The Daily Nole

FSU Football: State of Recruiting Heading Into the Clemson Game

Jeff Romance/FSU athletics

As Florida State football gears up for the most difficult game of the season, it is also setting up for a strong finish on the recruiting trail. The Seminoles’ class currently ranks No. 10 in the nation according to 247Sports Composite team rankings, with 13 blue-chip prospects leading the way. FSU has 16 current commits, and is aiming for anywhere from 21 to 24 total.

The addition of an early signing day has changed recruiting approaches across the nation. FSU is no exception. Early Signing Day 2018 lands on Dec. 19 this year, which bodes well for an FSU class that already has most of its main targets committed. The final few games of the season will see an influx of official visits, which the staff purposely planned at the beginning of the cycle. The Clemson game itself on Saturday will have at least two 5-stars and multiple 4-stars in attendance.

What is the current state of FSU football recruiting? We answer a few questions below and relay what we’ve heard and seen about the various prospects that the Seminoles are still vying for. More names will emerge as the process goes on, mainly with junior college offensive line options.

Are Flips Imminent?

No. The only scenario one could envision where FSU sees a slew of flips is if it goes winless for the rest of the year and get blown out in most of the remaining contests. As long as the Seminoles can get to a 5-7 or 6-6 mark, their recruiting class should stay mostly intact.

There are a couple of commits who might flip: Derick Hunter, Quashon Fuller, and Renardo Green come to mind. But the season results haven’t actually changed those situations. It was known since his commitment that Hunter was going to be a headache, and Green’s recruitment changed when Ohio State started showing interest.

Then you have players like Akeem Dent or Nick Cross, who are still being heavily recruited by major programs. But getting recruited does not mean a flip is happening, or that it is even likely. Nothing has radically changed in either recruitment.

Who is FSU Still A Strong Contender For?

5-star DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Oregon made serious strides in this recruitment by getting Thibodeaux on campus for the exhilarating victory over Washington. The Ducks check a lot of boxes for Thibodeaux, including how they would use him in their defense and the overall school culture. They are probably a bigger threat than Alabama at this point, though Alabama is certainly not out of it.

Good news for FSU is that Thibodeaux does not seem to have moved up his commitment date like he claimed after the Oregon trip. His recent interview claims that he is deciding in December, presumably after his high school season concludes and he has had time to think about the decision a bit more. The favorite is still FSU, but it is going down to the wire.

4-star G Will Putnam
Putnam visited last week and raved about his experience, choosing to stay all the way to Monday to soak everything in. Putnam has a great relationship with offensive line coach Greg Frey and could play either center or guard at the next level. He has turned into a priority recruit for FSU, who needs an influx of talent on the offensive line.

Auburn’s collapse and locker room troubles may have effectively eliminated the Tigers from contention for his services. Putnam is deciding fairly soon and will take one more official visit to Clemson before announcing. While FSU is in great position, Clemson is absolutely a threat and FSU has to hope that its pitch ends up better than Clemson’s. A month ago, this was in Florida State’s favor by a large margin. That’s not necessarily true anymore.

4-star DT Tyler Davis
It has come down to Clemson and Florida State for the in-state talent. Florida State made up a lot ground very quickly over the summer, and Davis was pretty close to committing. But he decided to wait it out a bit and take other visits. He visited Clemson in late September and the momentum shifted back towards the Tigers.

Now, it is a bit of a coin flip. Defensive tackles coach Odell Haggins can never be counted out when it comes to grabbing players he wants, but Clemson actually is not that deep on the defensive line long-term. The Tigers can sell early playing time and on-field success.

4-star ATH/S Raymond Woodie III
The son of linebackers coach Raymond Woodie Jr. is making a name for himself as a recruit. It’s not clear where Woodie III would line up on defense for FSU, but his measurables and tape point towards the STAR position as a hybrid linebacker/safety. He is a raw prospect that can be molded into whatever a team needs him to be. Hence why some of his rankings are all over the place.

Woodie III is not a take based on his family name — he is a take because he is a legitimately good football player. The connection just helps. Most think he will suit up for the Seminoles when it is all said and done.

4-star QB Lance Legendre
Legendre was interested in Florida State ever since he decommitted from Kansas earlier this year. He had already taken a visit to campus and remained in touch with the staff despite his pledge to the Jayhawks. Right now, it is a competition between three schools for his services: FSU, Tennessee, and LSU.

