FS (five): Another Parade All-American who played in the last 49 games of his career. A fifth-round draft choice of the Cowboys in 2006.
Kamerion Wimbley, DE (four): A solid contributor who was the 13th player taken in the 2006 draft (Browns). Despite missing three games because of injury, Wimbley made his NFL bones with 7½ sacks as a senior.