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Michael Carvell

South Georgia is recruiting “priority” for national champs, FSU

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FSU has had lot of recruiting success in South Georgia over the years (AP)

FSU has had lot of recruiting success in South Georgia over the years (AP)

No out-of-state school has recruited South Georgia better over the last decade than Florida State.

It’s one of the reasons that Florida State has remained in the upper echelon of college football, and it directly contributed to this year’s successful run for a national championship.

Former Lowndes High School linebacker Telvin Smith led FSU in tackles last season, while former Wayne County High School offensive lineman Tre Jackson turned down the NFL to start for the Seminoles next year for the third season in a row. Colquitt County’s Cameron Erving was named 2013 ACC Offensive Lineman of the Year.

“I think it’s very close,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher told the AJC on Thursday, referring to South Georgia.

“It has been a priority for us. It has been for me. I go all the way to Atlanta. I consider Atlanta like going to Florida because it’s only four hours away. It is the same distance from us as Orlando is. There’s a tremendous amount of people there, and it’s easy access with the airport and also driving.

“We’re all over South Georgia because I think it’s some of the best football in the country, along with Florida and other parts of the South. But I think it’s a great area. The kids are very well-coached. We spend a lot of time there, and we spend a lot of time with evaluations in South Georgia. So Georgia is an extremely important area to us.

Since 2002, Florida State has signed 33 kids from the state, including 18 from South Georgia. The Seminoles have two 2015 commits from Georgia and guess which part of the state they are from? It’s Lowndes linebacker Brian Bell and Coffee High School offensive lineman Cole Minshew.

Here’s more from the Q&A with FSU’s Jimbo Fisher:

It’s tough to measure the impact of the national championship on your 2014 class because most of your signees were already committed by the game. But how would you describe the tangible impact of the title on 2015 recruits? “I think it has been very good. We’ve been received very well, but we’ve always been received well. But I think it brings a lot more attention to our program. It has definitely helped, there’s no doubt about that.”

One recruiting analysts said that you had more early offers out last year than this year because, in theory, more kids want to go there because you’re national champs and you have to be more selective. “We’re about exactly the same (with early offers). We’ve very similar to where we were last year in our philosophy. We think there seems to be a greater nucleus (of prospects) really close to home, so we don’t have to venture as far (to find them). Sometimes when you do that, you don’t have as many offers because you’re with more local kids. We’re still going to go with the national brand name, but we’re always going to recruit Florida and Georgia inside and out before we expand out. And look into south Alabama and inside the Carolinas a little bit. I think there are some really good prospects close to us. We don’t ever rank trying offer more guys or less (compared to other years). We just offer guys who we feel comfortable about that we want to play here.”

So what about the theory of being more selective because more kid want to go to FSU now?“I am sure that is going to happen. We’ve felt that to a point but not an unbelievable point. We’re going about things like we always do.”

How much do you think FSU winning the national championship impacted the ACC’s overall recruiting efforts? Because it seemed to show some of Georgia’s elite prospects that you didn’t have to sign with an SEC school to win it all. “Oh, there’s no doubt. Here’s the funny thing: Look at the number out of the top 18 schools that sent guys to the NFL combine. There were six SEC teams and five ACC teams, along with Notre Dame, which is now an ACC school. So you have six SEC and six ACC teams. So the number of players you are producing has been just as good. We are, by far, the No. 2 league in the country, and we’re not that far behind the SEC. So once you sell those numbers and you do win the national championship, I think it definitely helps with the ACC’s recruiting, no doubt.”

UGA's Jeremy Pruitt (AJC)

UGA’s Jeremy Pruitt (AJC)

You changed defensive coordinators just before signing day, which is always scary in recruiting. How did Jeremy Pruitt leaving for UGA affect your 2014 class? “None. I don’t mean that in disrespect. Kids don’t come here … they understand that program and the system we run isn’t going to change. The organization we run isn’t going to change. I don’t mean that in any bad way. I think Jeremy did a tremendous job for us. He’s a great coach. He’s a great recruiter. He’s one of the best in the business. But at the same time, we have a great organization and a great staff, too. People saw what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. From a continuity standpoint, you wish you didn’t have to do that. But it didn’t affect us really.”

Since he worked for you last season, what can UGA fans expect from Jeremy Pruitt? “He’s an excellent coach. He will do a great job recruiting for them. I’m sure they’ll play a great defense. Jeremy is a very good football coach, and a good guy.”

Pruitt’s replacement as FSU’s defensive coordinator was Charles Kelly, the former Georgia Tech assistant who is well-known and well-respected in Atlanta for his recruiting efforts. With Kelly being in such a high-profile position with you now, will that make you recruit Atlanta even more aggressively? “He’s always had Atlanta, and he’ll keep Atlanta. Atlanta is a base area for us. It’s one of the main areas for us. We’ll attack it the same way we always have. Charles has always been recruiting for us up there. We’ll keep the same amount of emphasis we’ve always had.”

2013 Heisman winner (AP)

2013 Heisman winner (AP)

Do you think Jameis Winston will repeat as Heisman winner?  “I don’t even think about that. He’s just got to improve as a player, and the guys around him have to improve, and our team (has to) play well.  If the Heisman comes in there, then it comes in there. If we play well and do the things we’re supposed to do, and he plays at a level that he’s capable of playing, I’m sure he will be back in that conversation again. No. 1, he has to play well, and No. 2, our team has to play well. If we hit our goal as organization, then he’ll definitely have a shot to do that.”

Jameis is the most famous player in college football, and you gave him permission to play college baseball this spring. There are always a few elite recruits every year that want to play two sports but some college football coaches seem reluctant. Why do you seem to support this so strongly, and do you think future recruits notice this? “They do notice it. And we’ve got some other guys in track. I have no problem with that (two sports). I think it’s great. I think it’s good for kids to diversify, create, and learn how to compete in different ways and in different formats. We’re always good for it, and we’ve always had good success (with multi-sport athletes) at Florida State.”

What was your reaction to FSU quarterback Jacob Coker picking Alabama for his transfer? “If that’s what Jacob wants, I’m very happy for him. Jacob is a tremendous guy, and I think he will be a great player. I think he has a tremendous future. I think he has a future at the next level possibly, I really do. I think he’s a big-time player. Jacob did a tremendous job for us, and I’m very happy for him. I hope that everything works out.”

FSU’s sales pitch to Georgia’s top prospects for 2015? “I mean, we’re playing as good of football as any in America. In the four years that I’ve been here, we’re graduating over 88-percent of our players. We’re winning as much as anybody. We’re putting guys in the NFL. We’re graduating players, we have good people, we’re putting guys out in the league, it’s a tremendous place to live, it’s a great environment, and it’s a very good school for academics. I think it’s one of the most unique places in college football for those reasons, along with the great tradition that we have.”

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– By Michael Carvell, AJC’s Recruiting Blog

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