Florida State is very confident in Sam Howell sticking to his commitment. What it is concerned about is depth. There is no guarantee that Deondre Francois is around for 2019, which would leave you with just Howell and James Blackman as scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Legendre is a dual-threat quarterback from New Orleans who fits what head coach Willie Taggart and company want to do on offense. Even if he never gets the chance to start for the Seminoles, he provides a necessary backup option in case of injury or transfer.

If certain players want in, Legendre would probably get pushed somewhere else. But if everything plays out like expected, there is a spot and a need for him.

3-star LB Lee Kpogba
Florida State has likely missed on the rest of the top linebacker targets (more on that below). Now the Seminoles are in the second tier of recruits, where immediate impact is not expected. Someone like Kpogba fits this definition perfectly.

Kpogba saw his stock rise over the summer with a great outing at a Rivals recruiting camp. He has yet to fully capitalize on his physical talent, so whichever team grabs him will be focused on development more than early playing time. He committed to West Virginia in October 2017 and recently backed off that commitment. Tennessee and Virginia are also interested.

Florida State probably won’t push for a commitment right now. The Noles are still gauging other prospects’ interest and extending offers to various players like 4-star J.D. Bertrand. If they truly went all in, Kpogba would be on commit watch.

Who Are More Wishful Options?

5-star OT Evan Neal
Neal’s recruitment has been the hardest to get a read on. It has come down to Alabama, FSU, and Miami, but no one is really sure where the three schools rank. Alabama is probably the leader right now considering it is the only school that has an official visit set up. Along those same lines, Neal tried to set one up for Tallahassee over the summer but other obligations got in the way.

Taggart and staff are still liking their chances at bringing him in for an official visit at some point in the near future. If he ever does return to Tallahassee, anything could happen. He would likely be an immediate starter at offensive tackle.

5-star LB Nakobe Dean
There was a point over the summer where it seemed like FSU had become the leader for Nakobe Dean. Since then, that interest has faded. Dean is still intrigued by FSU and his mother still regards the FSU staff as her favorite. But for whatever reason, the staff has not been able to secure his fifth and final official visit. Word is that they remain confident they will get him on campus. We will see how true that is.

Much like Neal, Dean could be an immediate starter.

5-star ATH Quavaris Crouch
Hearing about Crouch from another team’s perspective makes this whole situation odd. Initially, it seemed like Tennessee and Clemson were his two favorites and would be battling it out for the rest of his recruitment. Recently, Michigan and Alabama both got into the mix, and now FSU is throwing its hat in the ring as well. Crouch and Sam Howell know each other, so it is assumed that the quarterback is helping in the recruitment. Yet there are also some indications that a couple of teams have backed off Crouch due to his injury history.

Regardless, Florida State would take Crouch as either a running back or linebacker. He can play both positions, but obviously FSU has a glaring need in the latter. Are the Seminoles truly contenders? No idea, but regardless, Crouch is visiting for the Clemson game on Saturday.

5-star G Kardell Thomas
247Sports published a surprising development on Monday afternoon about LSU commit Kardell Thomas. Apparently, the 5-star lineman and his 4-star running back teammate Tyrion Davis are heading to Florida State for official visits during the Clemson game. There are a couple of things to unpack here.

Firstly, it would appear that the two are a package deal wherever they go. FSU is not planning on taking a running back this cycle, but if it means that it will grab Thomas, it would absolutely take Davis with him.

Secondly, Thomas still being interested in FSU after the start to 2018 is telling. While Thomas has always liked Taggart and the school, most assume that the only way he will sign with FSU is if LSU totally collapses. LSU has instead done very well and exceeded most expectations. Yet Thomas remains intrigued enough to bring a close friend and fellow commit with him on an official visit.

It is still unlikely that Thomas flips to the Seminoles. But this recent development makes it one to keep an eye on.

4-star WR George Pickens
Pickens was another recruit that was on the cusp of flipping to the Seminoles in the summer. While that flip never materialized, he is probably the only other receiver that Florida State would take for 2019.

FSU still is not out of this battle, even if there has not been much chatter about it. There was a similar gap in communication before late August when it revved up again. Auburn’s dysfunction can only help FSU’s pitch, as well as the reliance on the passing game to move the ball.

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