Recruiting Radar: Offensive Priorities

Less than three weeks before National Signing Day, Jimbo Fisher has 15 commitments on the board. At what position on the offensive side of the football is Florida State most desperate to reload?

Quarterback

2011 starter: E.J. Manuel
Projected starter: Manuel
Returning backups: Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Will Secord
Roster defections: None
2012 commitments: Jameis Winston, Sean Maguire

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Manuel is the unquestioned leader of this Florida State football team and has the respect of every player in the locker room, and provided he finally stays healthy from start to finish, there are many still convinced that he has the talent necessary to put together a Heisman Trophy-caliber performance. His shoulder will have more than enough time to heal in the offseason, plus next year's offensive line can't possibly be as porous as it was this year. Trickett doesn't have the size or the mobility coach Jimbo Fisher prefers at the game's most important position, but he showed in the Clemson game that he can sling it.

Recruiting priority: Medium. Winston is arguably the top QB prospect in the country and would be an incredible addition, but even if he can't turn down the money and instead opts for Major League Baseball, Trickett has proven he can play and Coker should be ready by 2013.

Running Back

2011 starters: Devonta Freeman, Lonnie Pryor
Projected starters: Freeman, Pryor
Returning backups: Chris Thompson, James Wilder, Chad Abram, Eric Beverly, Debrale Smiley
Roster defections: Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones
2012 commitment: Mario Pender

While Freeman may never be a special tailback, he emerged as the best of the bunch midway through his freshman campaign in 2011 and looked to be a solid option both running and receiving. Pryor is a dependable blocker at the fullback position, and his gregarious personality has helped put him into a leadership role. Thompson's career is up in the air due to back injuries, while the bigger and stronger Wilder is still hoping to have his role better defined.

Recruiting priority: High. Unlike Freeman, Pender apparently does have the ability to be a special ball carrier one of these days, and even though it's a disappointment that he won't be enrolling early, he reiterated a commitment to the Seminoles recently and should be able to contribute immediately.

Wide Receiver

2011 starters: Rodney Smith, Rashad Greene
Projected starters: Smith, Greene
Returning backups: Willie Haulstead, Christian Green, Kenny Shaw, Greg Dent, Jarred Haggins, Kelvin Benjamin
Roster defections: Bert Reed
2012 commitment: Marvin Bracy

As many as half a dozen receivers are expected to see regular playing time from week to week in Fisher's offense, and with Reed the only casualty on this past year's roster, FSU should be nothing short of loaded. Smith is a dangerous deep target at 6-6, especially on the post route, but it was Greene who injected some life into the passing game straight out of high school and might be the most dynamic wideout to wear the garnet and gold since Peter Warrick. Green and Shaw both flashed at times, Benjamin is another 6-6 monster fresh off a redshirt and Haulstead will be back after post-concussion symptoms took away his 2011.

Recruiting priority: Very low. Bracy is billed as the fastest high school football player in the nation and may be an Olympic sprinter when it's all said and done, so he has a shot to make an impact as a return man in Year 1.

Tight End

2011 starter: Nick O'Leary
Projected starter: O'Leary
Returning backups: Will Tye, Anthony Porterfield, Jonathan Johnson
Roster defections: Beau Reliford, Ja'Baris Little
2012 commitment: Christo Kourtzidis

Very few question the fact that O'Leary has more upside as a receiving option than any 'Noles tight end in recent memory, but it remains to be seen if the sometimes receiver-happy Fisher will utilize him enough to make a difference. The grandson of Jack Nicklaus caught just 12 passes as a freshman, presumably because he wasn't good enough of a blocker to see the field consistently and missed some assignments here and there. O'Leary's backups for 2012 have combined to reel in a grand total of one pass and are little more than extra blockers.

Recruiting priority: Medium. Kourtzidis isn't going to be the game-changing pass catcher O'Leary has the potential to be, but since he is reported to be more polished as a blocker at this point, the two of them might turn out to be a quality duo.

Offensive Line

2011 starters: Zebrie Sanders, Jacob Fahrenkrug, Bryan Stork, David Spurlock, Bobby Hart
Projected starters: Daniel Glauser, Josue Matias, Austin Barron, Tre' Jackson, Hart
Returning backups: Fahrenkrug, Stork, Garrett Faircloth, Henry Orelus, Daniel Foose, Ruben Carter, Sterling Lovelady, Trey Pettis, Jonathan Wallace
Roster defections: Sanders, Andrew Datko
2012 commitment: Glauser

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The season-opening starting lineup -- from left tackle to right tackle -- of Datko, Stork, Fahrenkrug, Spurlock and Sanders ended up being Sanders, Matias, Barron, Jackson and Hart in the season-ending bowl game, and there were countless other configurations in between. Sanders did earn himself All-ACC honors and has been projected as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft, but he did not always perform like it and was not able to elevate the play of the youth around him. While it's possible that Datko, a four-year starter, will be given a medical redshirt to return for a fifth season, he can't be counted on because his shoulder problems may be permanent.

Recruiting priority: Very high. Glauser is already in school and will therefore be able to compete in spring practice, but because Fahrenkrug failed to live up to expectations at both center and left guard, Florida State fans are hesitant to put their faith in yet another junior-college transfer.

To read JC's edition of Recruiting Radar dedicated to the defensive side of the ball, which was published Friday, Click Here.


John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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