The ferocious and celebrated SEC looks to do it again—it’s that time of the year. The weather is chilled, and the South is ready for some more hardware. It’s time to take the field and defend a reputation—it’s time to defend a historic run. The fans are excited, and the players and coaches are prepared. The National Championship is already under SEC possession.
After winning five straight national championships—and six come January 9th—the SEC knows it is the standard by which outside programs gauge their legitimacy. Over the last six years, the SEC has recruited well, developed its players, and, in doing so, left everyone else in awe. Obviously, Alabama and LSU are the teams of 2011, but it really has been the entire conference, a conference that demands smash-mouth execution on every play, that has amazed college football fans these past six years.
But after Alabama or LSU prances off into the sunset after this year’s National Championship game, many will be wondering if the dominance will ever stop. If one looks at the cyclical nature of sports, one can argue that it will certainly stop—that it must stop.
But how? And by whom?
In Tallahassee, Florida, I think there is a man who knows how to stop the SEC’s dominance, and will. Jimbo Fisher, after this year’s recruiting season is over, likely will have another top-three recruiting class, if not the overall best class. Different recruiting services will rank the Seminoles’ class at different places, but it’s likely that, when several 4- and 5-star players make their choices in the coming weeks, FSU will once again be king of recruiting, up there with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.
Fisher apprenticed under two of the greatest coaches of all time, living legends of gridiron, and he learned, especially under Bowden, that you have to have the personnel to play for titles. Good coaching is important, but fielding elite talent is the crucial foundation by which title runs are made.
Out at Boise State, for example, head coach Christ Peterson coaches up his 2- and 3-star players; while it is impressive, it’ll probably never be enough to take down a SEC champion. To beat the SEC in a National Championship game, a team has to win the recruiting battle first.
Florida State is doing it.
Jimbo Fisher and his staff, for the past two years, have been dominating the most fertile recruiting areas in the country, particularly SEC hot spots. They’ve been reeling in the most prized recruits in the country, and against great odds, considering FSU’s recent track record and considering its attendance problems.
But Fisher and his staff know that recruiting is a long and arduous process, and they know it takes repeated classes to put together a championship-caliber team. After having coached in the SEC, Jimbo Fisher, the man on a mission, also knows that it starts with getting the best defensive players in the country.
Last year’s class, the class of 2011, was comprised of the best prospects at key defensive positions—Karlos William, Keelin Smith and Tyler Hunter at safety, Tim Jernigan at defensive tackle, and Nick Waisome at cornerback—and this year’s class is no different.
This year’s class is meeting the needs that weren’t met last year. The three 2012 defensive end prospects headed to Florida State—Mario Edwards, Dante Fowler Jr., and Chris Casher—are regarded as three of the four best defensive ends in the country, and the ‘Noles have already reeled in one of the nation’s top linebackers in the country, Ukweme Elige.
The remaining defensive targets are Washington D. C. native Eddie Goldman, who is widely regarded as the top defensive tackle in the country, and Miramar’s Tracy Howard, one of the nation’s top corner backs, a young man already drawing comparisons to Deion Sanders. If those two commit, FSU’s defensive class will be complete, and probably be hailed as the top one in the country.
But Fisher isn’t just reeling in blue-chips on defense. He’s getting some ballers on the other side, too. Jameis Winston is the one who stands out, the one who grabbed national headlines upon his commitment to the Seminoles. The kid, quite simply, is bound to be FSU’s next Charlie Ward. He has a rocket arm, has shown great leadership at his high school in Hueytown—he led them to the title game this year—and is frighteningly elusive.
Coming in tandem with him is Mario Pender, one of the nation’s elite running backs, a young man who will be enrolling at FSU in a couple weeks. While FSU is already deep at wide receiver, it has also landed the commitment of an impressive young receiver named Marvin Bracy, who happens to be the fastest high school player in the entire country.
Those are the three offensive players who, for now, complete a 2012 class that is going to be defensively heavy. (Last year’s class loaded up on offensive linemen, and offensive line coach Rick Trickett is busy at work with them.)
If Fisher and his staff can maintain this prowess on the recruiting trail, I think the Seminoles will be looking like the team it’s capable of being, a team capable of bringing down the mighty SEC, a team that can reshape the landscape of modern college football.