Former Miami Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon once famously spoke of “building a fence around South Florida.”
The idea — one that has endured at Miami far longer than Shannon — was to keep the best local talent near home, playing for the Hurricanes.
Years later, with the cloud of the Nevin Shapiro scandal now lifted and coach Al Golden leading the program, building that proverbial fence is once again on the minds of Hurricanes fans — especially if it can keep out Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.
On Wednesday, Fisher and the national champion Florida State Seminoles put the finishing touches on yet another top-five recruiting class. A class that — as has become commonplace since Fisher took over the program in 2010 — features some of the best talent South Florida had to offer.
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“It’s one of the most recruited areas in the country, it’s one of the most talented areas in the country and those kids love to compete and play at any level,” said Fisher as he discussed his 2014 recruiting class. “If you’re a big-time player down there you can play anywhere — no doubt.”
A trio of five star recruits — running back Dalvin Cook (Miami Central) and wide receivers Ermon Lane (Homestead) and Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman) — all pilfered straight from the University of Miami’s backyard — headline a deep recruiting class that includes 28 players.
This is the fifth consecutive top-ten recruiting class for FSU — three of which have been top-five. Finishing with a top recruiting class is nothing new for the Seminoles under Fisher.
“It’s an area which I have personally recruited for over 20-some years — when I was an assistant at Auburn, when I was at Cincinnati, when I was at LSU, those were my primary areas,” Fisher said. “So I have known and had connections and know people down there, I’ve known them for years.”
Clearly those long-held South Florida connections still bear plenty of fruit for Fisher — as was evidenced by his most recent class.
Cook, who was named Florida’s Mr. Football following his senior season at Miami Central, follows a familiar path. He will vie for the carries left behind by another Central standout, Devonta Freeman, who departed early for the NFL Draft following the Seminoles’ BCS Championship in January.
Lane and Rudolph will join Rashad Greene — a former St. Thomas Aquinas standout — and attempt to replace the production left behind by former Belle Glades star Kelvin Benjamin (another early NFL Draft departure).
Top-to-bottom Florida State’s roster is stacked with talented recruits that have left South Florida.
“It’s something we’re always going to put an emphasis on and we’ll get our share down there,” Fisher said.
The Seminoles would have had another high profile South Florida recruit if Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris not flipped from FSU to Florida. Harris’ defection wasn’t enough to put a damper on Fisher’s spirits though.
“There’s no hard feelings,” said Fisher. “Kids make decisions and they go.”
That works both ways, though. Despite losing Harris, the Seminoles also managed to flip two players of their own, stealing a pair four-star recruits (athlete Ja’Von Harrison and defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi) from Virginia Tech in the 11th hour.
In all, it was a very well-rounded class — one in which Fisher sees a lot of potential.
“I know it’s the time of year that every coach is saying that, but I do,” said Fisher. “This is one of the most complete classes we’ve been able to sign since we’ve been here.”
That’s good news for Florida State fans. Bad news for the rest of the state.