Florida State Football: Re-Evaluating FSU's Recruiting Class After 2014 Opening

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Florida State Football: Re-Evaluating FSU's Recruiting Class After 2014 Opening
247Sports
Tarvarus McFadden, a 247Sports 5-star cornerback, is one of the top prospects that FSU is pursuing.

The Florida State football program has just 13 verbal commitments for the 2015 class, according to 247Sports.

That may sound like a small number, especially for the defending national champions. But it's not when taking the large number of undeclared commits that are considering FSU—or those prospects that are leaning heavily toward FSU.

"There are several uncommitted prospects right now that are more committed to FSU than a few FSU commits," writes 247Sports analyst Josh Newberg (subscription required). "I'm talking about guys like Jacques PatrickTarvarus McFadden and Da'Vante Phillips."

FSU's 2015 class is strong in the defensive backfield. The Seminoles have verbal commitments from 5-star safety Derwin James, 4-star safety Calvin Brewton, 4-star corner Tyrek Cole and 3-star safety A.J. Westbrook. Head coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff are also pursuing McFadden, a 5-star corner who is strongly leaning toward FSU in the 247Sports crystal ball.

The Seminoles will start a pair of junior corners in P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby in 2014. Both will be eligible for the NFL draft in 2015, so FSU is planning ahead and stocking up on defensive backs.

"Florida State has done a tremendous job building depth in the secondary, and that continues with commitments from Derwin James, Tyrek Cole and Calvin Brewton," Bleacher Report recruiting analyst Tyler Donohue said. "Any college coach would be happy with that group, and things could get better with Tarvarus McFadden."

Let's take a look at FSU's recruiting class at mid-July, which could also get a boost in the next few days, as Fisher and the staff hold an on-campus camp Wednesday through Friday:

FSU's top targets

The discussion of top targets should begin with defensive end Josh Sweat, who is the top player on Donohue's board. Sweat is 6'4'', 240 pounds and has the speed and athleticism to excel as a pass rusher.

"Like every team in the country, Florida State would love to land Josh Sweat," Donohue said. "Virginia Tech still appears to be in good position as an in-state option, while Georgia and Ohio State helped their chances with recent visits. He’s played his recruitment pretty close to the vest."

FSU has loaded up on tailbacks under Fisher, but he's been able to keep them all happy by spreading the carries. The Seminoles will lose just Karlos Williams after the 2014 season, so they will have Mario Pender, Ryan Green and Dalvin Cook going into 2015.

So FSU is looking at Patrick and Ray-Ray McCloud, both of whom participated at The Opening, as well as Johnny Frasier.

"Jaques Patrick and Ray-Ray McCloud both looked extremely smooth as receivers," Donohue said. "McCloud actually worked primarily at receiver, which is where several teams would prefer him to play. I don't think there’s any doubt that Patrick is a top-five rusher in this class."

FSU took two quarterbacks in the 2012 class (Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire), and it looks like Fisher could have two again in 2015. The Seminoles have a verbal commitment from De'Andre Johnson but are also pursuing Deondre Francois.

Francois, who has moved from Orlando and will now be coached by former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke at the Bradenton (Florida) IMG Academy, was impressive at The Opening.

"Francois flashed arguably the strongest arm during Elite 11 competition," Donohue said. "He fired darts early and often, but his accuracy seemed to erode at times. As a passer, Francois may have a higher ceiling than any QB in this class."

While FSU's coaches are all active recruiters, James has been persuasive, too. James told Donohue he's focused on two prospects.

"Derwin James told me he was mainly focused on recruiting McCloud and defensive end Byron Cowart, who looked college-ready throughout The Opening," Donohue said. "Cowart would be an instant-impact pass-rusher for Florida State, but Auburn, Oregon and Florida provide serious competition."

FSU commits

Newberg told Bleacher Report after The Opening that James "simply plays at a higher level than everyone else." Donohue agreed, saying that James "validated his status as the nation's top ranked safety."

"He told me that he views himself as a balanced defensive back who can cover the run and pass at an elite level," Donohue said. "While we didn’t see much run coverage at The Opening, he clearly has the burst and tenacity to attack near the line of scrimmage. He was instinctual in downfield defense, rarely tested by opposing quarterbacks."

Johnson also displayed improved mechanics, Donohue said.

"He flashed more consistent mechanics than what showed up on his junior game tape," Donohue said. "There are still some concerns about his touch beyond intermediate passes, but the talent is there. He moves well in the pocket and puts above-average velocity on throws."

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Bob on Twitter. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

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