Don't blink now, or you might miss the tremendous job that Jimbo Fisher has done with turning the Florida State football program around in such a short period of time. Most fans were expecting him to make moderate improvements within the first year of being the head coach. Instead, he did just the opposite, leading the team to a 10-win season, the ACC Atlantic title and a bowl victory over South Carolina.
"People ask if it matters if you get the No. 1 class, and to me it really doesn't," Fisher said. "I don't mean that in a negative way, because it's the guys we wanted. We started taking guys before they had stars out. I don't care. We can identify and we recruit our own guys. We can evaluate that. But at the same time, it does signify to a lot of people that Florida State is starting to be a significant player again in the college football world and we can get back to the top very quickly in my opinion if the ball bounces right. We've got to develop those players and coach those players."
Well, whether it means something to him or not, they did just that in landing the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation for 2011. This is something that most Seminole fans grew accustomed to seeing on a regular basis during the dynasty stretch in the 90's. However, this time around they are looking at a new face of the program, and that is Fisher. What he and his staff have accumulated in this year's recruiting class is nothing short of outstanding.
In one year he has been able to hush the naysayers and started praising his abilities to reach what he has set out to accomplish. There is no doubt that Fisher and his staff are working diligently to bringing this program back to prominence, and these recruits are just another step in the right direction.
There is a plethora of recruits in this class who can and will be making an immediate impact, so let's take a quick look at the ones most likely to add the tomahawks to their helmets.
There has been a shortage at the tight end position for quite some time now, and O'Leary is looking to fill that void. The last time Florida State experienced a threat at this position was when Brandon Warren played here. He was only part of the program for one season, as he decided to take his college career to Knoxville, Tennessee and play for the Volunteers.
Since then they have had a rotating wheel trying to figure out who could step in and make some big plays. First, it was Caz Piurowski. That didn't work out because he was battling injuries, and was molded into a tackle. He currently is on the Seattle Seahawks at the same position.
As of now they are working with Beau Reliford and Jabaris Little. Both are more known for their blocking skills and not their hands.
In comes O'Leary, a true tight end who can block, outrun linebackers and safeties, catch the ball in traffic and isn't afraid of a little contact. Realistically, he is the complete package at tight end. This is the exact type of player Fisher has been looking for to fit into his offensive scheme.
The 'Noles now have threats at all the playmaking positions and will give most defensive coaches headaches just trying to figure out the right defense to match up against their offensive weapons.
"Lord almighty," Fisher said. "He's one of those guys I think comes around every 10 or 15 years. A true 6'2", 220-pound safety that is a true safety. He can fly. He has tremendous ball skills, tremendous instincts. And when he hits you, he don't hit you, he rocks you. He's very special."
Not only does Williams gain high praise from Fisher, but he receives that same praise from every recruiting scout in the nation.
He has a very similar playing style to current Seminole and safety Nick Moody. Both have the type of athleticism that would allow them to play almost anywhere on the defensive side of the ball. Some have speculated that with the need of an outside linebacker and with Williams coming in, Moody may drop down to the front seven and fill that void of concern.
Williams is a very special player, just like Fisher has stated over and over again. He will step in right away and make that immediate impact that the 'Noles are expecting. Wherever he may find himself on the field, whether at strong safety, free safety or as an outside linebacker, you can be sure that the offense will pay attention to where he is lined up.
You can also give high regards and thanks to him for his recruiting efforts. He and a few other recruits worked extremely hard to help land the No. 1 recruiting class, and they deserve a lot of credit to the Seminoles for making that happen.
Tim Jernigan was a huge signing and a must have in my eyes. Florida State struggled with depth last year at the defensive tackle position, only rotating three to four players during a game.
Moses McCray will be coming back from a season-ending injury last year. The additions of Niles Lawrence-Stample, Derrick Mitchell and Jernigan will help out the depth and talent level on the line tremendously. All of them will receive some quality playing time, but none will have a greater impact than Jernigan.
