Over the past 20 years Florida State has developed a reputation of being one of the best football programs in the country. They've developed over a hundred NFL players and are known as one of the best when it comes to recruiting. While the Seminoles historically land their primary targets, recent history has shown they've missed more than hit. One tie-in to that is the previous staff the Noles had. As we've seen this year the Noles staff is vigorous on the recruiting trail, and they are primed to turn around the misfortune seen under the Jeff Bowden, Daryl Dickey and Billy Sexton, Jimmy Heggins/Mark McHale regime.
NoleDigest takes a look at the top 10 kids that the Seminoles missed on from 2003-2007. As you'll see, the trend is more towards offensive and defensive playmakers, areas where the Seminoles have struggled on the field recently.
1. JaMarcus Russell- Leading up to Signing Day 2003, Florida State had turned up the heat on Russell and took the lead. Right before Signing Day he took his last visits to Florida State and LSU on back to back weekends. There was talk that he committed on his official to FSU, leading to many people penciling him in to the class. But a great visit and the chance to work with then LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher won out in the end. JaMarcus was one of many stellar offensive recruits to spurn FSU in the last minute, but he gets the top spot because of what he developed into, and what the stability he would've brought to the quarterback spot for the Seminoles.
2. Matthew Stafford- Stafford showed this year that he is going to be a fantastic collegiate signal caller. Hopeful FSU fans thought they'd be able to land the talented 5-star quarterback because of his family ties to the school. The fact that he was a big fan of former FSU offensive coordinator and current Bulldog head coach Mark Richt proved deadly to the Seminoles. The staff had placed hope they'd secure his early commitment, but ended up taking Christian Ponder and an athlete in D'Vontrey Richardson. Having a transition from Russell to Stafford would have been ideal, but now it's what could have been.
3. C.J. Spiller- This may be one of the biggest loses Florida State has ever had. Spiller grew up a HUGE Seminole fan, was always around the program, and wore #28 in honor of Warrick Dunn. Rumors were rampant that he was a silent commitment throughout, and that he had even asked the coached to stop recruiting Carlos Brown. Again, the tenure of Jeff Bowden really hurt the recruitment of Spiller, and when Clemson offered a family member, it was over. Spiller has shown to be an elite college back, and would've cured an ailing running game for FSU.
4. Percy Harvin- While this has become a player many Florida State fans dislike, he is one of the top playmakers in the nation when healthy. Right after the 2005 class signed many fans turned their attention to this dynamic playmaker from the 2006 class. He stated in early reports that FSU was his favorite, but that he'd go into the recruiting process with an open mind. We all know how that turned out. Besides Preston Parker, the Seminoles do not have a consistent threat like Harvin. Losing this prospect was an eye-opener that the previous coaching staff was struggling and was a sign of things to come for the rest of the 2006 class.
5. Reggie Nelson- Florida may have always been the favorite with Nelson, but as we've seen there is never a lock in recruiting. FSU missed twice on the standout safety prospect. What put Nelson on this list is the fact that Florida State has struggled mightily at the free safety spot. Pat Watkins was a very good player for the Noles, but there was nothing behind him or after he moved on. The two years that Nelson was at UF he showed to be one of the better safeties in college and dominated FSU in his two games against them.
6. Michael McNeil- This one still stings. The coaches at FSU put all of their eggs in his basket, and were led to believe that McNeil would be a Nole. They passed on several other players and didn't try to recruit guys like Major Wright because of it. It was close between McNeil and Chad Jones and Stefan Francois from LSU to be on this list, but McNeil gets the nod because they were long thought to be the front runner. FSU has very little at the safety position, and McNeil would have been an immediate impact player once he stepped on campus.
7. Marvin Austin- It's a recurring theme seeing guys who were Nole fans and leans throughout the process choose other schools on Signing Day. Austin was more of a Hurricane fan growing up, but the relationship he developed with Odell Haggins was the thing that put the Seminoles out front. When the Seminoles hosted Marvin on his last official visit, many people thought it was a done deal. In the end the efforts of Butch Davis and John Blake outweighed those of Haggins and the FSU staff. The loss of Andre Fluellen and Letroy Guion, as well as the suspensions, put Austin on this list.
8. Noel Devine- While he doesn't fit the "mold" of a Jimbo Fisher tailback, Devine is amazing with the ball in his hands. FSU was one of the schools to stick with Devine throughout his whole process, but the spread attack of West Virginia won out in the end. Having a guy like Devine on the roster would improve the running game, as well as the special teams' area.
9. DeAndre McDaniel- FSU didn't offer him because of grades and the fact they didn't fit the system. All he did his first year at Clemson was come in and start, and play extremely well at a major position of need. Here is a player from the Tallahassee area, that had they shown interest, probably would have been a Seminole. With the recruiting situation going on this year, missing McDaniel stings.
10. The ‘Pouncey Twins'- Games are won in the trenches, and loading up the offensive line is always a plus. FSU has turned around their offensive line recruiting over the last 2 years, but these were early commitments for the 2007 class. Also, losing players to the hated Gators is always tough. Additionally, there's a good chance that getting the Pouncey's would have gotten the Noles John Brown.