It's not like Florida State, the defending national champs, needed more attention, but it got it on Thursday. In the span of minutes, the Seminoles received verbal commitments from two 4-star quarterbacks: Kai Locksley and Deondre Francois.
Suffice to say, it was a good day to be Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Francois, the No. 5 pro-style quarterback according to 247Sports' composite rankings, had his announcement planned. The Locksley commitment? It came as more of a surprise, especially given the timing and the fact that his father, Mike Locksley, is the offensive coordinator at Maryland.
Even Francois was surprised, as he told Josh Newberg of 247Sports.com:
I didn’t know he was going to commit. I got a text message from someone like two minutes before I was going to walk in. I’m not sure who the number was, they told me (Kai) Locksley just committed. I thought maybe it was a joke to get me to commit to Auburn. Then I think I looked on twitter or something and saw it was real.
The pair gives Florida State three quarterback commits for the class of 2015, the other being 3-star De'Andre Johnson. That's a loaded class—assuming all three keep their pledges—considering the number and talent. The quarterback spot, after all, is traditionally a defined position with a starter and a backup.
For what it's worth, Locksley is listed as an athlete by 247. Furthermore, B/R's Tyler Donohue believes Francois' ceiling as a college quarterback may be higher than Locksley's. How that affects commitments and potential position changes down the road remains to be seen.
The early takeaway, though, is that Florida State could have options at quarterback. That's a good thing for Fisher, who is building the reputation as one of the premier quarterback developers in college football.
"Quarterback gurus" have sometimes gone hand-in-hand with coaches who run some variation of a spread or pass-happy offense. Washington State's Mike Leach, SMU's June Jones, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Baylor's Art Briles and Ohio State's Urban Meyer are just some of the active names that come to mind.
But what about Fisher? As Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation tweets, Fisher's last three multiyear starting quarterbacks (EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder at Florida State, and JaMarcus Russell at LSU) were first-round draft selections.
It's impossible to ignore how some of those players fared in the NFL. Russell, selected first overall in 2007 by the Oakland Raiders, is widely considered one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory—if not the biggest. Ponder, selected No. 12 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, may very well be surpassed on the depth chart by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, another first-round selection for the Vikings.
Manuel's career with the Buffalo Bills is still unfolding.
Still, first-round selections mean first-round money. Manuel and Ponder signed four-year deals for nearly $20 million combined. Russell, of course, signed an enormous six-year $61 million contract in 2007 that would later be a driving force behind the rookie wage scale in the NFL.
|First-Round QB Selections Under Jimbo Fisher|
|Name||School||Year Drafted||Team||Rookie Contract||Active|
|JaMarcus Russell||LSU||2007||Oakland Raiders||Six years, $61 million||No|
|Christian Ponder||Florida State||2011||Minnesota Vikings||Four years, $11 million||Yes|
|EJ Manuel||Florida State||2013||Buffalo Bills||Four years, $8.9 million||Yes|
One organization's financial carelessness is hardly Fisher's fault, however. For that matter, Fisher's job is pretty much done when a quarterback decides to go pro. When Fisher goes into a recruit's home, he can point to a pair of national championships, one at Florida State and one at LSU, and three first-round quarterbacks.
Fisher could have another first-rounder in Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston, should he leave after the 2014 season. Early mock drafts, like the one from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com, have Winston as a top-10 selection next spring.
Potentially, Fisher can lay claim to four first-round selections in a decade. Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford can claim more, according to an ESPN.com article by Len Pasquarelli in 2005, though Tedford is no longer an active college coach.
The point being, Fisher is in rare company. Not surprisingly, he's confident in his coach-up of his signal-callers. In a recent USA Today article by Dan Wolken, Fisher spoke out against the use of private quarterback coaches like George Whitfield:
We've got good quarterback coaches. My guys aren't going out there. I'll coach them. When they go to pro ball, they can do whatever they want. We'll coach our guys. I don't think it benefits you. We know what we're doing, too.
Whitfield, who now has a regular analysis spot on ESPN, has gained a lot of attention in recent years for working with quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel. With the rise of quarterback camps like the Elite 11, quarterbacks are being taught by others not on their high school or college coaching staff.
Fisher clearly prefers to keep that process in-house. Given his track record, it's easy to see why—and why there are quarterback recruits verbally committed to Florida State.
It's also why Fisher deserves more credit as a quarterback developer. Looking at the number of players he's put in the NFL, one would be hard-pressed to find a coach who's done more in the past 10 years.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.
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