At the turn of the decade FSU was still a dominating force on the field. In 2000 the Noles had completed their three year run playing in the BCS Championship game. After the 2000 game, Mark Richt left for the University of Georgia to become their head coach. Jeff Bowden was promoted to the offensive coordinator, a move that was heavily debated at the time. As the 2001 season came along, the on-field performance began to suffer, but the recruiting remained strong. From 1995-2000, FSU was an astounding 66-8. But during the same 6 year span of 2001-2006, the Noles struggled to a 51-26 record. The trend of poor on-field performances became constant at FSU, which in turn began to affect the recruiting. As we will see, it was the combination of coaching and recruiting that caused the 6 year downward spiral for the Florida State program.
The 2002 class was considered a major success at the time. Scout.com rated the class as the number 6 overall class, which had an astonishing 7 5-star recruits. With Lorenzo Booker, Dishon Platt, Pat Watkins, Chauncey Stovall, A.J. Nicholson, Buster Davis and Chris Davis, it seemed that there wouldn't be a drop off in talent. 5 years later, most FSU fans know how that class turned out. Of the 21 kids FSU signed, 9 of those kids didn't pan out. The reasons ranged from injury, grades, transfers or the player quitting football. Thomas Clayton, Lorne Sam and Lonnie Davis (a grade and transfer reason) all ended up at other colleges. Nate Hardage and Torrence Washington, a kid many compared to William Floyd, were medical hardships. Dishon Platt, Chris Turner and John Harris were kids who didn't qualify. Lastly, quarterback Wyatt Sexton quit the team.
The 2002 class wasn't necessarily all doom and gloom. Lorenzo Booker was a solid player for the Noles. Brodrick Bunkley, a kid that was a 1-star recruit, ended up being an All-American and high NFL draft pick. Buster Davis, Pat Watkins, Leon Washington and Kam Wimbley were all stars for FSU who ended up playing on Sundays. Chauncey Stovall and Chris Davis were also steady performers for FSU and guys who made it to the league.
The 2003 class for FSU was a struggle for the Noles. Up until signing day, Florida State was still in it for guys like Jamarcus Russell, Whitney Lewis and Joe Cohen. FSU struck out on a lot of players, which led to the coaches having to scramble at the end to land depth to their roster. Scout.com ranked the 2003 class as the 12th overall class, which had 20 players sign on signing day. This class can be looked at as the first to show signs of trouble for the Noles. A whopping 45 percent of the class never panned out, with 20 percent never even qualifying. Defensive tackles Chris Anderson and Chris Bradwell and offensive linemen Aubrey McPhadden and Andraus Grace were the non-qualifiers. Anthony Kelly is a kid who didn't qualify initially, but ended up making it to FSU. He is now having academic issues and is a question mark for this year. Defensive end D.J. Norris became a medical hardship this year. Jhermaine McAroy, a kid who was considered a reach, was kicked off of the team. Kicker Chase Googins, who was an All-American, quit the team in 2006.
There are three players in the 2003 class that were stars. Ernie Sims was the top overall player in the class, and he ended up a top 10 NFL draft pick. Antonio Cromartie was a kid who was injured, but was a standout when he played. He too was a first round draft pick. Andre Fluellen, a senior defensive tackle, is a player many expect to contend for All-American honors. There are two players this year that can impact the overall perception of the 2003 class: De'Cody Fagg and Alex Boston. De'Cody is a kid that has responded well to the coaching changes, and Alex is a kid that looks to finally have a chance to play a full year at his natural position of defensive end. Overall, the 2003 class was a disaster.
After the attrition of the 2002 and 2003 classes, the coaching staff looked to sign a full class. The 2004 class had 26 kids and was ranked as the 4th overall class by Scout.com. While the players in this class are presently on the FSU roster, one can look at it and see that the class was the third disappointment in a row. 46 percent of the class never panned out for FSU, with 15% of the class transferring to other schools. Trevor Ford, Aaron Jones, Lamar Lewis and Barry Wright were all heavily recruited kids that just could not parlay their talent into success at FSU. Two players, Emmanuel Dunbar and Jae Thaxton, have been injured the majority of the time (Thaxton ended up taking a medical hardship). Three players were kicked off of the team: Cornelius Lewis, Kenny O'Neal and Joe Manning. Two can be considered major letdowns: Geoff Bernaird and J.R. Bryant.
Three players from the 2004 class have been major contributors to FSU and can be considered hits: Tony Carter, Greg Carr and Lawrence Timmons, who was the 15th overall draft pick in the 2007 draft. Guys like Drew Weatherford, Jacky Claude, Jamaal Edwards, Darius McClure and Xavier Lee are kids that can make major impact with the new coaching changes. It is still a little premature to wrap this class up by naming it a success or a failure, but it is easy to see that the majority of this highly ranked class was a major loss for the Noles.
Florida State followed up the 2004 class with another stellar class in 2005. Scout.com ranked had the Noles ranked as the 3rd overall class. FSU signed 10 top 100 kids, all of which were thought to be players who were going to be major contributors to FSU. While the jury is still out, Florida State took a few hits with this class. Callahan Bright was considered a man child and a guy that was going to continue the rich tradition of standout defensive tackles at FSU. Dan Foster never could make it out of JUCO. Russell Ball and Kendrick Stewart were two guys who were highly sough after guys who have been hit with the injury bug. Clarence Ward, Russell Ball's teammate in high school, didn't even make it through the first semester at FSU. Fred Rouse, the top receiver in the 2005 class, was a major problem for the Noles. Rouse was a stellar playmaker in high school and a kid from local Lincoln High that FSU has lived off of. After repeated in-house offenses and a meltdown on national television, Rouse was kicked off of the team. After working hard to make it to FSU at Hargrave, Matt Hardrick got booted off of the team this summer.
This class is still a young group that has seen some stars begin to develop. Everette Brown is a player who many expect to blow up onto the national scene this year. Geno Hayes has been a two year player and a kid who will be a high draft pick. Antone Smith, one of the best running backs in Florida high school history, finally is going to get his chance to shine. There are plenty of other players from this class who are going to be stars in Jamie Robinson, Derrick Nicholson, Letroy Guion and Michael Ray Garvin. In two years fans will be able to look at this class and discuss the success it had at FSU.
2006 say Florida State sign a very large class of 31 players. This class was the beginning of a new attitude towards recruiting. The coaching staff began to look at kids who had a better chance to qualify. The coaches took a chance on two kids academically in Brandon Warren and Tim Rawlinson. Rawlinson didn't make it to FSU and will never wear a Nole uniform. Brandon Warren was a star tight end and freshman All-American. He left the team in the spring of 2007 and is presently looking for a release from Florida State.
Due to injuries and other reasons several players from this class saw major minutes as freshman for the Noles and look to parlay that experience into key roles for the 2007 season. Myron Rolle was as advertised for FSU, and Marcus Ball was a beast before his injury. Marcus has rebounded well off of rehab is vying for a starting role this year. This is a class that has a lot of potential and can leave a legacy of winning before they leave. This class is going to benefit from the coaching changes.
The 2007 recruiting class is a class that came off of the worst season in Bobby Bowden's 30 year tenure. This class also is coming in with the new coaching staff and looks to have some solid players down the line in Dionte Allen, Antwane Greenlee, Rodney Hudson and Kendall Smith. Attrition has hit this class already with Anthony Grosso quitting, Brian Coulter not qualifying and Zach Hillery still waiting to see if he's ever going to make it.