2009 class key to FSU's turnaround

There were signs of life for the 'Noles after the 2008 season. FSU finished 9-4 after a blowout win over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. The 2009 recruiting class is key to the success of the 2012 season. Where are the players from that class entering Year 4?

One of the things about the 2009 class is that it was considered one of the best years ever in the "Big Bend" area. Florida State capitalized by staying close to home with a number of targets.

The Good

Lonnie Pryor: The four-star tailback has taken one for the team and played fullback. He has been excellent there. Pryor always gives 100 percent and is one the most dependable players on the roster. He may get a look at tailback in the Spring due to issues at the position. Pryor has good hands and is an excellent blocker.

Chris Thompson: The three-star recruit from Madison County's game translated right to the college. The speedster has made big plays when he has been on the field, including a scintillating performance at during the 2010 season. A back injury shelved him for most of the 2011 campaign, but Thompson is healthy again and should contribute this year. How much he contributes will depend on how the back responds.

Rodney Smith: The 6-5 three-star signee from a small school in Dade County has been a big part of the offense the past two seasons. He brings size and the ability to get down the field. Very consistent. Smith's value is underappreciated, as he really opens up areas for other players to work.

Willie Haulstead: Haulstead brings something to the table that no other receiver does at FSU: size and strength working the middle of the field. He missed the 2011 season due to a concussion suffered in practice, and despite being very deep at the position, it was clear FSU missed him. He is back and poised for a big season. Faster than he appears, Haulstead really makes a difference when he is on the field. He is a real tough matchup for DBs.

Xavier Rhodes: The three-star wide receiver was recruited to cornerback at FSU. Many questioned Rhodes' ability to play that position, but after starting for the past two years there are no questions anymore. Rhodes' elite size coupled with his smooth hips make him the prototype for big corners across the country. His could be the first corner called at the 2013 NFL Draft if he puts it all together this year.

Brandon Jenkins: The four-star defensive end from Tallahassee has been sensational the past two years. A terrific pass rusher with an explosive first step, Jenkins is one of the nation's premier players at his position. He's a surefire draft pick in Round 1 or 2 next year.

Greg Reid: Time flies. It seems like yesterday that we were watching this young man shred the competition at the Under Armour All-American Game. Reid has been a starter at cornerback and a terror on special teams. Tough as nails. His confidence rubs off on the whole team.

Dustin Hopkins: Very reliable and has made some big kicks for FSU.

Solid

Bryan Stork: Close to making the "Good" category, Stork needs to lock down a starting spot this season. He has started games at both guard and center, but the results have been mixed. He is valuable depth.

Dan Hicks: He has been the fourth defensive end the past two years and produced at a good level. A move to tight end this Spring clouds the future a little bit. Will he be the starter? Is he just a blocker? How much can he produce in the passing game? Solid player.

Demonte McAllister: McAllister has not done much due to extreme depth at the position, but we have a good feeling his breakout year is 2012. Blessed with enormous talent, it has taken longer than expected to add the necessary weight. He is ready to go, and we hear he is in outstanding shape.

Jacobbi McDaniel: McDaniel went down with an injury last season, but was a vital part of the rotation the previous two years. The former five-star has not lived up to the hype and needs to make more impact plays. His future is in doubt and a lot will depend on how he responds.

Henry Orelus: Actually started as a freshman, but a series of injuries has kept him off the field. It is now or never for Orelus, as the young linemen behind him are pressing for playing time.

No Impact

Will Secord: Career backup that will leave the program to enter the real world after three years.

John Prior: No impact.

C.J. Mizell: Talented-but-troubled youngster that did not enroll at FSU. He found his way to Washington State, where his elite talent was evident. Kicked off the team, however.

JaJuan Harley: No impact at FSU.

Willie Downs: Did not get into school and has disappeared from the radar. As talented as any player FSU has signed in the past five years. Really elite.

Gerald Demps: Reid's high school teammate has never made an impact.

Justin Bright: Hard-working player that just does not possess the size that FSU is looking for at Safety.

Overall

Florida State signed 20 players in this class. At least eight of them are on the NFL Draft radar already -- Pryor, Thompson, Smith, Haulstead, Rhodes, Jenkins, Reid, Hopkins -- and three more -- McAllister, Stork, Hicks -- could join them.

Putting 11 out of 20 into the NFL would be an amazing accomplishment, and we think it is likely to happen. Not a ton of projection here, these guys have played. McAllister is really the only wildcard left.

This group has gone 26-14 with three bowl-game wins thus far... and 2012 is the money year for most of them.

Given historical figures, we would sign this class again knowing everything -- that does not happen very often. If Mizell and Downs play to their potential without off-the-field difficulties, this would be one of the best classes in the history of FSU football. Yes, it is that close and those two guys were that talented.


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