Champion Seminoles land strong recruiting class

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Fresh off its first national championship in 14 years, Florida State landed the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the nation.

With three five-star recruits and 19 four-stars among the 28 letters-of-intent that came screeching through the fax machine in the Florida State war room during Wednesday's National Signing Day, head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff filled all of the Seminoles' needs -- and then some.

Their third and final five-star recruit was a bit of a surprise when Homestead (Fla.) High School wide receiver Ermon Lane -- ESPN's No. 2 overall wideout in the country who was widely considered the last remaining jewel among uncommitted players heading into Signing Day -- slipped on a garnet and gold cap during his ceremony early Wednesday morning.

Lane's commitment to the Seminoles' already high-powered offense -- which broke the NCAA record for the most points in a single season last season -- was the cherry on top of an earlier verbal pledge by West Palm Beach, Fla.'s Travis Rudolph, ESPN's No. 6-rated receiver who is also a five-star prospect. Florida State's other five-star recruit is running back Dalvin Cook (Miami Central High School), who was an early enrollee and is already working out with the team.

"I think this is one of the more complete classes that we were able to sign since I've been here," said Fisher, who is entering his fifth season as head coach and has fielded a top-five signing class every year. "We've had large numbers this year, got needs all the way across the board and filled it with great players, and every position across the board we had somebody in. We were excited about that."

Fisher also was pleased about the mammoth size of this year's recruits, all of whom are listed as 6 feet or taller. At least 10 of the players are 6-5 or taller and weigh over 300 pounds, including four-star offensive linemen Roderick Johnson (6-7, 330 pounds) of Hazelwood Central in Florissant, Mo., and Kareem Are (6-6, 350) of Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College as well as three-star offensive line recruit Brock Ruble (6-8, 320) of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md.

"It's one of the biggest (signing classes size-wise I've ever had). Great group," Fisher said, noting that recruiting larger kids is becoming the norm these days. "Guys are getting bigger and faster, and you're getting more big kids playing football now. You really are."

One of the big kids Fisher reeled in didn't have to go far to turn in his letter-of-intent. Bruising linebacker Jacob Pugh, a 6-4, 235-pound four-star recruit from Tallahassee's Godby High School was one of the first players to fax his commitment in Wednesday, doing so hours before Godby hosted a 9:30 a.m. signing ceremony. Pugh grew up a Florida Gators fan, but he said Wednesday that he found it simply too hard to turn down Florida State.

"I mean, how can you not be (a fan of Florida State)? They're right here in front of you. They're everywhere. It's home," said Pugh, who will be joined at FSU by fellow Godby star Stephen Gabbard, a 6-3, 215-pounder whom Fisher called "maybe the best long snapper I've ever seen" on Wednesday.

"This day means everything to me," Pugh said. "It's huge. I'm officially Florida State material now. There's no turning back."

Fisher also made sure dynamic running back Jonathan Vickers of nearby North Florida Christian in Tallahassee didn't leave home either. Vickers was one of the most sought-after four-star running backs in the nation, but Fisher and his staff made it a priority to get the 6-1, 220-pound star on board early, earning Vickers' commitment last July and setting the stage early for another standout recruiting class.

"Jonathan Vickers does everything," Fisher said. "He has size, he has tremendous ball skills, he can block, he can run with speed, he can run with power (and) he can make you miss. He's just an overall athlete. I think he's a complete football player, and I think he'll have a great career. There's a lot of things you can do with Jonathan Vickers."

Florida State didn't, however, get every player it was after.

Miami four-star quarterback Treon Harris, one of two signal-callers Fisher hoped would add depth behind reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, backed out of his longtime commitment to the Seminoles on Wednesday morning and instead signed with rival Florida. The Seminoles also missed out on a five-star wide receiver recruit, Louisiana's Malachi Dupre, the No. 1-rated wideout whom many expected would join Florida State's impressive receiving class of Lane, Rudolph and four-star Javon Harrison (Kathleen High in Lakeland, Fla.). But Dupre opted to stay home to play for LSU, which fielded the No. 4 recruiting class behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 3 FSU, according to ESPN.com.

Florida State, however, could have fielded the No. 3- or No. 33-ranked class, and Fisher wouldn't have cared. That is because Fisher, who is arguably as personally active in the recruiting process as any head coach in the country, doesn't get caught up in where the pundits rank his classes -- calling them "nothing more than opinions" -- as long as he feels "we got the best players for the system we run."

And Wednesday, Fisher said he felt the Seminoles did just that.

"Not that I want to micromanage things, but I want to make all final decisions on every player we have," Fisher said. "What happens is, each position coach is responsible for his guy, and he goes and gets the best player. But do you know how many good football players there are out there? There's a bunch of them. They come in all different sizes and shapes and abilities. And, to me, what happens is when you let assistants make all the decisions on what guys you sign, you get a bunch of good players -- but how good of a team do you get? See, the key is being able to match the position and the sizes of guys to the type of team you want.

"There will always be some very good players we may not need or take ... but they're not a fit for what you need or what you like to do. So (I ask all my assistants) to find the right pieces of the puzzles, then it's my job to fit them all together. It's all about how they jell and bond together. There's got to be some cement between those bricks."

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