Additionally, P.K. Sam's decision on Friday to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft emphasizes a need at receiver as well.
"We really need, because of what we lost on defense… you lose three starting linebackers, you have to sign great linebackers," said Lilly, the Seminoles' recruiting coordinator. "You have to sign guys who are going to play because we play about seven of them. I think we even played eight some games. In the secondary, we played nine or 10 games this year. We lose two of those and we are going to lose six more next year. So it's vital we sign guys at those positions. At defensive tackle, you lose both your starters inside and you have to sign guys there who can make an immediate contribution.
"On the offensive side of the ball, you have four senior wide receives so you better sign some guys who can come in and get prepared to play a lot early in their careers because those guys won't be around much longer. And can show some of those young guys the ropes a little bit as it goes on. Our quarterback, we have three of them right now but two of them are going to be seniors so you have to sign quarterbacks to get ready and get set for that competition that's going to take place next spring when the older guys are gone. Obviously, offensive line you always have to replenish offensive line. We are getting top-heavy there with a bunch of seniors and juniors. Other than tight end, it's kind of vital year everywhere across the board for us to sign guys who can play for us pretty early in their careers.
"It's not a year where we're looking to take long-term projects or it's certainly not a year where we can afford to make mistakes on guys who don't turn out to be the players we would want them to be."
With next month's National Signing Day quickly approaching, Lilly and the Seminoles are bracing for a furious finish.
Thirteen high school players -- the largest group to date -- made official visits to FSU this weekend.
The list includes All-Americans such as linebackers Willie Williams of Miami Carol City and Lawrence Timmons of Florence, S.C., quarterback Xavier Lee of Daytona Beach Seabreeze, defensive end Brandon Miller of Colquitt, Ga., and defensive lineman Aaron Jones of Orlando Edgewater.
The Seminoles currently have eight non-binding verbal commitments, highlighted by quarterback Drew Weatherford of Land O' Lakes and Big Bend standout, safety Jonathan Warren of Madison County. Lilly hopes to sign between 20-22 players.
Receiver DeCody Fagg, a former standout at Quincy Shanks, enrolled at FSU on Thursday after meeting entrance requirements. Fagg signed with FSU last February but did not qualify academically and attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. He counts towards the 2003 signing class.
"The last month of recruiting, in most cases and certainly at Florida State in almost every year because of the nature of the type of prospects that we recruit as a top-level program, the last month is always going to be vital," Lilly said. "There's going to be a lot of impact players that are still going to try to make a final decision.
"We are very positive. We feel we are in position to have a tremendous class. Bu, then again, I am an eternal optimist and I always feel like that. I really do feel like we are in position to have a tremendous class. I think we're recruiting the right players for our particular situation and within our system. And we have a lot of people who are extremely interested. We have some great things to offer, so why wouldn't they be?"
Lilly, meanwhile, must contend with the program's fifth consecutive defeat to Miami -- the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles 16-14 in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium. Lilly says the verdict hasn't affected FSU's recruiting. FSU and Miami open the 2004 season on Labor Day, Monday Sept. 6.
"You always want to win. Winning helps momentum in recruiting but the feedback that we've gotten is, ‘Man, what a great game.' I think there's a tremendous appreciation for what went on out on the field that night because you have two programs that are really proud of the things they've been able to accomplish and really went to battle without a national championship at stake," Lilly said.
"With a lot of great players playing the game of football in the way it's meant to be played. You talk to our coaches on the field and people on the field for the game, I mean they talk about the speed of the game, they talk about the collisions in that game. That game was football. Two teams just getting after it. I think recruits and people across America saw that. Probably if you didn't have a vested interest in who won it was like, ‘Man, what a great game.' To come down like it did and people making plays or preventing another team from making a play as the game wore on, it's one of typical where you say it's a shame somebody at to lose it or whatever. It kind of gave a little bit of preview I think that, ‘Hey, you want to be involved in the absolute best game in America?' Well, it's going to be next Sept. 6 on Labor Day. If you want to be involved there ain't but two places to go and one of them is Florida State. I think it's a tremendous credit to both programs and obviously something from our standpoint we would love to be getting ready to lace it up and start for next year right now, which in essence we are."
FSU's signing class will probably include a kicker. Xavier Beitia, the Seminoles' leading scorer who has missed two potential game-winning kicks against Miami, is going to be a senior next season. Freshman Chase Goggans redshirted last season.
"We were actually already involved in recruiting a kicker prior to that because you are always trying to upgrade your football team.," Lilly said. "And you are always trying to look with an eye to the future and sometimes you recruit two years ahead. What I mean by that is if you have…for instance, at some positions now. At your defensive secondary and at wide receiver, you have some very good players coming back. But, man, you are very top-heavy at those positions so we feel this year it's vital to sign at positions like that.
"Quarterback obviously being another example where we are going to have a bunch of seniors next year. Now, can we sit here and offer somebody the opportunity to come in here and start? Probably not at those positions unless they were really, really good. Like the greatest of all time. But the opportunity to come in and be kind of thrown into it and have the chance to play right away and learn a system, and then after those big groups of seniors are gone, to step in and kind of take it over for three years. If somebody who red shirted, for four years. You are not going to find many opportunities in programs like ours that aren't going to be any better than that. And that's the same thing at kicker, where our starter is a junior. If we feel like we can upgrade any position we are always going to be looking to do that."
OL Courtney Abbott, Atlanta Ga.
WR Greg Carr, Citra, Fla.
RB Jamaal Edwards, Greensboro, N.C.
WR DeCody Fagg, Quincy
ATH Carl Grimes, Detroit
RB Lamar Lewis, Jacksonville
DE Darrell Robertson, Jonesboro, Ga.
S Jonathan Warren, Madison County
QB Drew Weatherford, Land O' Lakes
Weekend's Officials Visitors
CB J.R. Bryant, Miami Killian
WR Xavier Carter, Palm Bay
QB Cornelius Ingram, Hawthrone
CB Kenny Ingram, Orlando Edgewater
CB Trevor Ford, Miami Northwestern
DL Aaron Jones, Orlando Edgewater
QB Xavier Lee, Daytona Beach Seebreaze
OL Cornelius Lewis, Jacksonville Raines
DE Brandon Miller, Colquitt, Ga.
FB Joe Surratt, Pace
LB Gary Pack, Hattiesburg, Miss.
LB Lawrence Timmons, Florence, S.C.
LB Willie Williams, Miami Carol City