He doesn't look like the type to wreck havoc on paper, but if anyone has seen him on film or the US Army All-American Bowl, then you would know just what type of player Florida State getting.
Defensive line coach Odell Haggins is the main reason why Jernigan chose the 'Noles. He developed a great relationship with a young Jernigan when he came to a showcase in Tallahassee back in eighth grade. Since then, he has looked up to Haggins like a role model that he didn't have growing up.
Jernigan is going to provide much-needed depth and will help the line improve on their numbers from last year. Expect him to step in and immediately make a huge impact in the trenches. Also, with a better defensive line comes better play at the linebacker positions.
Benjamin is going to see his fair share of playing time, but most of it will be in red-zone packages. He provides a mismatch against anyone who covers him with his size and speed.
There have been certain hints that Florida State may try to work him in at the tight end position to allow for more mismatches. The only problem trying to move him there would be adding on the weight, which would probably slow him down.
Personally, the 'Noles need to take advantage of him as a wide receiver and work him in as often as possible. FSU should use him in the red zone to create the mismatch, but also allow him to learn the ropes in the slot and outside at the college level.
If everything works out, you will be looking at a younger Greg Carr, but with much greater potential and upside. This is a great addition to an already loaded receiving core. Florida State fans are just looking for one of those guys to step up and make the big plays. The Seminoles need someone to be that go-to guy and Benjamin has all the makings to be that player eventually.
Here is a recruit who I haven't heard many analysts or fans talk about. I assure you that Carradine will step in and make a huge impact. In fact, he may make the biggest impact on either side of the ball.
He is a JUCO transfer who will provide Florida State with an outstanding two-year service at defensive end. Being the No. 1 recruit in the JUCO rankings can't go unnoticed, and he will be anything but unnoticed this coming season.
As a sophomore at Butler Community College, he led the team with 119 tackles, including 29 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. His nickname is "Tank" for a reason. At 6'5" and 245 pounds, he can run past linemen, engage and overpower them, or help out in run support. He will need to work on his technique, but I have no doubt that FSU coaches will get him ready for the first snap of the upcoming season.
Carradine will be a name the nation won't forget and one that Florida State fans will cheer. This is an outstanding pickup for the 'Noles who will make most fans completely forget about Markus White.
Whether you would like to see him as a running back or linebacker, he is going to have a strong impact at either one of those positions. He wanted to play running back in college, and that's one of the reasons he chose Florida State, because they told him that's the position he would play.
Personally, I would like to see him playing on defense, but he will fit in well at running back even though the 'Noles are deep at the position. He demonstrated his capability to overpower the defense in the US Army All-American Bowl by pounding the ball in between the tackles, also showing how he could knock off a wimpy tackler with his monstrous stiff arms.
More than likely, he will be used on short yardage plays and in the Power-I formation. You won't see him much in the Single-I formation because he is more of a downhill runner.
It will be interesting to see just how Florida State uses the talented athlete. Regardless of how the 'Noles use him, there is no doubt they signed a very special player in Wilder Jr.
Waisome is going to see plenty of playing time this year, specifically in the nickel or dime formation. He showcased his ability to play corner one-on-one in the Under Armour game. The fact that he can play out on an island, considering his size, is very impressive.
If Greg Reid, Xavier Rhodes or LaMarcus Joyner go down to an injury, he will be able to step in and fill the void without the defense missing a beat. Not only is he a standout corner, but he can also return kicks, and may be sharing kick return duties with the ever-so-dangerous Reid.
He posses some strong characteristics that will impressive even the veterans at his age. Waisome has great speed and solid footwork. He is also a ball hawk, a strong defender and has a high football I.Q. There is no fear in his eyes, and will play against anybody you throw at him.
Florida State is just adding tremendous players to its already strong defense. It will continue to get better with additions of guys like Waisome. He is the perfect fit for this defense and will prove great dividends to the team this upcoming season.