'Noles stay close to home

A quick glance indicates Florida State was unable to stage one of its vintage recruiting finishes Wednesday. It also was a day punctuated by bizarre second-guesses and postponements. In fact, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden called it "the most grueling finish day I think I can remember ever." Still, once Wednesday drew to a close, Bowden and the Seminoles felt good about their incoming class. The group is heavy on linemen and does not feature a player from outside of Georgia.

A quick glance indicates Florida State was unable to stage one of its vintage recruiting finishes Wednesday. It also was a day punctuated by bizarre second-guesses and postponements.

In fact, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden called it "the most grueling finish day I think I can remember ever." Still, once Wednesday drew to a close, Bowden and the Seminoles felt good about their incoming class.

"It was a day of highs and a day of lows. That's exactly the way it was," Bowden said Wednesday night. "This guy commits, and it's just a high. And then another guy you thought you had – he went somewhere else. It's a day of highs and lows. I'd rather not have it that way. I'd rather have it all highs."

FSU couldn't have climbed any higher to land the nation's top recruit in North Florida Christian linebacker Ernie Sims, who selected FSU over heated rival Florida. Sims credited the Seminoles' coaching staff as the deciding factor and helped FSU maintain its grip on area talent.

Also joining Sims at FSU next season will be Lincoln High athlete Antonio Cromartie, who made his highly-anticipated announcement on ESPN Wednesday night. Named USA Today's Defensive Player of the Year, Cromartie selected the ‘Noles over the Gators as well. Additionally, highly-touted receiver DeCody Fagg of Quincy Shanks High School opened the day by signing with FSU.

Overall, FSU signed 15 players – smaller than anticipated – not including a trio already enrolled in school. The Seminoles concentrated heavily on the line (10 players) but missed out on a quarterback and signed just one receiver. They also failed to sign a player outside of either Florida or Georgia. Individually, Cromartie is the fourth FSU recruit to earn USA Today's top defensive award, joining Derrick Brooks, Lamont Green and David Warren.

The day also had its quirks.

Out West, stellar wide receiver Whitney Lewis of Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure announced his intention to attend Southern Cal over early favorite FSU. Lewis, however, had second thoughts and delayed his decision before finally signing with the Trojans. "I really thought that (FSU) was the best place to be at," said Lewis, listed as the nation's second-ranked recruit by TheInsiders.com behind Sims. He's also a former prep teammate and best friend of FSU's Lorenzo Booker.

Another Californian, offensive lineman Kevin Brown of Long Beach Poly who ranks among the nation's top 10 offensive tackles, canceled his news conference before he later orally committed to attend UCLA over FSU.

Closer to home, cornerback/wide reciever Ryan Gilliam of Lincoln High School announced he would attend Oregon during a school function. Once it concluded, however, Gilliam said he was unsure of his decision and said FSU remained an option. Gilliam, however, signed with the Ducks after much deliberation late Wednesday.

The Seminoles also lost out on coveted quarterback JaMarcus Russell of Mobil, Ala., who selected LSU over FSU.

Still, once the dust settled, FSU recruiting coordinator John Lilly echoed Bowden's thoughts on the Seminoles' class. It might not be glamerous but it could prove to be extremely functional in overall talent and attitude.

"I think it's a lot like. ... every year we always talk about the same things and we talk about recruiting being real important in terms of meeting needs. So, from that standpoint, I think as we look at it we hit on most of our needs," Lilly said.

"Really, we're trying to focus a lot on the offensive and defensive fronts and felt like we came away with some real good quality and numbers there. It's going to be real important over time and yet I think the one thing. ... a couple of things that jump out that there's a bunch of guys in this class who have played for and most of them have won state championships. The ones who have been in them, I think there's five or six out of this group, obviously you want to bring guys in with that type of attitude and that type of experience and that can kind of help some of the other guys maybe elevate their class up to that level. And I think they are coming in ready to try to make an impact on a team that returns a lot of starters and is set up to make a run at the championship this year. So, we are pretty pleased with it from that standpoint."

Lilly also was pleased the Seminoles were able to land three of the Tally's most coveted players who just so happened to also rank among the nation's elite.

"That was a major priority for us. That was, truth be known, that was the priority for us entering this year," Lilly said. "When you look and in your own backyard you've got what you feel like are a handful, not only the top prospects in your state but the top prospects in America, and you are able to get three like we did, the quality of the ones that we did, that's going to be a very, very important thing."

As stated earlier, FSU also helped itself in areas of concern. Offensive linemen added were were Aubrey McPhadden, Mario Henderson, John Frady and surprise signee David Overmyer. Defensive linemen inked were Alex Boston, Andre Fluellen and super-surprise Clifton Dickson, who had been committed to Miami. FSU also re-signed Chris Anderson, who signed last year and went to prep school after not qualifying academically.

Additionally, Chris Bradwell is expected to be added to the Seminoles' list Thursday once the school receives his paperwork.


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