The Daily Nole

On My Mind Monday: What Would An All-Decade FSU Team Look Like Without Blue Chips?

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Florida State’s recent Saturday Night Live recruiting event puts much of the focus on the blue-chip recruits.

These players get four shiny stars next to their name and lauded as the best of the best. Not surprisingly, these same players are the bedrock of virtually every single contender across the nation. They’re essential if you want to compete for national championships. Don’t believe us? Check out the recruiting profiles for Florida State’s 2013 national championship starting defense.

The premise of this article is simple: If you had to assemble an All-Decade FSU team, but could not use a player who was a blue-chip recruit, what would it look like? Would you take this team over the current 2019 FSU squad? Would that team beat the 2019 FSU squad?

Some rules are in place.

First, the player must be a 3-star. Since we are looking back at players from the late 2000s recruiting classes, the rankings get less streamlined. Back then Rivals was considered the premier recruiting service. When there was a split ranking (as in, 247Sports had a player as a blue chip/not blue chip, Rivals had the opposite) we went with Rivals if it was before 2010.

Second, the eligible players are from 2009-18. If their career started before 2009, we judged them based on the entirety of their career, not just the last year or two.

Third, we tried to judge them based on their play when healthy. If they were constantly injured however, that was taken into consideration.

QB: Christian Ponder

Christian Ponder quarterbacked FSU to the ACC title game as a senior in 2010. (FSU athletics)

Second Choice: James Blackman

Not too much of a surprise here. There’s only three eligible quarterbacks, and only one that was a multi-year full time starter. The second choice was a bit more difficult, but it seems safe to say that James Blackman will probably be the surefire choice once 2019 plays out.

RB: Jermaine Thomas

Second Choice: Ty Jones

This was, without a doubt, the hardest position to find. There were very few eligible candidate who even had recordable stats. We ultimately had to go with Jermaine Thomas, who was a 3-star running back in the 2008 recruiting class, according to Rivals. Thomas contributed early as a true freshman with almost 500 yards and three touchdowns. It was his sophomore year in 2009 where Thomas had a breakthrough season. He totaled nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage and combined for 10 touchdowns — with his best effort being a 186-yard, 2- touchdown outing in a 45-42 win over NC State on Halloween.

WR: Tamorrion Terry, Nyqwan Murray

Second Choice: Taiwan Easterling, Jesus Wilson

This was a similar situation to the running back position, but ultimately a more secure choice. It turns out that the two best non-blue-chip wide receivers at FSU this decade were both on the team last year. The two tied for the team lead with 744 yards receiving. Terry’s career is not yet over, and if he continues on the trend he’s currently on, there’s a chance he goes in the regular All-Decade team as well. Meanwhile, Murray was a divisive figure at FSU who ultimately did produce some good memories. His late game heroics against Michigan in the 2016 Orange Bowl and Louisville in 2018 were riveting and the best example of what type of player he could be.

OL: Cam Erving (LT), Rodney Hudson (LG), Bryan Stork (C), Tre’ Jackson (RG), Andrew Datko (RT)

The trenches for this team are legitimately impressive. On the offensive side of the ball, there are a combined five All-American selections, eight All-ACC selections, a Rimington Trophy, and a Jacobs Blocking Trophy. Three of the names here started on the national championship team as well. In fact, the eventual All-Decade team probably has the first four names on it already.

The only weak spot would be right tackle, where Andrew Datko was the best selection. Datko had a very promising start to his collegiate career after being named a Freshman All-American in 2008 by four publications. Datko was a consistent starter on the team from 2008 to 2010, before shoulder injuries in 2011 forced him to play in only four contests. If that is the “weak spot” of the team, that tells you how stacked this unit is.

TE: Ryan Izzo

Second Choice: Beau Reliford

If Ryan Izzo didn’t exist, we’d essentially have no one else to put here. Thankfully for the purposes of this article (and Florida State), Izzo had a nice college career that amounted to 761 yards and six touchdowns in three years as a starter.

DL: Bjoern Werner (DE), Nile Lawrence-Stample (DT), Anthony McCloud (DT), Cornellius “Tank” Carradine (DE)

Cornellius “Tank” Carradine recorded 11 sacks for FSU in 2012. (Mike Olivella/FSU athletics)

The second part of the trenches might not be as intimidating as the first part, but it’s still pretty darn good. On the left side, you have the fifth-leading sack artist in FSU football history bearing down on the quarterback. On the right side, you have a first-team All-ACC selection setting the edge.

