Sound Advice

As the wave of recruits slowly made their way onto Florida Field last Saturday, <b>Ernie Sims</b> caught a glimpse of the group and smiled. It was only a year ago when Sims was caught in the middle of that crazy but memorable process. Sims, of course, was regarded as the nation's top prep recruit. He selected Florida State over UF on National Signing Day last February, plucking an FSU cap from his book bag as his teammates and classmates erupted in celebration.

"I saw those guys walking out and I did smile. I sure did," Sims said.

"Man, I used to be right there with them. Honestly, it's a good feeling, a great feeling (playing for FSU). When I was being recruited, I saw the Miami-Florida State game (in Miami) and all recruits want to go to the best team. They want to go to a winning team. I know when recruits saw that (Saturday's FSU win), it's like, ‘Man, Florida State's really got something.' "

Recruiting is in a pivotal stretch. FSU recruiting coordinator John Lilly told TheTerttiroy he believes December is the most important time in a process that ends in mid-February.

Players can also play a role, too, in terms of answering questions and concerns from recruits. Sims and sophomore safety Pat Watkins, for example, were local Tallahassee standouts who remain connected with area players.

Both agreed the most frequently asked questions center on the status of position coaches, the depth chart, academics and environment. The age of 74-year-old head coach Bobby Bowden, they believe, is not a concern.

"I know when I was going through the process, the first question I asked was how did the coaches treat the players," said Sims, a former standout from North Florida Christian who admitted the turning point during his recruitment was FSU's decision to hire new linebackers coach Kevin Steele.

"I also asked a lot about the city itself. When I went down to Miami, I really didn't like the city. I had different reasons for other places (school), but you have to feel comfortable in the environment. They (recruits) know who they want to be around."

Watkins, meanwhile, played at nationally-recognized Lincoln High School, which has served as a pipeline to the Seminoles. Like Sims, former Lincoln star Antonio Cromartie also selected the Seminoles on National Signing Day last year, sending shockwaves across the country.

Current Lincoln senior standouts who have received offers from FSU include offensive lineman Calvin Darity, linebacker Rodney Gallon and defensive back Joe Manning. Additionally, junior receiver/cornerback Fred Rouse is expected to be one of the nation's top recruits next year.

"I am good friends with a lot of those guys over at Lincoln like Fred, Rodney and Joe and we talk a lot," Watkins said.

"If they have questions, I try to answer them. Honestly, I don't try to influence them at all since it has to be their decision. I just remind them to not let anyone pressure you or force you into a decision."

A smiling Watkins also believes FSU's emotional win over the Gators can only help the Seminoles‘ recruiting process.

"Just the fact that it's a big rivalry and it shows you can beat your rival, it does nothing but help recruiting," said Watkins, who returned a fumble for a touchdown in the game.

"All I know is I used to love watching Florida State going out and whupping on the Gators. Yes, I also can't believe how fast (his first two seasons have gone). It's getting the time where we (his recruiting class) is going have to step up and take full responsibility (of team). It doesn't seem that long ago when I was there (part of the recruiting process)."

Tailback Leon Washington, of Jacksonville, also agrees that FSU's win over UF can only help recruiting.

"It's a big deal," Washington said.

"You might have a lot of guys who are swinging between Florida State or Florida. Ron Zook is a really good recruiter. But it does give an edge because they know here at Florida State we work hard, we finish games, we never give up.

"The thing I tell them (recruits) that if you believe in working hard and playing hard, you are going to play (here). If you work hard every day in practice, you are going to play and it shows. Last year, I busted my behind on special teams all year long and got a chance to play running back and I played and I played well.

"If you don't want to work hard, don't come to Florida State. I also tell them if you don't come to Florida State, go to Florida or Miami so I have a chance to play against you (laughing). That's what I tell them."

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