TALLAHASSEE — Florida State needed another strong finish to land a top 2013 recruiting class and sealed it by landing a couple big recruits from South Florida as it battled Miami in its own backyard on National Signing Day.
“I’ve always recruited South Florida,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm has been my area for 20 years. I knew a lot of the people down there, a lot of the coaches. I’m very familiar with those guys. We used to be on a day-to-day basis. I actually felt good; I felt like I was back as an assistant for a while having to do all the groundwork.”
Top to bottom this will be another top-10 class for FSU. But it wasn’t easy.
After losing six assistants to promotions at other schools — including offensive coordinator James Coley to UM — Fisher was forced to act as FSU’s de facto recruiting coordinator over the last month and a half.
All he did in that time was assemble a new coaching staff while still landing a solid group of players that included several high profile recruits out of South Florida.
Matthew Thomas, the highly touted five-star linebacker out of Booker T. Washington High, kicked off the Seminoles’ morning by announcing he would be picking Florida State over UM and several SEC schools.
The 6-3, 205 pound outside linebacker is rated the top player at his position in the country by several scouting services. With FSU returning only two players with substantial experience at linebacker next season, Thomas could action fast.
“He’s one of those guys, he can change a game,” Fisher said. “He’s very tall, explosive, athletic, plays outside, can rush, can cover. He played wideout until he was in the 10th grade. He could go play safety if he had to.”
In addition to Thomas, FSU also signed four-star inside linebacker EJ Levenberry from Virginia and four-star outside linebacker Ro’Derrick Hoskins out of Orlando. Freddie Stevenson, a four-star outside linebacker from Bartow, is already enrolled at FSU and will compete in spring practice.
But Thomas is the real gem of the class and also marked the second five-star player to commit to FSU in the final 24 hours of the recruiting period. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey de-committed from USC on Tuesday and signed his letter of intent with Florida State on Wednesday.
FSU got even more good news when Delray Beach Atlantic four-star DT Keith Bryant selected the Seminoles over the Hurricanes.
“Keith was very key in getting a lot of those other guys,” Fisher said. “You talk about a guy working the phones. Keith wanted a lot of other good players around him.”
But Florida State also missed out on some of prime their targets, too.
Most notably Northeastern’s Stacy Coley, a player many felt was headed to Tallahassee, opted to stay in South Florida and sign with UM. After coming into the morning confident about Coley committing, Fisher admitted he grew nervous when TV cameras showed the young receiver crying before his ceremony.
Moments later the 6-1, 175-pound receiver donned a green and orange cap that said “Swag” across the front, signifying his choice to attend Miami.
Thomas’ high school teammate, four-star offensive lineman Denver Kirkland, signed with Arkansas over the Seminoles and Hurricanes as well.
“Very proud today,” Fisher said. “Thought we really met some needs and got some big-time commitments [Wednesday]. I think our new staff did a great job.”