Florida State Football: Re-Evaluating FSU's 2011 Recruiting Class
Jimbo Fisher had to fight to build his 2010 signing class in just a few months after taking over for Bobby Bowden.
But, given time to build relationships, Fisher and his staff assembled 247Sports' No. 1 signing class in 2011. The group included four 5-stars—safety Karlos Williams, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, running back James Wilder Jr. and tight end Nick O'Leary—and 14 4-star prospects.
All were key players on the Florida State football team that won the 2013 national title. Williams shifted to running back and had 11 rushing touchdowns, while Wilder added eight TDs. O'Leary set a single-season record for FSU tight ends with seven TD receptions. And Jernigan was one of the leaders up front for a defense that allowed just 12.1 points per game.
The group also included tailback Devonta Freeman, who had a 1,000-yard season and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2013. And wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, who had 15 touchdowns last year, and Rashad Greene, who had 1,128 receiving yards.
"That's a pretty good class," Fisher said last fall. "They've done a great job of going to that next level. ... We thought it was special. But I've been in this business long enough to know that sometimes they don't always pan out."
The class has panned out. Of FSU's 22 starters in the BCS championship game, eight were from the class of 2011: Freeman, Greene, Bobby Hart, Tre Jackson, Timmy Jernigan, Josue Matias, Nick O'Leary and Terrance Smith. Benjamin, Wilder and Freeman are already off to the NFL.
Let's take a look back at FSU's star-studded 2011 class and how those players did in Tallahassee.
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports. Career rankings among FSU's all-time leaders courtesy of FSU media guides
Jacob Coker, Mobile (Alabama) St. Paul's Episcopal. 3-star prospect
Fisher promised a wide-open competition in the spring of 2013 between Clint Trickett, Jameis Winston, Coker and Sean Maguire. Just days after the spring game, Trickett transferred. And, in August, Fisher announced that Winston would start over Coker.
In 2012 and '13, Coker completed 21 of 45 passes for 295 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He injured his knee in the second half of a rout at Wake Forest in November. Coker graduated in three years from FSU and has transferred to Alabama, where he can play two seasons. Fisher told TideSports.com's D.C. Reeves that Coker is "much more talented than anything they've had" in Nick Saban's time at Alabama.
Give Fisher credit for landing and developing Coker. If Alabama starts Coker, and he delivers an SEC title, Saban owes Fisher more than a thank you note.
Eric Beverly, Jacksonville (Florida) First Coast. 3-star prospect
Devonta Freeman, Miami (Florida) Central. 4-star prospect
James Wilder, Tampa (Florida) Plant. 5-star prospect
Wilder was Florida's Mr. Football, and there were lofty expectations from the start, but it was Freeman who had a more consistent, distinguished career.
Freeman had 1,016 rushing yards as a junior in 2013, becoming FSU's first 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996. He also had 30 career rushing touchdowns, placing him in a tie with Amp Lee for third on FSU's all-time career rushing TD list (Greg Allen had 44 and Warrick Dunn had 37). He opted to leave school after his junior year and was drafted in the fourth round by the Atlanta Falcons.
Wilder had 1,358 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns in his career. He was a physical back and was often leaned on in goal-line situations. Wilder left FSU after his junior season and was not drafted. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Beverly suffered from chronic knee injuries and was medically disqualified.
Fisher wanted to use a running-back-by-committee approach, and Freeman and Wilder allowed him to do just that. Rotating running backs and keeping them fresh is why FSU won a pair of ACC titles and then the national title in 2013.
Kelvin Benjamin, Belle Glade (Florida) Glades Central. 4-star prospect
Rashad Greene, Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas. 4-star prospect
Benjamin was a raw talent when he arrived at FSU and needed a redshirt season to both get into playing shape and work on his routes. He had 30 receptions for 495 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, showing a glimpse of what he could offer once he refined his skills. Benjamin then enjoyed a breakout 2013 season, grabbing 54 passes for 1,011 yards and a team-leading 15 touchdown receptions. He was a first-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in May.
Greene had an impressive freshman season with 38 receptions for 596 yards and seven touchdowns, one of the best of any FSU freshman receivers. He's continued to deliver, leading FSU in receptions (76) and receiving yards (1,128) in 2013. Greene has 171 career receptions, placing him in fourth place on FSU's all-time list (Ron Sellers had 212 from 1966-68). And Greene has 2,465 career yards, putting him in sixth place, although that's a long way from Sellers' 3,598 receiving yards.
Sure, FSU fans could have hoped that Benjamin would have returned for his redshirt junior year in 2014. But Benjamin was a first-round pick, and Greene could be (statistically speaking) one of the top receivers in school history.
Nick O'Leary, Palm Beach Gardens (Florida) Dwyer. 5-star prospect
O'Leary has showed continued progress each season, grabbing 12 passes in 2011, 21 passes in 2012 and 33 passes in 2013. He had three of his seven touchdowns last season in FSU's season-opening rout of Pittsburgh. A Mackey Award finalist as a junior, O'Leary has 11 career touchdown receptions—the most of any FSU tight end.
