With issues at Miami and new coaches at Florida, the Noles now own the state of Florida.
In a matter of months – not years – Florida State's second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher, with a little help from Nevin Shapiro, has totally flipped the state of Florida on its panhandle.
In the 90s, the Seminoles posted nine straight ACC championships and three straight trips to the BCS National Championship game – including the 1999 crystal ball. But Florida State football just hasn’t been the same since being shut out by the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2000 BCS title game.
The Seminoles have won three ACC titles since that game, but none since 2005. Even in those championship seasons, the writing appeared to be engraved on the wall. Florida State combined for 13 losses in those three years (2002, 2003, 2005) after losing a total of 11 games from 1992 to 2000.
Pouring salt in the wound have been the four total BCS national title appearances – including three victories – by the Miami Hurricanes and Florida Gators since the 13-2 Orange Bowl loss at the hands of the Sooners.
Yet, health concerns, perhaps some burnt-out nerve endings and the loss of consigliere Dan Mullen have rendered Urban Meyer a distant memory at Florida. Larry Coker and Randy Shannon ultimately couldn’t hack it under the bright lights of South Beach. And in light of the recent allegations concerning Shaprio and the rampant cheating taking place at Miami, it is safe to say "The U" won't be competing for national championships anytime soon. It could takes years for the Canes to bounce back from the booster's involvement and subsequent NCAA penalties, so it won't just be Fisher who exploits the issues rippling from Coral Gables into the surrounding, talent-rich high schools of South Florida.
At Florida, Will Muschamp appears to be a quality football coach who inherits a deep and talented roster full of elite prep stars. He has a quality start to his first full recruiting classes in 2012 and there is no reason to believe he won't be successful. However, Florida is coming off a five-loss season in which the Noles spiked the Gators, in true Chief Osceola fashion, 31-7 into the 50-yard line at Doak Campbell.
With Miami now out of the picture for at least the near future and the Gators starting from scratch, it's Fisher's state to control. And maybe no first-year coach has ever refueled the recruiting fire like Fisher did in Tallahassee. Which is great news considering Bobby Bowden finished his coaching career with a decided whimper on the recruiting trail. Florida State ranked no better than 10th (2009), finished as low as 33rd (2007) and averaged a 15.6 national recruiting ranking during Bowden’s final five seasons.
With the instant energy and success Fisher has brought to Florida State recruiting, Bowden is quickly become his own distant memory – much to the chagrin of Canes and Gators everywhere.
Certainly being a member of the coaching staff with the “in-waiting” suffix attached to his title helped Fisher cultivate relationships with his prep brethren prior to officially taking over as head coach. But in a matter of 18-24 months, the Seminoles have clearly reasserted themselves as the Sunshine State recruiting power.
Fisher’s first full recruiting class (2011) was the best collection of talent in the nation. Seven of his 28 signees were Athlon Consensus 100 prospects, including early contributors James Wilder, Karlos Williams, Tim Jernigan and Nick O’Leary. With the release of the 2012 AC100, and high school games set to kick off this week, Fisher and the Noles could find themselves atop the recruiting rankings again.
Florida State currently leads the nation with six AC100 commitments, including what is shaping up as the best defensive line class in the nation. Much like Florida in 2010 and Notre Dame in 2011, the Noles look to be rebuilding the defensive line in alarming fashion. Mario Edwards is the No. 2 overall recruit in the nation and is the No. 1 defensive end. Dante Fowler Jr (pictured) is the No. 26 overall recruit and is the No. 4 end. Chris Casher is the No. 6 defensive end in the nation and the No. 38 overall recruit in America. The No. 98-rated prospect in the nation is Prattville, Ala., defensive tackle Justin Shanks. He is committed to FSU.
Fisher has also pulled the country’s No. 2 quarterback, Jameis Winston (No. 14 overall), from the heart of the Yellowhammer State and America's No. 6 running back in the nation with Mario Pender from Cape Coral, Fla.
Florida State has 16 total commitments, and the group is considered a top-five collection currently. However, Fisher is only just getting started. Five of the top seven, 12 of the top 21 and 18 of the top 37 players still left uncommitted have Florida State listed as a finalist. It may only be a matter of time before they are atop the rankings again in 2012.
As the preseason favorite to win the ACC, a top-five national ranking, the No. 1 incoming freshman class, a completely reworked coaching staff in Gainesville and death penalty rumors swirling at Miami, it is painfully obvious that Fisher is the new Don of Sunshine State football.
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