College Sports

Seminoles use own evaluation for prospects

Flanagan Stanford Samuels (2) pushes away Coconut Creek defender while carrying the ball during their football game on Friday, September 4, 2015 at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines.
Flanagan Stanford Samuels (2) pushes away Coconut Creek defender while carrying the ball during their football game on Friday, September 4, 2015 at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines.

Former Florida State standout Cam Erving started 13 games in his second NFL season on the Cleveland Browns offensive line last season.

Wide receiver Nyqwan Murray, a former Orlando Oak Ridge High standout, caught the game-winning touchdown pass for the Seminoles against Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Both players — like more than 25 players on the current FSU football roster — started their college football careers being classified as three-star prospects, according to recruiting websites based on their talent and performance in games and showcases while in high school.

The three-star ranking might not have the luster a four- or five-star rating, but FSU has continued to depend on its evaluations more than rankings in recent years.

The Seminoles head into Wednesday’s National Signing Day with 11 three-star players, the most of any team in the top 5 of 247Sports’ team composite rankings.

“Jimbo Fisher has won a national championship, produced a bunch of NFL guys and had success everywhere he’s gone,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals.com. “A three star to us could be a four-star need for them.”

In the past season alone, the Seminoles depended on 12 former three-star players to start, including safety A.J. Westbrook, tight end Ryan Izzo, linebacker Ro’Derrick Hoskins and fullback Freddie Stevenson.

Farrell believes the connotation of the three-star recruit has been devalued in recent years by fans who think schools are missing out on more highly regarded players. Sometimes coaches take three-star players because they expect them to make a contribution in some form during their three to five years in college.

Chris Nee, analyst for Noles247.com, echoed the same sentiment about recent FSU commits such as 6-4 receiver Tamorrion Terry, defensive end Tre Lawson and legacy linebacker DeCalon Brooks, son of FSU legend and NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks.

“I don’t think FSU views them as second-tier players,” Nee said. “If you evaluate a guy, think he fits, and has the talent to be good, then why not go all in?”

The Seminoles’ extensive method of evaluating and courting some of the nation’s best high schools prospects will likely end in another top-5 recruiting class, the sixth in seven years, this week.

FSU already has seven of 21 recruits on campus who are expected to participate in spring practice beginning in March.

The nation’s top running back and No. 2 overall prospect, Cam Akers, from Clinton, Mississippi, headlines FSU’s class of early enrollees alongside five-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh from Bradenton IMG Academy and four-star safety Stanford Samuels III from Pembroke Pines Flanagan.

“It’s a sign of an elite program. You develop them in the spring, and they make immediate impacts,” Farrell said.

Now, Fisher and his coaching staff turn to landing a few more big fish to ease the departures of star running back Dalvin Cook, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, left tackle Rod Johnson and receiver Travis Rudolph, among others for the 2017 season.

The Seminoles are in the hunt for the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle in Marvin Wilson from Texas, the nation’s No. 7 defensive end in Jarez Parks from Sebastian River High, top-10 linebackers in Levin Jones from Texas and Leonard Warner from Georgia, top-15 receivers in Henry Ruggs III from Alabama and Devonta Smith from Louisiana, four-star tackle Neil Farrell and four-star athlete B.J. Thompson.

Wilson and Jones will make their announcements on ESPN on Wednesday.

Farrell believes FSU is in an upper-level category of recruiting, evaluating and developing players like Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Michigan.

Fisher, who recently signed an extension to stay at FSU through 2022, has also dominated the state of Florida, benefiting from the Seminoles’ success on the field and other in-state schools making new coaching hires in recent years.

“Nothing they do really surprises me,” Farrell said of FSU’s recruiting efforts. “I just come to expect it.”

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