In the middle, you have the epitome of “run stuffers”. Lawrence-Stample was a 2015 All-ACC selection who could have done even more had he not suffered a major injury during the 2014 season. While Anthony McCloud might not be the sexiest pick, he’s also a player who started 30 games in his career and was considered a good player in his own right.

LB: Dekoda Watson, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Mister Alexander

The linebacker unit might be the weakest of the whole team. Besides a short stretch from 2012-14, linebacker has been a weak spot for the FSU program in recent history. Unfortunately for us, the best linebackers were all blue-chip recruits.

We went with three players who were all above-average to decent starters while at FSU. Dekoda Watson is probably the best of the group, having started 32 games in his career and totaling 184 tackles with 32.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two interceptions, and two blocked kicks. Hoskins can fill up the middle adequately, and did so at FSU with 28 starts with 159 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss. Finally, Alexander had a solid 2010 outing and proved to be a dependable starter. It will always be a mystery how good he could have been if he hadn’t torn his ACL as a redshirt freshman.

CB: Xavier Rhodes, Mike Harris

Both of the secondary positions have a clear cut elite starter…and an OK second option. For cornerback, Xavier Rhodes gets the obvious nod. Many forget that Rhodes came to FSU as a relatively unheard of 3-star wide receiver. Jimbo Fisher saw his potential at cornerback, and the rest is history. His counterpart is cornerback Mike Harris, who was a key contributor on the 2010 and 2011 squads.

Harris came from the junior college ranks and immediately saw time in the rotation. In two years with the team, he was able to notch almost 100 tackles, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles. As an interesting side note, three of his interceptions came against Clemson and Florida. If nothing else, he stepped up in rivalry games.

S: Terrence Brooks, Lamarcus Brutus

Brooks bided his time on the sidelines in 2010 and 2011 before sliding in to the starting free safety role in 2012. Once that happened, he became one of the best defensive backs in the entire ACC, switching between the free safety spot and strong safety role. He was awarded with an All-American selection in 2013 and an eventual third round selection in the ensuing NFL Draft. Beside him is Lamarcus Brutus, a veteran player who saw his role drastically increase late in 2014 and throughout the 2015 season. Brutus was an OK free safety who was more successful in a depth role. But for this team, he’ll have to take on starting duties.

P: Shawn Powell

Most of this decade has been occupied by Cason Beatty and Logan Tyler, who are not particularly noteworthy — especially compared to Shawn Powell. Powell averaged a program record 44.2 yards per punt and was named an All-American in 2011 after averaging 47 yards per punt.

K: Roberto Aguayo

Second Choice: Dustin Hopkins

There was a legitimate discussion of Aguayo vs. Dustin Hopkins for this spot. While Aguayo’s career entered a bit of slide towards the end, he was still one of the most accurate kickers in college football history and helped changed the outcomes of multiple games with his accuracy. Both were All-Americans, but only Aguayo left Tallahassee with a Lou Groza Award.

Would you replace 2019 FSU with this team?

Yes. Position by position, this team is better equipped to deal with the 2019 schedule than the current squad.

The all-time team has the advantage at quarterback, defensive line, tight end, special teams, and a massive advantage at offensive line. That last part is why we take this team over the current one. Even though their talent at running back and wide receiver probably doesn’t stack up to the overall 2019 units, that offensive line is so good that they will still have a top offense. You might see a 1,000-yard season from Jermaine Thomas with that level of run blocking.

Where it falls short is the overall defense. Once you move beyond the defensive line, it gets testy. Cornerback should be fine with Xavier Rhodes as the No. 1 guy, but linebackers are a clear weak spot. The safety situation is also exploitable with Brutus starting. This team would get into some shootouts against better offensive coordinators.

How many make the regular All-Decade team?

We count seven: The first four offensive linemen, Xavier Rhodes, Roberto Aguayo, and Shawn Powell. It is legitimately impressive that the offensive line has that many non-blue-chip recruits who succeeded. It also backs up what many say about development and how offensive line is the one position where you do not necessarily need elite recruits to get elite results.

Clint Eiland is the lead writer for The Daily Nole. Follow Clint on Twitter @ClintEiland. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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