O'Leary has worked hard to improve as a blocker, and he does well by finding openings in the defense.
Austin Barron, Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas. 2-star prospect
Ruben Carter, Miami (Florida) Jackson. 3-star prospect
Jacob Fahrenkrug, Robbinsville (Minnesota) Cooper/North Dakota State College of Science. 4-star prospect
Bobby Hart, Fort Lauderdale (Florida) St. Thomas Aquinas. 4-star prospect
Tre Jackson, Jesup (Georgia) Wayne County. 3-star prospect
Sterling Lovelady, Navarre (Florida). 3-star prospect
Josue Matias, Union City (New Jersey). 4-star prospect
Trey Pettis, DeLand. 3-star prospect
Jordan Prestwood, Plant City. 3-star prospect
This was a large offensive line class that has been hit-and-miss, but it could account for 80 percent of FSU's starting offensive line in 2014.
Guards Matias and Jackson both have 28 starts under their belt going into the 2014 season. Hart will start at right tackle and has 23 starts despite not turning 20 until August 2014. Barron, who has five career starts, will likely take over at center for the graduated Bryan Stork.
Carter is a reserve who started in place of Jackson last season against Nevada. Jacob Fahrenkrug battled injuries but was a versatile reserve and has graduated. Pettis transferred to Florida Tech, citing "some health issues and need to be closer to my family." Lovelady was a reserve lineman but opted to leave the team and focus on academics. Prestwood went to junior college.
Plenty of misses. But finding three quality starters helped FSU rack up 723 points and 7,267 yards in 2013.
Cornellius Carradine, Cincinnati (Ohio) Taft/Butler (Kansas) Community College. 4-star prospect
Giorgio Newberry, Fort Pierce (Florida) Central. 4-star prospect
Timmy Jernigan, Lake City (Florida) Columbia. 5-star prospect
Nile Lawrence-Stample, Fort Lauderdale (Florida) Nova. 4-star prospect
Derrick Mitchell, Jacksonville (Florida) First Coast. 4-star prospect
FSU only signs a handful of junior college players each year, but Carradine developed into a strong pass rusher as a senior. He had 80 tackles and 11 sacks in 2012 before injuring his knee in the regular-season finale against Florida.
Newberry has moved from defensive end to tight end and now will finish his career at defensive tackle in 2014. He had 12 tackles in 2012 but played mostly on special teams and did not record a catch in 2013.
Jernigan was never an elite pass rusher but he was a high-motor, run-stopping defensive tackle and made 63 tackles as a junior in 2013. He was selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
Lawrence-Stample and Mitchell should both see increased playing time in 2014 as FSU tries to fill Jernigan's spot on the line. Lawrence-Stample had 15 tackles and has six career starts. A back injury kept Mitchell off the field in 2012, but he had seven tackles last season.
Jernigan became an elite defensive tackle. Carradine was a monster pass rusher in his two seasons at FSU. Lawrence-Stample and Mitchell both missed time this spring with injuries but should factor into the defensive tackle rotation this fall.
Arrington Jenkins, Miami (Florida) Coral Park. 3-star prospect
Terrance Smith, Decatur (Georgia) Southwest DeKalb. 3-star prospect
When Christian Jones moved from a traditional linebacker role to a linebacker/defensive end hybrid role early in the 2013 season, Smith immediately saw increased playing time at Jones' old spot. And Smith delivered.
The sophomore had 12 tackles in a win over Bethune-Cookman and added 10 tackles in a win over Miami. Smith finished with 59 tackles in 2013 (fourth on the team and the returning leader).
Jenkins never played for FSU, opting instead to transfer to a junior college after his redshirt freshman season.
This was a small group. Smith is showing plenty of promise, but the grade is low because of Jenkins' departure.
Lamarcus Brutus, Port St. Lucie (Florida) Treasure Coast. 3-star prospect
Tyler Hunter, Valdosta (Georgia) Lowndes. 3-star prospect
Keelin Smith, Fort Pierce (Florida) Treasure Coast. 3-star prospect
Nick Waisome, Groveland (Florida) South Lake. 4-star prospect
Karlos Williams, Davenport (Florida) Ridge Community. 5-star prospect
This is a tough group to analyze. Williams was a 5-star but saw the majority of his playing time on special teams until he moved to tailback for the Seminoles' second game of 2013 (730 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns).
Waisome made 14 starts in 2012, recording 21 tackles. But he lost his starting job last season and will likely finish his career as a reserve. Hunter started three games in 2013 but suffered a season-ending neck injury. He wore a blue, non-contact jersey in the spring but is happy to be back playing football and should be 100 percent by the fall as a redshirt junior.
Smith and Brutus each had 16 tackles last season and are capable backups.
An incomplete may be more appropriate, but let's go with a C. Hunter and Waisome have plenty of experience but both are fighting for starting jobs this year. Williams didn't develop into the star safety but instead had a breakout season at tailback in 2013.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.