Yes, it never ends. Letters are being mailed out. Evaluations start for a four-week period in late April and the first call to high school juniors can be made in May, in accordance with NCAA bylaws.
"Right now I can sit here and almost go through what our priorities are going to be for next year, position-wise and things of that nature, just from working on it particularly the last couple of days," Lilly said.
Of course, Lilly had every reason to exhale, lean back in his chair and relax for a moment following Wednesday's National Signng Day. An unusual number of players waited to the final day to make their decisions. While the Seminoles didn't land as many of the fence-sitters that they had hoped to, they inked an important trio from their own backyard – linebacker Ernie Sims, cornerback Antonio Cromartie and reciever DeCody Fagg.
Offensive lineman David Overmyer of Lilburn, Ga., who had committed publicly to Clemson, was the first to send his fax to the Seminoles Wednesday morning. Chris Bradwell, who spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy, capped the 18-member class Thursday after signing the wrong line a day earlier. Three players enrolled early in January – Chauncey Davis, Chase Goggans and Roger Williams.
In this exclusive interview with TheTerritory, Lilly chatted talked about the future as well as reviewed the Seminoles' 2003 class. Here is that interview: (Lilly's comments on the quarterback position can be found in the Xavier Lee update at http://floridastate.theinsiders.com/2/92432.html).
You talked about next year's priorities. Can you give us a quick update?
"Obviously, you don't have very many seniors on this year's team. But if you start looking where our juniors are and you see some big groups at wide receiver. Obviously, we've got all senior starters at linebacker and we have not signed as many players in the secondary the last couple of years as we would like to, especially at corner. So, jumping out at you, priorities obviously we want to get a quarterback. We very much need to get some very, very good wideouts. We need to get some quality corners who can play pretty quickly. And our safeties, though we have most of them back, most of them are going to be seniors the following year. So, we are going to have to get some really good safeties. The perimeter now becomes the focus again. The lines were more the focus this year and we are still going to have to sign some along the line next year. We would like to bring in two, maybe three offensive linemen again. You would like to be able to bring in another defensive tackle or two or a defensive end or two and we got to get some linebackers. Best guess right now, say we are able to sign 15 next year, you can't afford a lot of mistakes in that. We are going to do what we can on it."
You did not sign a player beyond Florida or Georgia. Additionally, you were able to sign a player from Miami in Clifton Dixon (Miami Northwestern), who had initially orally committed to the Hurricanes.
"I always said our focus has always been Florida and up into Georgia. We kind of consider Georgia home too because we are so close to it. I think it's one of those situations were, last year 18 out of our 22 were from Florida and Georgia. The thing from our standpoint, that's good. When we go out and look and evaluate, coach Bowden always tells us to start with home and move from there. If there is somebody who is better away from home, then you recruit him, the players who have a genuine interest in coming to Florida State. Then you stay at home. I think it's very big (Dixon signing). He's from a school where we've had players before but Miami as gotten more players from there, Northwestern High School. Florida even has one or two from there. Anytime you get a great player you don't care where they are from. Obviously it's nice to make some inroads in establishing some kind of presence there."
The line was an obvious priority for you.
"Along offensive line we were down in bodies a little bit. Whenever you have five seniors along the offensive line that you are going to lose, you are going to be thin there. It's going to be very important to sign and we felt like we signed. ... maybe we would have liked to sign one more but we certainly signed quality in the four that we got. On the defensive side I think inside. ... you saw what happened to us at the bowl game and we got down and some guys stepped in and did a nice job for us. But still we weren't able to have as much depth in there because we lost so many guys to a variety of things going into the bowl game. And when you look at them, you have a couple seniors and you have a junior, so we are about to run out there. We are little top heavy at that position, so it was very important that we get quality on both sides of the ball on the lines and I think we were able to do that."
You only signed one receiver (Fagg) and the one running back (Joslin Shaw) is earmarked for either receiver or cornerback.
"It would have been nice to get a running back, particularly a big back with Greg (Jones) being a senior and the dimension he has added to our offense and the changeup he adds in combination with some of the smaller guys. But, I don't know if that was a tremendous priority with guys like Willie (Reid), and Lorenzo (Booker) and Leon (Washington). And Lorenzo ended up redshirting of course. We have some youth there. And with Greg coming back. ... if Greg would have left and Thomas Clayton transferred and then it becomes something where it you one very badly. Obviously, that would be a position we would like to get one next year."
Talk about the linebacking slot.
"Having all three of your starters back, so often guys are a little bit shortsighted on that and they see that you have your starters back and so they don't think that's a great place for them. Really, that's the best place. How many places are you really legitimately go in and start your first year. You want to go to a place where there's a senior starter at your position because you come in and you learn that first year. And then you have an opportunity to start for three or maybe four years after that and that's very similar to what Michael Boulware and Kendyll (Pope) and those guys did when they came in and Brian Allen and Tommy Polley were the starters. They came in that first year, played some and played in the kicking game and now they will be three-year starters. A lot of times I think guys have a misconception that they come in when all of your guys are leaving, nobody is going to get caught with nobody behind them. So, really you come in behind guys who are getting ready for their turn and are probably a little bit younger and makes it tougher. Being able to get Ernie (Sims) and Anthony (Kelly) in there at linebacker gives both of them a great chance to contribute early and then be major players at their position throughout the last three years of their career."
Any disappointments when you reflect on this year's class?
"When you step back, you are never disappointed when add to your football team. Particularly the quality that we feel like we added this year. We weren't quite as high on numbers. If we would have had two, maybe three more of the right players - I am not saying going out and just sign guys to say we signed them - two or three more of the right players, then that would have been great. But, with that being said, that will give us the opportunity to add two or three more next year and maybe the two or three more we would have gotten this year would not have been major players than what we were doing. So, I don't think there's much disappointment over it. You have a short memory. Once it's done, it's done. You move on. You worry about the ones you got and not the ones you didn't get. You are always looking (to add a player over the next few weeks). But it's not going to be a case where we are going out to get somebody just to say we got somebody."