It’s a huge day for the college football on Wednesday as the annual event known as National Recruiting Day takes place. Let’s run down what we can expect from the various Florida Schools.
Florida State Seminoles
Here’s a shocking revelation, the Seminoles are expected to have yet another huge recruiting class. Jimbo Fisher is at it again. All signs are pointing to a top 5 class for the Noles, which seems to be some kind of a trend under the Fisher regime. The prize for the Noles is star running back Cam Aikers a 5’11 213lb running back from Clinton, MS. He’s the #2 player in the country, according to 247Sports.com
After his first season as head coach Mark Richt is looking to have another strong recruiting class. He has a few things in his favor. First off the team finished with a five game winning streak, and won their bowl game handily, which was their first bowl victory in a decade. Clearly the program is on an upswing and Richt proved in his first year to be the man for the job. Another factor that will help them on Wednesday is the fact that they played true freshman in key positions this season, mostly on defense. What this does is show recruits that there is no hierarchy based on which class you are in. If you are ready to play, you will get a shot. Right now 247Sports has then at #16 where ESPN has them at #14. If they get higher than 14, the aforementioned factors played a role.
Despite winning back to back SEC East titles, Jim McElwain has been roasted in the state for sub par recruiting results. There’s not doubt the man can coach, it’s just right now his recruiting resume at Florida needs a lot of improvement. Will this be the year he finally cracks the Sunshine State code? Right now 247Sports has them at #21 recruiting class and ESPN at #20. With Florida State and Miami ahead of Florida this year and potentially for years to come, McElwain’s coaching chops will have to elevate because #20 is not good enough for the Gator faithful year in and year out. They will get restless.
UCF Golden Knights
Of course recruiting at UCF is going to be a challenge because of the high level and middle level college programs you are competing against. Right now 247Sports has UCF as the #66 recruiting class in the country. Which isn’t earth shattering, but it isn’t moving the needle much. A school like UCF is much more about player development than recruiting. Though they rely on finding overlooked guys, so it usually takes three years to measure these recruiting classes.
Florida International Panthers
The master recruiter himself is back in the state ready to cause some serious disruptions. Butch Davis is back coaching football in Miami-Dade County, but now for the FIU Panthers. And look how quick of an impact he’s making, this commuter school is ranked 76th in the country in recruiting. Nice work Butch!
Florida Atlantic Owls
The fighting Lane Kiffins come into their head coach’s first recruiting class at #79 according to 247Sports. He took a pretty substantial pay cut to be the head coach at FAU, and he’s going to have to make it work. Kiffin is a high profile name, but also a strong recruiter. That said this program is going not only rely on recruiting young men out of high school, but also master the transfer game. It will be interesting to see if Kiffin has any surprises on Wednesday.
South Florida Bulls
Ranked last out of all the Florida schools is USF, which comes in ranked as the #118 recruiting class in the country. That’s really really bad for a program that is coming off it’s best year in school history. We have to wait and see what new head coach Charlie Strong will be able to do recruiting wise next season. This season the bottom fell out as several top recruits de-committed once Willie Taggart took the job at Oregon. This includes three very high level recruits who are following Taggart to Eugene. This pretty much destroyed the recruiting class, which would have been ranked much higher had there not been any defections. Luckily for Strong he inherits a solid team and should be able to recuperate any recruiting losses next season.
New FSU coach Willie Taggart eager to get practices started Monday
It’s finally arrived. College football teams have begun to gather and hit the practice field aiming towards the start of the season at the end of this month.
And in Tallahassee, there is renewed optimism and enthusiasm for first year coach Willie Taggart.
We have well documented Taggart’s quick ascent to the Noles top spot, as it started with coaching his alma matter Western Kentucky, then returning USF to a nationally ranked bowl winning program and then, a single season in the Pac 12 at Oregon.
Now, the Noles, who floundered to a 6-6 regular season barely making a bowl game, hope Taggart can lead them back into ACC championship contention and beyond. Even if that’s not realistic for 2018, the belief is that they will be there next season for sure.
Taggart met with the media Sunday afternoon in advance of the Seminoles first practice for Monday and covered many subjects:
One hot topic is the quarterback position battle. That’s where last year’s true freshman starer James Blackman will be challenged by 2016 starter Deondre Francois. Francois was injured and lost for the season in the fourth quarter of FSU’s opening defeat against Alabama last September.
And the Noles have a third option to potentially go to in Bailey Hockman.
“They’re all going to have an opportunity. They all understand that,” Taggart said. “That starts now. … They know they’ve got to separate themselves.”
Taggart also told the media that receiver Nyqwan Murray and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson both with knee issues are not available to start practicing this week.
“Those guys will be limited. You won’t see them the first part of training camp, but I think as we get towards the end in training camp, you’ll see those guys out there practicing with us.”
Finally, in another example of Taggart understanding and embracing FSU’s tradition, he is bringing back for long time defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.
Welcome back to the football staff, Coach Andrews! 🍢
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) August 3, 2018
Andrews who coached numerous defensive All Americans in Tallahassee from 1984 through 2009, including two National Championship seasons, is beloved by a great many of the FSU alumni and fans.
