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NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: FSU's Fisher signs first class post-Bowden

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher was pegged as Bobby Bowden's replacement at Florida State because of his ability to run a high-powered offense.

Fisher's first recruiting class for the Seminoles, however, was heavy on defense.

The Seminoles went big for defensive backs, linebackers and defensive linemen on Wednesday's national signing day in hopes of shoring up a beleaguered defensive unit.

Florida State's offense, led by experienced quarterbacks Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel, and a veteran offensive line, returns basically intact, but Fisher wanted to shore up a defense that was one of the nation's worst in 2009 when the Seminoles finished 7-6 for the third time in the last four years.

"I think we did that," he said. "We got physical, inside presence, I think we got width and speed ... great corners."

Fourteen of the 24 signees were defensive players and Fisher expects many to challenege for playing time.

"If they're the best players, they'll play," said Fisher, who spent three seasons as offensive coordinator for the Seminoles under Bowden before replacing the winningest coach in school history last month. "Some of these guys may have a chance to make an impact."

Immediate help could come from 230-pound middle linebacker Jeff Luc from Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he totaled 228 tackles over his junior and senior seasons. Luc and quarterback Clint Trickett, son of offensive coordinator Rick Trickett, enrolled last month and will take part in spring practice.

The Seminoles signed five linebackers, including 225-pound Christian Jones of Lake Howell High School. His dad and brother, Willie Jones and Willie Jones Jr., preceded him at Florida State.

"We didn't recruit his dad or his brother," Fisher said. "We recruited him because he's a great football player and he can help us win now."

But Fisher couldn't resist pulling in some talent on offense, especially at wide receiver where the Seminoles are already loaded.

"A lot of athleticism," he said.

Diminutive cornerback Lamarcus Joyner from Fort Lauderdale was recruited by everyone from national champion Alabama, Notre Dame and Southern California to Georgia, Florida and Miami. The 5-8, 175-pound Joyner was an offensive star as well at St. Thomas Aquinas High School where he averaged nearly 14 yards every time he had his hands on the ball.

"He's a special competitor," said Fisher, who compared Joyner to last year's freshman star, Greg Reid. "Those two guys, if you beat them once, you'll never beat them again. They don't ever back up to nobody."

The Seminoles landed a pair of players from the Salisbury School in Salisbury, Conn., foreign exchange student Bjoern Werner from Germany, a 6-4, 265-pound defensive end, and tight end Will Tye.

"Anytime you go away that far, you should get an impact guy," Fisher said. "I think both these guys will be impact guys."

Otherwise, Fisher didn't stray far from home, signing 13 Florida athletes and five from neighboring Georgia, two from Alabama and one from Texas, Louisiana and New Jersey.

The group included four athletes already enrolled, two who transferred from a Mississippi junior college with associate degrees and eligibility for three seasons -- running back Debrale Smiley and defensive tackle Anthony McCloud. The two high school teammates from nearby Thomasville, Ga., were originally in Florida State's 2008 signing class.