When Matthew Thomas announced his intention to sign with FSU on Wednesday, it set off a raucous celebration among the Seminole coaching staff in Tallahassee.
Florida State didn’t have to wait long for its good news to come on National Signing Day.
When Matthew Thomas, a top linebacker prospect from Miami signed with Florida State on live television a little after 9 a.m., a roar went through the conference room where coach Jimbo Fisher and his assistants gathered for the day.
And things got even better for the Seminoles when Jalen Ramsey, a star defensive back from Brentwood, Tenn., followed up on his surprise commitment from the day before, spurning USC and signing with Florida State not long after 11 a.m.
By the time their last letter of intent faxed through, the Seminoles were left with another top-10 class.
“I think it was a great day. I think we met a lot of needs in what we did,” Fisher said. “I’m very proud of our class. We hit a little bit of every position throughout the whole class and met a lot of needs.”
Fisher had plenty of reasons to be happy, particularly after losing six assistants since November, but Florida State wasn’t quite all smiles on Wednesday.
The Seminoles missed on two South Florida prospects, offensive lineman Denver Kirkland and receiver Stacey Coley, who opted for Arkansas and Miami, respectively.
Still, Florida State appeared to do a nice job loading up at thin positions.
After losing their entire starting defensive line and top reserves, the Seminoles signed three defensive linemen, including four-star prospect DeMarcus Walker, a Jacksonville native who switched to Florida State from Alabama at the 11th hour before the deadline for early enrollees.
And even after missing on Kirkland, the Seminoles landed three highly regarded offensive linemen, including Ira Denson, the state of Florida’s top offensive guard.
“I always want more big guys,” Fisher said. “I don’t think you ever have enough big guys. I would like to have had some more, but if I’ve got 10 of them, I’d still want 12. You can’t have enough big people in this game.”
TOP OF THE CLASS
OLB Matthew Thomas (Booker T. Washington High in Miami, Fla.) -- Florida State went into rival territory to pull one of the country’s most coveted defensive prospects. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Thomas is considered to be one of the top high school linebackers in the nation and bolsters a position where the Seminoles have been light on depth in recent years.
DB Jalen Ramsey (Brentwood High in Brentwood, Tenn.) -- The Seminoles pulled a bit of a coup by getting Ramsey to flip to Florida State after being committed to USC since last July. Considered to be the top overall prospect in the state of Tennessee, the 6-foot, 190-pound Ramsey played cornerback in high school but could also play safety at Florida State. He has drawn comparisons to Florida State freshman Ronald Darby, who earned freshman All-ACC honors in 2012.
RB Ryan Green (St. Petersburg Catholic High, St. Petersburg, Fla.) -- The 5-10, 195-pound all-purpose back committed to Florida State early and never wavered. Despite missing nearly all of his senior season with a torn labrum, Green still has the speed (he’s been clocked with a 4.40 second 40-yard dash) to make a big impact in the Seminoles’ backfield. He has the potential to offer the Seminoles a different look from the stronger, more bruising styles of veterans James Wilder and Devonta Freeman.
--Florida State has lost six assistants since November, most recently offensive coordinator James Coley, who departed for Miami. The Seminoles have filled five of those positions, but Fisher opted to focus all of his efforts on recruiting and can now turn his attention to filling the vacant offensive coordinator position.
--Coach Jimbo Fisher noted that the effect of his staff turnover was “probably a wash,” and that while it made things more difficult with some recruits, some previous closed doors were opened because of the new coaches on staff.
Practice priorities: For the first time in four years, Florida State doesn’t have a clear-cut quarterback heading into spring practice. Fourth-year junior Clint Trickett has the most experience and would appear to have the inside track on the job, but he’ll be challenged by redshirt sophomore Jacob Coker as well as redshirt freshman Jameis Winston, one of the nation’s top quarterback prospects in the class of 2012. The Seminoles finished 12-2 in 2012 and earned their first Atlantic Coast Conference title since 2005. ACC titles are expected in Tallahassee, but Florida State will have some work to do after losing seven defensive starters.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think our new staff did a tremendous job of going out very quickly and building relationships among the new recruits and establishing who they are as coaches and what they are as men. And our guys bought into it very well and they did a tremendous job.” -- Jimbo Fisher, on the efforts of his five new assistants on the recruiting trail.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL:
KEY LOSSES: DE Bjoern Werner, QB EJ Manuel, DE Cornellius Carradine, CB Xavier Rhodes, T Menelik Watson.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2013:
--QB Clint Trickett is the Seminoles’ most experienced returning quarterback with seven touchdown passes and 947 passing yards for his career. With three seasons in the program, Trickett has also had the most time to immerse himself in Jimbo Fisher’s offensive scheme.
--T Cam Erving will be charged with protecting a first-year starting quarterback no matter who eventually wins the job. With Florida State having to replace RT Menelik Watson, Erving, a former defensive tackle, will have to anchor the exterior of the line while the new right tackle gets his feet wet.
--S Lamarcus Joyner raised a few eyebrows when he decided to put professional football on hold and return to Florida State for his senior season. Now, in addition to being what many considered the heart of Florida State’s defense, he’ll also be perhaps its most experienced player. Joyner’s presence as a leader will be key as the Seminoles adapt to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s new defensive scheme.
--QB EJ Manuel, who recently finished his Florida State career after two years as a starter, was named MVP of the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26. He became the second Seminoles quarterback in three years to earn that honor. Christian Ponder, the MVP in 2011, rode a strong performance in the Senior Bowl into the NFL combine and eventually became surprise draft pick at No. 11 overall.
--Richy Klepal, who enrolled with the Seminoles in January, is seeking a second opinion on whether or not he can continue his football career. Klepal, an offensive tackle from Tampa Plant High, announced last fall that he would stop playing football after suffering multiple concussions. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher honored Klepal’s scholarship.