WM: Florida State missed out on the big time defensive ends they were chasing on signing day, but did pick up the nation's third-ranked defensive tackle in Derrick Nnadi. Add that with Demarcus Christmas and you are looking at a very formidable starting interior line in a few years. Florida State also signed a pair of 6-foot-7 defensive ends in Leonard and Featherston. Florida State met their needs and acquired a significant amount of depth for the coming years. Grade: B+
JS: FSU badly needed to bring in bodies at the defensive tackle position, and it's tough to complain about a group that includes Christmas and Nnadi. Torres is a wide body and is underrated, giving another solid tackle prospect. Williams is a terrific athlete and great prospect but is on the edge academically. Jones is a project with good potential but is unlikely to contribute early.
Leonard is one of my favorite recruits in this class. He has elite length, a frame that can easily carry 280+, and moves like a much smaller man. He projects as a force at the end position, and if he somehow outgrew that, he could be an elite offensive tackle prospect. Don't be surprised if Leonard winds up a first rounder by the end of his college career. Featherston's nickname is "The Human Condor," and a look at his tape shows why. He just engulfs people with his length. He also has terrific closing speed and a frame that should be able to carry more weight without too much trouble. He won't be an early contributor, but once he's 245+ in a year and a half, he projects as a unique weapon on the edge.
I doubt anyone but Alabama wouldn't trade its DL class for this one. That said, FSU swung for the fences but missed on its other end targets, and I think the end class is ultimately one body short. Pugh or Daub could wind up on the edge as well depending on how things work out at linebacker. I actually expect Pugh to wind up in a hybrid OLB/DE role similar to Christian Jones from 2013, which would help the numbers here. If Williams winds up qualifying, I'd give this unit an A-, but as of now, I'm going with a B+.
GV: Christmas stood out as a sophomore. He has a ton of upside and is as athletic as they get. I think it will just take some time. Everyone knows how much I love Matthew Thomas—and he was a player-player. But you would have a very difficult time picking Thomas over Featherston if they were standing in front of you and running around. In a lot of ways Featherston is superior athletically. Now he has to turn into the PLAYER that Thomas is. Jones has the most work to do, but if he were in the much weaker DT class of 2015, maybe, just maybe.... Grade: A-
Overall ND Grade: B+
WM: After signing a very large group of linebackers in last year's class Florida State could afford to be picky with who they signed. This is an incredible group of players talent wise, and Daub and Pugh could see playing time immediately for the Seminoles. Grade: A+
JS: Pugh has the highest ceiling of the three and should be terrific. He's long and fluid, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up in more of a hybrid type role that gets him rushing the passer a good bit. Daub is a good prospect in the middle (his tape actually reminds me a bit of Manti Te'o) and brings a lot more size than FSU has had there, but I'm not sure he's a three-down linebacker, especially given the number of spread offenses FSU faces every year. The jury is still out on his fluidity and instinctiveness in coverage. If he turns out to have that kind of coverage ability, we're looking at an all-American; otherwise, he might wind up at defensive end. Purifoy reminds me of Buster Davis, only a little taller. Purifoy is the one guy in this class without ideal length, and he's going to have to manage his weight to be most effective in FSU's system, but he's got outstanding instincts.
My one concern with this class is that FSU fall victim to the same trap Alabama did in 2013 by getting just a little too big across the board with its linebackers. It's no accident that Bama added a bunch of long LB prospects in the 215 range this year. Purifoy and Daub are both bigger prospects, and in today's game, your linebackers had better be able to run and cover. They both have the potential to do it even at their weight, but I'm a little wait-and-see here. Grade: A-
GV: With Daub, you are talking about a prospect that almost certainly is a future starter and a clear upgrade physically from the Kendall Smith-Vince Williams-Telvin Smith line in the middle. Although he is a big kid, he has not added that much more weight since the initial growth spurt. There's a chance he grows into more of a kid who plays with his hand in the dirt, but better chance he is a big ILB. Pugh and Purifoy are outstanding prospects as well. Grade: A
Overall ND Grade: A
WM: Florida State didn't have a huge need for defensive backs, but when you consider what was once on the board this does seem like a slight disappointment. However, the Seminoles are getting two very good players in Marshall and Jackson. Jackson was a very under rated player who could get reps next year. Grade: B-
JS: FSU needed to land two corners and a safety in this class and got one of each. Marshall is a similar prospect to criminally underrated departed senior Terrence Brooks and FSU would have hit at least a triple to get that sort of production from that position. Jackson is one of the more underrated players at his position in the country, with very good length and hips along with outstanding speed. He projects well in FSU's system and should compete for time by his second year in the system. But FSU really needed to land at least one more corner in this class, preferably of the elite variety. They'll need to sign at least two, probably three, in the next class. Grade: C+
GV: Marshall is a thick kid that can play early, I expect him to compete for back-up minutes at Safety and if the door opens he may be ready to pounce. Returned from a brutal injury, but seemingly does not have any lasting effects. Athletically speaking he has good speed, some pop against the run, and loose hips. More of a traditional Safety, Marshall will need to work on his coverage skills and picking up a more complex scheme. Jackson should have been 25ish in the country at CB and should be a contributor down the line. Grade: C
Overall ND Grade: C+
Stephen Gabbard (EE; LS); Brian Crews (P; walk-on) WM: Gabbard is a very good long snapper from Godby high school and Crews is an excellent punter from Lincoln high school. Crews averaged over 48 yards per punt with a long of 78 yards. He should challenge Cason Beatty for the starting position next season.
JS: Fisher takes special teams very seriously, as shown by signing Gabbard, who earned his scholarship in part by being an early enrollee. He should be a four-year contributor at a key and often overlooked position. Crews will challenge for the punting job and didn't cost a scholarship.
Overall Defensive Class
JS: I doubt FSU would trade its defensive class with anyone but Alabama. Nevertheless, this class was about two bodies short of ideal, one at defensive end and one at cornerback. That said, there's not a whole lot of filler here, and the class fits together to support the style of defense Fisher wants to play, with size and flexibility up front and plenty of length at all three levels. FSU didn't need a whole lot of help right away but got a few who could compete early anyway, and lots of players with high ceilings after a year or two of development. This is an excellent foundational class and serves as another step forward as FSU builds a solid program.
Overall Grade: B+