There was a time not too long ago when some of Florida State’s best football players came from within the city limits.
In the early to mid-2000s, players like Ernie Sims, Antonio Cromartie and Craphonso Thorpe were just a handful of the local products who went on to enjoy success with the Seminoles on their way to the NFL. But one look at FSU’s 2013 roster shows how much times have changed, as the Seminoles no longer have any current scholarship players hailing from Tallahassee.
Under Jimbo Fisher, FSU has not signed one Tallahassee prospect in any of the last three recruiting cycles. The only local player Fisher has signed, in fact, was quarterback Clint Trickett in 2010, and that deserves a couple of asterisks. Not only is he the son of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett, but he also has since transferred to West Virginia.
It’s hard to identify one main reason that the Tallahassee-FSU recruiting pipeline has slowed to a drip, but there’s no getting around the fact that it was beginning to bother local high school coaches. Some complained privately that the Seminoles were taking too long to extend scholarship offers, and some suggested that Fisher’s staff has spent more time building relationships in South Florida and other parts of the state.
Well, it looks like Fisher might be mending those fences in record time. The Seminoles still have some work to do with their 2014 recruiting class, and they already have three commitments from players at Tallahassee high schools: Linebacker Jacob Pugh and offensive lineman Stephen Gabbard of Godby High, and running back Jonathan Vickers of North Florida Christian. And they are in the mix with Lincoln cornerback Kendall Randolph and others.
As long as Fisher is head coach, it’s unlikely FSU will ever recruit Tallahassee as heavily as it did under former coach Bobby Bowden. Fisher takes a much more regional approach, frequently pushing into Alabama and other states that the Seminoles seldom recruited in the past.
But Fisher is wise to make a push on the home front this year. Not only is there plenty of local talent available in this class, but the Seminoles certainly will want to make a strong push for super 2015 wide receivers John Burt of Lincoln High and Jaylin Hayward of Godby.
Williams: From Recruiting Bust To Overnight Sensation
On the surface, Florida State’s early season decision to move Karlos Williams from defense to offense reeked of desperation.
During his first two years on campus, Williams had done little to justify all of the hype that surrounded his recruitment. Although he was the highest-rated signee in the Seminoles’ 2011 recruiting class – and the No. 8 prospect in the country, according to Rivals.com – Williams played sparingly on defense as a freshman and sophomore. His biggest contributions actually came on special teams, where he enjoyed moderate success as a kick returner.
In 2011, Williams recorded a grand total of eight tackles all season. Then in 2012, other than one night, he wasn’t a whole lot more productive. Williams finished with 32 tackles as a sophomore, but 11 of those came when he moved to linebacker for the Seminoles’ battle with Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game.
Williams was impressive in that game all right; lining up near the line of scrimmage, he helped FSU shut down Paul Johnson’s option-oriented offense, and he also recorded a game-saving interception in the final minute. But when he moved back to defensive back in the Orange Bowl, Williams was a non-factor once again.
Heading into this season, it appeared Williams finally would get his chance to break into the starting lineup with the move of veteran Lamarcus Joyner from safety to cornerback. But even that didn’t work out in his favor. Williams promptly was passed on the depth chart by fellow junior Tyler Hunter.
So when Williams saw limited playing time in the season opener against Pitt and then moved to running back just a couple days later, many fans and observers assumed this was nothing more than a last-ditch effort to resurrect the career of a five-star bust.
That suspicion was bolstered by the fact that Florida State already had taken some hits to its running back rotation. Redshirt freshman Mario Pender, who was expected to be the home-run threat to complement bruising juniors Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., had been declared academically ineligible at the start of the fall semester. So that left the Seminoles entering the 2013 season with only three scholarship tailbacks – Freeman, Wilder and true freshman Ryan Green.
Then, in the season opener at Pitt, the Seminoles received a major scare when Wilder left the game with an apparent shoulder injury. As it turned out, Wilder was OK. He missed a few days of practice, and then was back in the rotation for the Seminoles’ next game against Nevada. But the concern was real; if something happened to Wilder, there was no way FSU could accomplish its season goals with only Freeman and Green at tailback.
So even if the Seminoles’ coaches were moving Williams to running back out of desperation, no one could have blamed them.
But the truth is that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Behind the scenes, Fisher had been trying to convince Williams to move to running since around the time he showed up in Tallahassee. While many recruiting analysts listed Williams as the nation’s top safety prospect during his senior year of high school, Fisher always thought his natural position would be on offense. The only problem was convincing Williams.
While the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder played both ways in high school, he was convinced that his future was brightest on defense. Even after seeing so little action on defense as a freshman, he was reluctant to move when Fisher put on the full-court press more than a year ago.
It wasn’t until he failed to win a starting job as a junior that Williams decided to give it a chance. And the results have been nothing short of amazing. On his very first carry as a running back, the speedy Williams ripped off a 65-yard touchdown run against Nevada. He went over 100 yards in that game, and then came back with 83 yards on nine carries one week later.
Fisher says that is only the beginning. As the Seminoles embark upon the heart of the ACC schedule, the fourth-year head coach said he is ready to start increasing Williams’ workload. And some around the program believe Fisher is so enamored by Williams that the converted DB will soon will begin taking carries away from the more experienced Wilder and Freeman.
While it’s true that Williams never lived up to the recruiting hype as a defensive back, the Seminoles are convinced that stardom still may come his way.