For college football die-hards across the country, National Signing Day is the best thing since sliced bread.
For coaches, fans and supporters the excitement and/or disappointment that is the rollercoaster ride of recruiting strikes each and every year.
You win some and you lose some, but with each signature and each prized recruit it feels as though your team is that much closer to greatness, glory and a national championship.
But ultimately it's a day where four-star promises and five-star dreams, remain just that. Nobody knows what exactly the future will hold for each group of youngsters, each one of them eager to showcase their talent on the next level of competition.
This year's signing day has come and gone for Florida State. While Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher and company have reeled in another talented group to follow in the traditions of the Garnet and Gold, it certainly wasn't the earth-shattering day Seminole fans were hoping for.
Back-and-forth rumors and the intriguing possibility of five-star wide receiver phenom Julio Jones embracing Florida State proved not enough to get the rising star out of his home state of Alabama. The same could be said of highly touted offensive guard Josh Jenkins who chose to stay in West Virginia despite flirting with the Seminoles.
Meanwhile, Lincoln High School’s T.J. Bryant opted to leave Tallahassee for a cross-country college career with Pete Carroll and the Trojans of USC.
However, despite falling short of signing day’s “big fish”, FSU's 2008 recruiting class still ranked among the nation's top 10 and was able to fill immediate needs and provide a solid foundation for what Seminole fans hope will be the turning point of the program.
The year's class was built offensively and defensively around two premier players and early commitments in five-star Virginia Beach quarterback E.J. Manuel and local five-star linebacker Nigel Bradham.
At 6’5” and 210 pounds, Manuel looks to be Fisher’s quarterback of the future, while the physical specimen that is Bradham could demand playing time the moment the early enrollee steps on the practice field this spring.
Offensively, Fisher landed several intriguing prospects including the El Camino, Calif. junior college duo of five-star wide out Corey Surrency and four-star running back Tavares Pressley. Both players offer a valuable balance of size and speed at their positions as 6’4” Surrency runs in the 4.5 range and the 215-pound Pressley clocks in with a 4.4.
Other victories for Fisher’s offense were the signings of underrated running back Jermaine Thomas, who stuck with Florida State despite a late surge of interest from LSU, and two four-star athletes in Pennsylvania’s A.J. Alexander and former Auburn commit Jarmon Fortson.
While Thomas and Alexander both chart 4.4 speed, Fisher said he was amazed by Fortson, who at 6’3”, 220 could factor in very quickly next season. With ideal size and athleticism, Fortson could quite possibly emulate the versatility of a Preston Parker who will enter next season as FSU’s premier big-play threat.
However, the future success of Fisher’s offense is largely in the hands of a man who also contributed heavily to the 2008 class. Veteran offensive line coach Rick Trickett continued to build a strong foundation of lineman with the signing of six more big bodies, including four-star prospect Zebrie Sanders of Clayton, Oh.
While several of Trickett’s signees come in under the radar, there’s no doubt the ball coach knows how and where to find talent. In his first season at Florida State, Trickett turned a true freshman guard and a redshirt freshman center who converted from defensive-tackle into Freshmen All-Americans.
Defensively, four-star tackle Moses McCray and a talented trio of defensive ends should help boost a defensive line lacking depth going into next season — especially in the first three games where FSU will continue to serve suspensions stemming over from last year’s academic misconduct case.
FSU commits at defensive end are particularly monstrous, including five-star Kansas native Markus White, four-star standout Everett Dawkins and three-star prospect Toshmon Stevens. White and Stevens are both physical specimens at 6’4” and 6’5”, respectively, and both will fit into the Seminoles’ speedy scheme with forty times in the 4.5 range.
Bradham’s signature, along with a trio of four-star linebacker prospects in Nigel Carr, Vincent Williams and Nick Moody, should also give FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews plenty to work with next season.
In the secondary, highly-touted defensive backs Terrance Parks and Travis Arnold aren’t anything to gawk at either.
However, for now — with off-season conditioning underway — all Florida State can do is wait. Wait and see if these young stars will shine as bright as the program hopes they will in the near future. Who knows, there may even be a couple of guys whose stars shine even brighter. Parker, an FSU recruit back in 2006, has sure made a lot out of his three-star status in his time as a Seminole.
By asserting that the young and fiery Coach Fisher will succeed the legendary Bobby Bowden at Florida State gave the program a clearer vision for the future this off-season, and one that undoubtedly played a big part in the team’s recruiting success with the 2008 class.
The Seminoles lose just three starters on each side of the ball heading into next year. FSU’s coaching staff overhaul will be in it’s second season and with an ideal schedule highlighted by seven home games and no short weeks, the Tribe could be due for a much anticipated turnaround.