Taggart glowed Sunday,
“It’s great to have someone like that, that’s been here. He’s seen it all and has a lot of knowledge of the game. He has a lot of knowledge of Florida State. I think he’s someone that not only myself, but our entire staff, can learn something from while he’s here.”
The Noles will all be trying to learn something about their new coaches and teammates. And it won’t be a “cream puff” in the opener with Virginia Tech on Labor Day night.
Time to get to work.
Report- former FSU now Rams safety Derwin James robbed at gunpoint
Rookies often talk about their “Welcome to the NFL” moment. However, that’s usually reserved for something that happens on the field to remind them that they are playing against the best of the best and that they have to be careful for anything to happen to or for them.
Unfortunately, for former Seminoles star safety Derwin James, who was drafted in the first round by the L.A. Chargers in April, he was given that reminder apparently in a scary scene.
TMZ broke the story exclusively on Monday afternoon that James was robbed at gunpoint in Southern California last month:
Derwin James Allegedly Robbed At Gunpoint, Snatched Chain & Rolex https://t.co/Cy1OKZHOBo
— TMZ Sports (@TMZ_Sports) July 23, 2018
According to the Gossip site, here’s the recap:
James, and his uncle were leaving an Italian restaurant on Sunset Blvd. on June 23 when 2 black males allegedly rushed them … demanding their jewelry. According to a warrant we obtained, both of the men had handguns and pointed them at James.
According to the docs, one of the men snatched the chain off James’ neck … and they also took his Rolex.
The thieves fled to a nearby car … and when Derwin tried to give chase in his Rolls-Royce, he discovered 3 of his tires had been slashed.
Cops are still searching for the suspects.
First off, no one is making fun of someone allegedly pointing guns at them and robbing them. However, when you read the report that he wanted to chase them, but his Rolls-Royce had three tires slashed, that’s straight out of Hollywood. Literally.
We wrote back in May after the draft that perhaps both the Bucs and the Dolphins, who both could have used safety help for this season, may have made a mistake by passing on the former Noles star. The Rams got him with the 17th overall pick. Miami had even drafted Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick instead of James at #11.
And Pro Football Focus pointed out here, that his 90.6 grade in pass coverage was #1 in their ranking formula for college safeties, and also his overall grade (92.1) on their scale ranked him #2. PFF had James ranked their fifth best player in the entire draft.
James, his representatives or the Chargers have still not commented on the robbery report.
New FSU coach Willie Taggart anxious to get Noles nationally relevant again
On Thursday morning new FSU coach Willie Taggart met with the ACC media signaling that Seminoles practice and September games won’t be far behind.
Interestingly, it was Taggart’s third different conference media kickoff with his third different school in three years. A year ago he was standing in Los Angeles, as Oregon’s coach at the Pac 12 media days and two years ago, was representing USF at the American Athletic Conference at their media kickoff in Newport, RI.
Nevertheless, Taggart has infused Florida State and their fan base and continued to share his vision for immediately improving them on and off the field. He spoke at length with the ACC Media:
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) July 19, 2018
Taggart covered several interesting subjects, including lack of offensive productivity. He was asked whether it shocked him that FSU was ranked last in several ACC offensive categories:
“I think everything about last year shocked me…. That’s football. That’s life. That’s behind us, now. It’s on us to change those things, because it’s up to us to change those things… That’s the expectation for us: to be a whole lot better than what we did last year. So, I’m looking forward to our guys changing that narrative.”
He was then asked about his vision for the Seminoles program in the near future:
“My vision for this program s to win multiple championships in a first class manner…. That’s always going to be our vision. And, to me, that’s what Florida State is all about. That’s what I grew up (in Bradenton) watchin’, lovin’, when it came to Florida State football. Every year competing for a championship…Every year they were winning. That’s our goal. That’s our vision. That’s why you come to Florida State. To win championships.”
The ACC media waited until the end to ask about the competition at quarterback for this fall. Taggart was amused.
“This is the last question? And someone finally asked me about the quarterback position?… I am kinda like the rest of you all. I’m ready to see who’s going to be our quarterback, as well. I’m excited. This is the first time I’ve been in a position as a the head football coach where we have three guys that can play for you. I’m looking forward to training camp and these guys competing for the job… They understand when you come here, you’re going to have to compete. Nothing is going to be given to you…. Can’t wait to see who separates themselves, as we go into the season. As soon as they do that, we will let you all know.”
The Noles will return 2016 starting QB Deondre Francois, who was lost for the season in the opening game with Alabama, and also sophomore James Blackman who took over and played better, as the season wore on. He led FSU to wins over the Gators and in the Independence Bowl over Southern Miss.
It will be easier with battering ram running back Cam Akers to hand the ball off to, as well.
Finally, Taggart does have a lot to live up to after the Noles massive success of 35 plus years and counting. He’s a coach that is only 47-50 for his career at Western Kentucky, USF and last year at Oregon (7-5 a year ago) and Taggart knows that scrutiny will start with the Labor Day night opener at home with conference rival Virginia Tech and only grow from there.
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