In 2006 Matthew Stafford was one of the top overall recruits in the nation. The Texas gunslinger was one of the top quarterbacks in college football since his freshmen year as he helped Georgia climb the ranks as one of the premier programs in the nation. Stafford left after his junior year, becoming the top overall pick in this year's draft by the Detroit Lions.
Florida State signed Drew Weatherford and Xavier Lee in 2004, and in 2005 the Seminoles didn't sign a signal caller in a class that was at the time thought to be among the nation's best.
Entering the 2006 recruiting cycle Florida State wanted to sign a big time quarterback. Chris Rix was on his way out and Wyatt Sexton had his episode where he decided to leave the team. The team didn't know yet what they were going to get from Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford was coming off a freshmen season that saw him lead FSU to an ACC title, several ACC freshmen records, and a BCS bowl game. FSU needed to sign at least one signal caller for the 2006 class. Matthew Stafford was their top target.
From the start of his recruitment Stafford had FSU near the top of his list because of the familiarity with the program and the family ties the school had. Matthew's father lettered in swimming and coaches at FSU for a while and his mother is from Tampa and still had a bunch of family in Florida. Add to that in an update after the Florida/FSU game in 2005 Stafford had gushed about the facilities at FSU, was using terms of buy-in like "we", and loved the coaching staff especially Coach Bowden.
In March of 2005 Stafford cut his list to a final 5 of FSU, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and Texas. At that juncture Stafford had said he wasn't sure if he'd even make any visits other than heading out to the Elite 11. In April Stafford had made his second trip to Georgia, leaving many to think they had pulled ahead of the group.
On May 13th Stafford made it official as he committed to the Bulldogs. He said in the end he liked the coaches there better, primarily Mark Richt. He also liked the game day atmosphere and just the overall environment Georgia had to offer.
Why He Made the List
Looking back the 2006 was loaded, especially at the quarterback position. Mitch Mustain led Arkansas to a huge year in 2006 before transferring out to USC, Tim Tebow has helped Florida win two BCS titles and a Heisman, Jevan Snead has Ole Miss primed for a break out season, Josh Freeman was a 1st round pick for Tampa Bay, Sam Bradford won a Heisman and is a top-flight NFL prospect, Jake Locker has played well, Isaiah Williams has led Illinois to a Rose Bowl and respectability and unheralded guys like Todd Reesing has led Kansas to a BCS win. Others like Max Hall at BYU, Omar Haugabook at Troy and Nate Davis at Ball State all have found major success. Also FSU ended up signing Christian Ponder who is entering his 2nd year as the starter.
The biggest reason why Matthew made this list is because of the sheer instability and drama FSU had at the quarterback position from 2005-2008. Stafford is a talent that would have established himself as the starter, and he would have been the on-field leader the Seminoles needed. Stafford was tremendously effective at Georgia as his named is littered all over their all-time records. He is 3rd in passing yards, 5th in efficiency, and among the top 5 in touchdowns and completion percentages.
NoleDigest feels that with the talent FSU had built from 2003-2006 Stafford could have been the steady force that helped FSU get back quicker to the elite program they once were. They made the BCS with a less than stellar quarterback in 2005. Who knows what could have happened with Stafford at the helm.
The Seminoles missed out on so many talented offensive players from 2006-2008. Some of it had to do with coaching, sure, but it can't be ignored the impact a guy like Stafford would have brought to FSU.
One That Got Away: Matthew Stafford
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